The year is 5053. A young French nobleman, Viscount Albert de Morcerf and his friend Baron Franz d'Epinay are partying hard on the moon colony of Luna, when a dark, ominous, blue-skinned stranger suddenly steps into their lives. Said stranger is the self-made Count of Monte Cristo, a man with incredible riches, unusual powers, and an unnatural interest in our hero, Albert. (The Count also appears to have some sort of mysterious connection to Albert's parents—as if he had somehow known them in the past, although neither of them can ever remember seeing the Count before.)As time passes, the Count insinuates himself further and further into Albert's life and into the lives of the people he knows. But what is the Count's true reason for doing so? Is he, as he claims, a harmless wannabe nobleman who just wants to be introduced into High Society, or does he have a much darker purpose in mind?Gankutsuou is a 24-episode paraphrase of Alexandre Dumas' famous novel, The Count of Monte Cristo, set far into the future and viewed through an anime-and-LSD filter. Because it's based on a work of Western Literature, it has an unusual pace and plot for an anime, choosing to ignore many of the most common tropes that one tends to find in that medium. It also has a weird visual style with fantastically rendered CG backgrounds and characters with elaborate clothing patterns that remain stationary as the clothing and characters themselves move. Some viewers are awed by this aesthetic, while others are so put off by it that they stop watching the show. (You'll know about five minutes in what kind of viewer you are.)This series provides examples of:
Accidental Public Confession: At Villefort's trial, Andrea Cavalcanti shows up, and angers Villefort into confessing that he had an illegitimate son with Danglars' wife and burying said son alive.
Arranged Marriage: Several plot points revolve around these, which are apparently common amongst futuristic aristocrats.
Artsy Moon: Justified by the fact that it is colonized, thus having its surface altered, the moon sports a creepy skull-like face.
Ascended Extra: Franz was a minor character in the novel. Not so in the anime.
Asshole Victim: Morcerf, Danglars, and Villefort all richly deserve what the Count plans for them, both for what they did to him and for the terrible things they have done since. Unfortunately, they aren't the only ones who are to suffer.
At the Opera Tonight: Albert's first meeting with the Count and when he gets the pocketwatch as well as the first time he sees Haydée.
Bait-and-Switch Credits: The Opening Song has a somber mood that is fitting to the tone of the series, but the art style is dramatically different — and worrisome to first-time viewers, who might fear that the entire episode has been animated in that style.
Becoming the Mask: In the beginning The Count only pretends to like Albert when in reality he only views him as a tool for his revenge. However, as time goes on, he finds himself developing real feelings for Albert which cause him lots of angst and heartbreak, but ultimately save him in the end.
Byronic Hero: The Count is a fine example. He's even strongly associated with Tchaikowski's "Manfred Symphony," which is itself based on Lord Byron's "Manfred." The creator, Mahiro Maeda, has even said in an interview that he was influenced by Byron when creating the Count's character. Of course, this is also a reference to the original Count, who is compared to Manfred by several characters in the book.
Chekhov's Gun: A number of them: the watch the Count gives to Albert that later turns out to be a bugging device; the blue roses seen in Valentine's room; the two mecha in the hall of Albert's home that both end up being used, one by Franz and one by Fernand; and an actual gun: in episode 10 we see a gun hidden in Fernand's drawer. In the penultimate episode he'll use this to shoot Mercedes and Albert, then commit suicide. And lastly, in episode 18, Franz's broken sword shard that is lodged in the Count's heart, which hands Karmic Death to the Count in the penultimate episode.
Chekhov's Gunman: At first Haydée seems like only a loyal and docile follower of the Count. However, she later brings about Fernand's fall by exposing his sins; also Peppo, whose role seems to be over in episode two - until it turns out that she tagged along because she was a spy for the Count.
Interview with the creators reveal that Peppo's role was supposed to be over in episode two, but the writers decided she was too good to waste on only two episodes.
The Chessmaster: The Count. Lampshaded in an episode in which he plays chess against an AI and wins, and also proclaims to a desperate Haydée that he will "throw away the useless pieces that stand in the way of revenge."
Deathby Adaptation / Spared by the Adaptation: The poisoner is revealed to be Héloïse much earlier than in the book, far too early for the resultant deaths of Héloïse and Edouard and the Count's My God, What Have I Done?, so those two wind up surviving to the end. On the flipside, in the original their deaths caused the Count to change his M.O. to a less bloody one, whereas in this version he kills Danglars. Caderousse also makes it out alive in this version, and Franz doesn't.
Demotedto Extra: Maximilien, who had a lot more to do with the Count's redemption in the novel.
