「Chasse aux vampires―“獣”―」 (Shasu o Vanpīru―“Kemono”―)
That was a marvelous sleight of the hand (or rather, pen)- setting up expectations pointing towards Chloe, only to defy them. I was surprised that Jean was the Beast, what with all of the previous build up about Chloe. In hindsight, in all of that build up, no one had evidence that it was Chloe-everything was based on hearsay or assumptions. Jean’s attachment to Chloe makes more sense from the backstory-and indeed, it would have to be a deep attachment for him to sacrifice what he did for her. After meeting her during childhood, Jean and Chloe bonded over being the outcasts of the village. Everyone likes to feel needed- it seems like a lot of Jean’s affection stems from what he could do for Chloe (and of course, companionship).
Things get complicated once the killings start. As is the human habit, the unexplainable is scapegoated onto the “outsiders” in outlandish ways-giving birth to superstition. Poignantly, a child (Jean) can see the truth that the frenzied villagers can’t-the Beast exists only in their imagination. An imagination stoked by the church after peace deprived them of their favorite sport. To create a pretext to continue their love of vampire hunting, they killed humans to create a fictional Beast that could be blamed on the vampires. I find it ironic that the church is so intent on pursuing vampires when their bloodthirst rivals (or even surpasses) that of the vampires. The only difference being that the Chasseurs don’t drink the blood- they just like to waste it.
It wouldn’t be astonishing if Naenia played some role in covertly suggesting such a horrific plan to the church and making sure that Chloe and Jean met. Jean certainly got a bad deal- if you could even call it a deal. He sacrificed his name to Naenia to protect Chloe by becoming the Beast, which did nothing to dispel the superstitions. Naenia knew it wasn’t a fair trade-after all, she doesn’t have to strike a deal with weak vampires like Jean.
I am interested to know how much the vampire government knew about the church’s schemes. I’m assuming Ruthven showed up on Chloe’s doorstep to monitor her and when he found her non-threatening, had no reason to stay. The fact that Ruthven brainwashed Jeanne to believe that Chloe must be killed as the Beast makes me think that there’s something shady happening on the part of the vampires (which is pretty much confirmed by Ruthven’s as yet unexplained connection with Naenia). Sure, the vampires would want to eradicate a curse that poses a threat to the humans so as not to upset the delicate façade of “peace” between the two worlds. But that wouldn’t necessitate blindly believing the villagers’ superstitions and even brainwashing the Borreaux.
The world alteration formula (a nice nod to the era with mechanisms resembling that of a music box) obviously has power far too immense for any sort of good, especially in the wrong hands. Chloe is blinded by rage, grief, and Naenia to even consider how erasing a single village could create a butterfly effect extending to the rest of the world. Then again when your world has gone to utter hell, the rest of the world certainly doesn’t matter-especially for Chloe whose whole world has only ever been Gevaudan. Needless to say, Naenia will seize the opportunity to hack the formula for her own purposes. While forcing Naenia into a physical form initially seems like a good idea, knowing Naenia, she has probably planned for this.
I find Naenia fascinating in how she can manipulate people’s emotions to extract their true name. Much like how Vanitas can manipulate emotions to achieve his aims. With how well matched they are in terms of cunning, I am looking forward to the final showdown between Vanitas and Naenia. That is, provided Vanitas can find his tome in enough time (which is probably where the next episode is headed).