Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo

sort

Reviews

Pantha's avatar By Pantha on Oct 27, 2007

Story

Ever see that horrendous movie Romeo + Juliet with Leonardo Dicrapio and Claire Danes? The movie was horrendous not because of the anachronisms, but because it failed to truly update the classic tragedy by maintaining Shakespeare's dialogue. (By god, his words are not meant to be screamed in the midst of some crack-pot rock song). Ever see the excellent movie "O" (based on Othello) with Mekhi Phifer and Julia Stiles? By no figment of the imagination is Gankutsuou a true, faithful representation of Alexander Dumas's (père) masterpiece, The Count of Monte Cristo, but fortunately, it is much closer to what "O" achieved than....that other thing. Like "O" Gankutsuou manages to create a story of its own while remaining respectful to the original source material at the same time.

If there's one thing that made Dumas famous it's his romantic melodrama. Yes, he unapologetically lays it on thick and his readers (myself included) would delight in his every word. I've always said that melodrama may look good on paper but doesn't transfer well on screen. Fortunately, Gankutsuou realizes this, and as a thankful result, it is no where near as melodramatic as its literary counterpart. There are some genuinely touching scenes here....mostly because they were done with just the right subtle touch.

It's a double-edged sword, however, that the anime begins smack dab in the middle of the novel. On one hand, the best part is when Edmond Dantes becomes the count and enacts his revenge. It's a good thing to start here and not potentially bore the audience with exposition. On the other, it aint Monte Cristo without the escape from Château d'If. Furthermore, viewers unfamiliar with the novel are definitely at a disadvantage and will be confused until more than halfway through. They won't know who's who, what's what, and why. And the pacing doesn't help much. The first few episodes are quite uninteresting, but after that point, the story moves at a rapid pace. Events that were spread for three hundred pages take two episodes here. More importantly, however, it may be significant to illustrate the difference and change between bright-eyed youth Edmond Dantes and the cold-hearted Count. Gankutsuou could have had its cake and ate it with the clever use of a flashback or two.....earlier than they actually occur. Last but certainly least (this could be nitpicking), the hokey sci-fi (and trust me, it's hokey) is more of an excuse for hammy visuals rather than an important part in the plot. Despite all this, though, Gankutsuou does an admirable job in capturing the essence of the novel in a short time period. ....And how about that ending, eh?


Animation

Gankutsuou has a very innovative animation style; I was initially turned off by it, but I quickly changed my mind. Because of the gorgeous style, something as simple as waving a hand is a sight for sore eyes.  Gankutsuou has some of the best looking sequences I've ever seen in an anime, one being the first appearance of the count and Haydee's jaw-dropping moment of glory in an early episode.  Unfortunately, there are a few out-of-place CG sequences. The character designs are noticeably bland, especially compared to the detailed settings. The Count, although he looks the best, irks me. He looks as if he just stepped out of Vampire Hunter D (imagine my horror when Albert and company were discussing vampires near the beginning). He has blue skin. He has one red eye and one green one. He has elfish ears. And FANGS.  Oh, the video for the OP is also very pleasing. Too bad I can't say the same about the song that accompanies it.....


Sound

Both the opening and ending themes are sung in English. The OP is terrible. The singer's voice is like nails on a chalkboard, especially when he sings the lines "And I want to see once more/I will pray that you would love me and trust me." The ending theme is obviously meant to be catchy and bad-ass, but it's just a bunch of noise. It did grow a bit on me, though. Voice acting gets the job done, but the Count is the star here. He's a very distinctive and spot-on voice.


Characters

The Count of Monte Cristo is one of the most immortalized characters on paper. The other characters, however, are either despicable....or not. There are no shades of gray. But this certainly doesn't matter because the others are insignificant and the Count is the one pulling the strings. The delight of the novel is that few readers would remember Danglars or Villiard; they're much more likely to remember what happens to them. Gankutsuou forgets this important point. One could argue that the series should be commended by attempting to add depth to these insignificant characters. However, I say no way. You see, most of these characters are very much like they were in the novel. With few exceptions (more on that later), no depth is added to them; hence, because these characters have more screen time it only becomes much more obvious why I didn't care about them in the first place. It is a dire mistake, then, to play the Count down in favor of Albert, a boring narrator-like character. It is a grave error to water down the most charming aspect- the Count's motivations- in favor of monotonous side-stories. In both novel and anime, the Count is easily the best character. In both novel and anime, the others are elementary. However, in the novel these elementary characters were in the shadows. In Gankutsuou, they should have stayed there.