The Count looks like he belongs to the same species as Haydée with his blue skin and pointy ears - just his fangs set him apart. Of course their similar appearance is just a coincidence, since the Count is human and Haydée is not, but your average observer probably couldn't tell the difference.
Easily Forgiven: You'd think Albert would resent the Count at least a little after he tries to kill him in front of his dad, and this after manipulating him, killing his best friend, and causing the fall of his family.
Even Evil Has Standards: Invoked in the end by the Count's two servants Baptistin and Bertuccio of all people as they both refuse to kill Albert, who at this point is willing to forgive and even save the Count despite all the crap the Count put him through, under the Count's order. Bertuccio previously swore to walk down the path of Hell with the Count, which shows just how depraved and monstrous the Count has become in his pursuit for vengeance. During the Count's duel, all 4 of his servants visibly cringe at his brutality.
Evil Counterpart: The Count is Albert's evil counterpart, while Fernand is Franz's. They even hang a lampshade on it with a flashback of Edmond and Fernand at the beach that is a mirror image of an earlier (or is it later?) flashback of Albert and Franz there.
Evil Laugh: Fairly late in the series the Count breaks down sobbing, as his next move involves destroying his friendship with Albert - and then the sobs turn to chuckles and soon he's howling with mad laughter.
Eye Scream: Luigi Vampa. During the rescue of Albert, the Count holds a very sharp knife to his eye before the screen blacks out. When Luigi next appears, he's wearing an eyepatch over that eye.
Facial Markings: The "eyes" on the Count's forehead are a manifestation of his power, and are only visible when he's using it.
These facial (later full body) markings are a Homage to Alfred Bester's The Stars My Destination (aka Tiger! Tiger!), one main source of inspiration for the writer.
Fan Disservice: Héloïse's masturbation scene and Andrea's sex scene with Victoria, his mother.
Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Nearly all references to foreign countries and customs from the book are replaced with "Eastern Space." Rome is replaced with Luna, a city on the moon that resembles a cross between old world Italy and modern day New Orleans. Haydee, who was an ethnic Turk in the book, is shown as a pale faced, pointy eared alien from a civilization that is a cross between Middle Eastern and Chinese influences.
Fat Bastard: Baron Danglars. Although flashbacks show that, while he wasn't always fat, he was always a bastard.
Gainaxing: Haydée in her opera outfit, combined with Conspicuous CG. A rather odd case, especially in how exaggerated it is, considering that Haydée is relatively modestly endowed, and not intended as a sex symbol.
Glamour Failure: The Count appears blurry and out-of-focus in photographs, and his voice doesn't register on audio recordings.
Good Eyes, Evil Eyes: The most purely good characters like Albert and most of his friends have wide eyes; more anti-heroic characters like Beauchamp and Debray have narrower eyes, as do the Count and his enemies. Andrea, being a real psycho has slitted pupils like a snake in fact, he looks a real lot like his half-sister, Eugénie; it's the eyes that are the real noticeable difference in their features.
Gratuitous English: The pattern for Albert's pirate outfit says "PIRATE ALBERT". Also, "Happy Birthday, Albert."
Gratuitous French: There's a lot of French (most of the on-screen writing, for a start), but where it really goes over the line is that there is one character who is distinguished by speaking only in French, in the midst of all these French characters speaking what appears to be Japanese.
The narration at the beginning of each episode is spoken in grammatically correct French, although with a very heavy accent.
The rest of the French in the series is generally correct. Unsurprisingly, the name of the correspondent in Japan from the biggest French anime magazine pops up in the end credits as a language consultant... Draw your own conclusions.
Hanging Judge: Villefort, who is referred to in the subtitles as "the hanging judge".
Hide Your Gays: Strangely for an anime with so much Ho Yay in it, it drops the suggestion from the novel that Eugénie is a lesbian.
Debatable, since it adds a large dose of Ho Yay between Albert and the Count, and Franz and Albert. Even Eugénie was originally designed to be a lesbian (the trailer even has her leaning in to kiss her piano teacher), but that was changed when she was retooled into Albert's love interest.
There's also the whole business with Andrea and his parents - the episode he's introduced in is chock-full of foreboding and creepy visuals, ranging from allusions to the Minotaur and its labyrinth to sculptures of babies and cherubs made horribly creepy by the context.
Captured by the Count's conclusion to one of his inner dialogues with Gankutsuou in the manga:
If I Can't Have You: Morcerf shoots his wife and son when he realizes he has lost everything. Mercedes offered him a Last-Second Chance to go away with her and leave everything behind; when he declares I've Come Too Far and persists in his Villainous BSOD, she tells him that she's leaving him then — though she'll always be grateful for what's he's done for her and never forget what they shared together — that's when he shoots her and then he shoots their son for trying to stop him/avenge his mother.
