Director: Mahiro Maeda
Writer: Shuichi Kouyama
Animation Studio: Gonzo
Version Watched: Subbed
It’s been a fair while since I first watched The Count of Monte Cristo and despite the viewing having been forced by a high school class I found it to be pretty enjoyable. Gankutsuou is an anime adaptation with a slightly different focus which adds in a little of its own spice to the mix and overall does a great job of bringing both the characters and story to life. It boasts a unique visual style which may or may not appeal to your tastes and the ending goes a little off the rails but neither of those aspects should stop you from giving this series a chance.
Albert de Morcerf is the son of the great General Morcerf, hero of the intergalactic war and leading candidate for France’s presidency. Having been raised in a life of luxury, Albert is visiting the moon (Luna) for its grand festival with his childhood friend Franz when the two encounter the eccentric yet charismatic Count of Monte Cristo. The Count claims to be a nobleman who has travelled to the far reaches of space and back, and after saving Albert’s life from a gang of kidnappers he asks for the boy’s aid in moving to Paris, where the Morcerf family holds great sway. Monte Cristo’s very presence will bring significant change, however, to Paris, France and the world at large, though whether his hidden plans are beneficent or malicious remains to be seen.
Anyone who knows the original story may spot a few differences in that synopsis. For one, Albert is most definitely the protagonist this time around and I have to say he plays the role of the spoiled and naïve but overall kind-hearted young noble beautifully. Offset by the role of the magnificent Count of Monte Cristo, his relationships with both major and minor characters make for very entertaining watching. I had great fun despite already being aware of the major twists and turns of the plot. While I admit that my memory isn’t perfect, I’m fairly sure that Gankutsuou explores a number of interesting issues the original had less time for and for me that was one of the aspects that made it a worthwhile adaptation. Other changes weren’t quite as well considered, so I’d better cover those too.
There’s a definite science-fiction / steam punk vibe to Gankutsuou, which is generally utilised to good effect and doesn’t take away from the narrative, but there’s also a supernatural component (which I suppose you could argue lies within the realm of science-fiction) that twists some of the important themes and values from the original. While it spends most of the series lying low, it rears its ugly head during the last few episodes and, for me at least, makes them less than they could have been. That said, the vast majority of the show is very well done, with plenty of cliffhanger endings making you wonder what on earth might happen next. It’s exciting and emotional and I looked forward to getting back to it each night.
Gankutsuou’s art style is…novel, I suppose. The actual character animation won’t do anything to wow you with the exception of the Count himself on occasion, while the backgrounds and clothing could either draw you further into the narrative or distract you from it completely. Patterns and colors shift with the movements of characters or the camera and the styles of buildings, vehicles and landscapes can only be described as fantastical, but in a way I have never seen before and probably won’t encounter ever again. You’ll have to refer to the pictures I’ve included because any description I give will fall short of the reality. For me, at times the style acted to capture my attention and differentiate Gankutsuou from other shows, while at others it distracted from the narrative being explored rather than working to support it. Sound-wise, the series uses a variety of great background music to accompany its most important scenes, using it to potentiate the emotions it seeks to evoke at any one time. Basically, it was good.
Summary – While I wasn’t thrilled with its ending Gankutsuou was a very enjoyable series while it lasted. The characters and characterisation were a major highlight for me and the show had a number of issues and events that made it entertaining even though I had already viewed an earlier adaptation of the source material. I looked forward to starting each new episode, as the pacing was at the right tempo to be exciting but not rushed. The Geek Clinic happily recommends Gankutsuou.
Score: 8.5/10 – Good