Gankutsuou is an anime loosely based on the novel The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. It tells the story of Albert Morcerf, a young aristocrat who happens to befriend a wealthy nobleman, The Count of Monte Cristo, through a series of bizarre events. Fascinated by the Count's charm, Albert invites him to meet his friends and family, all of whom happen to be part of the upper class society of Paris, France. Unfortunately, little does Albert realize that the Count has ulterior motives in mind.
When I first browsed through my friends shelf of anime I didn’t pay Gankutsuou much mind, he had told me how good it was and that I would like it but I thought I had better things to do than watch it. As it turns out, I was completely wrong. I eventually picked it up and began watching it and at the end of the first episode I was hooked on it. It was like a drug that I needed to continue pumping into my system, and even now that it is over I crave for more. So now I shall take an in depth look at the anime; Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo
In most reviews I’d start with perhaps the characters or the story, but now I must truly start with the art. The art itself was disorientating to me at first, I looked at it and found it hard to concentrate too long on the screen, things blended together so well that at times I found it hard to believe the entire scenery wasn’t part of the character I was watching. But after the first few episodes the art was something else altogether, it seemed to take a new life. I watched it and was captivated by it, at times I even had to rewind because I had missed several lines of text because I couldn’t tear myself away from it all. The art simply leaps off the screen and at first it may seem a little jarring but eventually you’ll ever wonder why you questioned the design of it all. While the art itself is beautiful there are some places it lacks, although the rest more than makes up for it. Some of the characters I found to be too plain in certain situations, however it was a miniscule thought, it did not detract from the visual experience of the show in the least.
Now for the proverbial meat of it all, story. The anime is a loose adaptation of, what is called by some, the greatest story of revenge ever told. Coming in to that there are many expectations that must be lived up to in order for this story to truly hold it’s own and it lives up to them beautifully.
As I stated the drive of the story is revenge, everything else within it are simply unfortunate souls that get caught up in the bloody, sadistic revenge of the man known as the Count of Monte Cristo. But although The Count is what the story revolves around it is told from the perspective of the naïve, and often downright foolish, Albert Morcerf. The story begins with a meeting of destiny between our protagonist Albert and someone I can’t quite call an antagonist, The Count. With his charming words, devilish smile and warm eyes he quickly wins his way into our naïve Albert’s heart and becomes an important figure in the boys life. He continues to pursue his friendship with The Count despite the nagging of the, obviously smarter, Franz Epinay, Albert’s best friend. As the story continues the happiness of our hero is bombarded by the darkness and despair brought about by circumstances that might have been prevented.
Story is everything for an anime such as this, if you lack it you’ll produce a piss-poor adaptation of a great piece of literature. Being able to make your heart break one moment and your blood boil the next, able to leave you breathless in your seat with your heart pounding in your chest, these are proof that you’re watching something amazing. It is clear that Gankutsuou, if not at least meeting your expectations, it will blow them away and leave you speechless.
This will perhaps be the shortest section of the review, simply because the sound played no part in my heightened or lessened enjoyment of the show. Do not mistake my words, the music within the show is very fitting and very well done, however it does not simply jump out and grab you. It does not make you stop and go “I have to listen to that once more.” However that is within the show itself, the opening and ending themes are a different matter. It was almost strange to see them both, it honestly seemed as if someone had goofed and mistaken the ending for the opening. However after two episodes I was humming along with the tune to both and even downloaded them to put on my mp3. The songs themselves are so good I’ve almost started singing along with them out in public. There really is nothing more to say than, the music worked well, it was subtle, let you know it there but didn’t make any bold statements.
