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ex_naye320
ex_naye320
Gankutsuou! Non-spoilery pimping post with lots of pretty pictures!
Lots of free time lately, so I've been watching lots of anime. My ever-faithful dealer provider of many series, erhune, hooked me up with quite a few of them. I've been wanting to type up some kind of recs for Princess Tutu, The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi, Welcome to the NHK and xxxHOLiC, but then I acquired Gankutsuou.

erhune had been recommending Gankutsuou for pretty much ever, and I'd heard good things about it from other sources, and now that I think about it I don't know why I waited so long. But I did, and then I started watching... and then I finished watching, because there really was no stopping.



In one word, Gankutsuou is genius. In another word (I can never stick to just one word!), it's intense.  I wasn't prepared for how emotionally engaged I was going to become in the story, or how it would affect me. I mean - I get invested in fictive characters, of course I do! And I've watched a lot of good anime, where there have been plenty of emotions and impatient waiting for the next episode (why no new OP for two weeks, whyyy?), but... There was something about the intensity with which Gankutsuou overwhelmed me which I haven't felt for a long time. I think - since I started watching Fullmetal Alchemist. Back before there was the crazy enormous fandom and everything, when I'd just stumbled across it and found I couldn't stop watching the few episodes that were out.

Gankutsuou is a couple of things beside genius and intense. For one, the literal translation of the title (巌窟王 for some cool kanji) would be "Lord of the Cavern", which also happens to be the Japanese title for Alexandre Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo. (Or so Wikipedia informs me. Beware - the entry on Gankutsuou is full of spoilers!) It makes perfect sense that it is, because the series is very much based on that story. Not just the plot, but the setting too is a most creative take on the classic tale, which takes place in a futuristic Paris - a wild blend of sci-fi and 19th century elegance and aristocracy.

      
Spaceships!                                                                                           Early 20th century-type cars!

The animation is awesome beyond belief. It took me a little while to get used to it, but once you do - or even before you do, it's just cool. It's animation that takes the possibilities offered by the medium, and then runs with it. Runs far and wild and makes every single frame a feast for the eyes. There are patterns and colors and they're - moving, or not, depending on your definition. And they fit! They don't detract from the characters or the story - they add to it. Add atmosphere and feeling, and I found myself wondering why other animated series didn't try more of this. More of being creative and alive in their own medium, rather than trying to copy reality... Here, have a couple more screencaps!

       
Streets on Luna                                                                                      Flower floating in a river

And even screencaps don't really do the animation justice, so make sure to check out the links to clips I'm sticking on the end of this post! (erhune's already posted some clips on YouTube. I'd include them in the post, except it's still buggy enough that it doesn't work for me.)

What really makes the series work, in all its awesomeness, is the characters. The two main characters are the Count himself, and Albert. The Count is a mysterious aristocrat with seemingly unlimited wealth and influence, who appeared up on Luna one day, to much speculation from the local upper crust. Nobody knows who he is or where he came from - the rumours say he's someone who traveled into deep space and contracted a rare disease, or he's an impostor, or he's a vampire... One tale is more exaggerated than the next, and this air of mystery and danger immediately captures the young Albert's imagination. Albert is a viscount, the naive fifteen-year old son of one of his country's leaders. He's on his first space trip, together with his childhood friend, the amiable and slightly more mature Franz. A chance meeting at the opera one day leads the Count to invite Albert into his home, and this is the beginning of a chain of events that will go beyond anything Albert could ever have imagined...


The Count with Albert

The Count is possibly the coolest character ever. In my book, it's a competition between him and Hellsing's Alucard (the OVA version!). It's a tough choice, especially since both characters are voiced by the same seiyuu - Nakata Jouji, whose voice is simply made of awesome. He's like a Japanese James Earl Jones with fangs. No matter how politely he speaks, you can hear the teeth behind his smile - and those are the kind of teeth that will rip your throat out in a heartbeat. He fits the role perfectly.

More seiyuu - Albert is voiced by Fukuyama Jun, by now probably better known as xxxHOLiC's Watanuki. His Albert is quite different from Watanuki - more sensitive, less spastic, at once both young and vulnerable and possessed of an immense willpower. In one way, Gankutsuou is very much the story of Albert's coming of age, but because of Albert himself, and because of his relationships with his group of friends, I never experienced it as boring or heavy handed. (Otherwise "coming of age" always has an ominous note of "really boring" to me, for some reason.)

Every episode of Gankutsuou delves deeper into the main plot of the Count's motivation and actions, but also into Albert's world, with his friends and their families. His most important relationship, aside from the strange one he forms with the count, is the one he has with Franz. They've been together since they were very young, and Franz is hopelessly in love with utterly devoted to Albert. He sees the Count as a threat, and is the first to counsel Albert to stay away from him, but to no avail - the Count is too fascinating, too intense for Albert to resist.


Franz & Albert

So far, I've praised the animation, the story, the characters, and the seiyuu... but I can't forget the music! The opening and endings both are written for the show, and encapsule it quite beautifully. The ending (You Won't See Me Coming by Jean-Jacques Burnel) is incredibly cool, if vaguely reminiscent of an acid trip. The opening (We Were Lovers, by the same artist) is simple and pretty and almost melancholic in feel.

