Anime Adaptations: Part One – Gankutsuou or The Count of Monte Cristo

Posted: March 3, 2014 in Uncategorized
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One of the comments on the last post got me to thinking about some anime adaptations of western material I’ve seen in the past few years and how innovative they have been. Now I will wax lyrical about the genre bending bliss that is anime and how that has influenced and given freedom to my own creative writing. In fact last year I did just that, on camera for Auburn Thought and One&OtherTV and if you are interested you can watch the video here…

Just as the last post on adaptation emphasised imagination on overdrive so some anime adaptations have taken western source novels and transported them to brave new worlds. In the course of a few posts I want to highlight a couple of anime that re-imagine the source material in interesting ways.

I’ll try to keep these as spoiler free as possible but the nature of analysis means some mild spoilers.

Gankutsuou – The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)

Gankutsuou

Gankutsuou promotional poster

The lavish and unusual visual style of Gankutsuou is only the tip of the iceberg for creativity in this adaptation. The texture heavy layering of image, the opulent colours and vivid patterns seem perfect for Dumas’ tale of betrayal.

The first big change is the time period, Mahiro Maeda’s story is set in the future which still has the trappings of eighteenth/nineteenth century life mixed in with high technology and some duelling mecha. There is also something of art nouveau movement in the shapes and objects that fill the cavernous settings.

gankutsuou second generation

From right to left: Albert, Franz, Eugenie, Beauchamp, Raoul de Château-Renaud, Lucien Debray, Valentine, Maximilien Morrel

The next great leap is the change of focus. Instead of following Edmond Dantes as he struggles for revenge on his so called friends, the anime chooses the second generation as its protagonists. Albert de Moncerf is the young naive hero who, along with his loyal friend Franz d’Épinay, is sucked into The Count of Monte Cristo’s web as he longs for adventure, love and a life bigger than his own. We are also brought into the mind spaces of Eugenie Danglers, the spirited pianist who wants independence and sickly Valentine Villefort who longs for a different kind of freedom.

The Count of Monte Cristo, himself, gets a gothic makeover as a sort of vampiric creature [See promo poster image]. Like the vampires of nineteenth century literature he carries the scars of a tragic past, drawing the naive Albert and Franz, but also like nineteenth century vampire he is a consummate schemer and manipulator. This character alteration visualises the theme of a man hollowed out by revenge, his passions and life force switched to darkness.

The flip of focus onto the innocents, the children of Moncerf, Danglers and Villefort naturally changes audience sympathy. We see these lives torn apart by the schemes of the Count from the perspective of the younger generation. Although some are spoilt and deserve to be shaken up, others are kind and demolished indiscriminately. This is the ugly face of revenge, it has consequences on all involved. From our position, in Albert’s shoes, there is more pathos in the discovery of the treachery of his father and the cruelty of his new friend The Count.

This adaptation still embodies the themes of the original text and surprising transformations on most of the multitude of subplot lies from the book, but it also presents a vibrant, futuristic vision perhaps more tempting to a teenage audience than Dumas’ book.

Here’s the Japanese trailer to give you a sense of the imaginative style and hopefully inspire you to watch the series.

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Comments
  1. Lexy Denman says:

    I can tell you that I have certainly been inspired to watch this series!

  2. […] Here is part two of the blog series where I take a look at creative adaptation through showcasing some anime adaptations of western books. In the first post of the series I explained a little of my love for anime and then analysed Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo. […]

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