....But every rule has an exception. By himself, Albert is bland, boring, and unmemorable (at least until a certain point). He's also naïve to the point of stupidity. Halfway through the series, however, Albert becomes a good character on his own. And this is where the series creates its own story; in the novel, I never sympathized with anyone other than the Count. I wasn't supposed to and I was rooting for him all the way. Here though, my sympathies went....elsewhere. If this happens, it aint Monte Cristo. But I'm not faulting it one bit. Dumas's works are meant to be entertaining, not thought provoking. When the novel focuses mainly on the pleasure of hoodwinking enemies, Gankutsuou is about the result of revenge or betrayal- what a man may become if he cannot let go of the past and what it takes to truly understand such a man. In this respect, Gankutsuou is much more profound than the novel ever was.

8/10 story
9/10 animation
6/10 sound
7/10 characters
7.5/10 overall
chaoserver's avatar By chaoserver on Jun 20, 2010

Story:

Gankutsuou is an odd bugger. It puts a spin on a classic novel that took place in the past and shifts it FAR in the future. First thing's first, the setting is neat. The beginning of the series paints a cool atmospheric setting where we meet diverse generally high class people, and it becomes clear going to a different planet is like a plane trip. I really enjoyed this very interesting new universe, and the series was atmospheric, but unfortunately rather than doing anything with it they kind of forget the established setting and do nothing with it, so it eventually loses it's edge. The pace is pretty good, though, once you figure out where the story is headed you can more or less predict the course of events. That's not to say it's not entertaining, and doesn't touch on good topics. On the contrary it goes places a lot of anime hasn't, exploring human nature, elitism and mostly every facet of human imperfection. No character is without flaw, including those you have the options of sympathizing with. If your uncomfortable with males getting too close for comfort/scenes that could be regarded as homosexual defininetly back off, it gets pretty bad. The series also loves to get a little too weird, characters have powers that aren't really explained, underground kingdoms with the sea, made from gold, amongst many other weird things can be quite over the top. At times the series really is too weird The flow and development is great throughout most of the anime, however the real issue is that it resolves sloppily. The buildup more or less crumbles when one character changes awkwardly, setting things into motion for a hasty closing of the series, while the series reaches an all time weird, and resolves in a bang and a rather poor final episode.

Animation:

Love it or hate it kind of thing, for me it was great, other than the UGLY 3d buildings that were forced in. Characters look distinct and expressive, and there is a vast array so the animators did a great job there. Setting was great, though became much less relevant during the later half it seemed, which was a disappointed.

Sound:

I very much enjoyed th soundtrack, the OP and ending were both pretty good, namely the opening which was perfectly composed for the series. The piano pieces amongst the other works in the show fit in just fine and voice actors are varied enough and fit the given characters.

Characters:

The characters are not the best. We have the count who is just great, very enjoyable and understandable regarding his actions, though towards the end in the sloppy confusion he too suffers. A slight shot at the count is that his ex love interest was so dry of a character it was hard to imagine them together at any given point, or him caring about her. Albert starts as a generic ignorant character, though his ignorance moves the series along, and he develops well by the end. As for the other characters they are more about the relationship between them than actual characters, with each representing a particular personality trait, loving money, violent, caring toward elders ect. That being said the characters don't really come full circle, and most are either forgotten in the finale, or worse, ruined only to be touched upon in the final wrap up episode. Regardless the most impressive thing is the full cast of characters found here, which for some of the series, are maintained.

Overall:

A very watchable and highly recommended series(even more than some I have given a higher score) that touches on many aspects of humanity and society, and while never becoming truly profound, is never unfounded in it's messages. If you are not aware of the premise(which I did my best not to spoil in this review) it will be even more exciting, albeit, perhaps quite confusing until the end. The only real complaints to be had, that stop this from becoming a much greater series, is the squandering of a cool universe, ultimately only there to excuse the odd visual effects and current imposibilities that are implemented and the horrible wrap up to the events of the show.

