Fandom: Gankutsuou [The Count of Monte Cristo]
Pairing: Franz d'Epinay/Albert de Morcerf
Spoilers for the entire series.
As soon as I saw Gankutsuou, Franz/Albert immediately became one of my OTPs - and so, naturally, I decided to write them a ship manifesto. Franz/Albert is probably one of the most popular Gankutsuou slash ships - although that's not really saying much, considering the size of the fandom. :p
So, Gankutsuou: what's it about? Well, it's loosely based on The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas. However, it really is quite different to the book. The series follows Albert de Morcerf, a 16 year old French aristocrat who meets the mysterious Count of Monte Cristo while travelling on Luna. The Count befriends him, and so Albert invites the Count to visit him in Paris a while later. Albert soon becomes infatuated with the Count, despite the fact that his intentions are unclear, and Franz, Albert' best friend is very wary of him. As the plot unfolds we find out the Count was betrayed when he was younger and wrongfully imprisoned by Mondego (Albert's father), Villefort and Danglars. The Count has returned to wreak his revenge... and a lot of people's lives get ruined. The anime has a huge cast of characters, so I won't get into who's who. But then, this essay probably won't make much sense unless you've seen the anime anyway. :p
When the series begins, Albert is 15. He is the son of Fernand and Mercedes de Morcerf. However, later in the series it is revealed that, in fact, his parents are not really aristocrats and his father (Fernand Mondego) bought his title.
Albert is a very idealistic young man, almost to the point of being naive. He's friendly and kind, but also very headstrong and stubborn, and at times rather oblivious. He's determined to believe the best of people - and once he's made up his mind about someone, it takes a lot to change it. The best example of this is probably the Count - Albert becomes infatuated with him, and believes him to be a noble, generous, selfless, compassionate man. Despite many warnings from those around him (in particular Franz, his best friend) Albert refuses to think ill of the Count. Even once the Count reveals his true colours, Albert still, to the very end, believes in the Count, and believes that there is good in him. Many seem to view this unshakeable belief Albert has in people as a serious character flaw - saying that it borders on being illogically naive - but I disagree. Albert is perfectly aware that there are unpleasant people in the world; he claims to know the Count better than anyone, and sees that there is good in him - and, in the end, he is proved right. Albert's connection with the Count is, as I'll discuss later, a major point of contention between him and Franz.
In the anime, we are led to believe that Franz has only one parent; his father died when he was very young, yet his mother is never mentioned. While still an aristocrat, his family is not as prestigious as Albert's.
From the very beginning, it's clear that Albert means the world to Franz. In fact, although it is never stated outright, canonically Franz is very much in love with Albert. However, Franz is wary of the Count from the moment they meet - and is never quite comfortable with Albert and the Count becoming friends. Eventually, it is Franz who manages to uncover the truth about Monte Cristo's real identity - but Albert does not want to hear it.
Franz is kind, friendly, selfless, and tends to lose his temper with Albert on several occasions. :p
Franz and Albert have been close friends since childhood - they first met at the funeral of Franz's father (where Albert found Franz alone, crying, and went to ask him to play), and have been together ever since. During episode 2 Franz has a flashback of the two of them riding their bikes together when they were young; Albert asks him, "So come on, who are you really after? Give me a hint!", to which Franz replies with smile, "You won't get it." This is one of the first hints that Franz has been in love with Albert for a very long time.
Similarly: the series begins with Albert and Franz taking a holiday on Luna during the carnival. Of course, they attend many parties, and at one of these Franz is propositioned by the Countess G--, a very attractive young aristocrat. She takes Franz back to her rooms, and has a shower - but meanwhile, Franz is too busy worrying about what Albert's doing, and so with an apology, leaves. Albert is sick of Franz worrying over him all the time, and so angrily says, "who are you, my girlfriend?!" - and of course to this, Franz appears more sad and thoughtful than annoyed.
When Albert gets kidnapped by Luigi Vampa, Franz is frantic and desperate to try and save him - rushing to various different banks to try and get the money together. However, he knows that it won't be possible, and so resorts to asking the very man he distrusts for help, all for Albert's sake. Naturally, Monte Cristo is happy to help, and so he and Franz go to rescue Albert from tha bandits. Once he gets out, Albert is very flippant - which makes Franz angry because of how much he'd been worrying, and so Franz... slaps Albert around the face. But, this gets his point across, because Albert later blushes and thanks Franz for saving him. So although they have their disagreements, they generally forgive each other completely very quickly.
After Albert has dueled Maximilien on the boat in episode 5, he falls overboard - and Franz looks so incredibly panicked and distraught; he rushes forward, trying to leap into the shark-infested water to try and save him, only to be stopped by Max. He is literally willing to do anything for Albert - whatever the cost to himself.
