Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo, The Complete Series – DVD Review

CountMonteCristo

Review by: Edward Zacharias
Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $69.98 US
Running Time: 600 minutes
Genre: Sci-fi
Rating: TV MA
Release Date: Available Now

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Revenge has another name and it is Gankutsuou.

As an admirer of fine classical literature as well as all art, Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo – The Complete Series is an anime that has caught my full attention seeing as it is an imaginative retelling of Alexandre Dumas’ story of a man who lost everything and risks it all to get his revenge. What I wasn’t expecting, however, is that this sci-fi quasi-supernatural version of The Count of Monte Cristo is so good you will not help but fall for this 24-episode series.

The story doesn’t begin from the start but, rather, introduces us to Albert de Morcerf who, along with his best friend named Franz d’Epinay, have come to another planet during its annual carnival. Albert is a young aristocrat whose father who not only runs the military forces in all of France but is also one of many nobles in Paris. It is one evening at the opera that Albert spots a mysterious and alluring fellow with blue skin and striking features who loses his watch. Determined to give the pocket watch back to the mystery noble in black, Albert comes to meet this man who introduces himself as the Count of Monte Cristo.

And so begins the captivating friendship between Albert and the Count who comes to treat the young man with kindness and courtesy. Despite his friend’s warning to keep away from the Count (I mean, who trusts a man in a cape, right?), Albert continues to want to hang out with a man who shows them he is indeed powerful enough to stop an execution. When Albert is kidnapped by a band of criminals looking for a ransom, Franz turns to the Count who rescues the young man. Grateful that the Count had saved him, Albert quickly agrees to be the Count’s introduction to Parisian life. He even introduces him to his parents, Mercedes and Fernand de Morcerf.

Oh, but it becomes painfully clear that the Count has a strange connection with both of Albert’s parents which he does not reveal … at least, not right away. The Count wishes to do business not only with Fernand but also his friends such as the Chief Prosecutor and the banking genius, Baron Danglars. The Count even lends the three men his full support. His insistence in moving into the lives of these men upsets the Count’s young and beautiful friend named Haidee. The Count is up to something and the only one who doesn’t realize it is Albert who blindly seeks the Count’s guidance and friendship.

Speaking of friends, the series dives into Albert’s life, loves and friends in Paris. We meet his friends, like Maximilien who is deeply in love with Franz’ arranged fiancée. We also meet Albert’s journalist friend, a snotty aristocrat who spends his nights “entertaining” the wives of the noble families and a friend who loves racing cars. Then there’s Eugenie, the only daughter of Baron Danglars who is arranged to marry Albert. While Albert’s feeling for Eugenie are mixed up (she also happens to be a childhood friend to him and Franz), it isn’t until later that he realizes something about his relationship with her.

Meanwhile, the Count springs his traps on all three men, slyly slipping into their lives by way of seduction. He, for example, turns his attention to the love-starved wife of the Chief Prosecutor and teaches her about the many poisons her garden’s plants produce. He then fills the pockets of Baron Danglars with stocks and trades that makes the man filthy rich … you just know that sometime down the line the Count will pull the carpet right from under him. He even makes it clear that he will support Fernand de Morcerf during his presidential campaign. Slowly he builds each man up only to begin his plan to tear away at them. Revenge, to the Count, is a dish best served with side of complete despair.

Oh, but Franz begins to suspect that the Count is looking for payback. On top of that, he also come to believe that the man might not be human at all either … which is not such a farfetched idea seeing the man has fangs and Franz saw the man’s forehead glow. Why did the Count’s men call him Gankutsuou? Investigating with his journalist friend, they come to discover that the Count might just be connected with a man named Edmond Dantes who was thought dead after having been imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit. When an invitation to a funeral for a man named Dantes shows up, all three men realize that maybe the man hadn’t died in space.

As Albert and most of his friend’s lives fall apart as the Count of Monte Cristo exacts his revenge on each of the three people that wrong Edmond Dantes, we learn the truth about Dantes. Blood is shed as the Count executes the final phase of his plan but it is Albert who hasn’t given up on the man as the series reaches its shocking finale as we find out who or what is Gankutsuou. There are a lot of twists and turns along the way but the story never really loses its sense of mystery even if you already know the classic material well. What makes Gankutsuou so darn addictive to watch is how director Mahiro Maeda set up the story and the unusual art design makes this a visual treat as well.

Simply an irresistible gem that’s as charming as the Count himself, The Complete Series of Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo is like a rare piece of art that must be shared with others that appreciate good art. It’s story is as heartbreaking as Dumas has intended and there’s an even deeper emotional layer that makes this retelling a sincerely human and touching story that’s bigger than life itself. I seriously can’t recommend this enough to anyone who ever wanted a new take on an excellent classic.

 

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A+
While keeping all the elements straight out of Alexandre Dumas’ story, the series follows Albert as he slowly uncovers the secrets of the mysterious yet charming Count of Monte Cristo. As the Count’s plot for revenge is being played out against those who wronged him in the past, Albert must not only deal with the things going around him and his friends whose lives will intersect with the Count’s quest for revenge.

VIDEO QUALITY: A+
With a stylishly unique art style that suits this series, The Count of Monte Cristo is visually pleasing from start to finish. The visual effects alone and the sci-fi imagery mixed in with the interesting take on Dumas’ vision of France will keep your eyes glued to your screen.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
The voice acting cast for both the original Japanese and the English dub work wonderfully no matter what option you pick to watch this series. It’s rare to find stellar performances for both, although I did enjoy the English dub better. There’s a great soundtrack by Jean-Jacques Burnel that includes a great opening and closing theme songs and the amazing score.

EXTRAS: D
There are no production art extras (which would have been great) and no audio commentary track to be found. Just about the only thing you’ll find on here a few trailers in the fourth and final disc and that’s about it.

OVERALL: A+
For those with an enthusiastic appreciation of the classics or fine art, Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo – The Complete Series is a series that is required viewing. It’s a beautiful tale that’s just as complex, emotional and epic as the original story but at the same time it doesn’t fail to fascinate on another level that reminds us that anime is capable of taking us by surprise in the best possible way.

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