Short of vampire movies, it feels like “The Count of Monte Cristo” is one of those stories that has been made (and remade) a huge amount of times. I mean, it is a pretty resilient story of betrayal, revenge and redemption and this anime version is no different at the core than any other version. But how they approach it is very intriguing. Now, the official title is “Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo” and that part of the title is made clear as the series progresses. But what we have here is what I call Future Past. It feels like 19th Century France in architecture and dress and those phony airs of tact, but we have a lot of the conveniences of the modern age: space travel, computers and hover vehicles, to name a few. It does help that this takes place in the year 5053.
Although we keep a lot of the story, we also tinker a lot with the story and that is not a bad thing. We focus in on Viscount Albert de Morcerf. A rather naïve 15-year-old lad, he and his friend, Baron Franz d’Epinay, are attending some grand and glorious festival on Luna (yes, we are on the moon; remember, this is the 51st Century), where they are having a ripping good time. However, Albert falls afoul of some cutpurses and is kidnapped, only to be rescued by Le Compte-de Monte Cristo, a mysterious man of enormous wealth and magnificent charisma. (If you know the plot, this will not come as a great surprise as to the reason for the kidnapping, OK?)
Still, it is a good retelling of the story, in tandem with the surroundings, but the huge selling point is the look of the show.
This is THE best-looking show I have seen, and I thought “The Tatami Galaxy” was a good one as well. The use of some animation tricks (it layers Photoshop textures into digital animation) and 3D backgrounds make for stunning visual appeal. I found myself enthralled with what they were doing from the artistic aspect of it and let a lot of the plotwork slide away (again, I knew the story, so there were no huge surprises for me). But you cannot have a good-looking show and no story to go along with it. There is that good story, with some wrinkles along the way, so it’s not completely predictable. Even when I saw what they were doing with the artwork, I personally never got bored with things.
But Albert runs hot and cold with the Count. He is his most staunch defender, but gets betrayed numerous times, as the Count is preparing for deeds most destructive to three in particular, one of which is Albert’s father. Franz suspects something, especially when Albert challenges the Count to a duel. So Franz knocks out Albert, takes his place and they square off on the Field of Honor, with Gundams at 100 paces. What? Run that past me again.
Yes, they fight duels not with pistols, but with giant fighting robots. For me, this was the only sour note in an otherwise impeccable series. (As I am exhausted of Giant Fighting Robots, OK?). The actual ending arc of the series is both visually amazing and structurally bizarre, but, since this is the future, I decided to let it slide, as I am open-minded to a degree. Maybe I allowed myself to let the visuals cover a multitude or problems, but I still give this series high marks indeed. You would have to go a long way to best this series visually. Go ahead and see for yourself.
I am reluctant to say more, as the subplots are important and I never want to tip my hand too soon on these matters. You want to watch things unfold, and they do so with all the deliberateness of a card force. It is marvelous.
On a scale of 1 to 10:
Artwork 10 (Wow!)
Plot 7 (It is still an adaptation)
Pacing 7 (Bogged down by some contrived plot points)
Effectiveness 7 (Albert is a puzzlement)
Conclusion 8 (It ends, and a good ending)
Fan Service 2 (A similar show would “Okamisan”)
Overall 8 (Didn’t need the giant fighting robot)
And remember, it’s first run until you’ve seen it. Even if it is a remake of sorts.