Frankenstein Family – Episodes 1-2

By: Vrai Kaiser September 10, 20180 Comments
Tanisu walking with his siblings against a featureless backdrop

What’s it about? Tanisu and his siblings are the children of mad scientists; while super-genius Tanisu was able to grow up comparatively “normally,” his siblings were the subject of body modifications and other experiments. Now that their parents have been arrested, the kids have been left to navigate the world on their own.

Anime streaming schedules are getting stranger and stranger lately—in addition to Netflix’s whole-series holds and early CRX premieres like last week’s Double Decker! , we now have Frankenstein Family (or Shiyan Pin Jiating), a series from the spring 2018 that’s just now making its way onto Crunchyroll with a Japanese dub after a full airing in Mandarin.

watercolor image of the kids--Tanisu is separated from the other four. subtitle: They considered their kids to be human guinea pigs

Watercolor and slightly melancholy, this is a quiet little slice-of-life series. The premise has the potential for both Wacky Shenanigans and Intense Angst, but the writing takes a middle road of sorts. While there’s plenty of pain lurking under the surface, it’s touched on lightly and intermittently between vignettes of the siblings trying to live their daily lives.

The ostensible focus of the show is “how will we learn to blend into society,” which is far and away the least interesting part of what’s on offer. That premise has been done to death, and the moments when socialized, well-educated Tanisu complains about how his genetically modified siblings are embarrassing because they don’t know how to behave outside a lab do little except make him a much more difficult character to like.

Fortunately, the show complicates that premise almost as quickly as it brings it up, trying to strike a balance between acknowledging that these kids will need to move through society to survive and rejecting the idea that they ever will be or should be “normal.” The second episode steers more firmly in the direction of highlighting each kid’s strengths and how their modifications can be useful to them (this is especially a relief in that the episode first feints toward implying tomboy Aisuri should be more deferential to her younger brother before thankfully averting that beat).

Tanisu sitting across from an angry-looking Aisuri. subtitle: I'm also a lot smarter than you...

The most intriguing moments are the ones that touch, lightly, on the struggles beneath the soft-focused surface: little things like Tanisu’s unspoken assumption that he has to take on his parents’ role as the guide to his “lesser,” more monstrous siblings; the awkward near-estrangement in daily conversations; or the small visual hints of pain on the siblings’ faces as they try to comply with their parents’ experiments.

Production-wise, the show sits in an awkward place that’s longer than most short-form anime but not quite a full-length episode. To compensate, the back five minutes or so are filled by a chat section with three of the Japanese dub’s lead actresses. They’re goofy fluff for the most part (though heads-up for a lot of dieting talk), though things take a somewhat surreal turn when Riho Sugiyama (Tanisu’s VA) responds to the question “what modification would you like” with “I want to become a boy!

Sugiyama being stared at by her two costars. subtitle: Please stop saying "little boys,"

It is far from my place to present diagnoses to other people, and the segment is mostly goofy (Sugiyama talks about people-watching kids because she plays a lot of young boy characters, and the others tease her about being a creep). But it’s also couched in this “HAHA OKAY BUT HASN’T EVERYONE THOUGHT THIS” way that leaves me with a distinct feeling of: “Is… is this me when I was ten? Do you want some informational links?” So… that… happened.

I wouldn’t go so far as to call this series forgettable, but it’s definitely more of a chill hangout than an ardent recommendation. If you like slice-of-life that’s a little bit sad but not relentlessly miserable or shows about family bonds, this one might speak to you.

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