Gankutsuou -The Count of Monte Cristo- Vol. #4 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, May 09, 2006



What They Say
The world Albert has always known is crumbling to its foundations! Eugenie has a new fianc´┐Ż, his father's campaign faces scandal, and Franz is determined to learn the secret of "Gankutsuou!" Meanwhile, Haidee has some shocking relevations, and Albert finally hears the Count's tale of betrayal, imprisonment and heartbreak.


The Review!
The Count's plans move full force across the cast while new revelations abound that shakes Albert's foundations.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. Both tracks feature a very solid stereo mix that captures the life of this show very well. There's a great sense of directionality across the forward soundstage right from the start and is well used from the large loud scenes down to the eerily quiet scenes. Voices in particular come across beautifully here and these tracks are very easy to get lost in. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing across 2004 and 2005, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. With the visuals being such a key part of the presentation here, a clean and problem free transfer is almost essential and that's exactly what we get. The show is done with such lavish and vibrant colors and designs that if it didn't capture it just right it wouldn't work as well. Between that and the blacks and various shades of darkness that come out, this is just a gorgeous looking print. It has a certain life to it that I don't think I've seen in many other shows before.

Packaging:
While he isn't exactly central within the episodes, he reaches into everything in this volume so having the Count with his great sinister stare on the cover with all the finery of the outfit and backgrounds to complement each other is just perfect and really gives you an idea of what to expect. The back cover is a bit more subdued for its background but it has a nice layout that covers a simple summary of the premise and lists the shows episode numbers and titles as well as a very complete listing of the discs features and extras. The insert uses a similar background on one side and provides a few more images from the show as well as the episode numbers and titles as well as a breakdown of the series release schedule. The back of the insert does a length shot of the city with a few of the characters overlooking it from the outside. The reverse side cover has a good looking shot of Albert in a thoughtful pose.

Menu:
The menu layout here is one of the more toned down versions of what Nightjar usually does but like pretty much all of their menus it's beautifully in theme. Almost like a stained glass window, it uses elements from the front cover to create an image of the Count with the drapes hanging around him. The bottom portion keeps it simple with the navigation strip that's easy to move about. Access times are nice and fast but unfortunately the disc didn't properly read our players language presets, something that's been happening more and more with Geneon releases as of late.

Extras:
The extras in this installment are pretty close to past ones as we get a new round of voice actor comments as they go through the changes their characters go through in these episodes. A new inclusion with this volume is the ending theme song provided in full with imagery from the show for it, essentially making it a music video.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
As intriguing and exciting as Gankutsuou has been, this volume raises the bar another level as the Count's plans not only start taking more shape but are implemented. Though the story has in general kept to using Albert as the way we view things in comparison to the original source material, we see a lot of things going on in this volume from different perspectives. So much has been going on up until now that seeing everything speed up and the changes become so radical, it really makes this an edge of the seat kind of series.

After all that's happened between Villefort and the Count, it's little surprise that Villefort's agenda and past has caught up with him and the lies and deceits he's made over his career to protect his father and others from those days has made him into a national villain. The Count's manipulation of events and information is even more apparent as it plays out through his servants and the way that deal with everyone. In particular, I truly enjoyed how the Baron has been so thoroughly manipulated by his base level of greed throughout the series so far, from his wife becoming enthralled by the Count and the horses to the way he's managed to break up Eugenie and Albert. It reaches a new level now with the way he's leaking information about the markets through another and the Baron rakes in more and more money, only to be set up for an even greater fall. And it's a fall that will happen both on a financial level and a very personal one due to the way he's given away his family as if they were little more than items to be traded.

There are so many fascinating turns of character in this volume that even the great material like the Baron's falls in comparison. Albert's father is firmly on his way to becoming the next President but he faces some distinct challenges, particularly when the Baron withdraws his support of him after being influenced elsewhere. His reaction isn't surprising since the two of them had been working on this for so long but he's able to rally around with others and it's no shock that warfare starts to play a stronger role due to his being a General. His course seems to be similar to the Baron's as it's being manipulated further up but we at long last start to get to some of the real foundations of the character as the war ten years prior is explored more closely and his rise in the ranks is covered. It mirrors so many real life stories that it's easily believed, right up to where it's put him now politically.

Some of the best moments from here are when the show deals with Haidee. After seeing her essentially as a beautiful porcelain doll of the Count's, she becomes so much more as we understand her own past and exactly why the Count did take her in under his wing for all these years. Revealed in pieces to Albert, the hardships that went through sets up events that play out on the national stage and her reputation, already big among the aristocrats after her 'showing' at the opera house, lends her some credibility when she makes her charges. Others are quick to defend of course, but the feel of truth is there and it gets right to the heart of some characters, such as Albert's mother. Haidee's a character that I initially thought of as a beautiful set piece type who will be key for one or two things and little more but she's turned into a very nicely developed character who is more than key in this volume.

Franz and Maximilien engage in some truly fascinating discoveries as Franz pushes to understand what the word Gankutsuou really means after he hears it. We get to see not only some beautiful animation as it presents how information is retrieved in this world, but the timeline of the world also becomes stronger as we get dates and a significantly long time span with which mysteries are involved. The scope of the storyline takes on more epic proportions throughout this, not only from what we learn of the war ten years earlier but the size of the galaxy and empires and more. It's so beautifully and methodically laid out before you that even if you can see certain events coming, the method through which its done and the sheer style of it all is almost intoxicating.

In Summary:
Gankutsuou is such a fascinating show to watch but one that I still find difficult to talk about since it's so layered and reveals itself in so many ways that it's almost like the show is one huge spoiler. It's praised constantly and loved by those who've jumped into it and it is one of the few series that really manages to warrant that kind of attention consistently from volume to volume. While we've had quiet periods in the first sixteen episodes to date, it's never been dull or boring. The replay value of the show only increases with each new episode as well as there are so many ways to go back and re-examine lines and events under the new information that comes to light. There are few TV series that I think qualify as being jewels in a company's catalog since films tend to rise to that level better, but Gankutsuou is so close to being one of that very small number of series that warrant that kind of attention and adulation. Highly recommended.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Staff Comments,Full Ending Theme Song

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Toshiba HD-A1 Progressive Scan HD DVD player via HDMI -> DVI with upconversion set to 1080i, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.




Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Gankutsuou -The Count of Monte Cristo-