Twelve Moments in Anime No. 5: That Silver-Tongued Count

I originally planned to write about something else today, but I’m sick at the moment (but not sick enough to miss work, damn it), so something a bit simpler gets pushed ahead in the queue.

It is something magical when an actor happens upon a role he or she seems to have been born to play. This is something a bit loftier than merely being good at a certain type of character (like Satsuki Yukino with feisty tsunderes, or Norio Wakamoto with intimidating, high-class SOBs); rather, it gets to the point where the performance resonates, strikes a chord with your soul and never in a million years could you imagine another person playing that character.

Jouji Nakata’s performance as The Count of Monte Cristo in Gankutsuou is like that for me.

From the moment the Count opens his mouth, and the first honey-dripped syllable slides off his perfectly practiced tongue, Nakata weaves magic. He’s somehow warm enough to seem a friend, and yet cold enough to never reveal his true self. He’s friendly and playful, but also mysterious and mournful. His every red alarm-sounding behavior is on display for people to see, but everyone looks past them because he is such an awesome, confident figure. The Count spins his disguise with such ease that it almost seems unreal.

But here’s the thing: Nakata makes you believe. I know how the story of The Count of Monte Cristo goes, but I desperately wanted the Count to be a good man if for no other reason than Nakata’s Count makes you want to believe in him. How could someone so smooth, so powerful and so seemingly kind ever be a bad person? Even when the very worst of the Count is laid out in full glory for everyone to see, it’s almost impossible to truly hate him.

However, is it because of his tragic backstory, or do we just want the magic to continue? Nakata’s Count is the type of larger than life figure we all want to be real, and he takes him and makes him his own for all eternity. Nakata is not the only good thing about Gankutsuou — which is the second best series I saw for the first time this year — but he is the most memorable, and certainly grabbed me the most from the first episode on (even more than the trippy ass visuals did!).

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