April 5, 2010

Bento Bako Weekly: Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo

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Written by: Kristin
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Title: Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo
Author/Director: Based on the novel by Alexandre Dumas, and directed by Mahiro Maeda, who also wrote the manga version (which focuses more on the Count, as opposed to the anime, which focuses on Albert)
Studio/Licensor: Animated gorgeously by Gonzo, licensed originally by Geneon, and re-released by FUNimation. The manga is distributed by Del Rey.
Episodes/Volumes: 24 episodes (on 6 DVDs from Geneon, 4 from FUNi). The manga is only 3 volumes. This review is specific to Geneon’s 6-disc release (and more specifically, the limited edition collector’s box set).
Vintage: Aired in 2004 in Japan, licensed by Geneon in 2005, re-released by FUNi in 2009. The manga began in 2005; Del Rey has released all volumes in America as of 2009.

This one is good, and I mean really good. It’s very intense, even for someone who already knows the basic story. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas is a pretty famous story, and most people know of it at least in its simplest form. Basically it keeps the main themes and central plot of the book – and by that I mean, there’s a guy named Edmond Dantes out to get his revenge against the people who stole his life away from him. Otherwise it’s been anime-fied. The Count is some kind of demon/vampire creature now (the Gankutsuou), and the story is set in the 50th century (in a sort of period future, where the clothes and architecture are very 19th-20th century France, but there are fancy space ships flying around). The story also focuses less on the Count and more on Mercedes’s son Albert and his friends. I often judge the value of an anime based on the emotion it elicits from me as a viewer, and I have to admit that the fifth disc of this series had me bawling.

The show is beautiful. On the fifth disc there is an art gallery (and another, different one on the sixth), and you need to look at this. It’s a massive collection (perfectly paced with music) of background art, environment art, and paintings. You will never again doubt Gonzo’s ability to produce something visually stunning (not that you should have doubted them to begin with, when they’ve done amazing work on shows like Last Exile, Trinity Blood, Saikano, and Basilisk). It’s a very unique style of animation that you don’t see very often, and it does take some getting used to. After a couple of episodes you’ll just be mesmerized by the beauty, and that’ll be that. Admittedly, the show has some very bizarre elements near the end (like old fashioned sword duels inside giant mechs). Yet even as you sit there being weirded out by the flying mechs and devouring demon, you’re still astounded by how amazing it all looks. You can’t help thinking “This is so bad ass.”

One of the beautiful card inserts that are included in each of the six DVD cases.

I think I’ve already said most of what can be said about the show itself. It’s all about love, friendship, justice, revenge, hope. Many of the same themes that are found in Dumas’s novel. So here’s the plot of Monte Cristo, which is the same in both the novel and the anime. Edmond Dantes is engaged to marry the beautiful Mercedes. Everything is going well with him – he’s getting married, he’s inheriting his captain’s ship, he’s successful and people respect him. When his captain died, he gave him a package and a letter to deliver to two people, who unfortunately had ties with the recently exiled Napoleon. Edmond’s jealous friend Fernand (a fellow sailor) and the ship’s purser Danglars send a letter to the prosecutor Villefort, claiming that Edmond is a traitor. The innocent and naive Edmond quickly becomes a scapegoat (the letter connects Villefort’s father with Napoleon) to save Villefort’s career, and Edmond is rushed off to prison without trial. When Edmond manages to escape from prison years later, having had ample time to piece together his unfortunate fate, he vows revenge on those who ruined his life, including Mercedes whom he now finds married to Fernand. Fernand, Danglars, and Villefort have all become successful and prosperous in his absence, and disguised as the rich Count of Monte Cristo, he sets about to destroy their lives as they destroyed his. In the book, he meets a man in prison who directs him to a great treasure which he finds after his escape; in the anime he makes a pact with the demon Gankutsuou, though the exact methods of amassing his fortune from nothing aren’t really explained (they are, however, explored in the manga).

