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Gankutsuou is based off the story, The Count of Monte Cristo.

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I haven't read the original novel, but I loved Gankutsuou. How close to the original are the plot line and characters?

Was it a faithful rendition or was there some artistic license, because there were several scenes which, to me at least, seemed at odds with a book that would have been written in 1884. (Mostly futuristic elements)

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The book doesn't take place in the distant future (5053) and starts in Rome as opposed to the Moon. The focus of the book is on the count and not on Albert and the anime tells the events of the book out of chronological order. Additionally, there's a significant change around episode 18. From this review on Amazon:

With Edmond's character being key to the story, Edmond only caring about revenge in the anime was the reason behind the change of direction towards the end. In the novel Edmond was persuaded by Mercédès to alter his plans, yet in the anime Edmond turned a deaf ear to her and continued... This one seemingly minor change had a huge impact on how the story progressed beyond that point.

Some other minor differences:

  • Albert and Franz weren't that close in the book.
  • Abbé Faria from the book saves Edmond from suicide, is omitted from the anime
  • The novel doesn't have the same supernatural transformation of Gankutsuou possessing Edmond's body like in the anime.
  • Edmond and Fernand were originally good friends in the anime, not so much in the book
  • Fernand is trying to become the president of France in the anime, but not in the book

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