By Katsuhisa Kigitsu. Released in Japan by Akita Shoten, serialized in the magazine Champion Red. Released in North America by Seven Seas.
This has been one of the long-awaited licenses, and it’s easy to see why with this first omnibus. Franken Fran is terrific. That said, one or two caveats. I feel, once again, Seven Seas’ rating is lower than it really should be. Also, this is absolutely not for anyone easily creeped out by body horror. Not for nothing has it been nicknamed ‘Squick: The Manga’. If you don’t like insects, gore, horrific scientific human/animal hybrids… again, not a manga for you. But if you have enjoyed the Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, or yearn for a return to some of the weirder Black Jack stories, then Franken Fran is right up your alley.
As the cover might demonstrate, there is some theoretically salacious nudity. I say theoretically because every time you see a naked breast in this series, it’s immediately offset by something horrible happening to its owner. The premise is that there is a mad scientist known throughout the world for his incredible medical skills and ability to save anyone even after death. This is not his story – he’s absent. But he’s left behind his daughter Fran, who seems to be more ‘built’ than ‘conceived’, and she too has amazing medical skills and can do anything. The stories in Franken Fran, much like Black Jack (which the series admits it’s indebted to), involve people coming to Fran asking for operations, her performing these, and the unforeseen consequences that arise.
Because make no mistake about it, there are consequences. Unlike Black Jack, or even Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, Fran has no real identifiable sense of morality beyond ‘life must be preserved at all costs’. Yes, even if it means that the person whose life has been saved is living on in agony as some kind of monstrous hybrid. They’re alive, so it’s OK, right? Fran also has a tendency to do things because she wants to see what will happen, which has led to a girl’s entire body being rebuilt so she can live as just a head, giving a man who is losing his sight eyes that can see ANYTHING, including other dimensional beings, and experimenting on cockroaches for the lulz, and then ending up taking their side after realizing she’s lost the war against them. Fran is usually impossible to understand.
She’s hilarious though. The reason that this series is so popular is not just the monstrous horror, but the combination of it with a truly black as pitch comedy. High school students get their every whim catered to by Fran (I want to be taller, I want bigger eyes, etc.) and the results are hysterical. A crime syndicate’s insane leader has to go up against his increasingly difficult to handle clones, and the chaos is glorious. And then there’s Kuho, the unfortunate detective who is misfortunate enough to be the only normal character in the series… or at last she is until Fran gets a hold of her. People suffer horribly in this book, and it’s funny. Trust me on this.
This omnibus gives us the first two Japanese volumes, ending with the introduction of Fran’s assassin sister Veronica, who looks to be psychotic and dangerous but turns out to be nothing next to Fran’s ‘hey, it’s for science’ mentality. In the meantime, if you enjoy any of the titles I mentioned above, or stuff like Dorohedoro, absolutely give Franken Fran a try. Don’t mind the salacious covers. This ran in Champion Red, which is only read by horrible people. They had to throw them a bone.