|You should never judge a book by its cover.|
What I read: Katsuhisa Kigitsu’s definitely unique medical-horror-comedy/satire manga Franken Fran, an experimental manga series containing numerous, mostly episodic, chapters about the “daughters” of Dr. Madaraki, the genius Dr. Frankenstein of Japan, especially Fran who performs operations that surpass the possibilities of science and do rarely end in a positive way. By the way, if you can read German, I highly recommend Burkhard Höfler’s marvelous translation published by Planet Manga.
What I expected:
- Steve Jocks and his evil powers of capitalism
- The annihilation and replacement of the human race by octopuses.
- Kuhou-San getting screwed up
- Gawrill(Sensei) going berserk
- Appearance of Dr. Madaraki
- A satisfying conclusion
What I got: Neither Steve Jocks nor octopuses appeared, Kuhou-San got screwed up, but thinking of Fran, we know worse, Gawrill-Sensei didn’t even kill one person, instead she prevented Veronica to kill and we didn’t get the eagerly awaited reunion of Fran and her beloved doctor. So, my expectations, at least most of them, weren’t answered, but that doesn’t mean I’m not satisfied with this final volume. In fact, unpredictability is what made this manga so enjoying after all. Or who would have expected the flying spaghetti monster to appear randomly at the end of a certain chapter.
Either way, here’s the summary: The volume begins with a double chapter-story, the first in Franken Fran, about a ridiculously rich man who tries to turn an island he bought into an ideal anime-setting with countless cute girls, who apparently are the leftovers of Kuhou-San’s clones. The otaku audience is covered. Next, we have a theme park romance between two modified bear-like characters.
Adorea also has her own episode where she turns into No-Face from Spirited Away and eats almost all of her classmates. How did this happen? The pupils tried to create a new social order using different blood types and since Adorea has no constant blood type she eats those who have the one she needs to be accepted in this new school order. After this, Fran delivers a speech against discrimination and exclusion because of blood types. She always was quite the humanist.
The sentinel’s final episode ties up the four characters and let’s them team up against the true evil (what was that again?). Personally, I thought the first Sentinel episode was really great, a deconstruction of the hero-genre, but thereafter I lost more and more interest in them.
The penultimate episode tells a story of two Fran’s. Our lovely protagonist is sliced into two halves, a logical and an emotional, which both start to act on their own. This episode follows the emotional Fran for most of the time and shows that philanthropy alone doesn’t make the world a better place.
The final episode deserves to be called the climax of the series. Fran is captured in a luxurious boat that sinks to the bottom of the sea. Unable to escape, she waits and falls asleep. Dreaming, she encounters all characters that appeared in the manga, even the giant whales, on a party. Fran dance with Okita (in a human body) and at the end, she runs towards the door to greet Dr. Madaraki who was also invited. At this point she wakes up and is rescued by Veronica and Okita.
An epilogue-interview with the three sisters is definitely the most hilarious part of the volume. I just like to see Veronica getting teased.
For some reason, the last volume and many chapters of the second half of Franken Fran were less disturbing and mad than in the beginning. Sometimes Fran is shown as a serious scientist or a caring doctor without being a monstrous maniac at the same time. One could almost think of her as a rather normal human being when reading some of these chapters. In that way, I think it is not the worst thing for Kigitsu-Sensei to end the series at this point. He still continues drawing great manga and as long as he stays true to his style, I’m perfectly fine with it.
As for Franken Fran, it will remain in my memory as a unique masterpiece combining philosophy, science and otaku-culture resulting in many (not all) unforgettable chapters. If you want to read something you never read or saw before, Franken Fran is the best manga I can recommend.