“Countdown” – Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo (anime) – 8/10 Pencils

Genre: Romance/Drama/Sci-Fi/Thriller

Review Status: Complete (24 Episodes/24 Episodes)

Licensed: Yes, this anime is licensed in the US.

Art/Animation: The art can be a little funky- they used an animation technique where most things are cut-outs with brightly patterned layers underneath. It makes for a lot of eye-smarting, but sometimes can be pretty awesome and interesting. The animation is pretty decent, mostly smooth and flowing well. The giant mecha duel was where this faltered. They did have the machines move rather robotically (and realistically, I would think), but the actual fighting had them moving fluidly. That was very incongruent.

Dub Vs. Sub: I only saw the sub, but it was very well-done.

Summary: Albert is a young man of privilege in Paris, but the trappings of his aristocratic birth leave him bored and unsatisfied. Seeking adventure, Albert’s restless spirit leads him to a festival on the moon- and to the Count of Monte Cristo. An enigmatic man of charm and wealth, the Counte of Monte Cristo’s charisma and sophistication captivate Albert. The fascinated youth invites the nobleman to mingle within the upper echelons of Parisian society, and the Count is soon courting the favor of France’s most powerful families. Little does Albert know, as his new friend walks in the ornate halls of the highest class, the Count of Monte Cristo wants only to bring them down through vengeance. (back of dvd cover)

Review: I admit it; I have not read The Count of Monte Cristo. That being said, I still was able to understand, appreciate, and wonder at this anime. While I can’t judge on how good an adaptation it is, I know that I still was amazed at how good it is. I know the premise: The count is a long-lost friend of several important people in town, was betrayed by them, and sets out to wreak revenge upon them in the most hulimilating, devestating ways possible. The anime sets out to tell the story of how this happens via Alberr, the son of one of the men the Count betrayed. He’s captured by the Count’s charisma, intrigued by the man’s immense wealth and power, and looking for a father figure since his own father is distant.

It’s easy to see him drawn into the Count’s claws, unwittingly becoming the harbinger of destruction for his friend’s families and his own. The Count isn’t just looking to destroy those who betrayed him – he’s looking to destroy anything and everything connected with him. The ploys he uses are clever, preying on the weaknesses they have, be it an adulterous wife, or a desire for money that goes beyond the rational. The Count makes himself an utterly unlikeable character, but at the same time can be sympathized with because of the horrendous things that happened because of what his friends did. However, he’s a man who slowly and systematically not only brings them down but the innocents that surround them, making him a villian of immense proportions.

Albert, his unwitting accomplice, is unable to or refuses to see until there is no other choice, when he accidentally sees something he shouldn’t and starts piecing together clues his friends provide. He takes on the responsibilty of saving those he can from the Count’s clutches, a difficult task to bear. His growth from blindly trusting youth to determined (and possibly slightly jaded) man takes a while, but when circumstances call for it he does what he can. There’s little wonder this is often considered a light shounen-ai, because often his interactions with the Count take on a slightly homoerotic tone and the Count’s betrayal seems almost one of a lover instead of a father. Nevertheless, watching their relationship take a dramatic and terrible turn is fascinting to watch.

There are a number of noteworthy side characters, such as Haydee, an unfortunate victim of the Count’s former friends, who was saved and restored to her proper place… perhaps his one true act of kindness in the devastation he wreaked. Her story was heartbreaking, and her devotion to the count sparked no surprise once it was told. The tragedy of her love only added to the overall sorrow of the story. Mercedes, the lynchpin of what happens, is a somewhat shallow addition – since the story doesn’t revolve around her, she actually seems more detatched from the scenario. In many ways, she is, since it’s the destruction of her husband and her friends that brings her down by association.

Watching this show is like watching a train wreck in slow motion. You know horrible things will happen – it’s how they come about that makes the story interesting. Political intrigue, adulterous romances, daring escapes and broken hearts litter this show like confetti. It’s not a happy show, but it is incredibly well-put together. I do have a few minor complaints about pacing near the beginning, and how blindingly naieve Albert can be at the most critical moments, but this was a show I don’t regret watching.

Overall, this is a show that takes an interesting twist on a well-known story, and pulls it off brilliantly.

Recommended: 16+. There’s some death that goes on onscreen, none in a gory manner, the implications of sex and affairs, some scanty clothing (the important bits are covered, but it’s definitely racy), and a scene of a naked (important bits covered) man rolling around in his money.

Other titles you might enjoy:

Romeo x Juliet (anime)

Monster (anime or manga)

Le Chevalier D’Eon (anime)

Revoutionary Girl Utena (anime)

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