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[Where I Watch] Gankutsuou: The Space Count of Space Monte Cristo

Chekhov's Balloon

We were lovers
Validated User
Episode 2: Until the Sun Rises Over the Moon

The second episode begins with a recap of the first episode, seemingly narrated by the Count himself in French. But is it? I have trouble believing that Jouji Nakata’s French is this good, but more importantly it’s a “friend” who tells the narrator that his vengeance has just begun, but then it’s an “I” who meets Albert. The narrator expresses concern for the state of Albert’s soul, but that does not sound like a man who would entice the same Albert to play card games with the lives of prisoners. The double personality of a man driven mad in Space Chateau d’If, or something less literal? We shall see.

From where we left off last episode, our hero Albert is being held by gunpoint by his newly-acquainted ladyfriend. Any ambiguity about this not being a kidnapping is dispelled when the rest of the gang shows up in the alley.



Midnight is past and the fireworks are over, leaving ground littered with confetti and discarded masks. Franz is bored and alone at the midnight ball. The idea that historical high culture has become mere fashion in the space future is given credence by the presence of couples in evening dress dancing under the light of a disco ball and to a live jazz ensemble.


See.

The Marquise from last episode is there too, and wonders where Albert has gone off to. Trying to pick up chicks on the street, Franz dismisses, probably covering for his friend. A portly partygoer remarks that wandering Luna’s streets at midnight is suicide. Well, our two rich young noblemen could have known that earlier.

It’s interesting that Franz, veteran of the Luna Carnival, reacts to this tidbit with surprise. Alas, he’s not a regular member of the Lunar glitterati, so he hasn’t heard about the up-and-coming bandit Luigi Vampa (hey, another name from the novel) whose modus operandi is kidnapping people to the catacombs beneath Space Venice (which, as I remind readers, is built on the Moon), torture them and kill them. Even the police are afraid of this character, the partygoers say. The Marquise reassures Franz but not to any particularly compassionate motive, as their subsequent dance hints.



Hey, it’s the Coliseum. Albert traverses a sewer under heavy press by the kidnapping gang. The downside: the ground is littered with bones, which is just ominous. The upside: the lady is quite considerately holding his suit jacket for him, because it gets quite dirty down in the sewers. A secret knock opens the way to the bandits’ secret base, where Albert is immediately menaced by a woman with a whip. That must be Luigi Vampa’s mistress, whom one of the partygoers mentioned was not a woman to cross. The lady who lured Albert in looks concerned.



Meanwhile, Franz does end up quite disheveled in the Marquise’s boudoir. Whatever post-party revelry didn’t stop him from having an unpleasant memory though, of his father leaving on urgent business on his birthday, a peculiar green envelope in hand, before turning up dead in a river. Why this memory, though? Why does this memory prompt Franz to take his leave and check on Albert, even though the Marquise has just walked out of the shower? A quick taxi to Rospoli Hotel, but guess who’s waiting for him at the entrance: Rocca Briori, the condemned prisoner whose life Albert saved last episode, and if he is to be believed a nasty piece of work himself. But he’s just here to deliver a ransom note from Luigi Vampa. The note is a classy thing, with Vampa’s personal signature and a monogrammed seal from the “Luigi Vampa Family”, but the contents are brusque: 50 million ducats by sunrise, or Albert dies.

“Sunrise comes quickly on Luna.” Rocca threatens. (Except I just looked it up and a Lunar Day in fact lasts about two weeks. But hey, verisimilitude has never been the show’s point.)

Franz tries to make an immediate withdrawal from the Bank of Paris back on Earth, but Treknobabble intervenes. He runs for what I assume is Space Western Union, but it’s closed for the night.

Back at the hideout, the bandits hold their own feast in anticipation for payday. Even Albert gets some morsels of kindness.


Oh, it’s her again.

On the taxi to his next destination, Franz reminiscences about how he and Albert met. At his father’s funeral, as it turns out, where young Albert chucked stones at young Franz to make him cheer up, and young Franz accidentally made young Albert cry. They were inseparable since. Franz rings the doorbell to the Marquise’s mansion, but she has found a more attentive lover for the night and is ignoring him. Franz is running out of options.

Meanwhile, the Count peruses a particular wedding photo on his space book, while a brand on his forehead burns.



Franz is back at the hotel and jumps out of the taxi just as the clock rings three in the morning. (No, it’s not “almost sunrise”, Rocca.) A bit more prompting by the playfully diplomatic ex-prisoner almost pushes Franz over the edge, but it also causes him to remember some particularly shocking words he heard from a particular Count a day ago. The Count of Monte Cristo receives Franz on the late hour, almost as though he anticipated the latter’s desperate request.

Eyecatch

Back outside the hotel, Rocca Briori gets 50 million ducats to the face. (A surprisingly small bag of gold coins 50 million ducats make.) It’s his turn to take Franz and the Count to where Albert is being held hostage. But it seems that the Count scarcely needs telling.


