Gankutsuou being an anime refashioning of the Count of Monte Cristo novel has been one of the most refreshing experiences to view and reminds me of the creative ingenuity that made me an anime fan in the first place.
What They Say
Mesdames, Messieurs, Bonsoir
Albert is a young man of privilege in Paris, but the trappings of his aristocratic birth leave him bored and unsatisfied. Seeking adventure, Albert's restless spirit leads him to a festival on the moon-and to the Count of Monte Cristo. An enigmatic man of charm and wealth, the Count of Monte Cristo's charisma and sophistication captivate Albert. The fascinated youth invites the nobleman to mingle within the upper echelons of Partisan society, and the Count is soon courting the favor of France's most powerful families. Little does Albert know, as his new friend walks the ornate halls of the highest class, the Count of Monte Cristo wants only to bring them crashing down through vengeance.
I listened to this DVD primarily in Japanese with a spot check on the English side. While both tracks are in stereo I noticed that the Japanese version seemed to have a fuller feel to it. The Japanese track on my 5.1 audio came across not only clearer but more like you're watching the series in an actual theater and the soundtrack completely envelopes you. The English stereo is far from bad but comes across to be the weaker of the two tracks as there is less directionality and depth in the sound.
Being released in 2004 the video quality is excellent. I would like to bring up that this series actually engaged in a unique presentation by using Photoshop textures and patterns to color in the characters clothes and hair. This technique seems slightly off putting and distracting at first but as the episodes continue this technique only helps to enhance the viewing experience. So when watching it on my widescreen the visuals came off that much more enhanced. I didn't notice any glaring video issues or problems.
The series comes packaged in a cardboard slipcase with a group shot of the cast on the front. The bright and glittery shot of the cast being set against a black background with a intricate pattern superimposed on top perfectly depicts the feel this show has. There are two clear thinpacked disc cases with reverse covers (which by this point I've come to accept as a Funimation standard). The first cover has a sensual and foreboding picture of Albert and the Count. The reverse picture is a full shot of Albert and his friend, Franz. The second DVD cover is a more reserved shot of the Count and his female assistant, the reverse cover is a back-to-back image of the Albert and the Count. On the back side of both DVDs are a listing of the episodes. The back cover of the boxed set is simplistic with a piece of appropriate clip art in the center and underneath a quick synopsis of the series. The screenshots are aligned toward the bottom and production information on the very bottom. To my discovery all the technical information of stuff like audio information, screen aspect ratio, languages, and running times are located on the bottom of the package. Normally I wouldn't think to look there (a mistake I made for my Xenosaga review) but at least it is somewhere on the packaging.
The menu has a very simple and direct layout that is a static image with the setup options listed clearly for selection at the top of the screen. There is the lack of a scene selection option so if you want to skip to a particular part of the episode you have to do it within the episode. There is a nice piece of background music that repeats over the menu.
Extremely bare bones. We don't even get a textless versions of the OP and ED songs (which I think should be a basic requirement for most anime DVD releases). Disc 4 has Trailers. I heard somewhere that there was more on the original DVD release from Geneon but given the content (and the reasonable price) I'm willing to let the lack of extras slide.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Gankutsuou, is based of the novel The Count of Monte Cristo. Instead of being an adaptation it is more like a reversioning of the source material (but come to think of it most animes based off of classic literature have never been a straight up adaptation because it is kind of 'been there, done that'). Not having read the novel itself my research led me to find out that while the novel focused on the Count himself the anime focuses on Albert. Albert is the son of an aristocratic family and the series follow him from being a na've sheltered youth to a less na've young man who has to learn to come to his own conclusions and set his own path. The catalyst for this gradual change is the Count who uses Albert's friendship to manipulate himself into Albert and his friends lives and exact his plan of revenge on their families.
The setting of the series is a neo-futuristic version of our own world. While it retains a certain look of the original 1800s setting the world has many modern and futuristic sensibilities. The first episode sets up the running theme of Albert being a pawn in the Count machinations. While on a Mardi Gras like festival on the planet Luna he, and his compatriot, Franz encounter the Count. Franz immediately is suspicious of the Count and his sudden interest in Albert (it does not help that throughout the series it is hinted at than Franz may be very fond of Albert in a 'more than just a friend' manner). Albert takes a very strong liking to the Count, despite Franz's warnings, and meets with the Count one afternoon to watch a public execution. Here the Count reveals he has a pardon letter for one of the three criminals and in a card game of chance Albert can pick which one he has to save. Of course, Albert picks the one who is obviously an unsympathetic murderer. Later in the evening when Albert walks the streets of Luna alone he is captured by a 'girl' named Beppo and her gang. Franz has to provide the ransom (given to him by said murderer) and because of the time and place Franz has no choice but to rely on the Count. When the Count encounters the gang he shows a bit of his true nature to the gang leader and gouges his eye out. Albert being grateful invites the Count to visit him in France, an offer the Count takes up immediately.
Once the Count arrives on Earth and into Albert's life the macabre events for the rest of the series begin to unfold. While the Count manipulates his way into the hearts of Albert's family and those associated with him the audience begins to see that there is a deeper background in the midst of all this. The story plays out on several levels, the first being the Counts personal story (which is a re-imagining of what went on in the original novels) and how his revenge is slowly exuded upon those who betrayed him in the past. The second level is how the class caste system has forced Albert and his friends into roles they don't want to take on. Throughout the story we see how each one of them break out from this society and find lives more fitting of their inner desires in the midst of the Count's manipulation and destruction of their families. Albert's own personal development comes very late in the series and it is when his friendship with Franz is brought full circle. It is through Franz actions that Albert confronts the Count on his motives and in turn the Count has thrown the final gauntlet which sets up the events of the final episodes. To say anymore about the final episodes would diminish their artistic beauty and the epilogue of the series.
Gankutsuou being a re-imaging of a classic novel is a breath of fresh air. Not simply because of the way it re-invents the story but also in how it shows how anime can actually be used as a medium for creativity and experimentation in how animation can be done.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Toshiba 50" 52HMX95 1080P HDTV, Samsung HT-Z410 CD Player HDMI set to 1080p and a 5.1 ch Speaker System with 166-Watt Subwoofer.