I’m tempted to simply write “flawless” and call it a day here but that would be an insult to the greatness of each. I will not list them all here, of course, but I shall list those that I think play an important role and need to be looked at in the spotlight. But let me state that although I do not talk about all the characters, I believe none are truly “secondary” for they all have their own role that drives the story, they all have their own flaws and a depth you wouldn’t expect from characters you rarely see. Now, onto the spotlight
The Count: Was everything that he needed to be and then some. He could be the hero of the piece or the villain, whichever role he was playing at the time all eyes were glued to him. Charming, subtle, seductive and kind he played them all so well and then there were times where we all saw the darkness he brought with him. He was a strange maze of understanding, never knowing what he was going to do next simply because he didn’t know what role he’d slip into. The Count is truly one of the most dark and captivating characters I’ve ever laid eyes on.
Albert: I have a desire to scream idiot here and be done with it, but again that is not true. He is not an idiot, he is simply naïve and often childish in his decisions. He refuses to see the bad in people, which can be good but not all the time. He’s hard headed and stubborn, but he’s a character that you feel for, he bears the most humanity of them all and when his heart breaks, so does yours.
Franz: The best friend that everyone wants, loyal, caring and willing to do whatever necessary to keep his friend safe. He’s stubborn as well but he is the voice of reason in Albert’s and his relationship. He is the first to be skeptical of The Count and one of the first to pursue information about the mysterious man.
While there are other characters that perhaps deserved the spotlight I felt that, mostly, these three characters were the most important simply because they were around for almost every single event that drove the plot. The others characters, however, are not to be dismissed, they each have good character designs as well as wonderful personalities and even flaws. Some even evolve throughout the show, which can be rare for a character deemed “secondary.” But they all fit together and play off each other so well it would take too long to praise them all.
I truly doubt there is a single thing I did not enjoy throughout my entire watching of this show. There are a few minor things but they’re so miniscule when compared to the good things that they’re just overlooked and swept under the rug, still there but completely forgotten. I found myself completely captivated by this show, every emotional twist made me feel what it was supposed to, every mystery kept me guessing and theorizing and wondering. I ranted and raved about things that had happened when I wasn’t watching, I sometimes found myself balling my hands into white knuckled fists at the more infuriating scenes and crying like a child at others, I truly believe I went through almost the entire emotional spectrum while watching this show. And that is truly a mark of my enjoyment of it.
In the end this can only be summed up as something that you need to watch, that is said a lot in reviews but it is truly something that will be appreciated (even if you haven’t read the novel). It’s compelling story, beautiful artwork and in depth characters will drag you into the world and never let you go, even after you’ve finished the final episode The Count of Monte Cristo will still have you under his spell.
-To those who vote "Not Helpful" if you could message me to tell me what you disliked I could improve on this and future reviews, thank you.-read more
A nineteenth century classic French novel, in the future, in space with aliens, space ships, giant robots and evil spirits? Surprisingly, it works! I am not sure what Monsieur Dumas would think of his classic 'The Count of Monte Christo' being turned into a galactic drama, but I like many other anime fans certainly enjoyed it!
Those familiar with the novel will know the basics of who the characters are and what the general outcome of the story will be, much like how anyone who knew the basic plot of Romeo and Juliet could easily predict what fate would befall the title characters in the anime Romeo X Juliet. To keep things fresh and interesting, the story gets an extreme makeover by catapulting the plot three thousand years into the future and onto the moon. The story is also told through Albert Morcef's perspective, rather than the Count's, allowing for a new take on the story and minor characters in the novel, such as Franz D'Epiney become more developed and are given a larger role.
The story follows the main themes of the novel though; love, betrayl, revenge and redemption. It is an intricately woven story throughout the 24 episodes, each one ending in a cliff hanger making the viewer want to jump right into the next episode. Elements of mystery and suspense are used so effectively, I was compelled to watch the whole anime in one sitting, something I have never done with any other anime before.
The visuals are beautiful and innovative, using textures rather than solid colours. While this can be disorienting at first, especially with layers of brightly coloured textures flashing across the screen, it does make for some of the most beautiful and creative scenery I have seen in any film media. The style is something unique to this anime and the CG components are excellent. Music is a mix of orchestral piano pieces, brooding techno, waltzes and the beautiful ballad 'We Were Lovers' for the opening theme. These combine the classical roots of the story with the futuristic elements wonderfully.
