Airing on TV Asahi in 1981, with a running time of 111 minutes, Frankenstein is a reasonably standard retelling of the classic book by Mary Shelley. In a foreboding castle scientist Dr. Victor Frankenstein performs a hideous experiment which he hopes will bring the dead back to life. With the help of his assistant he is successful in reanimating a man recreated from parts gathered from corpses but the creature is unpredictable and horrifying. The doctor flees back to his home in Switzerland leaving his assistant in charge of destroying the monster. But Dr. Frankenstein soon finds that he cannot hide from his shameful secret forever as mysterious murders are committed around him forcing him to question if his creation really is dead and gone...
Someplace, lies in the recess of collective psyche a piece of Austrian Switzerland, a craggy network of mounts and valleys of which the Liechtenstein represents most vividly its expression. Indeed, disheveled minds would be prompt to populate the Schloss Vaduz's walls with the figure of doctor Victor Frankenstein. The mythopoeic representation of a Swiss Prometheus trying to vainquish Death can only excite reveries amidst the somewhat monotonous landscape of the Alps. However, one has to wonder what led Toei animation to produce a TV Special around the Monster of Frankenstein by mid 1981. Up to this year, Mary Shelley's myth had been seriously dented by
a vague of terribly executed movies commissioned by the decaying studios of the Hammer. Although the powerful performance of Boris Karloff had shouldered this bumbling grind for a while, beholder's lassitude quickly reared its ugly head. Does this animated movie turn it round and update the franchise? Or does it act as classicist gateway to the novel? Is it successful at either of these aims? Before replying these questions, let us venture into an overview of the title at hand.
In a daring narrative stance, "Kyoufu Densetsu Kaiki! Frankenstein" opens to the iconic sequence of the monster's revival. Of course, the doctor is firmly convinced of the righteousness of his scientific approach. Not so much for Zuckel, his assistant, who fears the experiment's outcome. What is the forceful is how the presented protagonists look so different from the rest of the length. Victor Frankenstein is a stern man, his assistant acts as the removed voice of the reason whereas the monster looks genuinely baleful. After the disposal of the threat, the ensuing ellipsis resets characterization. It is as if the exposition and its following were directed by different persons. For instance, the gothic background art of the beginning leaves place to a more serene setting reminiscent of a series like "Heidi, girl of the Alps". The focus on Emily, the doctor's daughter, further embodies this tonal shift. This esthetic change, albeit harmed by an off-character Zuckel, is an interesting choice to catch viewership off guard. Nevertheless, it fails to deliver as the first half of the story unfolds in an unsatisfactory way. The violent crimes, arisen to trouble spectator's lethargy, serve more to foreshadow Zuckel's shenanigans than the reappearance of the monster. It is highly detrimental to the atmosphere as the spectator is more keen on guessing Franken's creeping presence than some mundane blackmail. Thankfully, after the resolution of this tedious intrigue Franken develops into what is this TV special highlight. Poignant as a self loathing creature, tugged between anger and disarray, he delivers some powerfully moving scenes. It is unfortunately spoiled by the contrived twists of fate, turning an already disappointing tale into an inconsistent misery fest. These will not be revealed to you, reader, to keep your viewing experience intact in case you decide to still give the movie a try. Be only advised that the erratic quality of the storyline must be approached carefully.
We have seen together most of the characters. Little more emphasis ought to be put on inspector Belbo and the grandfather. The former, a hilarious lookalike of the inspector Kojak, serves sadly little purpose to the story other than to show that police exists and does decent work. As for the grandfather, his impaired sight, could have made for plot worthy misunderstandings. It is not exploited so that elder figure ends to take on the shirt of the stereotypical wise blind.
In terms of production value, this movie looks like a slightly darker episode of "Heidi" in tone. There is nothing to write home about it. Same applies for the standard drama soundtrack delivered by Haneda Kentarou. I do not know if it is specific to the western versions, but the highly anticlimatic music as Franken approaches the grandfather's shack sabotages what could have been another memorable scene. If Emily sings and her grandfather plays the guitar, why not letting us listen it instead?
All in all, it is easy to tell why "Kyoufu Densetsu Kaiki! Frankenstein" has been so obscure. It does nothing noteworthy to dust the franchise off. If you need an instance of a successful production with the updated concept look no further than Robert K. Weiss' "Weird Science". As for Japanese animation, "Kyoufu Densetsu Kaiki! Frankenstein" remains an unique case. Toei despised stylistic risks in favor of a more accurate approach as any self-respecting entry from the World Masterpiece Theater. This effort, not completely laying to waste, is commendable. However, its lack of mastery in doing so signs its ultimate demise. Actually, it fails to touch significantly an audience niche because of the introduction of sappy scenes in discordance with far too dark thematics. Too carefully calibrated to win over the deviant cult who jeered at Dracula eating a Whopper in "Yami no Teio: Kyuuketsuki Dracula" and not polished enough to compel the respect of purists, the Frankenstein myth lays dormant in the limbo of its former luster. In a way, this production is not unlike its eponymous character, a stitched up attempt to channel disparate elements back to life... Praise be unto Sacred Geometry~
..| Colophon |..
