If you’re terrified of candy-colored vivisectionists, and your nightmares were archived into a graphic novel, and that novel suddenly sprang to flash-animated life, it’d probably look a lot like Medical Island.
Darkly sinister, quirky, and engaging, the Miyazakian web series is a collaboration from veteran animation producers Margaret Dean (Ren & Stimpy, Scooby Doo, The Batman) and Michael Polis (MirrorMask, Kermit’s Swamp Years).
Spanning eighteen episodes and viewable on Crackle.com, the plot centers around the brilliant and evil Dr. Franken, who conducts forced experiments on kidnapped victims and those trying to escape capture from his waterlocked fortress. During and in between twisted surgeries, Dr. Franken’s proteges (aka clones he created) appear, as do formerly good characters that the mad professor corrupted.
While the episodes are all tied to Dr. Franken’s evil influence, the story arch will probably only be memorable to animation aficionados, as the lack of dialogue commands the viewer to kick back and enjoy the visual and audio ride.
Medical Island‘s world of gory experiments, paranoia and captivity is presented via lightning quick action, emotive noises from characters, and an array of musical styles, but for the most part is devoid of dialogue (an exception is episode 10 “China Boy”). The lack of intelligible spoken words was a key choice by Dean and Polis, as it complements the quirky style of the show, adding to its dream like feel. Curiously, the sounds coming from the mouths of the colorful charactrers seem to soften the show, offsetting the unsettling story line which makes The Island of Dr. Moreau seem like child’s play.
Worth noting is the bubbly style of flash animation which also contrasts the dark subject matter. Hallucinogenic flying objects and colors are prominent in the background, and characters seem to jump around as if on trampolines. With their round heads, teddy bear ears, and large innocent eyes, even the evil ones appear rather soft and cuddly- it’s as if they were extras from a kindergarten cartoon, rather than contained in a story about evil medical experiments. Serial killer etchings these are not.
Standout episodes include China Boy (Episode 10) for it’s satirical martial arts commercial parody, Father (16) which provides background on how a character became so evil, and Butcher Boy (14) about a baby gone mad. Episode 13 is especially memorable as it departs from the others visually, utilizing a black and white comic book drawing style.
While the entire series should remain gripping for devotees of animation (particularly for those who enjoy their cartoons fantasy-filled, trippy, and/or under the influence), those unfamiliar with the genre may find the lack of dialogue and relentless quick cuts grating.
Watch Medical Island at Crackle.com.