Characters in Gankutsuou are given little grey area. While some characters, such as The Count, motives and morals remain in the grey, most are clearly good or bad, making it heart wrenching when the good, and often innocent characters are pulled into the anti-hero's deadly revenge plot. The audience wants to see the bad guys punished by the man they betrayed, but at the same time want the innocent bystanders who are pulled into the plot have a happily ever after ending. Albert, the main character, is an idealistic and often rash, privilleged young fifteen year old. His angsting, naivite and rashness might grate some viewers, but at the same time his actions are believable for an average fifteen year old, unlike many shonen series. It also makes him more vulnerable to the more wily characters, as a child his age might be. Many of the characters are not all powerful, having both strengths and weaknesses, making them much more human and believable.
One aspect that won me over though was the portrayl of a character who is very strongly hinted at being homosexual. The Seiyu of this particular character confirmed his belief that the character he portrayed was indeed a homosexual. Rather than being slotted into a stereotype or cliche, this character is shown to be very capable, loyal and above all arguably the most rational individual in the series. He is not shown to be flamboyant, perverted, or visually offputing like many gay characters added in for laughs. This character was fleshed out, and in my opinion a very positive representation of a gay character. In fact he takes on many of the Japanese ideals of a homosexual lover, including beauty, brains, strength, sensitivity and above all loyalty. Bravo for this!
I would reccomend this anime for fans of drama, mystery, and suspense. Fans of the original novel; beware of deviations and creative liscense. This is not a completely accurate retelling of Alexandre Dumas' work, if you couldn't tell from the giant robots and space ships. The series contains alcohol and hints of drug usage, incest, hints of sex (both consensual and nonconsensual), human trafficing, violence, nudity, frightening imagery and character death. If any of this offends or upsets you, you may not want to watch this one (though you're really missing out on an awesome series).
Overall: This is the best anime I have seen in a very long time. It is the first anime that has compelled me to watch the whole thing in one sitting. The art is innovative, the story is intricately woven, the characters are believable, and the suspense keeps you on the edge of your seat wanting more. This one is a must for your 'completed' list. read more
Manga/Anime/Both: Anime series, 24 episodes, ran from October 5th, 2004 to March 29th, 2005 in Japan, licenced by Geneon, with six of six volumes released. A manga is currently running in Japan in Kodansha's magazine Afternoon, and has yet to be licenced over here.
Story: And now, the hard part... There is no simple way to sum up Gankutsuou's story, although I'll try.
Gankutsuou is based off of Alexandre Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo. I say "based off of," because in the later part of the series (Episode 18 and thereabouts), the series takes a major divergence from the book. Plotwise, though, Maeda slightly alters whose point of view we see this from and some sideplots; most notably are the Valentine/Maximilien and Cavalcanti plots. The most notable change is the setting, time-wise; Gankutsuou takes place in Paris for the most part, but about two, three thousand years in the future, and on another planet at some points. Also, characters that are barely mentioned in the book get major screentime. However, for the most part, the anime sticks close to the book. If you're a Dumas purist, though, stay far away from this series.
Also, there are slight shonen-ai overtones; it's nothing explicit, and only implied, but you can tell that it's there. And there's crossdressing on numerous accounts. Again, if this any of this offends you, stay away.
Story Critique: For the most part, if you know the original Dumas story, you have a good idea of what's going to happen in Gankutsuou. Maeda has taken his liberties, though; and after Episode 18, as I said before, the series takes a completely different direction, and will make the purists want to hunt him down with pitchforks and torches.
However, I'm really happy with Maeda's changes; the only gripe I have is that he altered the Valentine/Maximilien and Cavalcanti sideplots the way he did, and that he killed off one of the characters he did. For the most part, though, the alterations only add to the sheer awesomeness of the series, and lets some characters shine in ways that they didn't get to in the book.
This story will keep you on the edge of your seat and hooked till the bitter end. I didn't get bored with the series at all, as I usually do at the halfway point; in fact, I watched this series pretty much in under a week. I've always thought that The Count of Monte Cristo was prime anime material, considering the serialistic way that it was written.
