Posts Tagged ‘Last Exile


Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo

Prepare to see this image reused... a lot.

Whenever I think of Studio Gonzo, positive reviews do not come to mind. They have an amazing ability to take great source material, animate it, and, without fail, fuck it up. For example, Hellsing and Chrono Crusade were great series ruined by horrible endings. Of course, Gonzo also creates terrible series that are unsalvageable messes from episode one, like Gantz or Strike Witches. Once in a while they create unintentional comedy gold like they did with Speed Grapher. The lesson from all this is that Studio Gonzo is trash. They have terrible writers, shoddy animation, and use extremely outdated CGI. To date, the only Gonzo series that could even remotely be considered good are Last Exile and Welcome to the NHK. Then I watched Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas is a sprawling, epic adventure, a tale of heartbreak and revenge. It is a novel so intricate it requires multiple readings to appreciate it to its fullest. It stars one of literature’s most complex and intriguing (anti) heroes, Edmond Dantes. I’ve read the book and seen a number of Hollywood adaptations. To me, it is one of the greatest stories ever told. And since Gonzo is known for making non-sensical shit, I figured there was no chance in hell this would be any good.

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Hurrrrr Durrrrr

Ah, Studio Gonzo. I see you are up to your old tricks again. While you certainly did a nice job with Last Exile and Welcome to the NHK, you decided to return to form with Gantz. And by return to form I mean, produce really shitty anime. So, what is Gantz, you ask? That’s kind of a tough question. Let me see if I can answer it for you.

Gantz is about two guys who try to outrun a subway train. Last time I checked, subway trains can go a lot faster than a person. Why they got in front of the train is not important. In fact, any thinking at all while watching Gantz is probably a bad idea. You might wind up giving yourself an aneurysm or something. So, anyway, the two guys get splattered by the train and die. Next thing we know, they are revived in some sort of quasi-afterlife. The afterlife has them participating in a game where they compete against other dead people to hunt down and kill aliens. If they can score 100 points, then they get to live a normal life again. Now that sounds all nice and good, but the whole aesthetic of the series takes on a creepy, S&M vibe.  The players dress up in black, skin-tight bondage gear. This fetish gear comes with lots of guns, further emphasizing the pain aspect of S&M. There is a gigantic black ball gag (which, sadly, is too large to fit in anyone’s mouth) that doles out the guns and names of the targets to be killed.

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Last Exile, X, and Serial Experiments Lain

Once again I have three quick reviews for you. Why? Because I’m still too lazy to write a single in-depth review for any of these titles. Really, it all stems from my inability to— ah, fuck it, let’s just get on with it.

Last Exile

When I saw that this series came from Studio Gonzo and featured heavy use of CGI, I figured it was going to be a non-stop shit storm on the Gonzo ani-turd express. To my surprise, it wasn’t completely horrible. Did it have Gonzo’s trademark terrible CGI? Yes, but it does have Gonzo’s best CGI to date. It isn’t embarrassingly bad, as much of Gonzo’s opus, but it isn’t top-notch stuff either. How about the story? It was fairly unique and interesting. It centered around two warring states in a sort of Industrial Revolution/steampunk alternate universe. For the most part, I really enjoyed the setting, and the writing wasn’t half bad. And what about Gonzo’s other trademark, that is fucking up the ending? Well, yes, they did. The first half was well written, with great characterization and some really tense moments. The second half slowed down and was less focused, but was still decent. The final episode, however, was a complete mess. Characters died and were later resurrected, a shitload of things happened way too fast, and a number of plotlines were left unresolved. Typical Gonzo. Overall, though, this was a good series, and probably the second best thing Gonzo has ever produced. Their best being Welcome to the N.H.K. Despite having some flaws, Last Exile’s strengths make it worth watching.

Verdict: Good


X (and not the terrible movie X/1999) is a series I first watched when it originally aired back in the olden days of 2001. I hadn’t seen much anime then, and I thought this series was badass. After having wasted the subsequent 9 years of my life continuing my downward spiral toward oblivion (i.e. watching more anime), I thought it was worth revisiting this title. I was suspecting that it wouldn’t have held up with the passage of time. In fact, the opposite was true, it was fairly strong. The animation is truly amazing. It was one of the last shows to have traditional, hand-drawn animation, and it looks incredible. It stays consistent throughout, and the quality and level of detail puts many current shows to shame. The action sequences are fun, but a little shorter than I would have liked. The characters are interesting, and I liked the dynamic between the main rivals Kamui and Fuuma.  On the negative side, the story is weak, however, this is really more of a character-driven affair, anyway. Also on the negative side, it is 25 episodes with two, yes that’s right, TWO fucking clip episodes. So it actually comes out to 23 episodes. I feel like they squandered a great opportunity to flesh out the characters a bit more or throw in some more epic battles. But whatever. X is really an intriguing dichotomy of a show. While it is drawn in a style aimed toward female anime fans (and has more than a few scenes where the guys get more than a little close to one another), the story content clearly skews toward male anime fans. It doesn’t hold back. People get slaughtered, they explode in geysers of blood, and characters who you think are going to live end up dying brutal deaths. It’s this dichotomy that helps differentiate X from the slew of other fighting shows.  After so many years, it is still a very enjoyable series.

Verdict: Good

Serial Experiments Lain

I fired up the time machine once again, this time traveling back to 1998 to check out the mindfuckery that is Lain. Although it was my third time watching it, I feel like it was the first time I actually understood what the fuck was going on. The story is complex. And it doesn’t help that a lot of the details are presenting in a very fragmented manner. Key plot points can come in many of the series’ hallucinogenic, Lain-in-the-Wired scenes. Nevertheless, if you pay attention, you can figure it out, and it is very worthwhile. This is not an action series, and it does move slowly. However, I found myself riveted, sucked into a world that was extremely well crafted, with a story that was carefully planned. Lain posits a number of interesting philosophical ideas regarding humanity, evolution, god, memories, and connectivity. Also, this show aired in 1998 (presumably with planning going back a couple of years before that). At that time, the Internet was fairly young and not well defined. However, many of the things they talk about being possible on the Internet are now in place, and are very popular, today. They were fairly accurate in their predictions, and it helps to not date or age the show at all. The animation quality is quite strong. As I revist more older anime, I find that the animation quality holds up better with less digital shit thrown in. I’m glad another old series I revisited turned out to be just as good as I had remembered it. This is an excellent series, and well worth the time of anyone who claims to be an anime fan.

Verdict: Awesome

May 2023


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