Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Gankutsuou, vol. 2

I also write reviews for MangaCast and you can read my original review of this volume here. The below review is a rewritten version that includes additional content.

The story: The second volume of the manga, co-authored by Gonzo co-founder Mahiro Maeda, continues the tale of revenge sought by Edmond Dantes against the men who orchestrated his demise many years ago. Here, Dantes, now the Count of Monte Cristo, takes vengeance on the Villefort family. The Villefort family patriarch, Gerard de Villefort, is the highest-ranking judge in futuristic Paris. In these chapters, the family experiences several trying situations involving murder, poisoning, incest and deceit. The reader is practically compelled to watch the Villeforts give in, one by one, to the Count's evil and the madness it brings with it.

Reaction: Being very familiar with both the book and the anime, I was worried that I would find the manga dull in its replication or that it would pale in comparison to the anime. However, I was surprised with an alternate plotline and an overall theme that better reflects the original source material. Then again, this volume's darker tone may be a result of the seinen anthology it was serialized in, Afternoon.

Deep thoughts: There are some interesting visual analogies throughout this volume. One scene with Madame Villefort's shows her greenhouse teeming with life, but in one corner is a rotting rat carcass, filled with maggots. It's a curious juxtaposition that horrifies the senses, especially since there's such an abundance of flora nearby. It also shows just how much darker this alternate storyline is in comparison to the anime series.

Artwork: Much of the artwork here evokes the anime, but also Maeda's prior experience at Studio Ghibli. In one scene where the Count seduces Madame Villefort, the illustration is reminiscent of scenes from Hayao Miyazaki's Nausicaa. While this black-and-white retelling lacks the brilliance of its animated predecessor, its darkness fits this story all too well. Additionally, the two supplements at the end of this volume expand the reader's knowledge of the world of Gankutsuou with beautiful pen-drawn visuals by Maeda.

The verdict: Highly recommended. I must admit I'm just as engrossed as I was when I originally read The Count of Monte Cristo in junior high and when I watched the anime this past year. Much like a train wreck, I know this story will end badly for all involved, but I can't seem to pull myself away from watching the carnage unfold. Gankutsuou is available in the U.S. from Del Rey.

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