The Consulting Analyst – At the Shore

graveside

The intro is here.

We’ve reached the end of a road.

Episode Specifics: This is a little bit difficult to summarize in a concise way, since it’s effectively a 20-minute “where are they now?” segment—the curtains close on the drama of Edmond Dantes, literally, and Gankutsuou’s narration is ceded over to Albert’s as time skips forward five years. The answer, by the way, is “happy, or on the way to being so.” It’s a relentlessly hopeful ending that sees the near-completion of a peace treaty between future-Paris and The Empire (attempting to discuss future politics in vague and metaphorical ways continues to be the series’ weak point), all of the characters happy in their chosen careers or with people they cared about, and with the past left behind but not forgotten. Maximilien retires from being a soldier; Mercedes moves back to her beloved hometown; Peppo becomes a model, and Haydee is about to be crowned with Albert as the ambassadorial aide from Earth.

timeframe

It’s an arguably indulgent thing, and yet a wholly satisfying thing. This is no “17 years later,” where all the characters we knew throughout the course of the story have married one another and all succeeded in working in highly specialized, exclusive fields that they weren’t guaranteed access to. Every character’s final arc is in some way a continuation of where they were in the series: Haydee was always royalty, Lucien was already in government, Eugenie had an invitation to a prestigious school. Albert and Peppo’s careers are the furthest from where they started, but still in line with what we know of their arcs. And honestly, I’d be prepared to throw out logic in Peppo’s case anyhow, since it’s dead rare that anime bothers to give its comedic trans characters any amount of respect much less a happy ending (there is some quiet relief, after a season full of Albert’s garbage teen fretting, to see the people who raised Peppo casually refer to her with female pronouns).

Perhaps it helps to be reminded that the life-altering events of this series took place over only one summer rather than the course of several years, making the Count a cataclysmic “storm” that reshaped the landscape in his wake. We were shown a flashpoint of lives beginning and ending and viewpoints changing, and the glimpses of the future we’re shown line up with the new philosophies we saw those characters exhibit. It’s a bit of catharsis emphasizing that life continues, regardless.

While intense moments of our lives can have world-shaking effects on the choices we make going forward, they can also become small in the wake of time and context (as when adult Albert opens the drawer to his mother’s vanity, finds nothing inside, and shakes his head at his own foolishness). The story of Edmond’s revenge was an all-consuming one for him and many, but it’s only a piece of the story—the ultimate payoff of the anime’s decision to switch perspectives. What’s left is a story of many stories interacting nad affecting one another, and the ways in which people carry the past with them—for good or ill.

names

Character Spotlight: There is exactly one sour note in this beautiful finale for me—Eugenie. Her character arc has always struggled compared to many of the other characters, since she had more going on in the novel than the basically-rewritten Franz and faced more pigeonholing based on established anime archetypes related to her gender than Albert. The result made her one of the more uneven characters, with the series trying to give her agency but occasionally lapsing back into making her a rescue-object for Albert when necessary.

This winds up carrying into the finale. The men of the series have all moved forward in their careers (arguably barring Maximilien, who comes home to be a family man), the women’s arcs are largely about returns. In Haydee’s case, this is in line with the thrust of her character arc, and she’ll be able to build the change she wanted alongside her found family. For Mercedes, she’s on the one hand the keeper of the men in her life’s graves but also the only one strong enough to survive the poisonous events of the series and start over (as implied by her and Albert both taking on her maiden name).

Eugenie, meanwhile, is a wildly successful pianist and is clearly living her best life….but then there’s that line of the priest implying that Albert is her “young gentleman,” as if to imply that Eugenie still harbors romantic feelings for Albert and that they’ll renew their relationship. Now, on the one hand the series handles this much more delicately than it could’ve. The actual reunion between the two isn’t shown, leaving an element of ambiguity (though Eugenie is still playing “We Were Lovers” on the piano—an admittedly melancholy but still romantic piece). And it’s easy enough to write off the priest as inflicting the assumptions of an older generation.

And yet, there is that suggestion, making this the only plot thread that’s about people rekindling an element of the past that they let go of (since Haydee gave up her revenge and following in the Count’s philosophy, I’d differentiate her resolution). The heterosexual one. That in itself is eyerolling, but. Well, it’s Eugenie. One of the notable queer characters of classic literature. And early previews of the anime featured her piano instructor and lover as a character. Given that the final scene is about the friendship of Eugenie, Albert, and Franz, it’s perfectly understandable that they didn’t want to introduce a new character for one shot. Why bother? This is about closure.

At the same time, it’s depressing to see no mention of Louise at all, even in the lorem ipsum of Eugenie’s news article. There was definitely space to include a little homage, especially when the series has done so in multiple places. Nothing really discounts the idea that Eugenie is a bi woman who went away to school and fell in love with a tutor named Louise, but there’s nothing concretely confirmed in-show either. And as we’ve discussed time and again on this site, any type of queerness proposed without a six page bibliography signed in triplicate is going to be dismissed as farfetched.

