Monday, October 13, 2014

The Monster of Frankenstein (anime)

This week, 31 Days of Horror celebrates Mary Shelley's most famous creation, beginning with a look at the 1981 Japanese animated special Kyōfu Densetsu: Kaiki! Frankenstein. This was a 111-minute TV movie produced by Tôei Animation, based on Shelley's novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (1818). It's a fairly close adaptation, in spirit at least--and due to several graphic, macabre scenes, it's definitely more suited for adult audiences.

Frankenstein #1 (1973)
At the time, the Tôei Company had a deal with Marvel Comics that led to the 1980 animated special Yami no Teiō - Kyūketsuki Dracula (Dracula, Sovereign of the Damned), which was based on Marvel's Tomb of Dracula comic book series (1972-79). It's unclear whether this Frankenstein adaptation was tied to that deal, since Marvel also had a series, from 1973-75, called Frankenstein (a.k.a. The Monster of Frankenstein / The Frankenstein Monster). The story in the comics actually begins a century after events from Mary Shelley's novel, and opens with Robert Walton IV--the great-grandson of Robert Walton from the novel--discovering Frankenstein's Monster in the Arctic. In the first three issues, both Walton and the Creature recount Shelley's original tale. The Creature then has a series of adventures, even battling Dracula at one point!

Monster of Frankenstein (1984)
In 1984, a 90-minute, English-dubbed version of Kyōfu Densetsu: Kaiki! Frankenstein was released in North America by Harmony Gold (the same company that imported Dracula, Sovereign of the Damned). Although this dub had no title or end credits, enthusiasts have retroactively been calling it The Monster of Frankenstein (a.k.a. Frankenstein Legend of Terror). This is likely the primary reason why there's some confusion as to whether or not Marvel had any involvement in this project; this is exacerbated by the fact that, in the opening English narration, the creature is called "the monster of Frankenstein." I should add that the Italian-language version includes the original credits, and only Mary Shelley is listed--there's no mention of Marvel.

Victor Frankenstein
But enough musings about production minutia! The story opens with a posthumous narration from Chief Inspector Belbeau, whose investigation into murders attributed to the so-called "Giant of Geneva" could only be revealed after his death. After a short voice-over, the story proper opens with Victor Frankenstein and his assistant Zuckel, who are about to defy nature by infusing life into a corpse--but they're shocked by the result. Sickened by his hideous creation, Frankenstein attacks the Creature, forcing him over a cliff and leaving him for dead.

Quite the blood bath!
Upon the doctor's return home to his wife and daughter, a local is viciously murdered, and partially eaten. As Belbeau investigates, he crosses paths with Frankenstein, who's starting to be targeted by an unknown assailant--in many horrific ways. First, his family's pet bird is killed, and then he finds their dog disemboweled in his bed! Things reach a fever pitch after his horse is decapitated, and its head is discovered in the bathroom. Yikes! Didn't I mention this isn't a cartoon for kids?

The Creature and Emily
The body count rises as the Creature targets more humans, so Victor decides to hunt him down once and for all. Yet unbeknownst to the doctor, the Monster ends up saving his daughter from a bear attack. The two then become fast friends, and with the help of Victor's blind father, the Creature starts to learn English. And they start calling him "Franken." At this point, the story derails and becomes quite annoying. Thankfully, Victor is unaware of the pleasantries, and soon an angry mob is after the poor monster, in proper unruly fashion.

I'm misunderstood!
This leads to a whole lot of misunderstanding, capped off by a devastating forest fire. Poor Emily; within minutes, as a direct result of the Creature's actions, she ends up losing her mother and her best friend (not to mention she's already dealing with the death of her pet bird and dog!). Although she ultimately forgives the Monster after learning that he was created by her father, it proves to be too much for him. Saddened by the grief he's caused her, the Creature takes his own life by jumping off of a cliff.

Victor has had enough...
As far as Emily is concerned, she's now effectively just lost a brother; bear in mind, she's still grieving over her mother, her best friend, and various pets. But fate hasn't finished with her yet! Now that her father's shameful secret has been exposed, in true seppuku fashion, he chooses to take the "honourable" way out by unloading a shotgun into his chest. Oy vey! Well, at least Emily's grandfather is still around; he almost died in the fire. That's sort of a happy ending. Belbeau, practically the only other adult survivor, concludes the tale with a short narration.

Here are a few more screen shots. Let me reiterate: this is not a cartoon for kids!

Lucky, the dog. Not so lucky.
Zuckel gets his comeuppance!
Zuckel and Victor test the new saw
Victor has a PTSD moment whilst cutting into a steak dinner
An example of the lush, painted backgrounds

Finally, here's good ol' Chief Inspector Belbeau, the lead investigator who's unable to stop any of the mutilations and murders from happening. You may recall that he's telling this story posthumously; this means he's also dead. Good times!

Chief Inspector Belbeau (R.I.P.)

31 Days of Horror (2014 Edition) continues tomorrow...


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