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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
The original is better.