The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo

Title: Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo
Genre: Drama
Company: Gonzo/Media Factory
Format: 24 episodes
Dates: 5 Oct 2004 – 29 Mar 2005

Synopsis: Albert de Morcef is the son of a Parisian nobleman who is as oblivious of the 51st century world as he is naive. As any curious adolescent nobleman would, he travels to the surreal and enigmatic world of Luna together with his close companion, Franz d’Epinay. Fate comes into light when Albert meets the mysterious and opulent Count of Monte Cristo. From that moment onwards, his life dwindles into a web of deceit, betrayal and the retribution of a man who was eternally isolated for a crime he did not commit.

The Highlights
Characters: Multifaceted and engrossing; easy to relate to.
Storyline: Gripping and masterful; a marvelous adaptation of the novel.
Visuals: One of the best you’ll ever see, although requires getting used to.
Ending: Closes without any loose ends.

Gonzo is a company that I never really fancied browsing deeply into, and with flops such as Kiddy Grade and Real Bout High School, who can blame me. However, my mindset soon changed for the better with the emergence of Gankutsuou, a rich and epic show that epitomizes the term “technical brilliance”. It is a feast for all the senses and I will not hesitate when I say that this is one of the best anime I’ve ever seen.

One of the most conspicuous aspects of this show is its visuals. By combining digital technology and layering digital animation, it brings a life to the animation rarely shared by other shows. The opening sequence, “We Were Lovers” by Jean-Jacques Burnel, is as classical as it is delightful to the ears, and it perfectly embodies the novelistic story. The ending sequence, “You Won’t See Me Coming: is just as pleasurable; an upbeat number by the same ingenious artist that symbolizes the futuristic setting of the story. Moreover, the series is accompanied with a brilliant soundtrack that flawlessly sets the mood and ambience for each and every scene.

The story is just as magnificent as its adapted novel by Alexander Dumas. Director Maeda Mahiro masterfully revises numerous aspects of the story while keeping fairly faithful to the original plot. The cast is equally brilliant. The story is a tale of deception, greed and envy and it follows the life of a boy who is ignorant of what goes on around him as he experiences times of helplessness and betrayal. The journey shared between both Albert and the Count is both heartfelt and full of pathos, and there is hardly a dull moment in this visually spectacular series. Each episode begins with a prologue fluently done in French and it superbly sets up each intriguing chapter.

Unfortunately, this otherwise outstanding series does have a few imperfections. The visuals may render viewers a little dizzy initially, as the digitally-edited layers are, at times, stationary even during animation. This transition may cause some discomfort to the audience’s eyes at first, but as the story progresses, this minute flaw turns into just a faded memory. Moreover, there are certain terms in the story that require some knowledge of French 19th century culture, which may leave some people scratching their heads, wondering what they mean.

Apart from its trivial setbacks, this is truly one series that should not be missed. This may be one of the best adaptations from a classic novel to an anime, and I certainly hope we can see more series just as charming and riveting as Gankutsuou in the future.

The Rating: 9

Reviewed by: AC

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