Genres: Horror, Manga, Science Fiction
Fran Madaraki is a scientist, a doctor, and a surgeon. Living at Madaraki estates, she continues her 'father's' work of 'helping' those who come looking for special operations. Each client has a story, but not all stories have happy endings.
Welcome back to Manga Monday! We round out October with Franken Fran by Katsuhisa Kigitsu.
First published by Champion Red in 2006, Franken Fran is a manga series that, while having a few central characters that keep the narrative connected, is really about smaller stories that center around themes of body horror, gore, surgeries gone awry, and experiments in science. Most have a moral or a lesson to be learned, and others are just interesting (or horrifying) stories.
But before we go too far in to the material, let’s look at the cover. Warning: Mature subject matter ahead. Only read if you are 18+ or can handle squick, gore, and lots of icky things.
Most who see it will assume this is a shōnen or an adult, sexual series. While there are some sexual situations, this isn’t erotica (and a great deal of it is rather disturbing really). This is a bit of a bait-and-switch type of marketing that I like. You expect one thing, then BOOM, you get something entirely different. And depending on who you are, you may prefer the surprise.
Anyway, the girl on the cover is our central character, Fran Madaraki. Well, I say central, but she’s more of the framework of the various stories.
Fran is ‘the masterpiece’ of scientist and surgeon Naomitsu Madaraki. Prof. Madaraki created this special young lady to continue his work while he’s away (we never meet the good doctor). And she does just that. Running his house, and taking his clients, offering them special operations and conducting experiments that she believes will benefit people medically or scientifically. She’s an eternal optimist, wanting to help people, and a sucker for love-stories and sad circumstances. Also part of the household is Fran’s friend Okita, a young man whose head has been graphed on to the body of a cat, who watches over and supervises Fran’s activities. Also there is Adorea, a young woman who has been modified with zippers and pockets and tentacles to help her store and harvest organs for transplant, and Fran’s ‘sisters’, Veronica and Gavrill. Veronica is a bio-weapon engineered for killing (though Fran just makes her go to school) and Gavrill is a ‘transformer’ who can take on various forms and shapes (though she mainly antagonizes her sisters).
These characters work around or in the shadows of many stories. In the first volume has seven stories, but I’ll just focus on the first four. The first story, ‘Brains’, involves a man who comes to Fran’s estate, wishing to save his son. His son’s only reduced to just his head, of course. Fran does succeed, but only by attaching the son’s head and brain to his father’s.
The second story, ‘Chrysalis’ is about a girl who is confessed to by a chubby and uncool boy within her school. As she leaves, she’s accidentally hit by a car. The boy find Fran and her crew to ask for help, and Fran gives her assistance, putting the girl’s head on to a caterpillar’s body. As the girl adjusts to the ‘ugly’ body she has, the boy cares and helps her, forming a genuine love. The girl eventually goes in to a chrysalis stage, and emerges looking like her old-self. As she and the boy go on to consummate their relationship, Fran hopes that the insect genetics she used for the girl’s new body won’t have any odd side effects. Unfortunately for the boy it does.
The third story, ‘Take To Pieces’, the police find body parts strewn about the country-side. They go to Fran for her expertise. Fran figures out that the body parts are all one piece, but there are multiple arms, legs, even faces and organs. It eventually leads her and the female police officer in charge of the investigation to the house of a girl with a very rare form of cancer that causes her body to sprout various parts and growths. Fran takes the abandoned girl in to give her an operation for her tumors, and helps give her a new, healthy body. Meantime the officer takes the tumor, since it is their ‘culprit’ in to the police station.
The fourth story is a bit heartwarming. A couple at Fran’s school are having problems. The young girl was attacked by a man as a child, and fears men’s bodies, so she can’t even kiss the boy she loves. The boy wants his girlfriend to be happy, so, after seeing how Fran’s given so many of their classmates cosmetic operations, he asks her to give him a body his girlfriend won’t be afraid of. Meanwhile, the girl asks that Fran give her a body that won’t be afraid of intimacy. Fran has an idea, and swaps the couples’ bodies. Happily together now, they’re able to pursue their relationship. However, their classmates are a bit less happy, having gone overboard on body modification to outrageous and sometimes ugly proportions.
These are just a few of the stories that come in the series, and there are a few that are over-reaching arcs, such as the Kamen Rider parody/nods that appear. But over-all, this is an anthology of tales meant to disturb but also teach a lesson to the reader about things like vanity, greed, and even what it means to love and have faith.
If you can handle this sort of intense gore and body horror, then pick up the series. If you’re not able to, though, I wouldn’t read it. I personally give it 3.5 stars. Great stories and lessons, but a bit heavy on the squick, even for me.