8/10 story
8/10 animation
9/10 sound
7/10 characters
7.5/10 overall
Hajime's avatar By Hajime on Sep 24, 2010

The count of Monte Cristo, but with a new spin on it. Yes it takes awhile to become accustomed to the style of the show, however once seen, you are drawn in, and captivated by this futuristic Paris, and alien infested Edward. My tip is don't puke after the first few episodes, hang in, you'l be delighted, I swear it

10/10 story
4/10 animation
6/10 sound
8/10 characters
7/10 overall
Thrawn's avatar By Thrawn on Nov 26, 2010

Without a doubt, The Count of Monte Cristo is one of my favorite books. A tale of lost love, betrayal and revenge, which made for a great ride through and through, with the writing and the characters as the driving forces of the events that followed. After reading a bit about Gankutsuou, I was unsure how it would remain faithful to the source material, with it being all futuristic and trippy (A bit on that later). I checked out the manga and found myself hooked, but I only found the first volume and left it at that. So until (relatively) recently, I left it unwatched. But as soon as I started it up, I found myself hooked beyond reason and once again dragged back into the world of the Count.

First and foremost, the story begins on Luna in a festival, which according to events in the book, is right in the middle. This avoids the first half; when the Count was betrayed, his imprisonment in the Chateau d'If and his inevitable escape. With the sci-fi setting, it was a bit annoying, as I assumed at first that the prison isn't like the one in the original novel, on Earth but I assume the manga would go into it deeper. Apart from that, the start was great, as it followed the book for the most part. But as the story goes on, it shows that it can be it's own beast at times, as it has twists and turns that help separate it from the book without deviating from it completely. As a side note, it cuts a bit out of the Valentine/Maximilien sub-plot which I found unfortunate.

The visuals are simply stunning. I was amazed by the screenshots but in motion, it's simply crazy. The colours, how the clothes and hair work... it's like the patterns stay put even if the characters move. It's kinda disorienting but it does work with everything around it. And right off the bat, the viewer is assaulted with bright colours and a taste of the style and artwork of the anime. It's also a great point to help the viewer decide if they would be able to enjoy it or not. It does tone it down a bit, but is still pretty trippy throughout. Also of note is the beautiful OP, which is a severe contrast to the actual animation, but it felt so right, and seemed to completely suit it. The EP, on the otherhand, is a complete trip, but not in a bad way. The only thing I didn't enjoy about it was some of the CGI parts, in particular some of the cars on Earth. It seemed so out of place, but otherwise, it's a feast for the eyes.

What I couldn't get enough of was the voice at the beginning of an episode, of the second onward that starts off with "Madames, messieurs, bonsoir". Sheer brilliance on how they added that, made even more brilliant on it being in French. For the other voices, I can only vouch on the sub being pretty much spot on, in particular the Count. But then again, he is what he is. The music is great throughout and I particularly enjoyed the OP, as it feels like it would totally go with the book on it feeling more of a classical piece. the EP, once again, suits the anime more, but still worked for me and grew to love it over time.

The Count is amazing, and is what he is; amazingness. And filthy rich. Rich to the point where... ah heck, that would ruin how rich he is. More often than once I found myself clapping or giggling in glee as his plans moved forward. Albert, on the other hand, is youthful and ignorant (Or naive might be a better word). He's a contrast to the Count and yet reminds me of the Count before the betrayal. That much I know, but for other characters, they're there. I remember them from the book, they play their roles and I still enjoy them nonetheless for the most part.

I can honestly say this is one of my favorite anime out there and that a main reason I enjoyed it so much was because I loved the novel. I do recommend that one reads the novel before watching the anime to get a rough sense of the events prior to the festival, but it should still be enjoyable if one skips right to the anime. And ocne again, those visuals... an absolute trip.

8.5/10 story
9/10 animation
9/10 sound
8.5/10 characters
8.8/10 overall
AirCommodore's avatar By AirCommodore on Dec 14, 2010

Story

I have fond memories of Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo from when I read it in middle school, so I started watching Gankutsuou hoping for the best.

