Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo

Reviews

Pantha's avatar By 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.


Overall

Whether or not you get the most enjoyment out of Gankutsuou depends on whether or not you've read the novel. Although they may be lost for a time, my highest recommendation goes to those that haven't (or just saw some half-ass movie). Without any preconceptions, one would undoubtedly really enjoy this. Ignorance is bliss, so to speak. Those that have read it, however, should proceed with caution. Let's be honest here: Depending on your lens, the changes made will either interest or outrage you. There are a few things that it does better than the original source and there are some things that should have been left alone. Despite this, though, Gankutsuou could be enjoyed anyway, even with certain prejudices. And that, coming from me, is saying something.

8/10 story
9/10 animation
6/10 sound
7/10 characters
7.5/10 overall
AirCommodore's avatar By 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.


Overall

The horrendous last seven or so episodes brought this series down quite a few notches. If it weren’t such a silly idea, I would recommend you stop watching when you get to the Count’s duel, commit the wonderful first 2/3rds to your memory and pretend the studio tragically ran out of budget before they could animate the remainder.

6.5/10 story
9/10 animation
6/10 sound
6/10 characters
6.5/10 overall
roriconfan's avatar By on Jun 15, 2012

PROPER MINDSET
Gankutsuou is the retelling of a centuries-old story of revenge and for some weird reason being a show made by GONZO it is not a complete failure. At the same time nobody should expect too much from it, especially if he is aware of the original Alexander Dumas book. The reason is somewhat clear; aside from GONZO being a sign of auto-fail, the series is also directed by Maeda Machiro, whose only other works he was in charge are the most horrible/disgusting/vomiting/atrocious Final Fantasy: Unlimited and the most dull/rushed/lazy Blue Submarine No.6. So anyone aware of what he is getting into would definitely not be eating his nailtips to find out.

ART
The first thing that makes it interesting is the coloring style, which is quite uncommon, monochromatic faces and clothes filled with patterned shapes that don’t even give of the feeling of perspective. In fact, the whole thing looks completely flat when it’s about 3D models and the result is not lazy but artistic; done deliberately cartoony to allow better fluidity of body and face motions. I really liked this part. Too bad GONZO couldn’t hold back and rushed to throw in lots of badly done CGI objects as backgrounds as well, making a farce out of the whole thing. Not only the 2D-3D blend looks bad, but also (as always) any polygon-based objects that come out of that company’s computers are goddamn ugly and have really bad motions. At points they also throw in live action clips as well, such as crowds of people or fireworks, but those are just unimpressive in my eyes and REALLY lazy since they didn’t bother to animate or at least draw over them with ink or something.

So effectively the series is a combination of three different styles (superflat, GONZO fakin CGI, and live action) which I must say don’t blend very nicely. It sure makes the whole thing to look like an abode of experimental animation for the sake of experimental and not because it’s relevant to the plot. I have seen something similar done in Mind Game, Kare Kano, and Tatami Galaxy, which were both based on modern Japan and somewhat excused the live action and superflat use. Over there, they were excusing the mentality of the character, but here it is just a mess of ideas with nothing behind them. It sure makes it stand out from most other anime, it is very memorable and eye captivating, but there is no correlation with what is going on in the story.

CAST
The second thing that makes an impression is the story… which is mostly character-centered and for that I will analyze those first. In this case we see the story unfold mostly through the eyes of Albert, the naive son of one of the nobles the Count is after. That was an interesting twist since this way the Count retains an aura of mystery for most of the show, hiding his backdrop story and motives for a big chunk of the series. On the other hand, Albert is a fakin pussy, the stereotypical ball-less, boring, indecisive, wimp, oblivious, meek, dumb-looking, overused stereotype of modern anime. He is supposed to be Mr. Vanilla Ice-cream, so everybody can identify with his blunt personality. Well excuse me for being a GAR fan who finds this type of a lead hero to deserve public execution on sight. STOP THROWING HAREM LEADS IN SCI-FI YOU IDIOTS!

The Count is the BIG BADASS of the series and the main attraction in general. Hell, he is even in the cover poster for Pete’s sake. Hiding his motives by telling the story through the eyes of that other idiot was a nice move but they could definitely flavor Albert more. Anyways, the Count is the SUPER GAR AWESOME VAMPIRE LORD WITH HIS OWN PERSONAL HUGE MECHA AND GAZILLION GIZMOS MASTERMIND and he is an exceptional character to follow through. You eventually see where his personality hails from and why his motives and grief originate from his hatred. He is a full-fledged personality and I like him a lot. So ok, in this version he is a vampire or something and he fights with a huge robot at times which felt ridiculous and a poor excuse for hollow action. Skipping that nonesense he is a very interesting one and practically the only memorable in the whole show.

