「Avec toi―ふたりぼっち―」 (Avekku Towa―Futaribotchi―)
“Just the Two of Us”
From the previous episode’s cliff-hanger, I was expecting a larger focus on Jeanne’s story and a team tag between her and Vanitas to tackle the issue at hand. With the help of Vanitas, Jeanne broke out of her cage.
An interesting question is whether the Vanitas Jeanne embraced was the real Vanitas or an idealized image of Vanitas she conjured in her head. Since the whole scene between them occurred in her head, either he performed some sort of telepathy to break into her headspace or Jeanne projected her feelings for him into her self-talk. I am hoping it was the real him and that he meant it when expressed his feelings. I would like to see their feelings move beyond tools for manipulation. Jeanne’s feelings are certainly no mystery, but with Vanitas it can be hard to tell if his feelings are in earnest or just a way to get Jeanne on his side.
Someone clearly not on Vanitas and Noe’s side is Astolfo. When young Astolfo rescued the vampire, I knew exactly where the flashback was heading-usually betrayal is the culprit of a 180-degree switch from naivete to bitter hatred. Unlike cynics who might shrug betrayal off as something to be expected, for idealists, betrayals crush both themselves and the whole world they have constructed in their mind. Sure enough, the ungrateful vampire repaid Astolfo’s kindness with bloody vengeance for his family that was slain by Astolfo’s father. Astolfo is now set on the path of vengeance against these vampires who are less than human to him (in Japanese, Astolfo repeatedly refers to vampires as “animals”, but the subtitles translate this merely into “those vampires”). If anything, his past makes clear that killing vampires is not a permanent solution-if you murder a few, more angry vampires will come after you, perpetuating the cycle of suffering.
Astolfo wants revenge, Chloe wants revenge, Vanitas wants revenge-everybody wants revenge. Chloe was planning on a one-way ticket to payback, with her death as the final stop. I feel bad for Jean-Jacques. This is a slap in the face (which Vanitas literally delivers) to Jean-Jacques who sacrificed his name to protect Chloe, only for her to believe that her life is worth nothing beyond a means to free her friend. Vanitas who normally gives off a devil may care attitude is personally disgusted by this. I think he sees a bit of himself in her. He has repeatedly declared his intention of vengeance against the vampires and doing it his own way regardless of what damage he leaves behind him, similar to Chloe’s determination on vengeance without regard to Jean-Jacques. Vanitas, after going through so much with Noe and to some extent, Jeanne, is starting to understand the responsibility and the emotions that come with letting others into your life. His reaction to Chloe is perhaps partly a reaction to himself and his own ego.
Vanitas’ life, unlike his tome, is certainly no open book (or indeed one that can’t be forced out of his grasp). There is so much we don’t know about him-like that arm of his. Vanitas’ mysterious arm that he normally keeps covered possesses the special astermite to activate the World Formula alteration device. The mark resembles the marks conferred upon humans after vampires imbue them with power during a feeding session, like the one Jeanne gave him. Did this come from the original Vanitas who imbued him with the power to use the tome or from the time spent as that mad scientist’s guinea pig? It is possible that if the embedded astermite was the result of experimentation, the original Vanitas caught wind of it and decided to use young Vanitas as a tool for his tome.
As for the tome-we finally see it back in action after Dante finds it and Jeanne rescues both Vanitas and the tome in the nick of time. What will happen next week? Only the tome (“time”) will tell!
For the time being, it’s most likely that Jeanne is increasingly becoming infatuated with her idealized image of Vanitas. As he’s still locked down about his past, she only knows him by how he presents himself. One-sided it may be but that can also be a sign of improvement on her breaking away from a very long period of conditioning. One day, she’s going to have to choose between being Ruthven’s bourreau and what she wants to be. It’s inevitable for people like her who are fixated on servant-style loyalty.
On Vanitas’ end of snapping Jeanne out of her dilemma, I can’t help feeling a sense of hypocrisy. That exchange, to me, came off as him lecturing her on things that he hasn’t confronted himself. An out-of-the-ordinary occurrence. He even chastised Noé for being influential in being hopeful in uncertain situations. As that short flashback aptly showed the time Noé was continually trying to reason with Roland upon their first encounter. Then there’s his other behavioral patterns. He’s still keeping others at arm’s length when it comes to his personal matters. He pries into the heads of others for his own ends yet no one has the slightest idea what makes him tick.
I’m a bit meh on the rehabilitation attempt of Astolfo’s image. This far into the show’s second half, I had already formed my opinion of him based on his unhinged actions, especially wiping out an entire unit of soldiers for a somewhat petty reason. A low opinion. So choosing now to present a flashback designed to make him sympathetic comes off as slightly contrived. Personally, I think would have a greater effect used after his first encounter with Noé, around the time his subordinate found him in that cave before both set out for Chloé’s castle.
Focusing on Astolfo’s backstory for a moment, it’s a classic example of “An eye for an eye makes the whole world go blind”. Both sides had justifiable reasons motivating them. Idealistically, conflicts should be ended with a compromise. But realistically, that is seldom how conflicts are ended. And in this case, it would be especially difficult since both sides are species that are different as night and day. That supposed “peace” between humans and vampires where the vampires basically have to hide in plain sight and in silence, it’s easy to guess which side got the short end of the stick.
That blue mark on Vanitas’ arm is indeed from the vampire “Vanitas”. Recall the first time Vanitas and Jeanne met. She was trying to take the book from him by force under Luca’s orders. Before he forced her into a corner where she was at his mercy, he outright told Jeanne that the vampire “Vanitas” fed on him, imbuing him with abilities which included being able to access and use the book. And at the masquerade ball, he showed that same mark on his arm to all the present vampires. Symbolizing that he’s a member of the Blue Moon clan.
The hypocrisy in Vanitas’ statements seems natural coming from him. Given how he views and uses others emotions as tools for his own purposes, it makes sense that he would either inspire or discourage another character’s actions based on convenience in the moment rather than on a consistent sense of morality. From his point of view, there is no need to open up to another person when that vulnerability could invite usage of him as a tool. The unusually positive outlook from Vanitas is what makes me think that the whole break out scene between them was actually Jeanne’s own version of how she imagined her knight in shining astermite would react. Of course, there is also the hope that Vanitas comforting and urging Jeanne on is a sign of how much he has grown thanks to his relationship with Noe.
Astolfos back story went as expected.
For a moment I was afraid that Jean-Jacques was going for double-suicide, but it looks like next episode will be the end of this arc with one pair of lovers hopefully saving another one.
I agree-nothing surprising about Astolfo. I wish they had spent more of the episode on Jeanne or on Jean-Jacques, since there was a lot of emotional turmoil that would have been better spent exploring than on Astolfo’s backstory.