Anyway, back to writing my fanfic about these two good bi kids who grew up into good bi adults and remained lifelong friends who didn’t get married.

original trio

Courtly Intrigue Update: There is an element of this series that I’ve neglected to cover in a particularly meaningful way—namely, the racial politics of Albert and his family. I was fortunate enough to edit an article on the subject for Anime Feminist, though, which I highly recommend that you read. Gankutsuou is immediately differentiable from most adaptations in its depiction of Albert’s family, and while their race is never openly commented on it subtextually informs a great deal of Fernand’s motives. And even that level of inclusion is a major change from 95% of the adaptations we’ve discussed, which are either whitewashed or portray all characters as being part of the racial majority. Racial politics are an intrinsic part of Dumas’ work (seriously, give that article a read), and it would behoove more adaptations to give that element its due.

queen haydee

Adaptation Corner: Contrary to what one might expect from most adaptations, the original Count of Monte Cristo is actually fairly concerned with consequences. It’s a revenge fantasy and melodrama, yes, but it believes in the redemptive potential of its main character and the continuation of his life after that central event. This winds up meaning that part of Edmond’s redemption is basically fixing the mess he made. He encourages Albert in his decision to join the military, gets Maximilien and Valentine together (you may recall we discussed this, and that it was interminable), and marries Haydee.

By contrast, the anime’s epilogue are all about the people who have been touched by Edmond but must go on without him. He changed, ruined, or ended many lives, but he also flared out—and, once again, the world goes on when his story is over. It removes the fantasy element of the novel where Edmond is the locus of both positive and negative events in almost every character’s life, scaling back to a focus on ripple effects and interconnectedness. Everyone’s life is important, whether they’re a dock worker or a member of the nobility. Certain events–like Maximilien buying the Pharaon–are from the book, but now come from the character’s own agency. And both Eugenie and Albert have discarded their fathers’ names, making a visible choice to shed the toxic choices of the previous generation.

The elements around the international peace treaty might be slightly clumsy and lack the specificity of the novel’s Napoleonic conflict, but this is why the show needs it. Vague or no, that sense that grand struggles of class are going on in tandem with the ground-level problems of the cast creates a representational connection between the large and small-scale conflicts. Albert learns that there are real problems outside of his comfortable life, and the show gives a sense of context for what those struggles might be—just enough to keep the condemnation of the idle rich from ringing hollow (a problem that a lot of shows centered on the very rich suffer from—hello, Neo Yokio).

peppo

Themes: We made it—24 episodes of what I’d still call my favorite anime. The series is layered, nuanced, gorgeous; and while this is probably my half-dozenth rewatch, I’ve gotten something new from each viewing. Even watching it alongside more than a dozen other adaptations, some of them quite good, I would still call this the best. It has the best eye for balancing the ensemble cast, its decision to reframe the narrative around Albert is well thought out and manages to illuminate a classic text in an untapped and meaningful way. It’s everything that a remake of a classic story should be.

That it incorporates queerness in a meaningful (albeit largely tragic) way caught my eye as a teenager of 16, and it still holds up impressively for an anime made in 2004. Peppo is still more or less a comic relief character with an unrequited crush, a fairly common role for trans and queer characters, but she still has multiple chances to be heroic and finally winds up making a living as a model. That’s way above and beyond how many of anime’s trans characters are treated even now.

Franz is part of a long tradition of pining, noble gays who wind up in the grave, but he’s still the locus of logic and truth that anchors the entire series, and Albert’s crush is both sincere and the key to saving Edmond Dantes from himself. Despite falling into some old and tired tropes, queer outsiders are also the redeeming factor without which the story would cease to function. That’s a powerful thing, and has continued to be over the eleven years since I watched the show for the first time.

Gankutsuou is a beautiful anime, artistically daring and painstakingly plotted. It’s an overlooked treasure, and if these essays help new people find it, then it will all have been worth it.

This post is made possible by kind contributors to this blog’s Patreon. If you like what you’ve read, please consider donating to help keep it running.

One comment on “The Consulting Analyst – At the Shore

  1. hecker says:

    Congratulations on finishing this series! I very much enjoyed reading it, and of course watching the anime itself–which I would never have thought of doing absent your enthusiasm about it.

    “I’ve gotten something new from each viewing.” As have I. I didn’t notice until rewatching the final episode just now, but the scene of Mercedes, Edmond, and Fernand on the beach seems very much intended as an echo of the scene with Eugenie, Albert, and Franz depicted in the opening credits, down to Mercedes losing her hat: both visions of youthful innocence before it was lost forever.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s