EDIT: There have been complaints lately saying that Gankutsuou isn't for everyone. And admittedly, it isn't. If you think that Bleach and Naruto are the epitome of anime, then you should probably stay away from this show, as this and that are worlds apart. It WILL take some effort on your part to follow the story, which, yes, means using your brain as you're watching this, unlike the typical mindless shonen problem/monster-of-the-week plot seen in both shows I've previously mentioned.
Art Style: This is one of the integral parts of the series. The art style will turn some people off; in fact, when Maeda was first screening Gankutsuou, the most frequent complaint was that the art style made viewers' eyes hurt.
Maeda uses a unique 2-D animation technique, most notable in regards to characters' clothing -- the technique makes it look like the characters' clothes are moving, but the characters themselves are not. It's really noticeable in the first few episodes, but by the fourth or fifth episode, you become used to it. This technique is used to great effect not only in the clothes that the characters wear, but in the trippy sequences involved with the plot.
CG animation is also used heavily in this series; it's mostly used for some backgrounds and vehicles. At times, the juxtapostion of traditional/the new technique of 2D/CG can be jarring, but it takes some getting used to, as well. The backgrounds are where the CG animation really shines though.
This combination is definitely a step into the unknown for Gonzo, and has a tendency to polarize viewers; either you love it, or you hate it.
Music: There are two types of music in Gankutusou: original compositions and classical music.
The classical music has a tendency to become easily associated with certain moods and event types, not to mention become grating. There's one piece in particular (I can't remember the name at the minute ><) that, by the third episode, will become associated with DEATH AND IMMINENT DOOM. The music that doesn't become mood-associated is usually used in connection to one main character's musicianship, and isn't heard that often.
The original compositions are by both Kasamatsu Kouji and Jean-Jacques of the band The Stranglers; he also does the opening and ending. The original compositions tend to also become associated with mood and event types; however, there are enough different ones, and are used sparingly enough that they don't become grating. The opening and endings are absolutely awesome; ask FMS how much I was spazzing after getting the full versions. XD The opening is a sentimental song accompanied by piano and strings, and the ending is a raging rock number with a full band and strings that'll have you on your feet by its end; both have a lot to do with the plot.
Voice Seiyuu: The voices for this series are simply amazing. Every seiyuu matches their respective character perfectly, and no voice seems out of place. The real standouts for this series, for me, are the seiyuu for the Count, and Mercedes; Joji Nakata, and Kikuko Inoue, respectively. Both capture their characters perfectly, and you can hear the dynamic between them, which is a major factor in the series.
Dub/Voice Actors: The first I saw of this series was on the October or November (can't remember which again) DVD sampler for Newtype; dubbed was the only option available. After watching the one DVD I have subbed, and then dubbed, I can say that I really don't have a problem with the dub at all which, for me, is rare. I know that Himura hates it when people do this, but the Japanese and English VAs for these series are easily comprable. The standout voice for the dub is the Count, once again; I don't know his VA, but he does a superb job of capturing his character.
Length: Perfect. Shortening the series by a few episodes wouldn't have hurt the series, but character development would've definitely taken a major hit if they had. Had they added more episodes, it would've been too long. However, I would like to see an OAV on the backstory of the Count; we saw brief flashes that explained a lot, but not quite in depth as Dumas' original story.
Overall: This anime is one of the best of 05. You will be sucked in the moment you start watching it, and it will not let you go.