“To the Coliseum!” The Count declares, summoning his carriage which looks like a cross between a Lamborghini and the Batmobile, except drawn by cyborg horses. It thunders away with everyone including Rocca inside, tied up and quite out-thugged by the Count’s two formidable manservants. Franz frets, while the Count pontificates on the preciousness of Albert and Franz’s enduring friendship. Was it Franz that inspired Albert’s romantic pretensions in the first place and did it lead to all this?

In the sewers Luigi Vampa is reading a book by lantern, using a dagger as a bookmark. A better class of criminal, this man may indeed be. This evidentially includes an emphasis on punctuality, as he orders Albert killed just as the sun blazes over the horizon.

(A note on ethnicity in Gankutsuou at this point: plainly non-human creatures have shown up here and there at this point, but Vampa’s gang throws this in particular focus. One guy has green skin, and Vampa’s whip-wielding mistress can well pass for Barsoomian.)

Rocca comes back to his bandit pals on the lookout, sheepishly announcing some visitors for the boss: behind him, Baptistin and Bertuccio politely make their introductions.



Vampa’s mistress heats a sword until it’s red-hot and prepares to use it on a shackled Albert. His brief lady-acquaintance leaps to his defence with an excuse. Albert musters up some last-minute gallantry of his own. The mistress sees through both of them, though, and despite some last-minute resistance from both of them things look quite desperate for our protagonist.

A timely explosion rocks the hideout; the Count’s manservants charge whooping through the breach and readily (man)handle Vampa’s gang.

The Count, meanwhile, confronts Vampa mano-a-mano. Not as himself, however, but as Gankutsuou, The King of the Cavern, the mere name of which takes Vampa aback. He’s adamant about not letting Albert go though; the deadline has passed, and it’s useless even if the Count has brought the ransom. The impasse is broken when Vampa slips his dagger from his book and sends it whistling into the Count’s chest.


To no apparent effect.

Vampa is shocked; shocked to find out first-hand the rumors that the dark legend of the underworld cannot be killed are true. The Count advances on Vampa and goes all Alucard on him, the familiar purple brand on his forehead opening its many eyes. The persuasive effects are not lost on Vampa; though it's not particularly clear whether he was still in any state to give permission after the treatment.



With the rest of the Vampa gang in a heap, Albert is released. Albert had a feeling that the Count will rescue him – the Count smoothly transfers the credit to Franz. Albert is also pays some attention to his other (attempted) rescuer: Peppo, as it turns out her name is. (A little last snigger from the mistress.) On the other hand, “What took you so long?” are his words to Franz, who responds with a slap. But that’s just ‘cause he’s worried about you, Albert.

Later, Albert insists on doing something to repay the Count’s help. The Count comes up with a favor. Nothing Faustian: just to meet again and introduce him to the high society of Paris, on the 22nd of May, three months later to the day. Albert also returns the pocket watch to the Count, who is grateful enough to tell Albert to keep it. To commemorate a new friendship, the Count says, to freeze a cherished memory in time.

Franz plans to cut the trip short and return to Paris with Albert, but Albert has made his own arrangements. It looks like he finally found a date.

(Albert Blush Counter: 3)

The Count is happy for him, but has bad news.



The date is off, then.

Later as they pack, Albert offers a more sincere thanks to Franz; the two are reconciled. They sleep on the carriage as the Count gives them a ride to the spaceport. But the Count himself is sitting opposite, looking at the wedding photo in his space book again. “The fruits of betrayal must be plucked from the tree.” He thinks. Zoom out to the Moon: apparently space post-revolutionary France, its shadows and craters have the pattern of a skull. Cue ED.

You won’t see me coming
When I strike


---

So the Venice arc concludes with a bit of excitement and a good introduction to our protagonists. The Count’s backstory is hinted at, though his blatant supernatural powers are yet to be explained, and I’m not quite sure whether they are a conceit of the spacefuture setting or something the adaptation is making a point of. A key word is revenge – and even a viewer who hasn’t read the novel can probably figure out at this point that the Count is after Albert’s father, whose connection with Albert is made apparent in the anime with the dusky space-Spaniard skin on both of them. The next episode is set in Paris, and we’ll be meeting the parents – let’s see what further revelations it brings.

A bit more on the WIW: I'm aware that I'm using a lot of straight graphical description instead of retelling the plot. In my defence Gankutsuou is an intensely visual show; I have enough trouble cutting down on the number of screencaps as it is.:p But I guess there will be more meat in the latter episodes as the plot gets going.
 