Lecherous Licking: One scene has Andrea naked in a bathtub strewn with rose petals, drinking red wine...and then he crushes the wineglass in his hand until he bleeds, and he promptly licks the blood from his arm.
Lolicon: In the anime, everybody starting with Albert thinks that Haydée is the Count's mistress, which it is strongly implied isn't the case (especially since the fact that the Count's body is as cold as a corpse's and that part of his skin and muscles show his internal organs makes him unable to get intimate with anyone in the first place). This also changes the ending of the novel, in which the Count leaves with Haydée to live happily ever after as a cool couple even though he explicitly views her as his adopted daughter.
Lost in Imitation: Averted: the anime manages to avoid the traps and clichés other adaptations of the novel fell victim to (Albert is not Edmond's son, Edmond doesn't get together with Mercedes in the end, Eugénie and Haydée are not written out of the story, Haydée is not married off to Franz, etc.).
Love Dodecahedron: Every character has one romantic link or another to every other character.
Franz had to suffer a lot because of his unrequited love for Albert.
Albert's platonic (?) crush on the Count.
Of course Albert doesn't know that Franz is in love with him (and Franz never planned to let him know) which puts things in a slightly different perspective.
Love Makes You Evil: Morcerf. Fernand's Start of Darkness (I was tired of living that loser life) was being pushed over the edge due to his being on the losing end of the Love Triangle between him and his childhood best friends Mercedes and Edmond, which he attributed in large part to the fact that he was poor and struggling in his own profession while Dantes was rich and successful in his career.
The Matchmaker: Albert becomes this for Valentine and Maximilien, frequently acting as a mediator between them and attempting to coach Maximilien on how to win her over.
Meaningful Name: The fact that Edmond Dantes's name may evoke "demon" and Dante's Inferno is taken literally in the anime. note 'Dantes' may not be reference to Dante (in fact, the correct spelling is 'Dantès'. Some literary critics would disagree with this point. "Dantès" is a possible Southern French equivalent of the name "Dante."
Never Got to Say Goodbye: Franz to his father. Not only did he not say goodbye, he also told him he hopes he never comes back. Oops.
Never Trust a Trailer: The production team made huge changes to the story in the very last moment - so much so that the original TV trailers feature some characters looking different than how they ended up, footage that didn't make it in the end, and events that either never took place or were played out in a different way.
Not So Different: In his pursuit of revenge, the Count has become just as cruel as if not more so than the people who ruined him. This is explicitly spelled out in the end whereupon Fernand holds Haydée hostage, the Count orders Bertuccio to just kill Albert regardless of what happens to Haydée. Thankfully, it's also at this point that Baptistan and Bertuccio disobey the Count for the first time. Gankutsuou is more than happy to just walk away once the Count's soul is in its possession. It was the Count who did all the plotting to destroy those one wronged him.
Oblivious to Love: Albert was oblivious of Franz's feelings for him. It helped that Franz kept his feelings a secret from everyone.
The manga implies that Albert is looking for a father figure in the Count because he has issues with his authoritarian real father. He also has an interesting relationship with his mother.
There's Andrea who takes this to the logical extreme: although he doesn't kill his father he gives him a poison that destroys his mind, he has sex with his mother and tries to rape his half-sister.
Ojou Ringlets: Andrea Cavalcanti, a rare example of a male with this hairstyle It's interesting to note that the hairstyle was originally meant for Eugénie (as seen in the official trailer and concept art) - it was transferred to Andrea in the very last moment, when the writers decided that Eugénie would be a positive character and love interest.
Our Vampires Are Different: The Count isn't technically a vampire, but the fact that he has several of their characteristics is Lampshaded several times and he doesn't have all of their characteristics.
This is carried over from the novel, where the Count is compared to a vampire by the Countess G—-. It's just dialed Up to Eleven by giving him a vampire's magical properties instead of just being a guy who fits the traditional suave vampire archetype.
According to Word of God, one of the reasons Albert was chosen as the viewpoint character instead of the Count was to put the focus on the consequences of revenge rather than the satisfaction of it, as the creators worried about glorifying revenge.
The Power of Love: Gankutsuou is defeated by hugs and kisses dished out by Albert. [[spoile: It wasn't Albert who triggered the reversal the transformation, it was Edmond's own feelings (his soul,) that he'd tried to get rid of (which was the point of his duel with Albert, however Franz stepped in and ruined his plans), awakened by Albert's hugs and kisses.
