Classic Art For The Modern World
ONENEO | Buffalo, NY | 04/30/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Never let it be said that modern anime is particular about where it draws its inspiration. The concept of creating a series based on a novel written in 1844 then setting it in the year 5053 sounds like a far stretch for any production staff and yet somehow, someway Mahiro Maeda (the director of Blue Submarine No. 6) manages to pull it off in Gankutsuou with style. The novel of course is none other than Three-Musketeer's author, Alexandre Dumas' Count of Monte Cristo (in case you somehow missed this series' title).
Here in the United States, this is a re-release by Funimation of an earlier Geneon DVD release of basically the same name. Side note: Geneon typically labeled the show Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo while Funimation flips the order to The Count of Monte Cristo: Gankutsuou. Other than that the only difference is that rather than spreading the 24 episodes across six discs, Funimation manages to do it in four (packaged in a pair of beautiful thin packs within a subtle cardboard outer case). The source material comes to us via the brilliant minds of Japanese anime studio Gonzo; who themselves bring a long list of unique, thought-provoking titles to the table (such as their 2007 anime adaptation of Romeo and Juliet).
This set, as has been the trend of late, contains virtually no extras to speak of although the language options are thorough (English dub and original Japanese with or without English subtitles).
The story is setup to appeal to fans of the original work and those with no prior exposure alike as it retains all of the key plot points but adds a few new elements and tells it from a totally different perspective (kind of like what John Gardener's novel Grendel does to the classic Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf).
The Count of Monte Cristo: Gankutsuou tells the epic tale of a wrongfully accused man's intricate plot of exacting revenge through the relatable doings of a fifteen-year-old aristocrat from Paris named Albert (pronounced "al-bear" in homage to the French author's original motif). As stated above, the show goes to great lengths to establish an atmosphere stunningly reminiscent of 19th century France while integrating just enough technology to remind the viewer that this is, in fact, the future- and the very distant future at that.
Pacing is deliberately slow and thorough and really compliments that rather dry-nature of the source material. However, while this may be viewed as a negative with some shows, Gankutsuou turns the story telling element into an art form in and of itself. This is adult anime and not because of the usual pitfalls that eliminate younger viewers from the equation. Rather than sexual references, violence and language, Gankutsuou can be called mature on account of its sophistication and mood-appropriate visuals.
In fact it is nearly impossible to find a review of the show that doesn't trip all over itself in praise for the artistic vision and unique animation style. The best way to describe it is imagine near photo-realistic textures layered behind transparent character models. If that sounds odd to you, rest assured, it is but somehow it works. What makes the visuals so unique is that the textures are static, meaning they don't move even when the character boasting them does. It's one of those traits so unique that you may go as far as to label it distracting early on yet it manages to become subdued as the viewer loses himself in the ever-thickening plot. Even by the later episodes there are a few ugly examples of where texture-overloaded scenes come off as overly busy or muddled but as a whole, the source material literally benefits from this unique art style.
If there were a single complaint worth mentioning about the show it would have to be the simple reality that this isn't run of the mill anime by any sense of the word. It's pretty difficult to place the show into a genre in fact. The story is, quite frankly, unlike any other seen in modern anime, which I suppose is to be expected when you remember that this is classic literature in animated form. Viewers expecting scantly clad women, characters with abnormally large and watery eyes, or slapstick of any kind need not apply. Being that the setting does take place in the distant future, there are a few robotic fight scenes (duels that wouldn't look out of place in Escaflowne) and some pretty cool space travel concepts.
As a whole, though, it would be easy for viewers with a short attention span to become bored. There's a steady and reliable flow to the plot that requires patience and a bit of maturity (or at the very least, an appreciation for fine culture).
When directly compared to the original novel, some may scoff at the fact that there is a slight supernatural angle that acts as the backdrop here. Without revealing too much of the actual mystery presented within, let me just comment on the character of Edmond Dantes allowing an insalubrious entity (Gankutsuou) possession of his body so as to escape imprisonment and to realize his ambitions of revenge. A fan of the original work, it is a bit disappointing personally to note that Edmond's creativity in escaping his prison was omitted here. Worse still is that while the original can be viewed essentially as a cautionary tale in the dangers of allowing vengeance to overtake one's life, here the metaphor is perhaps taken a bit too literally. Otherwise, and especially true for those not tied to the beauty of the original work, the supernatural elements do go a long way in adding intrigue and creepiness to the formula.
The show's music score is not only hauntingly appropriate; it's at times, dare I say, catchy (especially the opening theme which is about as unique as they come). Throughout are rich piano scores and solid symphonic pieces.
In all, Gankutsuou: the Count of Monte Cristo is one of the most unique properties of all time to grace anime ideology. With a timeless story, unique art style, and underlining themes that nearly anyone can benefit from in their own lives, Gankutsuou reminds us all that modern art is far from dead; if even only the result of rejuvenating the classics as the case may be."
Not your average anime
Jason B | Dayton, OH United States | 07/31/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is definitely something to watch if you want to get away from your average anime series. I would call it a drama more than anything, with a tiny bit of action and sci-fi thrown in. The animation is unique and very well done. Even knowing the story, from the novel and other Count films, it will still keep you on the edge of your seat waiting to find out the secrets behind all the characters. The music and sound is good, being mainly classical and ambient. It seems like of all of the series I have watched, they always have excellent or at the very least memorable opening and closing credit music. Although the music that repeatedly cues the end of almost every episode is awesome, the opening and ending songs here are HORRIBLE! The dub also could have been better. It seems like the same group of actors do EVERY anime series. If you've watched Last Exile, Cowboy Bebop, Planetes, even Lupin the third, you will hear all the familiar voices, and it's irritating to me. Those being my only two real complaints, it's still a very enjoyable series. I only see two ratings on here, and that sucks. This show is worthy of much more attention."
