On Gankutsuou and the Alternate Universe

First off, I have limited internet access right now. I’m taking advantage of the current moment to post something, but until I have full on access again, my posting is limited. What’s going on is a variety of things, mainly I had a mental breakdown and found out my meds aren’t working.

Admittly, when I picked up Gankutsuou, I was not familiar with the original Count of Monte Cristo material. I was watching is because my sister wanted to watch it, as she had read the book, and when I had questions, I usually fielded them to her. However, I finally got to see The Count of Monte Cristo movie (color version) that I realized what a magnificent piece of work the anime was. Not only is The Count of Monte Cristo a fascinating story but Gonzo shows how to successfully do an Alternate Universe, not only doing an Alternate Universe in way one but multiple ways.

The first thing is the obvious. Gankutsuou is set in Outer Space, a science fiction version of what was originally a story set after the fall of Napoleon. While it does make things different, it doesn’t really alter the story itself, the characters and their motives are the same (well, similar.) .

The second thing is not an Alternate Universe thing so much as something Gonzo chooses to do differently. While the movies adaptations of The Count of Monte Cristo choose to focus on, well, the Count (Edmund Dantes) and his elaborate revenge, Gankutsuou choose to focus on Ferinand and Mercedes’s son, Albert and his friends, some who are children of the adults that hurt Dantes. Through this, we see how the parent’s life choices have affected the children, for better or worse, as well as how the Count’s revenge hurts the children. Furthermore, greater focus is placed on the relationship between Albert and the Count, leading up to the Count’s inevitable betrayal. This approach adds a new angle to the story that while a part of the book, is often left out in the movies to save time. The main disadvantage to this is that the Count is definitely a less sympathic character then he is in the movies. We don’t get to see his past in as much detail. Then again, I do feel that the anime relies somewhat on the viewer already knowing the story. While it’s not essential to have watched the movie or read the book to know what’s going on in the anime, it’s definitely helps.

The third use of the Alternative Universe is changes in the characters that changes the choices they make. For example, one minor change is that Albert’s fiancée doesn’t run off with another girl. The biggest change however is probably in that of the Count himself. In the book/movie, he repents in his quest for revenge. This doesn’t happen in the anime, rather, it explores what would happen if the Count didn’t repent. Needless to say, the results are rather dark.

However, with not only an alternate setting, but alternate character choices and approaching the story at a different angle, I feel Gankutsuou honestly excels at catching the nature of an Alternative Universe and demonstrating the enormous potential an Alternate Universe has and should fulfill.

4 Comments

Filed under Gankutsuou, Pointless Rant

4 responses to “On Gankutsuou and the Alternate Universe

  1. Very nice post on a very awesome anime. The alternate universe thing definitely is an approach at which we must look. I haven’t read the book, but I saw the movie, and most people who read the book said that the film adaptation skipped massive sections.

    I think the most impressive part about the Alternate universe is the “design” of the universe. The extravagance of Luna (which I think was Rome in the book) is really made true thanks to the flashy designs of, well, basically everything. The costumes and suits of the characters also helped establish such flashy excess. Example: Haydee’s dress at the Opera was just excellent. I really am glad that Gonzo decided to go all-out with the production of this series in terms of art.

    Moreover, the Alternate Universe, as you said, changed some themes around. I think the most significant change was the role of “Gankutsuou” and repentance (which you did talk about). In the anime, Gankutsuou was sinister, a baleful soul that entered the body in order to take revenge and ultimately take over the body of the “user,” if you will. The theme, then, is much more apparent: revenge is sinister, and it will take you over–no matter what the context will be. It thus focuses on the pure evil of vengeance. The book, however, has a french friar (i think) that teaches Edmond all he needs to know–especially fighting. When the friar asks what Edmond wants, he responds that he wants cold revenge. The friar warns Edmond that revenge is not the path to take; but the friar’s attempts were futile. As the “wise, old man” archetype (I think that’s a Jungian archetype), the friar has a warmer and more gentle personality. In this way, the theme is no longer about pure revenge and its inherent evil. Rather, the theme becomes a matter of power: with great knowledge comes great power, and with great power comes great responsibility. As such, the theme becomes what to do with that power, and the severe consequences of those who use the power.

    Just wanted to contribute my thoughts though. Again, great post!

    • Very much, the friar changed Dantes, and helped turned him off his path in the end. I wonder what he would have looked like, had he been on the anime…

      And those are some great thoughts!

  2. This post is a thing of beauty. You’ve outdone yourself, Janette! And reminded me to read the original Count of Monte Cristo, or at least watch one of the movies of it.

    My only complaint with Gankutsuou? Needs more Peppo.

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