I told myself that I wouldn’t write reviews when I opened this blog, but one excellent series later, and here we are. Gotta fill those self-imposed writer’s quotas somehow damnit!
*I will probably be pushing out reviews for every show I finish watching, since it’s actually a pretty cathartic exercise. At the end of the review, I’ll scale it from 0-10, with 5 being average. And yes, 5 is average. None of that My Anime List 7/10 is “just decent” shit. That’s a load of horse crap, at least try to make an effort to keep your scale somewhat Gaussian. Luckily(?) for me, to this day I’ve only seen one series which has warranted a 1/10 (Omamori Himari) and none so far have received a 0. Even Rio: Rainbow Gate (which is insanely awesome and definitely tried to be bad) got a 2. Hey, I’m easy to please! Also, if you’ve got beef or anything to say, please leave a comment. To me, all criticism is positive, and I want to hear your thoughts.
**My general format is to give the highlights first, followed by a TL;DR. I’ll try to throw a picture out there to distract you readers from my generally bad writing. My personal weakness when it comes to these things are the seiyuu. While I can tell a great performance from a bad one, I have trouble distinguishing a good one from a decent one. Also, I’m going to try my hardest to avoid synopses. They’re useful, but I dislike ruining an experience.
- Melodrama: Always absorbing, but hardly ever contrived.
- Setting: Set in a highly, highly romantic universe, as expected of Alexander Dumas.
- Characters: The characters embody themes but they’re as multifaceted and 3-Dimensional as you and I.
- Visuals: Abstract, fluid, and unique. Dank would be the best description.
- Plot Twists: You may see them coming, but they will blow your mind into pieces.
- The Lesson: BRING BACK GONZO!!!!!
There are two things I want to address before I go any further. Gankutsuou is melodrama set in highly romantic and optimistic setting. Unfortunately, melodramatic is a label tacked onto anything nowadays, and just to clarify, melodrama is no way bad. Clannad and every KEY novella, where every single girl is given an outrageously sad back story, is in fact, a melodrama. And you know what? So was Code Geass, so was Fate/Zero, so was probably almost every Final Fantasy you’ve ever played bar X, and so was Shuffle! (okay, Shuffle! sucked ass, I’ll give you that) and given their popularity, there’s a good chance that you probably liked it. So no, melodrama is not bad.
The second thing that I want to touch up on the visuals. The character designs and the world which they live in are unique, for lack of a better word. The clothes on the characters do take some getting used to, but if you’re into artsy fartsy and vivid anime, this definitely is the show for you. Another thing to point out about the character designs is that they actually do reflect the personas of some of the characters. One character’s unique monocle will show off his distinction and influence as a man of law, while another’s chubbiness and ugly body shape portrays his overwhelming greed. Odd? Definitely, but the visual style is much more than a cheap hat trick.
Going back to the world that the characters live in, their universe is both highly futuristic and rooted in 1820’s French culture (whatever that was like). It’s an interesting world where the sea is space itself and where duels to the death are still legal practice. As I’ve recounted before, the setting is very romantic. Yes, the characters will use swords even when guns do exist, yes, women do faint, and yes, the characters do engage in fabulous sword duels in the name of love and honor. However, this is all done with great effect. At no point does the story hit a low; the incredibly good first episode just snowballs. Everything gets bigger and better, culminating in possibly the greatest last 8 episodes ever made.
To many people, Gankutsuou is a story about vengeance and comeuppance, but to me, The Count of Monte Cristo is about loyalty, love, and infidelity. The violations of sacred bonds between master and servant, husband and wife, parent and child, and friend and ermm… other friend are what fuel the main conflicts of the show. Gankutsuou constantly calls into question the meaning of true love, the sanctity of marriage, and true proof of friendship. Material goods, the ability to judge another man’s sins, and the bellicose nature of human beings are even embodied in the three main antagonists, who have their own sins and guilts. However, this never feels like a silly harangue on good and evil. Everything which takes place in the show feels free and organic. The whole story is grandiose in scale and its a marvel how Mahiro Maeda managed to adapt the novel.
The key to a good melodrama of course is good characters and here Gankutsuou delivers in spades. The Count is a triumph; his magnificent voice courtesy of Jouji Nakata only amplifies his powerful screen presence. The cast is an anti-thesis to Monsieur Dumas’ Three Musketeers, where the characters forsook multiple facets for larger than life personas (I give you Spark Notes’ very word!). The main characters are all three-dimensional and down to earth, and the supporting cast is as good a supporting cast can get. Many of the characters embody themes, but very rarely did any of them feel less than human.
Rounding out the series is a fantastic score with the most sprawling orgy of color that is legally allowed in an ED. The OP is a delight, but wow, the ED “You Won’t See Me Coming” is great on the ears. If there were anymore vapid streaks of awesome in the OP, so many viewers would get seizures that even a certain Porygon episode of Pokemon would be put to shame.
After watching this show, I only have two regrets. One is that we may never see such a great GONZO anime ever again. The other is I’ll have to restructure my Top 10. Sorry Baccano!.