Gankutsuou, which translates roughly to “Lord of the Cavern,” was the Japanese title of a translation of Alexandre Dumas’ novel Le Comte de Monte Cristo. It is also the title of a 2004 anime which sets the events of the novel far in the future, where Carnival takes place on the moon and Paris is walled off to keep the less-privileged world at bay. (We offer an academic panel comparing and contrasting the original novel with the anime and several film adaptations.)
The series is distinctive for its stunning visual presentation. Instead of the flat areas of color used in traditional cel animation, Gankutsuou uses computer-generated patterns to mask the backgrounds and characters’ clothing and hair. These patterns are constantly in motion, giving each frame the sense of a living kaleidoscope. The challenge presented by this type of art is, of course, finding fabrics that even remotely resemble the wild patterning of the series! We used jacquards, textured and beaded fabrics, applique, painting and layering to produce similar effects. For the Albert de Morcerf, we made three full costumes with different materials, experimenting with different techniques before we at last settled on layering sheer fabric over an opaque pattern to give the effect of motion. Haydee’s wig was decorated with thousands of hand-strung seed beads, pearls, gems, peacock feathers and glitter, and was hand-painted with pearlescent paint to produce the paisley-patterned texture.