Friday, November 18, 2016

The Count of Monte Cristo: Gankutsuou – review

Director: Mahiro Maeda

Release date: 2004

Contains spoilers

The connection between Alexandre Dumas, père’s the Count of Monte Cristo and vampires is fairly obvious to anyone who has read the text. Dumas draws similes between the Count and that first English language vampire Ruthven, even drawing the name of Byron into the story.

Because of this the mash-up novel the Vampire Count of Monte Cristo was almost inevitable. So, also, was the Japanese anime (to some degree) that is subtitled Gankutsuou.

Gankutsuou displayed in neon
Unlike Baugh’s mash-up the story is lifted into the distant future, indeed in the year 5053, and becomes a sci-fi – and strangely this was one of the problems I had with this anime. I need to say at the outset that the vampire aspect is not necessarily obvious. Edmond Dante (Jôji Nakata) returns to Paris as the Count of Monte Cristo but he is possessed by an alien entity, which lives a symbiotic/parasitic existence, named Gankutsuou. The alien “surfaces” as a neon overlay on his face (and is slowly taking over him) but Monte Cristo also seems to have fangs.

more traditionally vampiric
There are references to vampires occasionally and we see him bear fangs in a typically anime way at one point. However, he does not seem to do much that one might call vampiric. He can only be killed by piercing the heart (and then only before Gankutsuou consumes him entirely and turns the heart to crystal). Dantes has allowed the possession as a means to gain his escape from the Chateau D’if and get his revenge on those who wronged him, knowing that eventually he will be no more and Gankutsuou will take over him completely.

Albert and Franz
So I mentioned issues and one issue I had was within the setting. For somewhere in the distant future, with interstellar travel, no one seems able to communicate without being face to face. There are sequences and plot points that rely on communication where an email, instant message or phone call would have sufficed. In other words, technology is almost ignored for a period feel and plot point, yet shouldn’t be.

I was also not very taken with the anime style. We have drawn characters against a(n often 3d generated) backdrop – which is fine. But then clothes and hair have been filled using a Photoshop technique that adds a (for want of a better description) wallpaper effect that moves independently. It can be said that this gives textiles an unreal (and thus futuristic) look – but I simply disliked the technique and found it distracting.

Power Suits
The story stays fairly true to Dumas (though reorders the narrative arc away from the novel’s chronological order) but adds in the sci-fi elements that one would expect. The massive combat powersuits that individuals wear for combat (and duelling) looked fantastic btw, sleek and 3D modelled. The anime, however, did not rock my world. 5 out of 10. The imdb page is here.


Vladkergan said...

On this, I must disagree with you. Even if there's some relation to the vampire theme on the original novel, and in the anime, the link is too thin imho to consider Gankutsuou as a vampire-related work.

I'm a real fan of this anime, which I discovered when it was first aired (I was at that time waiting each week for the new episode to be subtitled). I'm totally in love with the chara-design, and the graphic choice, which are the hallmark of Maeda, the main creator (in his Animatrix Segment, he second renaissance, the graphic look is in the same vein), but I can understand it's pretty disturbing and unusual.

I'm still totally amazed by the scifi revamping of the original novel, which is a very good idea, and very well done here (apart from the mecha fight).

Taliesin_ttlg said...

In the original novel I agree - there is a mention at best, but in this we have fangs, killed by piercing the heart, a bite sequence, direct referral on occasion. I think it is subtle (sounds less subtle as I lay it out) but it is there.

It was the sci-fi element that lost me (and it could have been absolutely brilliant), to some degree. As I said in review everything was communicated face to face (or by letter to be fair) and yet when someone was desperate to talk to another they didn't phone, use a messenger/computer system? The only reason to miss that out was for plot purpose.

JaredMithrandir said...

"For somewhere in the distant future, with interstellar travel, no one seems able to communicate without being face to face. "

The same issue applies to Star Wars. And this as Vrai explained in one of their Anyalsises is like Star Wars a space Fabtasy rather then Science Fiction.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Jared, great to hear from you.

I think its difficult to separate Star Wars (or this) from sci-fi. I take the point that it is "space fantasy" but they are both softcore sci-fi - being speculative fiction involving staples of that genre such as space travel and advanced technology (though the science grounding of both vehicles is lax).

There is actually a lot of non-face to face communication in Star Wars - I immediately think of the Imperial spy on Tatooine, the radio communication with the droids in the compactor, the blowing of the mics at the prison block control centre... In this there is not a single phone call or text when people are desperate to speak to each other... its almost as though the source material had no tele-communications ;)