Reviewby Theron Martin, Oct 7th 2006
Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo
In the wake of his calamitous financial collapse and the marriage of Eugenie to Cavalcanti falling apart, Baron Danglars flees into space with some serious seed money, but even there he cannot escape the long arm of Edmond Dantes's revenge. Villefort is put on trial for his actions against the Count, but there Dantes reveals his ultimate weapon against Villefort: Cavalcanti's true identity. As the full truth of the wrongs Villefort, Danglars, and Mondego/Morcerf committed against Edmond Dantes comes out, Morcerf makes his final bold move as he attempts a coup d'etat in Paris. A climatic showdown against Dantes is inevitable, but is it really him running the show or the mysterious, ageless being known as Gankutsuou?
Meanwhile Albert and Haidee struggle to get to the Count and try to save him from losing himself completely to his revenge, while Mercedes confirms her long-standing suspicions and tries to confront her husband. Ultimately Baptistin and Bertuccio, ever the loyal servants of the Count, may have something to say about how things end.
For 20 episodes the Count has set up and carried through his elaborate and thorough plot for revenge against those who once betrayed him, and now it's time for the final act. Morcerf and Villefort took some heavy hits in the previous volume, but now the hammer drops completely on both them and Danglars. As the full truth comes out, the painful sting of such a magnitude of betrayal should resonate with viewers. The full nature of Dantes' relationship with Gankutsuou is also revealed, as is the truth of Andrea Cavalcanti's identity and how both ultimately play into Dantes' scheme. The fates of Morcerf, Danglars, and Villefort were sealed from the beginning, so all that's yet to be determined is the fate of the remaining innocents – Albert, Haidee, and Mercedes – who have been caught in the middle of the Count's grand scheme. Can their efforts drag the Count back from oblivion, or will they, too, ultimately be sacrificed to his machinations?
Finding out how it all happens makes for some amazing entertainment. Episodes 21 and 22 provide powerhouse, edge-of-your-seat drama which builds inexorably towards the climatic 3-way confrontation between Morcerf, Albert, and Dantes/Gankutsuou in episode 23. The addition of the sci-fi elements and Gankutsuou to the equation requires things to turn out a bit differently than they do in Alexandre Dumas's original novel, but ultimately they turn out the only reasonable way they could given everything that has been set up over the course of the series. It's still a dramatically powerful episode, one that includes a neat mecha battle sequence in the same vein as what was seen in volume 5.
With the dramatic part of the story complete by the end of episode 23, the final episode is pure denouement, offering a What Happens After account and a few reflective flashbacks to a time of greater innocence. That episode is no pure filler, though, as it does serve a purpose: it shows the various characters which escaped the calamities of Dante's plot moving on with their lives, actually living and succeeding on their own accord, rather than on the back of someone else's suffering, and striving to make things better rather than just existing for such a dark purpose as revenge. It could justifiably be accused of being too happy an ending for such a dark and devious story, but it could also be looked at as the reward for Albert's incorruptibility throughout all that has happened.
Part of the appeal of Gonzo's production of Gankutusuou has always been its stunning visuals, especially its incomparable art direction, but that's less evident in the final volume than in earlier ones. Too much is going on here to linger on the fantastic shots of building decorations, professionally-designed exotic outfits, or the weird immobile patterns of hair and clothing, although those are still somewhat in evidence and scenes are rarely lacking in mind-boggling richness of detail. Still used heavily throughout out are all kinds of impressive CG gimmicks, with the highlight in this volume arguably being the unique mecha designs used by the Count and Morcerf in their final battle. The 2D/3D integration isn't flawless, and the character designs are a bit rough, although a good job is done of convincingly aging surviving characters (as the final episode takes place five years later). There's so much to look at here that's so visually impressive and inventive that a few minor detracting factors can be overlooked, though. The animation is also upper-tier, though it seems to have fallen off a bit since earlier volumes.
The musical score is also a winner, as the skillful use of background music, and the way it segues into the closer, is crucial to the mood and tension of the dramatic first two episodes. It takes on more of a classic dramatic feel in episode 23 and a much milder tone in episode 24 more befitting the mood of that episode. All episodes except 23 still retain the original opener, while the awesome original closer is used through episode 23. The series closes out with a full-length version of the song “We Were Lovers” from the opener, one which adds in an additional verse suitable to the final episode that was never used in the opener. This final volume also shows precisely why the lyrics of “We Were Lovers” are so fitting for the series.
The English dub for Gankutsuou has always been iffy, sometimes adequate and sometimes not. Unfortunately this volume is not an example of its best effort. The voice of Gankutsuou not only loses its original French in translation but is decidedly inadequate in carrying the tone of the role, especially in its climatic scenes in episode 23, and that alone is enough to drag the overall rating down. Some roles are perfectly fine; Haidee, Villefort, and Danglers sounds good, the ubiquitous Johnny Yong Bosch is at least acceptable as Albert, and most other roles are at least passable if evaluated separately. The English script is also acceptably in the ballpark. Ultimately the dub doesn't come together effectively enough to carry the full weight of the drama in this volume, however, especially in episode 23.
Extras on this volume include a brief collection of fashion designs from Anna Sui that were used in the series and a more extensive collection of mechanical art drawings. Also included are two collections of comments from the original seiyuu and director: the first set deals with one seiyuu each making comments about individual episodes in the final volume, while the second set features most of the principal cast members and is more of a “series wrap” promotion. These are very forgettable sets of commentary.
The only question that remains at the end of Gankutsuou is whether or not any other anime series released in the U.S. in 2006 can seriously challenge it for the title of the year's best series. Other series peak as high as this one does but the candidates that even come close to maintaining such a consistently high level of merit in art, music, and storytelling are rare. It may not work for everyone, as complaints that its artistry is headache-inducing could have merits for some viewers, but overall it's a strong finish to a superb series.
Overall (dub) : A-
Overall (sub) : A
Story : A
Animation : B+
Art : A
Music : A
+ Incredible visuals, excellent storytelling and use of music.
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