My favorite anime! I could eat it for dinner
Colby Fairbourn | UT | 05/05/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo is my favorite anime series, hands down. It is also my favorite from Studio Gonzo.
When I first watched it I had never seen any other version of the Monte Cristo story, nor had I read the book. So it was all new to me. I'm glad for that, because as the show progressed I become more and more fixated on it all. I started it on a Sunday afternoon, and stayed awake long through the night until it was finished; I couldn't turn it off.
If you're unfamiliar with the story of the Count and his need for revenge, then I must say DON'T RESEARCH IT! Don't ask your friends or anyone! Just get this anime and be surprised like I was.
If you already know the story, then still I would recommend this series because I've heard its the best rendition of the story.
-The story is marvelous. Its based on the book, and from what I've heard others say, it does justice to the novel. I'm not going to tell what its about, only that it involves a man who must seek out his revenge. And it takes place in the future, where people can live outside the earth and travel to wherever their hearts desire.
If you already know the story then you'll have a pretty good idea. However, I'm not sure if the book had anything to do with supernatural elements. The anime, however, deals with such topics. So watch it and I know you'll like it.
-I don't know how they are in the book, but the characters in the anime are all intriguing and sincere. They are the building blocks of the story, and the series relies heavily on them to move the plot forward. The Count is especially dark, mysterious, and very sexy. Albert, the main character, is beautifully fleshed out and acts like any 16 year old would. You will fall in love with the characters the moment you lay eyes on them.
-The best music I've ever heard in an anime series. It combined classic orchestrations with electronic harmonies. There are even some opera pieces included that are brilliant and some of my favorites to begin with. The music sweeps you up and takes you one step higher as you watch. Magnificent.
-Perhaps the best part of the series. Studio Gonzo has created their masterpiece. The characters look like typical Gonzo work, but their clothing and the environments they live in are drastically artistic. Its hard to explain, maybe the best way to understand it is to see a picture of the anime. You'll notice the art is colorful, bright, flashy, and very unique. There isn't anything out there like it, which makes it all the more thirst-quenching. I would re-watch the show simply to marvel in its mystifying art.
Plus everything looks hand drawn, save for a few things here and their. It truly is something to behold.
My favorite anime series, and one of the greatest that will ever be created, Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo is Studio Gonzo's greatest achievement. It proves Gonzo has what it takes to make a true work of art, one that will stand the test of time and will always take the viewer's breath away. The story is classic and taken straight from the novel. The characters play off their animation style, and in turn the way they are drawn becomes part of who they are. The music is phenomenal, especially for someone like me who enjoys orchestral music above other genres. All at once it is epic, touching, poignant, and historic; a moving work of art.
-Accurate. Its basically Rated R. No, this isn't for the young ones. It might not even be appropriate for the young teens. There is some language, and some drug use. But when it gets violent it is almost always graphic and bloody. Plus there is some nudity, especially in the festival on the moon. People can be seen dancing naked. There are some shower scenes with full back and frontal nudity. There is one scene where rape is suggested and a young girl gets her clothes ripped off. There is another harsh scene where a grown woman is moaning and we suddenly see her playing with herself. One character is hinted at being Bisexual. Frances, the main character's best friend, has romantic feelings towards Albert. Albert himself might be bisexual, and in a way he falls in love with the count. There are plenty of adult themes and mature topics discussed.
But I don't think children and even some teens would be interested in the show. It might sound like some hyper-sexual, gory anime but in the end the edgy material isn't focused on as much. Still it deserves its TV-MA/R rating and shouldn't be watched when there are kids/young teens around."
Graphics and Grace: Flattering the Already Riviting Fable
SweetSoulX | Las Vegas, NV | 09/30/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Buy this NOW! Don't ask questions just do it. Trust me. It will be one of the best things you've ever done for yourself.
The book was definitely more detailed, yes, but for those of us who have only seen the jam-packed movies for this classic, we're mislead to believe the story is the average tale of being wronged and getting revenge.
Finally, a screen-set story that fits the encumbered emotional and dauntingly complex and puzzling full story. Gonzo did not, of course, get the whole book in here, but they certainly at least tried and did a dang good job of it.
I mean, come on now. Can you really deny the glee you get when a good man who's life has been ruined returns from the grave to perplex, confuse, and drive the people who wronged him insane? How about the morbid giggles you get when an overzealous rogue of a man is borderline insane but somehow making everything he touches crumble into madness?
You know you love it.
For those of us who are still skeptics about the classicness of so-called classic tales, this is the perfect way to force the "have to know what really happens in more detail" down on a television addicted time. If you don't care who The Great Gatsby was or why there was A Tale of Two Cities, you'll at least have the satisfaction of saying you knew who The Count of Monte Cristo was. You will have the burning need to read the book after watching. No free will to it.
Gonzo, the studio that took up the feat, was also let lose to try new styling tactics. Although distracting and annoying at times, they are usually stunning and make you think of the future of style with a "what if.." in place.
You won't be disappointed... You just won't."