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