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Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo

gankutsuou-2
Genre: Drama/Romance
Company: Gonzo/Media Factory
Format: 24 episodes
Dates: 10/5/2004 to 3/29/2005

Albert de Morcef is the typical child of an aristocrat, going though the motions and living a comfortable life without really questioning the world around him. In an attempt to shake away a bit of the apathy, he travels to the seductive but dangerous planet Luna to have some fun with his friend Franz. It is there that he meets and becomes enthralled with the mysterious Count of Monte Cristo, a man equally enigmatic as he is rich. It is during their encounters that he invites the Count to Paris, promising to introduce him to the most important people of society. What he doesn’t know is that the Count has some shocking plans of his own that will change Albert’s life forever.

summary by Soundchazer

 

Reviewed: 03/02/2006 by
Grade: 94% av-Soundchazer

Highs: Incredible artwork; dialogue; story

Lows: Artwork needs some getting used to

It seems that Studio Gonzo have found a way to get it right this time by using a tried and true, classic story. That is what most people will say, but they tend to forget that even adaptations can be horrible… or at least underwhelming if not treated with care. And to be quite frank, the team that put together this gem is not exactly proven: Maeda Mahiro (director), Takahashi Natusko (scripter) and Matsubara Hidenori (character designer). They have had some interesting successes in the past, but also quite a few duds. Yet somehow you can tell this was something of a pet project for them, with their love of the original source material by Alexandre Dumas really shining through.

One of the most intriguing elements of this anime is the artwork. In an attempt to make something simple like clothing more appealing and having the sophistication worthy of the status of the characters, the producers decided to use computer-generated textures instead of regular flat colors. It seems like everything in the world of Gankutsuou is bright and flashy, as if to show a Paris that is larger than life and the epicenter of universe. They also decided to do an adaptation that didn’t necessarily conform to the era in which the original story took place, making it more of a futuristic space adventure than a period piece around the time of the French Revolution. And yet, homage is paid to some of the elements of Parisian customs of that era, but given an ultra-modern twist.

But really, what makes this product tick is the story and dialogue. There is plenty of reflection that can be taken out of the tale and a lot of lines that are, quite frankly, instant classics and very memorable. A great decision was to take a tangent of the story, making it more about Albert’s vicissitudes in his progression towards maturity than a story centered on the Count himself. Monte Cristo seems to me more of the main secondary character, while Albert is the star of the show. By doing this, the creators can shake some of the direct comparisons with the book, which would most likely be a disservice because it probably wasn’t aimed at doing a verbatim interpretation. Instead, it tries to remain true to the morals that come from it.

The one thing that bothered me the most at first was the art, which took about three or four episodes for the producers to find the right balance between texture complexity and line traces. It was a bit difficult to absorb all the information that was saturating the screen, and the facial features were partially lost in a sea of colors. But this was fixed later on and subsequently perfected, so it is just a minor gripe. Gankutsuou is such a unique piece of artwork that trying to compare it with other anime would be unfair to both products. If anything, I see future anime copying and adapting what Gonzo did, and we are already seeing some of its ideas permeating into anime like Paradise Kiss. This is a show that should be at least tried. This anime won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it will at least give its detractors something interesting to talk about as it won’t go unnoticed.

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