Gankutsuou -The Count of Monte Cristo- Vol. #5 (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, August 18, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, July 11, 2006
What They Say
Albert's world is totally destroyed; by his own words, The Count reveals his terrible vengeance. Mercedes, certain that The Count is her lost Edmond Dantes, is swept along with the tide of The Count's crushing revenge. Danglars Bank is up next; will Eugenie be rushed into marrying Andrea before financial ruin comes knocking at the house of Danglars?
Just when you think each volume has amazing highs to it, along comes volume five and it just pulls the carpet out from under you, leaving you in a state of shock as certain realizations dawn on you.
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.
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.
Keeping very much in theme with the relationship aspect of this volume, the cover art is just stunning with the mixed imagery of Eugenie both in and out of her wedding dress alongside Cavalcanti. The designs and background is just so detailed and appealing that it almost overwhelms. 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 has a great shot of Albert and Franz drinking together while the reverse side cover has a good looking shot of Albert from a few years prior.
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.
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. We also get a new gallery this time that focus on the artwork of the settings, such as inside the buildings and concert halls, allowing a lot of the detail to really be seen easily.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
I've made it no secret that since the first time I saw this show on DVD that I was in love with it for a number of reasons. An engaging story that we know stands the test of time being told in an intriguing new fashion and perspective, gorgeous design elements that separate it from everything else out there and an incredible voice cast that was pulling it all together in a way that made you forget everything else going on in your life when you watch it. While it may need a particular mood for the viewer to be in to watch, once you're there it takes you away.
But after all of that, I was still unprepared for just how much I would be emotionally connected to the show at times. This set of episodes takes all of the revelations made in the previous volume, which were mighty substantial and altered a lot of the political and social landscape of Paris, and runs with the repercussions of it all while still holding off another four episodes for the next volume. The fallout from the revelations about Albert's father and the continuing pieces that the Count has played with the other families is just getting rolling and it's incredibly fascinating and almost heart-stopping at times to watch it go. While the adults tend to keep their emotions close to their chests, we do see a fair bit of it coming from the kids as they find that they're paying the price for choices their parents made and they want nothing to do with it.
With Albert being the primary character here, it's little surprise that he gets to confront the Count directly over this and the two have quite the engaging conversation. As world weary and vengeance filled as the Count is, he's still amused by the apparent naiveté of Albert's when Albert continues to believe that it's all some sort of mistake and that the Count wasn't lying to him all this time, that the two of them really are friends still. The Count is intent on dispelling all of this though and going so far as to shock Haidee with the bluntness of his truth as it brings her into play through a tangent as well. It's a series of brutal moments of words but it needs to be done. And just when you think Albert might have grown up in the last minute or two by understanding what's going on, instead we learn that he is a man of the classic aristocracy that believes in the right thing and he challenges the Count to a duel the next morning.
Now, I'll admit, that this is probably the "hardest" piece to accept in the series so far, in that the duel takes place with the men wearing the armor suits that are in a way little more than giant robots done to a particular style that fits in with the show. It does feel somewhat out of place but at the same time, with the wealthy and the kinds of games they play, if they're still going to legally have duels in the year 50XX, then they're likely to have something interesting with which to carry out the duty. Even with the CG and the background of your mind cringing because it is giant robots, the folks at Gonzo have managed to create one of the most beautifully cruel emotional moments in recent memory with this fight, moments that have lasted with me several days since I first saw it and sat down to write about it. It's a low in the series in a sense but it's a highlight of the show in many others.
With the Count no longer restrained in certain ways to exacting his vengeance, he's begun to let loose his minions in ways to create the kind of panic he wants so that the situations become desperate for those he wishes to punish. A prime example of this has been the slow and carefully orchestrated build-up of Danglars with his wealth. The arrival of Cavalcanti in the household has been well played and he's been biding his time in his efforts to marry into wealth while having none of his own, though they're blissfully unaware. He's made such good use of his time in fact that while he waits mostly patiently for the day he can take Eugenie for himself, he's found the emotionally unstable wife of Danglars to be more than suitable enough of a playmate in the meantime.
When the Count does unleash his plans against Danglar though, the ripple effect is beautiful. It's something that we know has been coming and can be seen easily enough but the way it plays out is much like earlier in this volume in that there's a huge difference between the expectations and what really happens. Seeing Danglars go through all of this and watching his reactions, thereby forcing up the date of the wedding in order to gain Cavalcanti's supposed wealth and thereby assure his faithful stockholders and other business associates that he's still got the money with which to be a power player, is a true highlight of the show. Eugenie's acceptance of things is a bit of a double edged sword since you know the pressures she's under and the conflict of doing right by your family or really understanding what your feelings mean and seeking Alberto to help. It does get a touch campy as it runs its course and hits the peak but when taken in context to everything else it's definitely a series of small standout moments that solidify the show.
Gankutsuou has been a real treasure since I laid eyes on the first few frames but each volume just raises it up even higher and higher. This set of episodes is the kind of material you'd expect a bit closer to the end and rushed more than it is here, so we get to see the effects of everything that the Count is working towards in a slow moving but fascinating fashion. Much like the clothing designs of some of the characters, it's impossible to take your eyes off the screen during this show as every turn of phrase or utterance could change the direction of everything. This is a stunning volume in the series that raises the stakes of the game and the bar against which other series are judged.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Comments from Voice Actors, Art Setting
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray 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.
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-