Since school starts tomorrow for Tomato Surprise, I’ll be reposting this little number. — RacattackForce
If you are an English-speaker that is reading this article, then you have probably heard of this phrase at least once: “Never judge a book by its cover.” Quite simply, this means that we should judge a person or object not by their outer appearance, but by what they do or how it functions. And today we’re reviewing a Japanese comic that not only qualifies for this little saying, but also has an inside far more terrifying than its outside. The title in question? One of my favorite literary works, “Franken Fran”…
Creator(s): Katsuhisa Kigitsu
Average Chapter Length: 24 pages
Magazine: Champion Red
Publisher: Akita Shoten
Original Run: September 19th, 2006 – present (Japan only)
“Franken Fran” is a horror manga, despite the nudity present on all the volume covers, with most of the trills and chills deriving from the surgeries that the titular character Fran preforms. Fitted with two electrodes on either side of her head (reminiscent of Frankenstein’s monster), Fran is the greatest work of legendary biologist Dr. Madaraki. And like her “father,” Fran is also an amazing scientist: the teen-aged girl helps pretty much everyone that asks for her assistance, and that’s where the horror comes in. Fran has a twisted moral code, with the belief that no living thing should die if there is a way to save it: naturally, this leads to events such as a girl turning into a human/caterpillar hybrid and some campers being brought back as a massive blob.
As the manga goes on, the stories become more character-driven: the reader starts to learn more about the characters, their backstories, and how their minds work. A good example of this is Fran’s younger sister Veronica, who was introduced in Chapter 14. She was previously Dr. Madaraki’s bodyguard, but for unknown reasons, came to the mansion where Fran lives to become her’s. Fran and Veronica have opposite ideologies: Fran believes in preserving life any way possible, while Veronica kills anyone or anything she perceives as a threat, whether they really were one or not. Over time however, Veronica mellows out and we begin to see a more human side to her. There are times when she spares her foes, and others when we see how shy she is when interacting with others.
The artwork within the manga is great. While the large eyes and small mouths are standard fare when it comes to Japanese comics and animation, the body proportions are very realistic and close to a real human being’s. The evolution of Kigitsu’s art style is subtle, but it’s there, with the newer comics being slightly “cleaner” than the first few issues then it comes to lineart and hues. The backgrounds are always well-drawn and detailed, from the trees to the buildings. With each issue, new characters that we usually don’t see again are introduced, and yet these one-off characters are always well-drawn and distinct in both design and personality.
The writing in the series is fantastic, with a good chunk of the dialogue being very believable. With the “Twilight Zone” twists that occur in nearly every chapter, you are kept reading until you discover the outcome. Sometimes it ends on a positive note, other times the ending is terrifying and shocking: either way, Kigitsu keeps you guessing until the final panel. But this manga series isn’t only horrifying, but also quite sexual as well. For example, one chapter is about how Fran “cures” the horniness of a high school’s male population by creating a sex plant. Some chapters deal with both pedophilia and rape, with yet another portraying a scene of an inmate masturbating at the sight of a female detective. Not the type of thing you would want an eight-year old reading, even if (s)he could understand the various medical terms at are used on occasion.
At the end of the day “Franken Fran” is a gory, medical horror manga. There are various situations that, if the manga was brought to North America, would get it stuck in the adult section of a library. It is a surreal work that I don’t recommend for anyone that has a weak stomach or dislikes illustrated nudity. This comic has yet to have an official translation, so scanlations or a knowledge of the Japanese language are the only ways to get a gander at this bizarre work. In any case, I’ll be seeing you next time…