This section is dedicated to content indication in order to inform audience in a practical way. On the next paragraph, the buzzwords offer hints about the title's strong suits and drawbacks.
Violence meter: Graphically, this appears to be a family friendly production. Yet, the grimness of certain scenes makes this innapropriate for most children. A slain dog and a decapitated horse head among other things should dissuade anyone to screen it to younger audience. Reserve it for the +13.
xXx meter: Among the jarring elements of this TV special, ecchi fanservice does not stick out like a sore thumb. Blessed be to retro animation!
Fishing scene(s): So, Emily teaches Franken to make bread but not even fish in the nearby river? What a letdown.
+ A serious literature classic adaptation
+ An interesting time capsule
+ Good character development when it comes to the anti-hero
+ Undeniable dramatic intensity in certain scenes
+ Some potential in terms of atmosphere
- Lack of visibility
- Lack of consistence
- Erratic pace in storytelling
- Some contrived drama for the sake of tragedy
- Dated art (even for the era)
Perhaps my view of this is colored by the fact that I had just previously watched Dracula, another anime movie that came out around the same time, and was also an adaptation of an American comic book. Compared to that flaming piece of magnificent horse-puckey,this movie is an order of magnitude better.
Even though Frankenstein's monster is one of the most well-known classics of literature, I am not familiar enough with the original work to do side-by-side comparisons, to see where the animators took liberties. Instead, I considered this as if it were its own stand-alone work.
And as such, it actually does stand up by itself fairly well. You don't need to know the two centuries of Frankenstein lore to get into this.
Starting off with the artwork and animation, all I can say is that the quality of the work is on-par with most other animated features (Japanese or otherwise) that were being produced at the time, no better or worse. Being an older guy who has grown up on seventies Saturday morning cartoons, I'm perfectly fine with that, but of course your mileage may vary. Just don't expect brilliance or high quality here.
As for the story, as I mentioned above it stands up on its own. The Monster is played in the first half as a straight-up terror, then pivots to a pitiable creature just looking for love and understanding in the second half. There's a surprisingly large amount of violence involved, which only escalates towards the end. Plenty of interesting characters to watch (I'm partial to the sardonic inspector). Not the greatest movie in the world, but you could do much, much worse than Frankenstein.
Overall an 8.
seen via eng dub
note: you may see a time issue. you may be watching the 88 minute version not the longer one listed here. Some say the 88 version is incomplete because of this but they are wrong. The difference is the commercials. yes, that is the reason behind the difference. So, with that said in mind the person who is wrong are those claiming the longer version 150 or so minutes.
Pros and cons
- very touching piece
- artwork was decent
-voice work matched the lips
-not please really on the ending. Would have like a nicer way because i felt bad for the innocent monster.
Blame not the victim but the creator. alas, thinking more on this matter would a happier ending made it better? upon further pondering given the ending message and how the intro went i think the way they chose to end this was the only way.
I watched Kyoufu Kaiki! Frankenstein (also known as Monster of Frankenstein and Frankenstein Legend of Terror). An Anime movie from 1981 based on Frankenstein. I watched the Dub that was made in 1984, so one of the older Dubs out there. Most of the voice cast seems to not be VAs I’m used to, but Emily sounds like Nunnally from Code Geass.
The movie was enjoyable, but flawed. For the first half it seemed like they were dropping the usually sympathetic depiction of the Monster. When it does come into play, it makes the first half feel poorly executed.
It’s clearly a
mainly Universal films inspired project. Somehow they got away with even using the look for the Monster (who gets named Franken here) that Universal owns the Copyright to. Though evidence the writers had read the book exists maybe in that this is a rare film where like the novel Victor Frankenstein rejects his creation immediately.
There is a take on the Blind man who’s nice to the Monster, taken from The Novel but mostly made famous by Bride of Frankenstein.
The movie gives Victor and Elizabeth a daughter, named Emily. While that is new, Emily seems inspired by the girl who gets thrown into the pond in the 1931 James Whale film, they don’t recreate that scene, but numerous hints tell me that is the case. Of course you could also compare her to the little girl from Ghost of Frankenstein. She also shows that Moe in Anime is nothing new.
Inspector Belbo seems very Columbo inspired, how popular was that show in Japan?