There are many others in there somewhere but all feel as nothing but pawns in the Count’s plans or short lived adversaries and minor support NPCs. As much as the series tried to focus on them, they were simply not important to the main plot, which was very simply Monte Christo avenging a bunch of aristocrats. In fact, the show lasts so long just because the plot delves into their lives half the time and we see things that eventually don’t matter in the longrun. So ok, they get fleshed out a lot this way but always in the sidelines instead of having more active role in the main story. And anyways, the Count is always three steps ahead of them so even when they try to fight back they are owned badly.

The great flaw with most of the characters comes when they get weird mood swings which feel like they are out-of-character. For example, there is a noble who mistreats his son badly but some time later when his son is in danger he will offer even his life to protect him. Where did that come from? And the Count going all insane, yet calming down when Albert is hugging him? How did that spineless, useless, boring guy manage to affect the SUPER GAR VAMPIRE LORD with a hug? It’s like trying to put out a volcano using a water pistol. This is pure date sim BS where Mr. Vanilla is useless in everything yet his morality monologues win the hearts of all the chicks… including GAR SUPER MASTERMINDS in this case, which is completely retarded.
God, I hate Albert!
Anyways, the character chemistry is interesting but their development feels fake and most of what they do is useless in the longrun.

SCRIPT
The story is also not that complicating outside of Monte Christo’s quest of vengeance, with half of the duration being talking with characters that don’t matter. That is why the pacing is very slow to the most part and you usually need to wait a lot for something important to happen while suffering through some really dull moments, all done deliberately for building up tension by slowing down the progress. Well it didn’t work for me; especially with Albert and his boring stunts at the helm. I mean just look at the finale, which is a calm event years after the final showdown. You will clearly see how Albert is so spineless, it took all this time just to come and see again a person he vowed to care for all his life. That is so stupid. Overall, a rather simple tale, done in slow motion with a weak ending.

SOUND
As usual, I find very little to say about the sound department. The soundtrack leaves me indifferent with its combo of ballads and electronics; hard to find them memorable for any given reason but I guess they fit the mood of the series. The speech was an interesting part though, the songs were in English lyrics, the intro to each episode was in French (a tribute to the original) and the Japanese dialogues were not retarded. Sound effects were ok but sure felt worse because of the GONZO effect on the visuals.

VALUE
Amongst the best of GONZO’s works but it could sure be a lot better. I find little reason to rewatch it since the plot is so damn slow and has some ridiculous fights and resolutions. Plus, there is much more of Albert than of the Count Very memorable for its animation style but messy in its presentation.

ENJOYMENT
It is not a bad show and I did dig the artistic side of it. It’s just that the original story had a lot less to tell in equally a lot less amount of time and thus felt more concrete in its overall feeling. Plus I have read and watched V for Vendetta, which is a very well done graphic novel, also adapted to film, based on the same story as well. It was clearly a far more mature and captivating version without the dragging and ridiculous mecha action. Being aware of the original and having seen something better means I was not fazed much by Gankutsuou. My negative bias towards GONZO had something to do with it too. But it is not a bad series, especially for non-veterans and those who don’t care about fast pace or good screenplay. In fact, most people who liked it are those who are not aware of the original story or were simply mesmerized by the funky visuals to the point they lost their sense of time. It works for the less demanding audience but for veterans like me it feels too long and pretentious.

And now for some excused scorings.

ART SECTION: 8/10
General Artwork 2/2 (artsy)
Character Figures 2/2 (the count looks great; the others are extravagant to say the least)
Backgrounds 1/2 (weird blend of stuff I don’t like)
Animation 1/2 (basic)
Visual Effects 2/2 (artsy)

SOUND SECTION: 8/10
Voice Acting 4/5 (mature; thank the book origins for that)
Music Themes 4/5 (not great but fitting with the feeling of the series)

STORY SECTION: 4/10
Premise 2/2 (interesting)
Pacing 0/2 (painfully slow)
Complexity 0/2 (too many characters, too little point in the longrun)
Plausibility 1/2 (the sci-fi kinda ruins it but otherwise ok)
Conclusion 1/2 (cheesy but solid)

CHARACTER SECTION: 7/10
Presence 2/2 (cool)
Personality 2/2 (rather cheesy but well founded)
Backdrop 1/2 (generic and simplistic but it’s there)
Development 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)
Catharsis 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)

VALUE SECTION: 8/10
Historical Value 3/3 (all-known)
Rewatchability 1/3 (low because of too little plot)
Memorability 4/4 (extremely artsy to the point of forever remembering it)

ENJOYMENT SECTION: 5/10
Art 0/1 (looks artsy but in a pretentious way)
Sound 2/2 (sounds fine)
Story 1/3 (too much filler and slow pacing)
Characters 2/4 (the Count is super, the rest are meh)

VERDICT: 6.5/10

The original is better.

