Gankutsuou -The Count of Monte Cristo- Vol. #1 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:John Eriani
Review Date: Monday, March 27, 2006
Release Date: Wednesday, March 15, 2006



What They Say
Born into an aristocratic family in Paris, Albert sets out on a journey with his best friend, Franz, to escape his privileged yet dull life. They travel to Luna, which is on the surface of the moon, and meet a very wealthy man named The Count of Monte Cristo. Becoming completely fascinated with The Count's mysterious charm, Albert welcomes him into Paris high society. But soon Albert will discover the Count's true motive - revenge...

This unique adaptation of the legendary novel by Alexandre Dumas features direction by Mahiro Maeda (The Animatrix, Blue Submarine No.6), costumes by world-renowned Anna Sui, music by Jean-Jacques Burnel (The Stranglers)

The Review!
The Count of Monte Cristo is a story that was originally written by Alexandre Dumas and has been adapted many times for both film and television. Mahiro Maeda and Gonzo have decided to adapt the author's story with a sci-fi setting and some very interesting artwork.

Audio:
I watched the show in its original language of Japanese and just checked on the English dub during certain scenes.
Both versions have some nice directionality but it's a shame it's only a stereo mix so there isn't too much to get excited about. While the English dub actor for the Count does an admirable job Joji Nakata is the preferred Count for me. One thing that the English dub didn't do is the "previously on Gankutsuou" type narration that starts at the beginning of each episode. It is spoken in French which goes well with the overall location and style of the show and it's a shame the English dub didn't use this in its version.

Video:
The video is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and enhanced with anamorphic widescreen. This show is such a feast of colour and art that it's a shame that this appears to be an NTSC to PAL transfer. This is still a good conversion and the only thing I found to be a problem was the interlacing that came in on some of the panning shots, most people will not notice this and otherwise things look terrific.

Packaging:
The front cover is similar to the region 1 release with the Count of Monte Cristo sitting on a very grand chair surrounded by lots of yellow gold with a huge eye above him. It's a very colourful and busy cover with lots of designs that is very much part of the animation style used in the show. The only problem with it is that the title and volume number are almost lost in all the colour. The OFLC logo while yellow in colour still looks out of place against everything else. The back cover has a banner of images from the show across the top but it also has a few problems in that the text is almost too small to read and there is no listing for how many episodes are on the disc.
All the other technical aspects are listed as standard on all Madman releases. This cover is also reversible with a shot of Albert and the Count that looks less busy and doesn't hurt the eyes as much.

There is also a volume 1 + Art box available for this release but I have only seen it in passing at various retail stores.

Menu:
The menu for this release is very much in keeping with the style of the show. The main menu opens up to a ballroom like setting with curtains closing making the screen all red with some interesting animation floating around (the eye from the cover and some clouds on strings) while music plays in the background, the other sections were with static images and no music. Everything was quick an easy to access but there was no chapter listing for any episode, which may bother some people.

Extras:
There is a surprising number of extra's on the disc ranging from the first episode being shown in storyboard format to an interview with the director. There is also cast comments for the first 5 episodes of the show with Joji Nataka being a highlight as he hams it up while talking as the Count. Lastly is a promotional trailer for the show and the standard textless opening and closing. The closing in particular is one of my favourites as the song that plays is really catchy and I can't get enough of it

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Revenge stories are something that I always enjoy; in fact two of my favourite anime are revenge stories (Gungrave and Berserk). So after watching the first volume of Gankutsuou I found it very odd that I was completely disinterested in this when it was announced sometime ago. Luckily I have been given the opportunity to see this wonderful show and realise how stupid that was.

Gankutsuou is a very fascinating show that restores my faith in anime, with so many cookie cutter shows coming out recently I was not expecting this at all. The art direction and character design are remarkable to say the least. The animation uses a very interesting technique where patterns are projected onto the animation so that when the characters move they look like they are moving through the pattern. It's a little hard to explain but visually its quiet entrancing and something you don't see everyday, it gives the show a unique look that is rather refreshing.

The story introduces us to Albert and Franz, best friends who are on vacation on Luna (the moon). Both have recently been engaged so it seems that this is some sort of last hoorah for them before they go and settle down with the women that have been selected for them. While at the opera we get to see our first glance at the Count who later invites them up to his suite, Albert is taken in by him rather quickly while Franz is suspicious of this Count who could very well just be a con man interested in Albert's family wealth.

The second episode is probably the most action packed episode on the disc as the Count and Franz go to rescue Albert from some bandits who have taken him hostage. We get to see some interesting things from the mysterious Count and it appears that he definitely has some kind of supernatural power, as normal weapons do not hurt him. After the rescue the Count asks that he visit Albert on Earth in three months time. This seems to be all part of the Count's plans and he may have had a hand in the actual kidnapping of Albert in the first place.

The last two episodes are where things really start to get interesting as the Count finally arrives on earth and meets Albert's friends, he also meets Alberts parents and here we see why the Count chose Albert as someone to associate with. I love the last scene in episode 3 as the Count lays eyes on Albert's mother and father; anyone familiar with the story knows where this is heading. There are more interesting conversations between the Count and Albert's parents and the feeling that you know more than some of the characters does come through here. Albert goes to meet the Count with his friends later and we see the Counts residence in Paris in all its extravagance and sadly this is where the volume ends.

The show for these episodes at least is taken from Albert's viewpoint. He can be rather annoying at times but this may be due to the fact that he is still young and has lived a rather sheltered life with such an aristocratic upbringing. It is strange how quickly he is drawn to the Count and this will probably be explored more as the series continues. Franz seems to be more mature and does not trust the Count right from the beginning. He acts as a sort of big brother to Albert and definitely doesn't like Albert's association with the Count but in the end he finds himself needing the Count's help to save Albert.

The character of the Count is very mysterious and charismatic. On several occasions he has been likened to a vampire within the show and I'd say that's not far from the truth. Even before I had heard the Count speak I had only one actor in mind as to who would voice this dark mysterious figure and to my surprise I was right on the money with Joji Nakata (Hellsing's Alucard). His voice brings a dark but refined sound to the Count that compliments the character design extremely well. The Count's plans for revenge is the main draw for me and I can't wait for the next part of his plan to take shape. Albert is definitely the key here and its interesting how he works himself into Albert's life more and more.

At the moment these three are really the only characters that have been prominent in the show, there are a few friends of Albert's that have been introduced as well as his finance (with whom he doesn't appear to get along) but they haven't had much to do plot wise just yet. There are also Albert's parents who are definitely going to have a bigger part in the show in future instalments

In Summary:
Gankustuou is a refreshing show that I was surprised by and really enjoyed. This is refined adult anime with an interesting art style and mysterious main character, there isn't much else I can say but watch this as soon as you can. Mahiro Maeda has done a wonderful job with making this version of The Count of Monte Cristo his own and I can't wait for the next volume.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language ,English 2.0 Language ,English Subtitles ,Act 1 Storyboard by Director Mahiro Maeda ,Director Mahiro Maeda Interview ,Comments from Voice Actors ,Promotional Trailer ,Textless Opening ,Textless Ending

Review Equipment
LG 32LX2D 32" HD LCD TV, Sony DVP-NS50P Progressive scan region free DVD player, Monster component cable, Yamaha TSS-15 Home Theatre Sound System



Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 4 - Australia / South America
Released By: Madman Entertainment
MSRP: 29.95
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-