Ah yes, as I promised myself, I am now committing time to watching those anime deemed to be classics by the "elite" anime fans out there. One particular title caught my eye: a retelling of the classic 19th century novel, Le Comte de Monte Cristo (The Count of Monte Cristo) by Monsieur Alexandre Dumas, whom I think is better known for writing Les Trois Mousquetaires (The Three Musketeers).
The anime was produced by Gonzo back in late 2004, years before they went bankrupt. The anime retold the story of the original novel in a very futuristic setting, complete with the colonization of the moon, aliens, advancement of completely useless technology and other sci-fi shenanigans you can think of. But the catch here is that instead of our vengeful Count, the story is centered around the son of one of the people behind the Count's unjust prosecution.
I'll get to the point. I liked Gankutsuou very much. If you want someone to start watching anime, Gankutsuou is a good anime to recommend. It's based on a classic novel and has a very trippy artsy style that is rarely seen in any anime even today. The CGI were atrocious at worst and mediocre at best, but since this is an anime from 2004, I'm more than willing to forgive the show for it.
Many people say that Le Comte de Monte Cristo is the best tale of revenge ever told, and I think so too. Carefully plotted trickery, conspiracy and psychological manipulation are the Count's best weapons in his quest for the ultimate revenge, both in the novel and the anime. There are elements of political corruption, the issues of nobility and inheritance, illicit love affairs, and a lot of other topics that are always entertaining to see unfold.
But I think the real charm of Gankutsuou lies in the people caught in the Count's malevolent schemes. The cast, when taken together, is very solid, serving their purpose as tools to be manipulated by the Count, while still being believable enough to stand out as individual characters. By that I mean, they each have their own personalities, and by extension, their own weaknesses to be exploited.
To be honest, I found the first few episodes of Gankutsuou to be a bit of a pain to watch. Not because of the visuals, but rather, the relative lack of anything interesting happening, but I guess that was just me. By the tenth episode, I just couldn't stop myself from watching it (even though I had some minor complaints as it went on). Hell, even my roommate who was stealing short glances at it while playing Castlevania on his DS eventually gave up on playing and joined me in watching it. It was just that good.
Episode 20 is where Gankutsuou really won me over. Under an elaborate tale of revenge, it manages to tell a good helping of great stories too. The personal struggles of our teenagers with each of their issues and the ways they were resolved were very fulfilling and rewarding. This much was made clear by the very romantic conclusion of Eugenie's story.
After episode 20, it just got better and better. I was practically laughing along with the Count as his brand of justice was being brought down on the unfortunate people who messed with him. All the pieces of the puzzle assembled themselves to form a magnificent picture of despair and suffering for the enemies of the Count and those important to them.
That said, I can't really say that I liked the ending very much. I felt that the ending was a tad too anti-climactic, but at least it tied up the story very well. Other complaints would be the inclusion of the entity known as Gankutsuou. It didn't serve any real purpose except to make the Count blue. But my biggest complaint is the lack of cellular phones. You would imagine that in a futuristic world where pens write on their own and everything pops up holograms, there would at least be a form of remote communication, but nooooo.... Most of the conflicts between the characters could have been solved by a single phone call, but the original novel was set in the 19th century, so there you have it.
All in all, Gankutsuou, in my opinion, is one of the best anime there is. I didn't really expect much from this, but goodness knows that I enjoyed it very much. To that, I give Gankutsuou my personal MAL rating of 8, instantly giving it a place in my still under construction Top 30 list.