Manga-ka: Mahiro Maeda, Yuri Ariwara
Publisher: Del Rey
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: November 2008
Synopsis: “To those who betrayed me, who stole everything from me, I will give death and despair unto death. Your wives and children, your loyal followers, one by one they will fall to my charms.”
While vacationing on the moon, Albert, a young Parisian nobleman, meets The Count of Monte Cristo, a fabulously rich aristocrat from the far reaches of the galaxy. Fascinated by the count’s sophistication and intelligence, Albert is unaware of the older man’s dark purpose: to enact revenge for a terrible act of betrayal committed against him twenty-five years ago. Soon, all of Paris, including Albert’s own mother and father, will feel the terror of the count’s vengeance. Based on the acclaimed anime, this science fiction version of Alexandre Dumas’s classic The Count of Monte Cristo is the story of a young man’s seduction by evil–and a grown man’s struggle with his past.
Manga based on anime are the redheaded stepchildren of anime fandom: they’re tolerated but rarely well liked. At best, they often end up reading like a collection of deleted scenes from their anime counterpart. While Gankutsuou volume one falls prey to this, it also takes the surrealistic atmosphere of the anime and runs with it.
The Gankutsuou manga is an adaptation of an anime that was an adaptation of Alexander Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo. Gankustuou gives the story a sci-fi twist by setting the story across the galaxy. The basic plot stays pretty much the same: a man returns home under a new identity in order to get revenge on those who have wronged him. While the idea is simple (it’s pretty much the classic revenge story) The Count of Monte Cristo also has a humongous cast and sprawling plotlines. Movie adaptations have suffered because of the complexity of the story, but hopefully in something longer form like manga the plot will have more room to breathe. It’s hard to tell from volume one how much of the plot it will keep, but at least the series has captured the book’s dark tone. It will be interesting to see if it manages to keep it up (especially if it stays true to the book).
But while the manga has atmosphere in spades it lacks in clarity. Certain events that are pivotal to the plot are rushed here, like when Albert gets kidnapped and then rescued by the Count. In the anime a whole episode was devoted to it, but here it’s a page. It’s not a total loss because instead we get to see what another character, Albert’s best friend Franz, was doing while all of that was going on. That’s interesting in itself, but it also makes the manga feel like a supplement to the anime.
That’s not too surprising in itself since the manga-ka, Mahiro Maeda, was the director of the anime. Reading Gankutsuou is almost like a behind the scenes look at the making of the anime as we get to see Mahiro try out different scenarios and subplots that didn’t make it into the anime. However, there’s usually a good reason those things got left on the chopping room floor, and while it’s interesting to see the differences, none of them are a real improvement to what was presented in the anime. If you haven’t seen the anime (or read the novel) it might be harder to understand the significance of certain events or characters.
While I sometimes had issue with the pacing, I did enjoy Mahiro’s art. Mahiro worked at Studio Ghibli before Gonzo, and you can see a touch of Hiyao Miyazaki’s style in his artwork. Mahiro also uses a lot of line work in place of tones, which gives the manga a fitting European feel. His layouts and backgrounds help re-create the eye-catching visual style of the anime.
If you like dark and atmospheric manga you might enjoy this, but I could only really recommend it to fans of the anime. And in the end, that’s really who manga adaptations of anime are made for.
Review written July 30, 2009 by Shannon Fay