Public Domain Soundtrack: Tchaikovsky's "Manfred symphony" is used a lot - the first movement is the Count's own theme and excerpts from latter movements are also used here and there. Eugénie plays the first movement (edited, though) of Rachmaninov's "Piano Concerto No. 2" and Schumann's "Traumerei" during her performance in the Opera, on Luna Albert and Franz meet the Count during a performance of "Lucia di Lammermoor", later in Paris the Count invites Albert to a performance of "Robert le Diable"... and the opening theme song is based partly on Chopin's "Etude Op.10 No.3."
Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: The Count, Andrea, and Fernand have some juicy moments, and the structure and intonations of spoken Japanese lend themselves to them very well. TAKE THE HAMMER STRIKE. OF REVENGE! Close-up on the Count's face, cue to some crazy Humongous Mecha fight.
The Punishment: The person who received dark, almost supernatural powers as a result of his punishment was innocent.
Race Lift: To preserve his status as exotic the Count's henchman Ali is changed from a black African to a green space alien.
Rule of Cool: Without his dramatic poses and mannerisms, the Count would just be... Edmond Dantes?
Runaway Bride: Eugénie becomes this towards Andrea, who was forcing her to marry him.
Scary Shiny Glasses: Baron Danglars does this occasionally; Villefort more often, though his is a Scary Shiny Monocle.
Schizo Tech: The setting is an odd combination of the novel's 19th century setting, mid-twentieth century elements (i.e. the cars) and far future technology
Sealed Evil in a Can: Gankutsuou was sealed away for a thousand years but released some years before the start of the story.
Second Love: Valentine's first love was her fiancé Franz, but she eventually returns Maximilien's feelings and ends up with him.
Secret Identity: Not only the Count, but also Fernand, Mercedes, Villefort and Danglars and Benedetto/Andrea Cavalcanti.
Secret Identity Identity: Although he has fewer personae than in the novel, "Edmond" is so absorbed by his persona as the Count and as "Gankutsuou" that he keeps claiming that Edmond died in prison and was reborn as the Count of Monte Cristo - until the last few seconds before his death. Interestingly, he still signs "Edmond Dantes" when he wants to terrify his former oppressors. One might argue that "Edmond Dantes" is a social construction that exists in a few characters' (arguably deformed or idealized) memories while the Count is very real -and out for some aristocratic blood.
Bertuccio wears a pair. They're Opaque Lenses most of the time, but become translucent when he has moments of humanity. (And on one memorable occasion, when he's struggling with his conscience, one lens becomes translucent while the other remains opaque.)
Baron Danglars wears these all the time, as well. In his case they signify his shifty character.
Slasher Smile: The titular Count wears a rather terrifying example of this when everything is going according to plan (which usually involves a humiliating and/or painful death)
Space Jews: Foreign characters like Ali, Haydée, etc. are aliens. The series uses the term "Eastern Space" for locations that were in Turkey/the Middle East in the novel.
Spanner in the Works: Franz becomes this to the Count when Franz decides to participate in the duel instead of Albert and id killed. This not only derails the Count's plan to be rid of his Edmond Dantes part of soul but also hands him Karmic Death in the end.
Transformation Trauma: Boy, does the Count's transformation into Gankutsuou in the anime look (and sound) painful. In the manga, his first transformation in prison is even worse, as it involves violent hallucinations, mangling, rape metaphors, and of course a demonic entity. His look of utter "What the hell was this!?" when he looks at his hands in the aftermath says it all, really.
Trickster Archetype: The Count has several personae, tricks people and is occasionally himself tricked, displays a confusing moral ambiguity and a total disrespect for social conventions, is histrionic, and also lives beyond traditional boundaries such as good and evil, victim and predator, alive and dead or undead, human and monster, earthling and alien. He also has some characteristics of a Shapeshifter (see his spectacular and painful transformations into Gankutsuou and the fact that when Fernand impales him with the sword of his Humongous Mecha, he turns into a mist and reappears in his own mecha, vampire-style).
Two Guys and a Girl: Edmond Dantes and Albert's parents. Averted with Valentine, Franz, and Maximilien because of Franz' love interest.
Unsettling Gender-Reveal: Happens to Albert. Then Peppo (the 'lady') uses it to wind him up for the rest of the series. It's implied that Peppo is truly is a man since in the epilogue, Baptistin sees Peppo has become a model and is weirded out by it (if Peppo is a girl, that would not be too surprising). Peppo is confirmed to be male by the manga adaptation, as well as originally being a boy crossdressing as a girl to seduce Albert in the novel.