Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo is copyright Mahiro Maeda, GONZO / Media Factory, GDH, Geneon, and Funimation. No infringement or disrespect of owners of existing copyrights in Gankutsuou or its derivative works is intended by this non-profit, non-commercial web page.
In a 26 episode anime produced in 2004 (and 3 supplemental volumes of manga) Gankutsuou offers a visually stunning retelling of Dumas' classic novel of a man framed for a crime by three of his friends, only to return 25 years later to take revenge.
Set in the year 5053, it shifts the focus of the novel to Albert de Morcerf, a naive young man who gets caught up in the Count's terrible plots of revenge.
Why it's good
It retains the "spirit" of the book and most of its cast, while folding in science fiction elements (there's a traditional duel – fought in mecha suits! there are carriages – drawn by robot horses!) and a number of unique twists to the characters and plot (such as Albert's fascination with (i.e., crush on) the Count) so seamlessly that it never felt tacked on. I hadn't read the novel, so I was amazed to talk to Dumas fans (most of which seem to love it) after I saw the series and hear just how many things had been changed while still staying true to so many of the original's themes.
But that's not all! Not only does it have a crackling good plot - it's gorgeous. I admit that many of my fandoms I love for their brains or heart more than their looks, but to me Gankutsuou has it all. Below are four of the caps I made while rewatching it for my fics. (The small, still pictures really don't do it justice – that dress Haydee is wearing in the upper left literally scintillates; in the other scenes colors pulse, candles flicker, and that freaky thing in the background of the upper right picture is an orrey that's in constant motion.)
Toss in an often stunning soundtrack – the work of two different composers (one French, one Japanese), which complement both the sumptuous style and the futuristic setting, add intense emotion conveyed by wonderful seiyuu, and you have a true feast for the senses.
What people don't like (and why to stick with it)
The visuals – or more precisely, the way clothing (and less noticeably hair) is handled on the main characters drives some people nuts enough in the early episodes that they stop watching. It doesn't show as much in the still shots (and it's a bit hard to describe) but … see that jacket pattern in the lower right picture? Imagine that the fabric's pattern is a "background layer" which does not move when the character moves.
(I agree that it can be distracting, but honestly, you get used to it. Or learn to ignore it. Or accept it as a small flaw in an otherwise amazing work.)
The first few episodes can seem to be a little slow moving – I know my spouse found them so – but if you stick with it (and can get used to the visual style, which some people don't like) you'll find that it's all there for a purpose.
The Count, of course, is the center of the story. Mysterious, wealthy, worldly, he captivates Albert and Parisian society – all the while setting in motion the intricate traps that will disgrace and then destroy the three former friends who have since gone on to become prominent in politics, finance, and the law.
(I'm holding off on certain spoilers here, too.)
Appears in Etheloisa, Kyrie, Mainspring, Nurture, Poisons II, and Possibilities.
Albert de Morcerf is the main character. Telling the story from his POV allows the Count's machinations to remain hidden for a longer time. Albert's innocent trust encourages empathy, because for a while we are just as enthralled with the Count as he is. At the beginning of the story Albert is engaged to his childhood friend Eugénie de Danglars.
The dub tones down the exact nature of Albert's feelings for the Count, as the original anime pulls out all the crush tropes. Maeda, the anime's creator, does say in one of the commentaries that he considers Gankutsuou to include "a homosexual love story," though whether that's Count/Albert or Franz/Albert he didn't say. (Considering the promo art,I'd say it was the former.)
Appears in Choices, Etheloisa, Mainspring, and the two Hookah Monologues pieces, Possibilities and Nurture.
Le Baron Franz d'Epinay, Albert's best friend since childhood, is a little more of a cynic than Albert, and suspicious of the Count from the first. It's not clear how much he's motivated by jealousy, but whether it's friendship or unrequited love, he certainly wants to pry Albert away from the Count. He's engaged to Valentine de Villefort, but it was an arranged marriage and he doesn't have romantic feelings for her.
Appears in Choices, Etheloisa, and Hookah Monologues I: Possibilities.
Héloïse de Villefort, the second wife of Gérard de Villefort, Procureur-général, is a woman with no great love for her husband or stepdaugher Valentine. She's bitter because her own son, Edouard, won't inherit much from the Villefort estate. Her hobby is gardening.
Appears in Poisons, I and Poisons, II.
Bertuccio, the Count's major domo and right-hand man. He's in my fics mostly because his seiyuu(Kōji Ishii) has a great voice, and because I'm generally a sucker for sexy bald men. (Also I saw really, really amazing Bertuccio fanart years ago on a Japanese fansite, and it branded my brainmeats.)
Appears in Kyrie.
Marquis Andrea Cavalcanti, an "aristocrat" groomed by the Count as part of the destruction of the Danglars family. He replaces Albert as Eugénie's fiance, but being that he's a complete sociopath, he assaults her the night before their wedding when he catches her trying to run away.
Appears in Inheritance and Honor.
Eugénie de Danglars, Albert's fiancee. Best friends with Albert and Franz since childhood, she's also a gifted pianist and composer. She agrees to marry Andrea in obedience to her father.
Appears in Honor.
Where to get it
The anime, originally released by Funimation in a gorgeous boxset, was out of print for a while, but has been picked up and reissued as a thinpak). Crunchyroll has subs (it's a pretty good dub, too as dubs go, but personally I prefer the the original.)
Gankutsuou Wikipedia entry
written  edited 6 September 2014