Another thing I love about this show is the recaps. They're absolutely unique in that it's Nakata Jouji doing the voice-over for them - in French! Actual, real French. With a Japanese accent, but still! It's French, and it's poetic French, and I don't really have any words for how it gave me chills the first time I heard it, so - here. Links to those clips I mentioned!

The intro to the second episode, with voice-over in French by Nakata Jouji! (It's subtitled in Japanese and French, and is too vague to be spoilery.)

Gankutsuou ending. Yes, the show is this cool! (But easier to watch. Um.)

Scene from episode 2. Spoilery for episode 2, but shows the amazing animation, and also the Count being incredibly kick-ass.

In short, this is a series I will watch again. I rarely re-watch things, but if people back home haven't seen Gankutsuou yet I'm going to sit them down in front of the TV and make them watch it. ♥ Because I want to share the awesome!

Tags: ,
Feeling: cheerful cheerful

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Comments
innueneko From: innueneko Date: September 3rd, 2006 12:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
Wow that is nice! I love how they just stick textures/patterns in like a cheap photoshop trick, but it works! I wonder if it's out in the US yet...
ex_naye320 From: ex_naye320 Date: September 3rd, 2006 12:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's a 2004 series, so it's out - it was licensed by Geneon, and the last DVD volume is coming out in September! I've got myself a set with French subs, which I'm afraid wouldn't be very useful to anyone else... ^^;;

It really is awesome how they make the textures work... It's kind of dizzying at first, but you get used to it, and after that it feels really dull to go back to watching anything that doesn't give your eyes a million things to take in with every frame.
avalonjones From: avalonjones Date: September 3rd, 2006 02:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've wanted to see this series. What they do with the textures and colors fascinates me, and I agree with you--this sort of technique is best used (as it was in ESCAFLOWNE) to enhance what's going on, rather than "LOOK! WE'RE USING CG!!!" as happens in so many series these days.

And just for the record, I'm eagerly waiting to see what you have to say about Princess Tutu, too!
ex_naye320 From: ex_naye320 Date: September 3rd, 2006 03:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
If you can get a hold of it, you should get it! It's gorgeous. In so many ways. I've seen anime do "pretty" before, or "beautiful", but never anything as inventive and imaginative and fun as this is! I don't know what they were smoking at Gonzo when they came up with the idea, but I wish they'd share it around a bit. (The CG for the sake of CG - gaaah. It's always so jarring. Yes, you've got computers - good for you, but so do I, and computer animation is not as impressive as you think it is. Really.)

Princess Tutu? I have one thing to say about Princess Tutu: ♥! ^_^

(I want to write something long about Tutu, but I've got so many series crammed in my head right now, and I don't want to mess it up. Tutu is too... good too mess up. But to write about the whole meta-fairytale thing, without making it sound boring, and without spoilers... ahh, I don't know how I'm gonna do it!)
avalonjones From: avalonjones Date: September 3rd, 2006 03:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
I can wait patiently as long as necessary to hear about Princess Tutu from you. I know next to nothing about the show, except that 1) it looks cute as hell, and 2) it makes me get all shoujo-fluttery, which is VERY unlike me. So naturally, something that has this effect on me, I'm very curious about.
ex_naye320 From: ex_naye320 Date: September 3rd, 2006 03:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
Your Sanzo matches my Gankutsuou pics!

Princess Tutu - yes! I'm the same. With shoujo, and not usually going for shoujo, or even "cute", and yet Tutu just won me over in a heartbeat. ♥
stitcher2ficcer From: stitcher2ficcer Date: September 3rd, 2006 05:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
I d/l this entire series shortly after it finished airing in Japan; but then we got caught up in house-hunting and moving and I never watched it. This makes me want to sit down with it right away.

I love your detailed reviews of various anime series, btw. I went through your LJ looking for a bunch of them last week, knowing you've written a number of them since I got an LJ, which I had never thought to bookmark. Now I've got all the ones I want to follow up on in my memories. You've probably given me enough recommendations to last years at the rate I watch anime. But it's nice to have good reviews of what I'm considering from someone I trust whose taste for characters, voices, and artwork has proved to be similar to mine. THANKS!
shayera From: shayera Date: September 3rd, 2006 10:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
You write the best recommendations ever! (And I have the series now - need to watch it!)
ex_naye320 From: ex_naye320 Date: September 4th, 2006 05:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
Wow. Hee~! Well. I'm glad you think so! I honestly don't think I'm writing anything particularly intelligent - it's just that when I love something very much, I can babble on about it. So I'm really very happy that my babbling makes sense to you. ♥

Yeah... I want to watch it with People (or cats and jopps, at least), but since I only have it in Japanese with French subtitles - well. We'd have to get it in English, somehow...
the_sarge From: the_sarge Date: September 3rd, 2006 11:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
Not really the "smoothest" way to do this, but... Check you "signe42" gmail adress. :) I hope that the mail arrived... *hugs*
From: erhune Date: September 4th, 2006 05:01 am (UTC) (Link)
Hellsing... checked.
Princess Tutu... checked.
Haruhi... checked.
Gankutsuou... checked.
Last Exile... attack pending.

フランス蛮に気をつけて…

(Did I mention PlanetES, Otaku no Video, Kare Kano, Evangelion, Genshiken, Prince of Tennis...? errr... forget the last one.)
11 have spoken ♥ :: Speak to me?