Well, here we are, everyone. It's been many weeks, but we've arrived at the conclusion of this excellent anime series. The Count's efforts will come to a cumulative head, and we'll discover the fates of those left hanging.
Just as a note, next week will be a wrap-up session for this series, as well as an introduction for our next book club selection, Skull Man (which, by the way, is still very inexpensive over at Rightstuf). I will also endeavor to pick out the next selection to follow Skull Man, so that anyone interested in participating will be able to make whatever preparations they need. If anyone would like to make any suggestions, please do so here or in the comments of next week's wrap-up.
Onto the final two episodes!
Apologies for the delay, I had trouble getting Photoshop to work so that I could resize the images for this post.
Act 23: Edmond Dantes
Gankutsuou and Fernand enter into a final showdown, during which Gankutsuou finally takes over Edmond in his entirety. With both men injured, Albert, Baptistin and Bertuccio break into the Count's home and break up the fight, only to get into a showdown of hostages. Gankutsuou seems poised to put down Albert and his father once-and-for-all, but Albert manages to unearth the last bit of Edmond Dantes left, and causes Gankutsuou to flee. As Edmond lays dying on the sand, he finally appears to make peace, asking those around him to remember the name "Edmond Dantes." Albert and Haidee escape on Baptistin and Bertuccio's ship as Fernand ends his life and the house beneath the Champs Elysees collapses into a pile of rubble at their feet.
Act 24: At the Shore
The surviving characters manage to move on with their lives. In the interim, the war between the planet and the Empire ends, opening up new opportunities for social mobility and a greater movement of wealth. Eugenie returns from New York to visit Franz's grave on the fifth anniversary of his death. Maximilien, having retired from the military, is reunited with Valentine. Haidee regains her royal status and becomes princess of Janina, where she's aided by Baptistin, Bertuccio and Ali. Albert returns to his family's former home and discovers a letter from Edmond to Mercedes and, in reading it, imagines a young Edmond, Fernand and Mercedes on the beach, as he once spent his free time with Franz and Eugenie.
Discussion: There's nothing quite like a cold open to let you know that something serious is about to go down.
One thing that I often find lacking in anime is a proper conclusion to the story. In many cases, it feels as if the director and series composition supervisor allow the action to go right to the finish line, with perhaps five minutes at the end to wrap things up. This series, on the other hand, has what I'd call a proper denouement, wherein all its important characters are given an epilogue. The series as a whole has particularly good pacing, in my opinion, and this is a good example of that. But this is a discussion better saved for the wrap-up next week.
I'm what you would call an emotional anime-viewer. I am willing, in most circumstances, to allow myself to go where an anime series wants my feelings to go, within reason. As you can imagine, the penultimate episode of the series was difficult for me to watch (in the good way, of course), primarily due to the Count's/Edmond's descent into the belly of Gankutsuou. There is something especially tragic to me in an individuals crossing of a point of no-return, and in this case it's especially painful because, though he may claim otherwise, it's obvious that there's still a piece of Edmond left in his ravaged psyche clinging to bits and pieces of his self. I'm curious to hear any reactions to Edmond's ultimate fate, because the conclusion of his story in the novel is, as I understand it at least, a bit more positive and tangibly redemptive, whereas in this case it's literally seconds before his life force drains away that he appears to make peace with Albert. To some, I think that this might come as unsatisfying, because there's a strong emphasis in Albert's case of learning not to succumb to hatred and the fact that this doesn't work out better for Edmond is tragic. On the other hand, since the focus has been on Albert as a protagonist the whole time, the shifted perspective may in fact be meant to serve as character development for him rather than merely as a conclusion for Edmond.
There's a very poignant lack of dialog during certain portions of the final episode. While the entire series has, in my opinion, thrived in part because of its more restrained character action and judicious use of dialog, the final half of the episode really takes this idea to the next level. The use of Eugenie's piano music and Albert's daydream about his father, mother and Edmond are moments that, and I say this without exaggeration, will probably stick with me for a very long time.
I have a difficult time explaining why, but I love that Gankutsuou speaks all of his dialog in French. I'd forgotten that he's (it's?)the voice giving the opening narration until partway through the series. It's certainly a stylistic choice on the part of the director, but I think it does a good job of taking this story, which has been filmed and interpreted repeatedly over the years, and grounding it back in its original time and setting. That, and I'm always impressed when a Japanese series incorporates some other Western language beyond "broken English."
I'll save the broader thematic discussion for next week's post. I'll leave you this week with a question: how did you feel about the ending of the series? Were you satisfied? Do you think it accomplished all that it needed to?