Something important to note is that both Franz and Albert have fiancées, arranged by their parents. Albert is engaged to Eugénie Danglars, and Franz to Valentine Villefort. Neither boy wants these matches to go ahead - but the difference is, over the course of the series Albert eventually comes to very much like, perhaps love, Eugénie. The same cannot be said for Franz - despite Valentine's obvious interest in him, he remains apathetic about the arrangement; instead encouraging Maximilien in his pursuit of her. He honestly wants Valentine and Maximilien to be happy together. It's in a conversation with Maximilien that Franz gets his closest to confessing his love for Albert:
M: "You and Albert are childhood friends, right?"
M: "I heard from Mademoiselle Valentine. She said that the two of you got along so well, that she was always envious."
F: "Albert and I go way back."
M: "It's not just that, is it?"
M: "I feel like the two of you are somehow linked by a bond that cannot be broken."
F: "By the way... when did you begin to love Valentine?"
M: "I don't know what to say when her fiancé is the one asking the question."
M: "Don't be sorry. I'm the one who's being improper."
F: "If you love her, what does that matter?"
M: "You're saying such irresponsible things again."
F: "Irresponsible, huh? True."
M: "I find it mysterious that you cannot love Mademoiselle Valentine even though you're her fiancé."
F: "And what about you? Will you stop loving her just because you cannot marry her?"
F: "---impossible, right? Impossible... to stop loving someone, right? Even if... you cannot marry..."
M: "Are you perhaps in a hopeless love also?"
F: "It's not necessarily true.... that marriage is the only way to make the person you love happy. Don't you think?"
I find this conversation impossibly sad and sweet - Franz is resigned to the fact that (well, he thinks :p) Albert will never love him, and just wants to do whatever he can to make him happy. And he is totally sincere in this, as we see by his later actions in encouraging Eugénie and Albert to get together. We know that Albert cares deeply for Franz, but he does seem to almost take him for granted a lot of the time. Franz sees that the Count is not what he appears to be, and tries to warn Albert - but, for nothing. Albert refuses to listen, and instead becomes angry at Franz. Consequently, Franz leaves with the intention of finding out the truth.
By the time Franz returns, Albert has already seen for himself that Monte Cristo lied to him. The scene where Albert and Franz reunite on the riverside is wonderfully sweet; they run to each other and embrace, and Albert, crying, says: "You've always looked out for me. But I was always dashing ahead without listening to what you had to say. I'm sorry, I'm sorry, Franz..." And all Franz says with a smile is, "I'm home."
Notice how Franz looks quite uncomfortable with Albert leaning on him - it's clear he wants to hug him, but perhaps doesn't trust himself to do so.
It's after this that Albert tells Franz about his upcoming duel with the Count. Of course, Franz is furious and wants Albert to back out, who flatly refuses. In retrospect, what we see next is a very bittersweet scene - Franz goes to visit Eugénie, and gives her a birthday card he's written for Albert, and asks her to give it to him on his behalf. The evening before the duel, Franz and Albert get drunk together - but unbeknownst to Albert, Franz has put some sleeping pills in his wine. Although this is not revealed to the viewer until afterwards - in actuality, it is Franz who gets up early and goes to duel the Count.
By the time Albert is awake and has realised what's happened, it's too late. He rushes to the site of the duel, and finds Franz bleeding to death. Albert is devastated and near hysterical, but Franz smiles quite calmly:
A: "The doctor... the doctor will come soon, okay?"
F: "You were... sleeping... really deeply... The drug really worked, didnt it...?"
A: "Why... why?!"
F: "Sorry... that things...turned out this way...But...you... trained me well in sword fighting. So... it was a pretty good... match, you know..."
A: "That's enough. Don't... don't talk anymore."
F: "Idiot. Are you... in any position...to give me orders?" [chokes up blood]
A: "Franz! Franz!"
F: "Al...bert? Yesterday...I had a dream...maybe it was last year, or the year before that...? With Eugénie, the three of us... went to Normandy, didn't we? No... but it was in Southern France. The three of us sprawled out on the beach... and we celebrated your brithday. The wind was blowing so strongly, that when we bit into the cheese... it tasted of sand. Eugénie, that girl...her favourite hat blew away... and she was all depressed, wasn't she? ...Happy... birthday.... You're sixteen... Congratulations...."
A: "Franz... just hang in there...for a little while... The doctor... the doctor will come soon, so... it'll be all right... It'll be all right, okay?"
A: "Say, Franz... when we're like this...it's warm, isn't it?"
Albert tries to do all he can to save Franz, but his friend dies in his arms.
