- Genre : Drama, intrigue, science fiction, mecha, supernatural, hoyay
- Episodes: 24
- Studio: Gonzo
Albert de Morcerf is an accomplished 15-year-old indeed. The son of a prominent military general with political aspiration, he has lived his entire life among Paris’ elite and is no set to have a comfortable future. Engaged to his childhood friend Eugenie since their parents agreed to it years ago and spending his days in luxurious leisure with his best friend Franz, Albert hardly has a care in the world. That is until an old betrayal dating back to before he was born finally bears consequence. Who exactly is this mysterious count that has captured Albert’s fascination and what does he bring in his wake. One thing’s for sure, Albert’s quiet and carefree life is about to change drastically.
Have you ever seen images from this show? It has a “look”. Maybe I should say a Look! It’s really all I needed to convince me to watch the series. Let’s see how that worked out.
Gankutsuou is stunning. I mean it. It’s one of the most visually adventurous anime I have ever watched. Especially for a series. I could try to explain the visuals; they were a bit like decoupage or art nouveau but really the best way would just be to look at these screencaps. Actually, it gets even more impressive and a little dizzying when in movement as the patterns stay still below the images further giving that cutout impression.
I will say that after the first 12 or so episode the effect started to be considerably less impressive. However certain scenes still worked. For instance, the count’s black cape fluttering in the wind to reveal the technicolour underside remained a mesmerizing sight for me to the very last second. The downside of such unusual and conspicuous visuals is that if you do not like them (and seeing as they are very loud, that’s definitely a possibility), they are impossible to ignore and most likely very difficult to get used to.
I must say, for a while the visuals alone had me captivated and I would call them a definite strength of the series. And not only the unusual rendering. The character designs themselves were often interesting and well as Paris which seemed the representation of sensory overload. I will say that the CG has not aged terribly well though.
For me, there was a slight oddity when it came to the voice acting. Oh before I get to it, the soundtrack was often obnoxious but the piano and the opening theme were both quite pretty. Ok back to voices. I’m not sure I’ve ever had this reaction to the voice acting in an anime before. I would say the voice cast was good. Very good in fact. With only a few exceptions, the actors were proficient and obviously talented, and they gave wonderful performances. But I really disliked the voice direction. Basically, it tended towards melodrama and overacting, which was the exact perfect tone for the series, but I don’t like these types of performances.
I spent a lot of time on production despite skipping a lot of what I would have said by directing you to the screencaps instead. That’s not just bad post planning. Most people will agree that Gankutusou is a dazzling production and that is in my opinion, and from what I’ve seen most critics would agree, what truly set it aside.
The story is the Count of Monte Cristo. That’s no spoiler, it’s in the title. Let me just say that I used LOVE Dumas as a kid. His books were up there with Alice and Wonderland, The Little Prince, Dr. Doolittle and Nils Holgerssons. But unlike those other books, I grew out of Dumas and grew out hard! (That last sentence didn’t make any sense, don’t worry about it). When I reread the 3 Musketeers a few years ago, I realized that if it wasn’t for the nostalgia factor, I may have just plain disliked the book.
And so, I didn’t have great expectations for the narrative. I have to admit, as far as adaptations go, this is a good one. The basis of the story remains intact and you can easily recognize it with all the more important characters and events more or less intact however the changes that were done are all quite successful The light touches of sci-fi are really just seasoning and have no true impact on the story but for a Sci-Fi fan such as myself, it did add some enjoyable panache. Likewise, the original Christian symbolism was replaced by supernatural elements that don’t always mesh that well but I personally found more accessible.
However, making Albert the clear protagonist and point of view character, as well as creating an less linear structure for the narrative was in my opinion extremely successful Not only did it make the story flow so much better for a series I feel like the impact of how anger and a thirst for revenge can destroy everything it touches was exponentially more powerful when seen through the eyes of the hapless and innocent Albert. For me, this shift in perspective was an all-around improvement.
Unfortunately, there are some pacing issues (which were also present in the novel), The middle of the series dragged on a bit and there were times where I was just bored and eager to move on. Also, as I mentioned above, the tone has a tendency towards melodrama, becoming downright cheesy in the last moments. I happen to have very little patience for this type of approach so it got a bit grating, but I can’t say it was badly done. Just a bit blunt for my tastes.
All in all, Gakutsuou has a lot to offer but it’s very deliberate both in production and narrative. As such, if it rubs you the wrong way, it will probably get irritating. On the other hand, it is a unique experience and at the very least worth a try.
Favourite character: Franz
What this anime taught me: I am apparently immune to sensory overload
Here’s to you and me and if we should ever disagree then the hell with you and here’s to me!
Suggested drink: Monte Cristo (obviously)
- Every time you spot a candle – take a sip
- Every time we see a pocket watch – take a sip
- Every time Franz is suspicious – hmmmm
- Every time someone says Paris or Marseilles – snort
- Every time people are having a lavish feast – get a snack
- Every time Peppo is being a pest – take a sip
- Every time Albert blushes – take a sip
- Every time there’s a rand staircase – take a sip
- Every time Franz is quietly longing – stretch
- Every time anyone says “count” – breath in, not too deeply, you don’t want to hyperventilate
- Every time anyone mentions Edmond Dantes – raise your glass