Let’s read Requiem: Vampire Knight! (Part 1)

I first read this comic as a teenager, when Heavy Metal magazine serialized the first English translation. This had to have been around 2004 and my dad and I had been bonding over our shared love of Stephen King and Anne Rice. Having gone through most of his vampire movie library together, a French vampire comic was a natural next step.

The cosmology was particularly interesting to me. Much of the story takes place in Hell, which is outside of space and time. For perspective, only living, three-dimensional, physical creatures are subject to linear time with a past, present and future. Once you are liberated from three-dimensional existence after death, the cosmology of this comic implies that your soul is also free from linear time.

In the place sometimes called Hell by its inhabitants (which is also known by some as Resurrection), all time is simultaneous. There are dimensional ruptures between different timelines, though, so a fragment from Earth at any point from multiple histories might manifest. To say nothing of the fact that all souls bound for Resurrection from any timeline enter Resurrection during its own “present”, which is separate from all other timelines.

Hopefully that wasn’t too garbled. Upon transmigrating to Resurrection, a soul will enter the care of a psychopomp called Lord Cryptos. Cryptos will put these souls through anguishing preparation which can actually cause them to vanish, never to enter a body again. Those souls who “graduate” from Cryptos’ “training” may assume the body of a few different supernatural beings. Those guilty of deliberate evil with little or no hypocrisy in their minds become vampires. Those who do so with hypocrisy become ghouls.

In the independent “timeline” of Resurrection, the flow of time is said to run backward. Whether this is literally true is not clear but it seems possible: vampires age backwards into infancy and after that their souls either disappear or transmigrate elsewhere. At the same time, the monarchy of Resurrection has many laws and traditions that enforce a backwards time-flow as a moral value. Having only read a little bit past where I did when I was fourteen, it could also be both for all I know.

Mention is made of an ethic called obscuritantism, which requires its’ adherents to consume something called Black Opium that suppresses memories of their mortal lifetimes. The vampires of Resurrection equate the obliteration of your past, mortal identity with the authenticity of your undead identity. On the other hand, ghouls frequently talk amongst themselves of their past lives and are reviled by vampires.

There is also a professional caste called archeologists who are tasked with burying the fragments of Earth that materialize through the dimensional rifts. They may selectively scavenge for technology or resources for the monarchy. In the absence of any wider context for the backward time-flow, the decay of the Earth fragments from the rifts looks like it…is just the archeologists burying stuff. Like, that aspect of the time-flow is enforced by the archeologists.

Since few fantasy stories reveal everything about their cosmologies up front, the gray areas between cosmic “rules” and the taboos of Resurrection’s vampire nation are ripe for tension-building. At this point (just after volume 3) it feels like it’s worth paying attention to the stated motives of those arrayed against the vampire nobility.

More to follow in two or three more posts

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