Anime: Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo Vol. 1

Vandemar

imageFrom Geneon comes Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo Volume 1. This anime adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ novel of revenge and adventure (one of the best books ever) changes quite a few things about the novel. Spaceships soar over the top hat wearing, carriage driving masses, and the Count is exiled to Luna instead of a small island, and it’s more of a bizzaro sci-fi setting than Dumas could’ve even dreamed of. However, it keeps the characters, pacing, and story fans of the novel love, and wraps them in an art style that defies description and makes for an interesting anime unlike anything you’ve ever seen.

Act 1: At Journey’s End, We Meet
A raucous Carnival, a riot of light and color, kicks off the disc. Albert and Franz, our two main characters, spy a mysterious man at the opera who’s set Luna society abuzz. His name: The Count of Monte Cristo. But the man soon invites them over for dinner and proves to be…much more mysterious up close.

Act 2: Until The Sun Rises Over The Moon
Albert wandered off to look for someone interesting and found more than he bargained for. Like bandits. Franz, in the meantime, is stuck at a party with a beautiful woman, at least until the ransom note arrives.

imageAct 3: 5/22, Stormy
Albert and Franz have returned to France after their time on Luna, but the Count is coming to visit and Albert owes him a favor. But first, the boys have a pinic with their friends and fiancées to enjoy, which builds some backstory and presumably gives the Count a chance to arrive from Luna.

Act 4: A Mother’s Secrets
The Count is introduced to Albert’s parents, but it turns out that he’s already acquainted with Albert’s mother. Just how acquainted is a matter causing considerable speculation among the servants.

On a technical note, this disc feels like an A-List release, especially with the 16:9 option. When a disc opens in widescreen, I feel like I’m about to watch a good movie, not just any ol’ series. There’s also a handy dandy display in the language setup screen that shows what language and subtitle options you have set up. This is one of those things I never knew I needed, until I had it, and now I have no idea how I lived without it. Given the randomness and finickyness of DVD menu systems, this is a huge feature.

The music is a mix. The opening theme sounds like something from a lounge crooner or emo band. Which is kinda weird, considering the rockin’ music in the menu and closing credits is so very cool. The ambient music in the series is alright, not particularly memorable but not hideously obnoxious. The opera in episode one is actually very nice, and I don’t like opera much, but nothing else leapt out at me.

imageNow to the art. The art style is…different. It blends together classic hand-drawn water color and cg, but also makes brilliant use of textures. While this would ordinarily be a jumbled mishmash of artistic nonsense, The Count of Monte Cristo manages to pull it off, drawing each method together into a unique style of its own. Quite frankly, I’ve never seen anything like this series. Some scenes are breathtaking: sci-fi spaceships with elegant lines and stars sparkling on polished metal fuselages, bizarre cityscapes with blimps and soaring towers out of the nightmares of an architect from the roaring 20s. Character outfits shift and move, which makes the series kind of hard to watch. It’s hard to pay attention to what the Count is saying as he walks, at least when his outfit is shifting its pattern ever-so-slightly. It’s a gorgeous series, but it’s sometimes jarring to realize you missed five minutes of conversation because the wavering in someone’s shirt or hair kept pulling your attention away. I’d need art school to explain it, but the impression I’m trying to leave is this: Gankutsuou is sometimes gorgeous, sometimes jarring, and always worth watching simply for the joy of watching it.

Did I like it? Well, that’s a surprisingly difficult question to answer. It’s very slow-paced, but Dumas never was known for his brevity, so we can blame that on the source material. The art was usually beautiful, but it made it hard to focus on the story. I enjoyed watching it, I’ll say. I don’t think I need to watch it a hundred more times, but it’s something I think everyone should see, if only so I don’t have to try and explain it to all of you. The character development, setting, and art alone merit a look, and I’m going to keep watching it because I think the Count himself is kickin’ rad.

Technical: 9.0
The art is usually gorgeous, but it sometimes gave me a headache.

Entertainment: 8.0
It’s a slow-paced series, but I definitely enjoyed it.

Overall: 9.0

Episodes: Act 1: At Journey’s End, We Meet, Act 2: Until The Sun Rises Over The Moon, Act 3: 5/22, Stormy, Act 4: A Mother’s Secrets

Extras: English Dolby Digital 2.0, Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0, English Subtitles, Anamorphic 16:9, Act 1-Storyboard by Director Mahiro Maeda, Interview with Director Mahiro Maeda, Comments from Voice Actors, Promotional Trailer, Textless Opening, Textless Ending, Geneon Previews

Shannon “Vandemar” Drake is the Community Development Manager for Warcry’s efforts in all things that aren’t games, though he still plays games and pontificates about them endlessly. He also serves as Site Manager for FMA Warcry and frequently contributes to the hubsite. He will talk about anime until you roll your eyes and walk away, which makes him sad. He’s currently watching Tenjho Tenge Volume 2

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