Genre: Drama, Sci-Fi, Horror
Notes: Based on the classic novel The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas
While on a trip to Luna, Albert and his friend Franz are befriended by a mysterious man, the Count, who later saves Albert from kidnappers. Albert introduces the Count to Parisian society where he insinuates himself into the lives of his and his friends' families. Then a series of tragic events occur. Who is this mysterious man, or monster, and is he responsible for the tragedies?
The most outstanding aspect of this show is the rather strange animation, think CGI Yellow Submarine (the old Beatles cartoon) sort of popart-paper cutout style. The clothes are absolutely hypnotic and seem to move on their own, or rather the contrast in the designs not moving vs. the movement of the characters, creates an illusionary effect. Unlike the usual simple patterns in anime, even CGI anime, the detailed patterns of the clothes are psychedelic. Watch an episode just to see the fancy clothes! There are some beautiful detailed CGI scenes of mansion interiors, outer space, etc. but the CGI is obvious in contrast to the character faces, which are drawn in simple flat 2-D anime style. The opening theme is a wistful ballad sung in English, not terrible good or memorable. The ending theme has a hard edge techno rock sound. Overall score is good with some nice Spanish guitar passages. Voices are appropriate, with the Count's voice just scary enough.
The story is based on The Count of Monte Cristo but crossed with Dracula (the Count has apparently contracted a vampiric illness from distant space) and in a sci-fi futuristic setting. There are high tech carriages pulled by robotic horses, surveillance equipment hidden in the horse's eye, spaceships, and worlds at war. The title "Gankutsuou" means "Ruler of the Caverns" and has a very sinister reference in the anime while giving a nod to the original story where treasure is found in a cave. The overall plot remains the same but the anime centers around the children of the Count's targets.
Albert and his best friend Franz meet the Count while on holiday in Luna (city on the moon). Albert is kidnapped and the Count saves him. They become good friends and Albert introduces him to his parents and to their friends. Then bad things start to happen, starting with his friend Valentine being poisoned. Things escalate and Albert learns how everyone has been living a lie. The series is not episodic and must be viewed in order to follow the developments. There's drama and mystery and even a bit of mecha action (large armor suits). This is more than just a story of betrayal and revenge, but also greed and power and the corruption of innocence. There's a couple of touching relationships/love triangles between Albert, his fiance Eugenie, and another mysterious figure Benedetto; the soldier Maximillien, Valentine, and her fiance/Albert's best friend Franz. Albert's loyalty to the Count seems rather unbelievable and sudden, while Franz's loyalty to Albert is addressed well. The original novel is more of an adventure and vengeance story while the anime emphasizes relationships, love and loyalty.
As in the book, there are quite a number of characters to track. Luckily they all look different enough so it's not too much of a problem unlike in some other animes.
Here's a few of the other more important ones:
Danglars, Julian - power player in the financial world, daughter Eugenie is engaged to Albert, wife Victoria had a relationship with Villefort (don't think this was in the original story)
Dantes, Edmond - Mercede's true love who was charged with treason and died in farthest space
Dupre, Lucien - a government official, friend of Albert
Haydee - the Count's ward
Morcerf, Fernand - military general, currently running for president, father of Albert, married to Mercedes
Morrel, Maximillien - calvary captain in love with Valentine
Villefort, Gerard - a high power respected hanging judge, daughter Valentine from first wife is engaged to Franz, Heloise is his second wife
For those who are fans of the original story, check this out as an interesting retelling; there's much new/different material to make it worthwhile. For those who didn't care for the original or never heard of it, check it out just to see the bizarre but mesmerizing graphics. Rated PG-13 for some sexual implications, and adult situations (murder, blackmail, revenge, etc.)