The anime delivers an interesting idiosyncrasy by incorporating sci-fi elements like space travel, alien races, and futuristic technologies into the 19th century plot and rococo aesthetic. Additionally, the condensing of nearly 1500 pages of novel down to 26 episodes of animation removed many of the less frenetic portions, allowing the narrative to lope along briskly. This vast improvement in pacing is unfortunately but not unexpectedly accompanied by some small disappointments in which scenes were declared unnecessary. Many interesting portions of the novel were apparently deemed too sluggish to remain, including my favorite part: our protagonist’s incarceration and subsequent escape from the Chateau d’If.

The measures taken to safeguard Gankutsuou from being wretched fall apart at the climax. All that plot cutting dumbed down the story, removing slews of characters (such as Abbé Faria, who was an utter delight, and a valuable component of the Count’s backstory) and leaving plot holes as it went. The creators stuck in the ridiculously paranormal “Gankutsuou” abomination to solve all their problems, namely the lack of an adequate backstory for the titular character, and failed spectacularly. What the hell? Everything about the finale is insufferably stupid and made me rage-pause every couple of minutes. The reinventing of the Count’s duel about two-thirds through the series is equally aggravating, as it introduces baroque mecha who move and look clumsily outmoded in comparison to the rest of the world’s technology.

It was also rubbish at flashbacks, which were rarely taken far enough to provide optimal emotional impact. This is especially unfortunate considering the fact that the show heavily relies on the flashbacks to establish personal histories and motives.


Animation

I personally adored the style, though it is extremely distracting. During the first two episodes I repeatedly had to rewind and re-read the subtitles because I was too busy staring at the pattern on various characters’ fancy cravats or the carpeting, so if you’re equally prone to distraction, I’d recommend the dubbed version. I’m not usually a fan of CGI in shows, as it tends to clash hideously with the art style of whatever show it’s inserted into, and sometimes feels like the animators are shirking drawing. In Gankutsuou’s case, however, the polarity between the CGI and sumptuously-patterned everything else echoes the story’s blend of sci-fi and antiquity, so it’s not as unwelcome as usual.


Sound

I listened to the opening and ending themes twice before deciding that I wouldn’t bother listening to either again. Both were sung in English and the OP almost put me to sleep before the premiere even started, while the high-octane ED was especially jarring when it directly followed the somber episodes. The intra-episode soundtrack was fitting but indistinct, despite some of the well-known classical tracks sprinkled throughout. The voice acting was similarly unmemorable, excluding Jouji Nakata, who played the Count.


Characters

Gankutsuou’s characters were all equally despicable, so if that was the plan- great job! However, I couldn’t help but long for Dumas’s Count, who, underneath the vengeful scheming, was actually sympathetic and merciful. The Gankutsuou persona made the animated equivalent absolutely loathsome and bereft of redeeming qualities. Sure, they were probably going for a trite “the desire for revenge makes you EVIL. Also: dead inside” moral, but blegh. This is the most predictable and cliché moral ever, and certainly nothing thought-provoking.

Albert de Morcerf, the main character/narrator, was largely useless. He had a much smaller role in the novel, but when adapting it into an anime someone must have decided, “Well, we’re making an anime, and we all know what that means- the main character has to be a useless, whiny, teenage boy”. I realize that making series about useless teenage boys is a mainstay in an industry such as anime that’s marketed largely towards teenage boys, but the logic behind this move doesn’t make it any less infuriating. Compounding this is the fact that the Count would have made a perfectly serviceable main character in Albert’s stead. What he lacks in relatability he more than makes up for with general intrigue. Anyway, Albert has all the same characteristics as the rest of the archetypical everyboys that plague the medium- full of hope and love and as dumb as a banana peel.

The alternate character interpretation of Eugenie also disappointed me. Sure, there wasn’t enough time to adequately flesh out most of the cast (and for the most part, they don’t need personalities anyway), but going from “I’m never getting married! Instead I’m going to dress up like a man and run away with this chick!” in the original novel to “I’m never getting married! All right, all right, I’m secretly a big docile softie!” in the anime version, is quite the downgrade.

6.5/10 story
9/10 animation
6/10 sound
6/10 characters
6.5/10 overall