The novel focuses on Edmond himself, but, as I mentioned, the anime focuses on Mercedes’s son Albert and Albert’s circle of friends. Still, it follows the main plot fairly closely; almost all of the major events occur, though usually with a certain flair particular to this retelling’s setting and style, and with the emphasis on Albert’s development and relationship with his friend Franz, his fiancee Eugenie (a relationship vastly different from that in the book), his mother, and the Count. The ending is also changed quite a bit, but it’s powerful, and it wraps everything up very nicely. So yes, it’s The Count of Monte Cristo, and while the Count and his revenge is the impetus for the story, he mostly exists to drive Albert and force the young man to mature and awaken from his naivety. So it’s also very much a coming-of-age story.

Both sides of the cover for the third DVD, one with Albert and Eugenie, and the other showing Mercedes.

The music in the show is pretty good. The intro is “We Were Lovers,” written and sung by Jean-Jacques Burnel. The music and lyrics are wonderful (and the tune is used several times within the show); the vocals…he’s kind of all over the place, and it takes some getting used to. But it’s such a beautiful song, and the animation to go along with it is lovely as well. The end theme is another by Burnel, “You Won’t See Me Coming.” Also adding to the series is a stellar use of “Il dolce suono” from the opera Lucia di Lammermoor (the same song is sung by the Diva in the movie The Fifth Element) in the first episode.

The English dubbing is fine. I was only really bothered by the voice for Maximilien Morrel, by Tony Oliver. Yes, Maximilien is a gentle sort of man, but he’s also a sailor and a soldier, and the English voice he is given is far too soft. I watched most (probably 90%) of the show in Japanese though. I just liked it more; particularly because Joji Nakata’s voice (the Count) is incredibly sexy. And, well, that’s important!

This one is a must see, and I think it’s also a must buy. I have a beautiful box set from Geneon that I got on sale at, with a lovely box, and gorgeous double-sided DVD covers. If I haven’t convinced you, the series is available for rent and instant streaming on Netflix, so you can try it out yourself.

Come back later this week for a look at April’s Previews.




  1. Billy

    Sounds pretty good and if the animation is anything like that card then it must be spectacular.

  2. That’s exactly what it looks like. They use this amazing CG overlay technique, and it looks really weird at first, but you get used to it pretty quickly. The whole series is quite breathtaking visually.

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Kristin Bomba. Kristin Bomba said: New #anime review: Gankutsuou Count of Monte Cristo […]

  4. From memory, it’s a texturing technique that seems to be bound to the left edge of whatever shape it was filling (like clothes, but hair too). It takes some getting used to, especially since the texture shifts as the characters move about (I know some viewers can’t stand to watch it; it makes them physically ill. Basically, it seems to induce motion sickness in a few people. I’ve always thought the textures should have had a better “bound” point to work from). It does get some taking used to, but once you do, the show does look spectacular.

    Basically, if you can stand the animation technique, I do highly recommended it. The DVD Box set is on my “must get” list since I watched the series off of Netflix.

  5. Kristin

    Ah, thanks for explaining, Nick. I don’t know anything about animation, so I’ll take your word for it. 🙂 But yeah, it’s not static, as he said. The textures move, as if they’re in the background and the animation is moving over them. I imagine it can make one a little motion sick, so if you’re super sensitive, you might want to avoid it. But as Nick said, if you can watch it without problems, it’s entirely worth it.
    The box set I have is still only $30 at (it’s originally $150, so that’s a huge discount). FUNimation’s release, which I assume is a thinpac, is $70 (MSRP), so the bargain there is pretty damn clear.

  6. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by girlg33k_Kris: New #anime review: Gankutsuou Count of Monte Cristo

  7. The Count of Monte Cristo is one of my favorite stories of all time and I never knew there was a manga version. Since these were re released in 2009 I can assume that they’re easy to find! Thanks Kris!

  8. I meant anime…Sandra Bullock had me distracted lol

  9. I absolutely love this book and would be willing to give the anime a shot…especially if it evoked tears from you Kristin! That means its gotta be good!!

  10. […] Murray, and can only vaguely recall him from the little bit of the English dubbing I listened to in Gankutsuou.  Occasionally it feels like something is missing from the anime…and that’s because it […]

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