7/10 story
8/10 animation
8/10 sound
7/10 characters
7/10 overall
thegoldenwaste's avatar By on Feb 27, 2011

I just love tales of revenge. Well, in my 23rd community anime review for Anime-Planet, I am going to be looking at Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo. A 24 episode series from the pretty much defunct or dead GONZO. Aside from Kaleido Star, I am a firm believer that Gankutsuou is one of GONZO's masterpieces. That said, usual review rules apply. No spoilers or cursing. Please feel free to comment on or review my review here. I also urge you to read my other reviews in the hopes you will discover another fantastic anime series to watch. Thanks for reading and here is the review.

Story; We have all probably read The Count of Monte Cristo, seen the crap live- action movie with some guy in it or have some sort of knowledge about the book by Alexander Dumas. Gankutsuou is, for the most part, that very same book. However, there is one critical difference. This takes place in space. Yes, you heard me. Space. That is pretty darn creative right there and only something GONZO could really do. It's a great tale of revenge and watching The Count slowly weave his revenge into a  blanket of bombs ready to drop at any second is pure brilliance. Mahiro Maeda is a genius and paced the series perfectly.

Animation; It's a beautiful series with costumes done by the famous fashion designer Anna Sui. I have kept up with fashion before Gankutsuou and was fascinated by her works long before this anime. When I heard she was involved here, it immediately raised a red flag. It's a downright gorgeous show to watch. The backgrounds and scenery were criminally beautiful. The only reason this area did not obtain a ten is simple. Those ugly knight mechas, wow. Those things were hideous and really did sour the mood when they were present in this series. Character designs were superb and I really wish I could have given this area a ten but that CG is the death of it.

Sound; The music for this series is dramatic and exaggerating so. It is almost silly and laughable. The opening song is surprisingly good and it fits the series' tone and story perfectly. The ending song just as much fits the series, because after all, they will not see him coming. It will be too late for them. I listened to the English and Japanese tracks. I am going to give preference and recommendation to the English track on this one.

Characters; There is not much in the way of differences among the book and this anime. For such differences, I am going to refer you to look elsewhere because it may be a spoiler and I have a strict policy in my reviews against it. In all though, they were pretty likable characters, at least the innocent ones were. You cannot help root for The Count in some aspects but in others root for the three families, Albert, Franz and company. They are great characters and one of the most compelling stories and highlights of the series.

Overall; Gankutsuou is a near-masterpiece to me. It was significant in shaping my tastes in anime as how they are today. My love for artistic series that do not sacrifice story or characters began with Gankutsuou. It's shaped me in more ways than one. I have always loved tales of revenge and this is no exception. As a fan of the Dumas book, this a great modern day revival of a fantastic classic book. I am going to recommend highly this one.

10/10 story
9.5/10 animation
9.5/10 sound
9.5/10 characters
9.6/10 overall
Niburu's avatar By on Aug 19, 2011

Based on the original Dumas story, this anime a jewel in various ways, most notable in the animaton (to which many disagree). Having read the novel a long time ago for my French classes, I was quite intrigued seeing an anime adeptation. While there are too many differences to list, the main points of the novel are still in place, the tale tells a story of revenge, greed, jealousy and redemption, and although pointers are clear since the start of the series, it doesn't lesses the intrigue with each episode.

I especially want to stress the art and setting of the series. While many comment of the brain-melting texture usage, I found it very refreshing, giving a flair to the series which fits the out of this-world-wealth shown in the series. This is especially shown in the opera episode with the dress (you know when you see it). Being a fan of Space Opera movies and novels such as Dune, I especially liked the way of showing the future: It isn't high-tech, or at least, all the high tech is hidden. The rich are able to live according to lifestyles of the past, in a Rococo-like world. The major downfall in the animation is the 3d scenes, which are just cheap renderings and lack the experimental style used in the 2d scenes. Thankfully 3d animation isn't used often, and the scenes in which it is used isn't that important story-wise.

The characters have depth, especially those who are sought after by the count, with their flaws shown, and each episode bringing them closer to breaking point. Gankutsuou never fails to entertain, and while some might call it's pacing slow, it fits the road to revenge very well. If it would have been done any faster, the slow poisonous intrigue would have lost it's strength,

So if you are looking for a series which has drama, intrigue and lots of tension, while also visual entertaining and challenging, this is a must see!

?/10 story
?/10 animation
?/10 sound
?/10 characters
8.6/10 overall