Chekhov's Balloon

We were lovers
Validated User
I'll add that there are lots of little touches in the anime that reward multiple viewings. The book Luigi Vampa is reading is the Commentarii de Bello Gallico, which is quite illustrative of a gang leader with aspirations like him. The textures on the character designs also serves as a visual shorthand for the characters themselves: Vampa's coat is covered in designs of cobras, his mistress' corset has crocodiles all over it, and the recurring theme on Rocca Briori's outlaw ensemble is, unsurprisingly, toads. Peppo's black dress is grinning skulls, which should have told the viewer that something is up with her (him?) from the character's very first appearance. In comparison, the suits on the rather pure-hearted Albert are all squares and checkers, while the sober Franz has that monochromatic acanthus print going for him.
 

mindstalk

Does the math.
Validated User
My take: "the collective spirit of anime could not pass up a cross-dressing character actually in the source material." In the novel Beppo is named and does lure Albert away, but never actually shows up on page. The anime gives a rather larger role.
 

Underscore

Ablative personality
Validated User
I do so love the Bat-Coach.

IIRC, in the original novel, Vampa hands over Albert to the Count in repayment for the Count sparing his life in the past. This version is good because it highlights the Count's inhumanity, but I still prefer the original. Everyone owes the Count.
 
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Unka Josh

Social Justice Chimera
RPGnet Member
Validated User
BTW, are you watching the dub?

This is relevant because of a bad decision the company made.

See, in the original, the vocals that introduce the show are all in French, with subtitles. It's a very cool effect.
 

Davies

Registered User
Validated User
My take: "the collective spirit of anime could not pass up a cross-dressing character actually in the source material." In the novel Beppo is named and does lure Albert away, but never actually shows up on page. The anime gives a rather larger role.
Which caused me to be extremely annoyed when I found out that ... well, never mind. It'll come up soon enough.
 
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Owesome

Social Justice Warmonger
Validated User
I am going to have to stop reading this thread as I am overcome with a sudden desire to watch the show myself.

So, uh, good job? :D
 

Chekhov's Balloon

We were lovers
Validated User
I think your style is well adapted for this show.
That's good to know.

My take: "the collective spirit of anime could not pass up a cross-dressing character actually in the source material." In the novel Beppo is named and does lure Albert away, but never actually shows up on page. The anime gives a rather larger role.
I do wonder that thought processes led the anime production committee down this route. If episode 2 was the last appearance of Peppo (which seems to be the anime's official romanization, and we might as well be referring to a completely different character anyway), it's easy to make the interpretation that the revelation is just a throwaway stinger to cement the fact that poor little Albert can never get ahead. But yeah, I do know the character will make more appearances later on, so...

Maybe it's just the conservation of characters at work. Unlike the novel, a 24-episode anime series can't afford to have a sprawling cast of hundreds because there's only so much design budget (especially with these avant-garde graphics) to go around, and there's probably also a limit to the number of characters viewers can get emotionally invested in. Probably the same reason the anime reuses Rocca Briori, who IIRC was just a bit character in the novel, and not nearly as reprehensible (or colorful).

I do so love the Bat-Coach.

IIRC, in the original novel, Vampa hands over Albert to the Count in repayment for the Count sparing his life in the past. This version is good because it highlights the Count's inhumanity, but I still prefer the original. Everyone owes the Count.
I get what you mean. Building up his reputation with mysterious favors, natural charisma and a frankly rather Batman-like secret underground base rigmarole was how the novel Edmond Dantes did things, as far as I could tell. Just as the novel Luigi Vampa had a whole long backstory of his own and is rendered a more impressive character for it, so the Count gets built up even more when he has the former's respect, I guess the anime didn't have time for that and had to quickly establish the Count's reputation via outright supernatural intimidation. But then, given how much of a sheer spectacle the anime is, I think it works. Against the lurid background of Post-Revolutionary France IN SPACE, having the Count be a diabolic blue-skinned vampire voiced by Alucard is par for the course.

BTW, are you watching the dub?

This is relevant because of a bad decision the company made.

See, in the original, the vocals that introduce the show are all in French, with subtitles. It's a very cool effect.
Worry not! I'm watching subs and I did indeed pick up on all that lovely French. (As well as the Alucard thing.)
 

Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
RPGnet Member
Validated User
The second episode begins with a recap of the first episode, seemingly narrated by the Count himself in French. But is it? I have trouble believing that Jouji Nakata’s French is this good, but more importantly it’s a “friend” who tells the narrator that his vengeance has just begun, but then it’s an “I” who meets Albert.
The narration is credited to Yoshinari Torii, who seems to come from a tokusatsu background. (About the only other credit I can find for him is an 80s live-action Kamen Rider series.)

It's certainly some impressively grammatically-correct French, but there's something subtly wrong with the pronunciation and flow of it. Definitely a non-fluent speaker trying to reproduce the sounds, but not getting it completely right. (Not that I blame the voice-actor ; it's hard to speak French - or any language, really - the right way if you didn't learn it as a child or spent a lot of time on it.) As a result, I always need to concentrate on those narrative introductions to try and understand them without subtitles.

(Still, the script is very good.)
 
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