Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo: anime review – Vengeance is the best form of entertainment

Review: Years from now, Gankutsuou will still be mentioned every time anime fans start discussing about the unique art in anime along with such prominent title like Trepeze, Mononoke or Kaiba. But Gankutsuou differs from those anime in one aspect. Unlike the said titles which bravely venture into new grounds in many ways at once, the art is the only innovative element found in Gankutsuou.

Is this a good thing? My answer is yes and no. Gankutsuou is based on Alexandre Dumas pere’s Le Comte de Monte-Cristo, a classic literature that presumably everyone knows enough to know all the key plot points beforehand. That eliminates any possibility of creating major suspense or giving the viewers any big shocking moments. Nevertheless, the anime cleverly counters this weakness with interesting characters, detailed side stories and the powerful directing that keeps the show moving at a steady pace. The anime is never boring and though the main plot about the Count’s revenge is going slowly, other minor plots keeps things interesting.

On the other hand, the predictability can also be considered a positive factor. A classic tale of love and vengeance mixed with political drama is something very accessible even for general audience. Let’s put it this way, I know that Gankutsuou’s visual style can be hard to adjust to at least initially (some people even find it nauseating) and if the story were also difficult or too convoluted to keep up with, lots of viewers would surely drop the show. So the typical plot is not the problem as long as it is well executed and fortunately, Gankutsuou manages that with ease and grace.

Naturally, in the tale like this, most of the characters are the black-and-white type. It is clear who are bad and who are good. The Count is the only one with most complexity. I especially like the way this anime portrays the Count as an evil entity who lies and destroys rather than as a good guy who is a victim of fate. Nevertheless, I think that the addition of Gankutsuou, the evil spirit, possessing the Count can be distracting. With the presence of Gankutsuou, the viewers cannot be sure if what the Count does is really his doing. I presume that the anime uses Gankutsuou as the representative of the Count’s desire for vengeance that possesses him and consumes his soul from within.

I don’t know if the producers wants to put the setting into the far future then employs the different art style later to make the show looks futuristic or the other way around. But the world of Gankutsuou is indeed very strange. The social structure and traditions are similar of that of the older era but the year is actually 5053 and the technology is extremely advanced. So the viewers must throw away all logical thoughts and embrace the new world with open mind. It is fantasy in the extreme, take it or leave it!

Like I have mentioned before, the production style and quality is the most interesting and arguably the best thing Gankutsuou has to offer. The shear artistic beauty is so captivating that I often find myself carried away by it. The original soundtracks are generally good and I absolutely love the choice of the opening song.

Conclusion: Gankusuou achieves every quality that makes a good anime series. Plus, the exceptional visual quality and the unique imagination help lift this anime up higher and it ultimately becomes an excellent anime.

Rating: A

Facts

Title: Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo
Genre: fantasy, sc-fi, drama, thriller
Release date: October 5, 2004 – March 29, 2005
Episode: 24
Director: Mahiro Maeda
Animated by: GONZO

12 responses to “Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo: anime review – Vengeance is the best form of entertainment

  1. This is definitely on my list of works to watch. I remember seeing a bit of it a long time ago, but not really enough to make any real judgement. I read the novel by Dumas, but I had a mixed reaction to it as a whole (gripping beginning, really slow or sagging sections in the middle, but gets better near the end as things come together).

    I don’t like the idea of an ‘evil spirit’, to be honest, but it depends on the execution. The visuals also look quite interesting.

  2. The way they had retold the story from a new character’s perspective, Alber’s, was pretty damn innovative. Also, the ending was drastically different from the novel’s. Incorporating a separate personality called Gankutsuou in the Count’s body also added quite a bit of complexity (you already pointed thta out). And imagine all this in a world set many millenniums in the future. How often do we see a novel from the West adapted so very well?

    • ‘How often do we see a novel from the West adapted so very well?’
      Very rarely, I must say. And when you brought this up, I kept thinking about how bad Romeo x Juliet was :P

  3. i think that this series is a masterpiece. thrilling from the begining to the end.
    Was delicious to watch how the Count’s plans unfold and his enemies fall for their own faults in karmic-ish ways (specially Villefort). and see how almost everyone has squeletons in their closet , being subtle and melodramatic in righ time and dosis.
    the opening song is not just nice, it’s made me feel sympathy/pity for the Count even after involve innocent people in his revenge (…but my friends betray me , making that you’ll never be my wife…) Sob, I can’t be angy with him, well that and being absolutely awesome.
    The changes were mostly for best, specially for the ending of Mercedes and Haidee, I hated that in the novel . Gankutsuou being a evil alien/spirit was a bit dorky, but as you said was for emphatise that Edmond was devoured by his desire of revenge, so don’t spoil this jewel.

    pd:The art style is superb, if someone doubt it just need watch the opera’s dress of Haidee.

    • Story about revenge is always delicious! Watching bad guys getting what they deserve is always fun.
      The opening sequence is only one of many artistic challenges this anime provide to us. :)

  4. I’ve read the original book, I liked some aspects but wasn’t as entertained by others. But regardless of my opinions on the book this anime is also on my to watch list.

  5. I certainly don’t think being a ‘rewrite’ really hurts it in any way. Gankutsuou is one of those series that really puts it in definition on what good storytelling accomplishes, even without relying on climatic shock values. Even if you knew exactly what would happen, simply being immersed in the story would leave one feeling the thrill and excitement of every scene all over again, because the characters/plot was developed so vividly, in such depth and detail.
    But yeah, the art style is still the most striking. Hard to believe sometimes that this was a GONZO production (so SHAFTy!)

  6. awesome review i am planning to watch this anime next. You can also visit my blog http://monsteranime.wordpress.com/ its nothing compared to yours but let me know what you think about it and hopefully give me some tips on how to improve it.

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