Otaku USA Magazine
Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo Vol. 1

Many have come and gone before us with one simple thought: “Wouldn’t this be cooler… in SPACE?” We saw it happen to the critters of the film series Critters, and we even saw it happen to Jason Vorhees in Jason X. But what about the classics? Would Shakespeare roll over in his grave if he saw a cybernetically implanted Robo-Romeo ripping out his wiring along with his love Juliet? Maybe it’s best to ask the ghost of Alexandre Dumas, whose famous work The Count of Monte Cristo was given the sci-fi anime treatment by Gonzo back in 2004.

Then again, his head might explode at the mere thought of his 19th century setting being zapped forward into the year 5053. Through some substantial plot changes, Monte Cristo is told more through the eyes of Albert de Morcerf and his friend, both on vacation on the moon colony of Luna. When chance finds them crossing the path of the eponymous Count, Albert’s life is forever changed. After a cordial evening of drinks and dining, they part ways, but before long, Albert finds himself in a bit of a pickle that involves both a plundering ladyboy and a vicious gang. Guess who comes to his aid? Once the dust settles on these events, the Count notes that he will be traveling to Earth soon, and promises to continue making Albert’s acquaintance in Paris.

The first volume follows these events through the Count’s arrival in Paris, where he meets some of the nobleman of the land. His horrifying backstory begins to unravel after that; another example of one of the chief differences between this work and Dumas’s. Anyone that’s seen the anime is well aware of these changes, but the manga shouldn’t necessarily be overlooked by those that have already worked their way through the 24-episode series.

One thing that makes this more special than your average anime-to-manga adaptation is the involvement of Mahiro Maeda, which really surprised me, to be honest. Maeda got his start in the anime industry working at Studio Ghibli on Hayao Miyazaki films like Nausicaä and Castle in the Sky. A lot of people are likely familiar with his extensive work with Gonzo, which includes directing Blue Submarine No. 6, Final Fantasy: Unlimited, and Gankutsuou.

I suppose then that it’s appropriate, if a bit unconventional, that he illustrated the manga version of Gankutsuo, as well. It’s certainly welcome, as his art style really stands out here. The lines are loose and sketchy, which often leads to an appealing “unfinished” quality, lending more life to the pages. I’ve only seen a few episodes of the anime, but this does a good job of replicating that while adding something different to the look. While the anime is loaded with strange Photoshop effects and whirling colors, the manga is powdered with gradients and purposefully imperfect backgrounds.

This might go down as a first in comic comparisons, but the sequence that details Edmond Dantes’ road to becoming the titular count is visually reminiscent of Barry Windsor-Smith’s work on Solar: Man of the Atom. It’s definitely the most striking moment of the volume, and helps underscore the Count’s plight, even if he’s put in a much less sympathetic light than he is in Dumas’s tale.

Under less favorable circumstances, I’d probably give people the old “move along, nothing to see here” with the Gankutsuou manga. This is an exception, because I would imagine that even the most stalwart hater of all things Gonzo can appreciate Mahiro Maeda’s talent. Though narrative differences from the anime are slight at best so far, it offers just enough visual impact to be worth a read.

Publisher: Del Rey
Manga: Mahiro Maeda
Scenario: Yura Ariwara
Rating: OT Ages 16+

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