Wreaking vengeance a la Alexandre Dumas

Im still sniffling after watching “Gankutsuou” tonight. It’s a re-telling of “The Count of Monte Christo”, Alexandre Dumas’ tale of love, betrayal and vengeance.

Albert de Morcerf and Franz d’Epinay are young Parisian aristocrats on a holiday in the anything-goes Luna when they encounter the wealthy and mysterious Count of Monte Christo.

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The Count lends a hand when Albert is kidnapped and held for ransom by local crooks. The teen is soon under the spell of the blue-skinned and fanged Count and willingly agrees to introduce the man to Parisian society once he and his retinue arrive.

But as Albert would later learn, there are no coincidences when it comes to the Count.

In this version, the story is set in the future so there are spaceships, other planetary societies and giant suits of armor that fight duels. The show is about Albert and what happens to him, his family and friends because of a betrayal in the past.

Yes, several things in the book get changed in the anime especially two major plot points. But it is a re-telling so purists needn’t get their knickers in a twist. Hollywood has done so much worse in its versions of classic literature. Don’t even get me started about that.

Anyway, back to “Gankutsuou”. What sets this anime apart from the pack is how unique it looks. For instance, the clothing of the characters and their hair are rendered in designs and patterns. Anna Sui is credited as special costume designer for the show.

Everything else looks lavish and colorful. Beautiful backgrounds, nice CGIs.

A pal of mine considered the style of the animation distracting. I suppose some people might think that but to me, animation is a medium that lends itself to experimentation. Why not push the boundaries? When it succeeds, the results are worth it like “Gankutsuou.”

It also helps that the story is such a classic. Edmond Dantes was framed for a crime he didn’t commit, got sent to prison, lost his fiance plus his father suffered and died penniless. It was Dantes’ friends who betrayed him. Old sins would cast long shadows on the next generation.

Now if you can’t feel anything for what befell poor Dantes, then you’re not human but a hunk of rock.

Perhaps as a nod to its literary source, each episode begins with a short intro by a man speaking in French. Who this narrator is becomes clearer as the show progresses. (I watched the show in Japanese with English subtitles. If you watch the English dub, the narrator speaks in English.)

The opening song grates on my nerves though. The lyrics sound too hokey. It would have worked better as an instrumental piece. The closing song isn’t too shabby though and fits the revenge theme of the anime.

Anime is more than just cutesy school girls sporting unreal hair colors or giant robots smashing each other, it also serves to expose people to literature. Who knows? They might be enticed to read the original versions.

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