In the days that followed, every so often Albert would just burst into tears; Franz's death almost destroyed him, and he blamed himself. When he gets attacked by the gate guards, Albert begins to hallucinate: Franz is alive again, and saves him - Albert hugs him desperately, and they go to a part where he's surrounded by everybody, and it's all normal and happy. But this perfections is shattered when the scene transforms into Franz dying - stabbed through the heart by a sword, and Albert's own hands are covered in blood. Albert can't help but blame himself, and later tells his mother that he wished he'd died instead of Franz.
Of course, there's still the matter of the letter that Franz left for Albert: knowing he probably wouldn't still be alive to give it to him himself, Albert receives it from Eugénie:
To my dear Albert,
Happy birthday. By the time you read this, I will most likely no longer be by your side. So, please, hear me out instead of receiving a present.
Albert, listen. Don't ever hate anyone. You know, I think that both hate and love stem from how deeply we care for someone. Sadly enough, there may be times when our feelings fail to reach that person, and our love turns to hate. In times like those, I want you to remember our childhood, when no matter how badly we were hurt, we could only continue to love.
Please live on, Albert. Without fearing hurt, and loving others honestly. I was truly happy knowing you.
Franz d'Epinay, forever in Albert's heart.
And, indeed - Chateau-Renaud tells Albert that Franz is lucky, because he will always be on Albert's mind.
The epilogue: It's five years later, and Albert spends a good deal of the last episode at Franz's graveside, and apologises for not having come back in so long.
A: "I...was desperate these past five years. I read books like a lunatic, and didn't leave my desk. Before I realised it, I'd turned twenty. I was... I was just desperate that I must live. That I must live for you, father, and the Count. Franz, I was afraid. Afraid of being caught in the past; afraid of being caught up by the past and hating someone. I'm sorry, Franz, for not coming back in such a long time. Sorry."
A: "I will not forget. I will not forget the time that I spent with you, my father, and the Count. I swear this to you: no matter what life I may lead, I will not forget what happened that summer. I never will."
Franz is still so very important to Albert, even though it's five years on.
Albert, Eugénie & Franz: Well, it cannot be denied that Albert likes girls. :p He gets very close with Peppo (who, er, despite being a boy, Albert did think he was a girl...) and then later it becomes apparent that he's developing feelings for Eugénie. However, I still very much believe that it's likely he subconsciously had feelings for Franz, but ones which he only realised existed once Franz was gone. Albert, as he showed quite frequently, could be very oblivious about his own feelings. And once Franz was gone, ALbert started to realise exactly what he'd lost, and what could never be. Because although Albert and Eugénie kiss goodbye in the airport... that seems to be it; she leaves for New York, and though we see her briefly in the epilogue five years later, we are given no signs that her and Albert ever met up or saw each other.
So, although Albert does have a female love-interest, I don't think this rules out the possibility of Albert having feelings for Franz.
As a final note, I know that I mostly focused on Franz during the analysis, but this was mainly because we are given more insight into Franz's feelings about their relationship.
Albert/Franz is not a relationship that's it's possible to see happening within canon - but despite this, I adore it because of its bittersweet, touching, and tragic nature. Even taking away the possibility of romance, these two characters have an amazing friendship.
Conclusion? These two have a wonderful relationship, in a wonderful series.
Well, yes. The Gankutsuou fandom is very small. :p Consequently, this means that there is not much fic in general, let alone Franz/Albert fic. Even so, when I came into fandom after seeing the series, I was seriously surprised at how little fic there was. Perhaps this is because the anime doesn't leave as much scope for fic as other series? This is definitely true of Franz/Albert; since Franz died, obviously there's only so much that can be done, short of making fics AU. (But I prefer not to do this, since then without Franz's sacrifice, the whole nature of the relationship changes.) However! Since there is so little... I will list all Franz/Albert fic. :p I know it's tacky to link your own, but since there's really not much around, I thought I'd list mine anyway. (But if you have any to recommend, or even know of the existence of more... please do let me know!) :D
"Oblivious", by Asher. (she also has a few Franz/Albert drabbles)
"Deadly Dream", by Kay-chan15
"Waltz", by Arislan (me)
"Nunc Scio Quit Sit Amor", by Arislan
"Of Wine and Hidden Wants", by Arislan
"Thunderstorm", by Arislan
"Joyeux Anniversaire", by Arislan
"Whispered Secrets", by Kiyasama
"Silence", by Kiyasama
"Friendship", by Kiyasama
There are a couple of very short Franz/Albert drabbles on the Gankutsuou C2 list, here. :D
Also worth checking out:
The Gankutsuou LJ community: gankutsuou
The Franz/Albert fanlisting: here.