I am producing a brand new show called Anime Streaming Showcase (or A.S.S. for short). I take a look at the massive amount of anime scattered among the internet across various streaming site and say if it’s worthwhile. Is it binge-worthy, should you add it to your queue, or should you hide it and bury it?
Going a bit into the past, to look at a series set far into the future, that’s an adaptation of a novel from the far past: it’s Gankutsuou on this episode of Anime Streaming Showcase.
When I was first starting out discovering new anime in approximately 2006, it was a rough beginning. Learning the tropes and designs and artists that could create magnificent styles was important to me, just as much as any story or character. I eventually settled in to a groove and comfort zone I liked, including series like Berserk, Dragon Ball, the occasional Gundam; pretty standard newcomer fare. But I always kept seeing another series circulating and getting buzz, and that show was Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo by studio GONZO. It was a series I’d put aside for years, hearing great things about it, but I was never really a fan of old literature. I even bought it super cheap several years ago but never watched it until recently! The premise and synopsis of the novel and anime had me turned off for years. Thankfully I finally opened my proverbial anime heart to Gankutsuou and found a series that’s stuffed with style and substance.
A loose adaptation of the Alexandre Dumas novel from the 19th century, Gankutsuou retells the story in a different way, and in a different time, the 5000’s to be specific, but retains most of the themes, characters, and plot points Dumas’s did. Gankutsuou and the source material, the Count of Monte Cristo, is a tale of revenge, redemption, and social classification. Albert, the offspring of a renowned general, is our main protagonist, and his best friend Franz, joins the general’s son as they tour the city of Luna. A sensory overload envelops the two and their night forever changes their lives. Albert meets The Count of Monte Cristo who is quite taken with him. Albert becomes infatuated with The Count and the trap, so to speak, is set.
The remaining 23 episodes are a space-aged tale of what’s commonly called the long con. A story like The Count of Monte Cristo has naturally aged well past any statute of limitations you can throw out there to avoid any spoilers. It’s being countlessly homage and parodied for decades, so if you’ve somehow stayed in the dark about its story, congratulations! As always I’ll never spoil media for anyone, and I’ll even concede that given the original’s production, twists and “spoilers” were still relatively new to literature, so it almost needs that intact to create its impact. BUT, The Count of Monte Cristo, Edmond Dantès specifically, is not a good person. He presents himself as righteous and considerate, and he his… as long as all is going according to his plans. Edmond is only out to ensure his interests are protected and will literally do anything to make his revenge complete. He’s initially a hard person to hate; he’s charming, he’s patient, he’s charitable and pleasant, but when his plans become askew, the true demonic nature of the character can surface.
And he’s not necessarily without understanding motivations or arguably justifiable drive, but his abilities and actions are completely discrediting. Of course one of the points of Monte Cristo is the true understanding of revenge and its effect on those involved. Meanwhile we have the naïve Albert who get caught up in The Count’s web and is perceivably us just existing in this world. His naiveté is us coming into this world jaded by only knowing one side of the story; our loyalty to friends and family. The Count’s marvelous presence and enrapturing nature is easy to get coaxed into, but that’s the brilliance and manipulation of Edmond. The old adage ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ is quite poignant here. Albert and Edmund’s story is literally one that has lasted centuries in fiction, and has been replicated many times over, but the reason so many plots are recreated and repurposed are often because of their quality. A subjective take, sure, but hey, this IS a review!
But studio GONZO (Afro Samurai, Hellsing) weren’t happy just adapting Monte Cristo without making it a standout production and the most noticeable aspect of that is its art. Slapped with a potentially jarring but gorgeous art-style, Gankutsuou’s fever dream representation of the 51st century’s future has been a turn off for a lot of viewers. I’ve read many reviews of Gankutsuou that conclude that its art may not be for everyone and may turn many off just in its opening episode. That’s a fair point, but I would hope more look past the immediate and see what lies underneath the sheen. Once your eyes adjust to the distinctive look of Gankutsuou you find it’s wrapped around a gripping, specifically paced plot of payback. Meanwhile, despite the arts in your face appeal, the soundtrack is quite subtle and Kasamatsu Kouji’s contributions are splendid. They’re a blend of haunting strings and futuristic-EDM that captures the aesthetic.
Gankutsuou is essentially a story that has been done to death and hardly original, but GONZO took its original location, threw it far into the future, and created a memorable, albeit seemingly-forgotten gem. The appeal of Gankutsuou lies in its production and story, both can be divisive depending on if its art is a turn off and if you’re already familiar with Dumas’ original story. But I urge that if both are deterrents for you, at least give the first three episodes of Gankutsuou a chance before completely dismissing it. You can find Gankutsuou streaming on Crunchyroll subbed, and Funimation offers the US localization, often for under $20 via sites like Amazon.
Like most people here, I’ve been watching anime for many, many years. I owe blocks like Toonami for getting me into the medium. Shows like Dragonball Z and Ronin Warriors shaped my beginning years, while shows like Neon Genesis Evangleion and Cowboy Bebop showed me that there’s some true artistic ability and expression found within anime (moreso than big burly dudes punching and screaming for hours on end). I now try to watch anime showcasing many genres and storytelling. Anime is just another great, creative medium for telling stories, and I’m happy to share my thoughts on the series I enjoy with you!