To sum it up, a line from the promotional trailer from the first DVD:
Gankutsuou is one of those few series that I actually watched first on DVD. I started watching it when my friend decided to collect it on DVD as it was released, but before I had actually experienced the show, I already had high expectations, having heard so many people praising it as a masterpiece and the artistic style (which I had glimpsed in a number of promotional images) of the show promised innovation and quality. I try to avoid having expectations for a show before I start it, but sometimes they just cannot be quashed, and so I sat down to the first episode hoping for something fantastic, but braced for a sense of disappointment. After sitting down to watch the final episode, many months later, I can say that Gankutsuou won me over in every way, and exceeded my realistic expectations. It is mystifying that this show was conceived and produced by GONZO, whose name, particularly in recent years has become synonymous with mediocrity or even outright poor production. Until now, Last Exile was easily the best thing I’d ever seen GONZO create, and I had begun to think it was all they were capable of. Gankutsuou raises the bar dramatically, and I honestly think referring to it as a masterpiece is entirely justified (and I’m not one to use words like that very often).
It is an achievement in every department, and represents the pinnacle of the many genres it incorporates; romance, action, and revenge story, you won’t find much better of any of these than are in this show. At heart Gankutsuou is a tale of revenge, fuelled by betrayal and the remnants of a passionate love story, which delves deep into the human condition by weaving powerful emotion such as greed, and lust into its story. Touching at times, darkly melodramatic at others, it covers the full spectrum of emotions, and, unlike many other anime, it is not bogged down in redundant complexities or confusing fictional terminology, it is a straightforward story of epic scale and powerful depth. Of course, those who have read the Count of Monte Cristo will already be well aware of the nature of the story, but for those who haven’t (which includes me) the show has a gripping plot that is guaranteed to make you think and feel.
The animation and artwork deserves special mention, because the story, as good as it was, cannot be fairly credited to GONZO. Gankutsuou utilises a visual style never used before in anime (as far as I know), and while it may be slightly jarring at first, the use of a palette of textures rather than solid colours ultimately elevates the aesthetics to a whole new level. Rather than just being a gimmick, the animation technique gives the show a distinct appearance that is fitting for its flamboyantly French-aristocratic setting. It would not be suitable for any anime, in fact very few, but Gankutsuou couldn’t have looked better, with its loosely poetic story complimented by the extravagant artwork. Other than this texture factor, the animation is actually rather basic, but that is never a concern. The cel animation lacks no flaws, but is not as detailed as it could have been (in fact, without the use of textures, they would look terribly simplistic), and the use of CG is a mixed bag, sometimes looking fantastic, other times a bit too pronounced. Ultimately, these are not problems at all, and you’d be hard-pressed to find another anime that looks this good.
The music is excellent, although there is surprisingly little of it. The BGM is used sparingly to great effect, and although there are really only a few key BGM tracks, they have an amazingly powerful sound every time they are used, and they do not get old. It is a very mature score, with no obtrusive pop sounds, but it is not a conventional dreary stringed score either.
The characters are memorable, and over the course of its 26 episodes, the show manages to build a great depth to each one, deriving sympathy and empathy in a tale infused with tragedy. When I referred to the show as a melodrama, I don’t mean Mai HiME 17-25 melodrama, I mean one that is intelligently manifested and stunningly executed. Rather than melodrama under the pretext of ‘someone does > causes grief’, each event, almost as a depiction of fate, contributes to the very core of the story, and each moment of loss or joy has a thoughtful cause and effect behind it as a part of the intricate plot. There was not one character I did not like, and there was not one character that lacked sufficient characterisation. One of the few anime that almost made me cry a number of times, the drama is remarkably poignant amidst a background of murder and betrayal.
To top it all off, the end is basically perfect, although I felt the epilogue was slightly longer than it needed to be. If GONZO have to use a novel as reference in order to make a good anime and pace it out well, then I hope they acquire more novels! I have nearly run short of adjectives of praise, so I’ll wrap up my review now by suggesting that everyone watch (and buy) Gankutsuou as soon as humanly possible. A show that is practically without flaw, masterfully written and produced, and with a style you’ve never seen before, it deserves to be seen. If it wasn’t for my fetish for the sociologically inquisitiveness in Gits SAC, this would be my second favourite anime of all-time. Alas, it is my third.read more
If you enjoy the classics like a true lit geek, then you'd be happy to know that there are several anime series that are inspired by stories written in the unforgotten past by authors that would forever live on.