14 CommentsManga Driver / By Inushinde /

Manga Driver: Franken Fran

210px-Ffran1

8 Volumes (complete)

Body horror is something that’s always treaded a very fine line between leaving its audience throwing up in a mixture of disgust and fear, and throwing up because they laugh so hard that their stomach sends its contents up their esophagus just to shut them up. For every chestburster that makes the viewer shrivel in fear, there’s a million abruptly exploding heads to pick up the comedic slack.

Don’t let the increasingly provocative cover art deceive you; Franken Fran is not about the fanservice, unless you find cosmetic surgery, schadenfreude, and body mutilation arousing. It’s a manga about the extremes of medicine and biology, where the phrase “For science!” is all the justification one needs for creating organic theme park mascots, or to change the makeup of someone’s cells so every part of them turns cancerous. It’s a collection of extremes sewn and stitched into a pulsating mess of science fiction, where a girl created from spare body parts can become a world-renowned surgeon and push the boundary of ethics with few consequences. And I’ll be damned if it’s not bloody entertaining.

It’s the closest thing that manga has to The Twilight Zone, each chapter a darkly humorous vignette of either Fran coming across an oddity, or her turning somebody into one (often ending in gruesome death) at their request, using a common biological occurrence for the basis of her outlandish procedure—for instance, taking the ordinary process of cell division and using it to duplicate multi-celled organisms such as people, or using the idea of pheromones to keep teenage guys from feeling horny 24/7. As can be expected, nothing ends happily, with Fran’s procedures either working too well, or causing her clients to transform into globs of messy, tortured goo.

Fran herself straddles a fine line between legitimately caring for the future of her clients (often where love is concerned), and being ruthlessly psychotic as the plot demands. Though she can veer between the two extremes multiple times per chapter, she’s at least consistent in her inconsistency, and it lends further credence toward her brilliance being a symptom of mental instability. One chapter in particular melds this beautifully, with her giving organs to people with severe injuries that she happened to have on hand in an apparently philanthropic gesture, but only so they’d stay alive long enough for her to harvest their native ones.

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Franken Fran works because it has no pretentions toward trying to prove a point, instead embracing its premise to make any character that isn’t Fran as miserable as physically possible. It’s humorous when it should be, and surprisingly poignant when it decides to take a break from dicing up peoples’ innards, while keeping the potential for overkill reined in. Things occasionally drag during the few story arcs, like one involving a vigilante hero that Fran helped to create, but the good far outweighs the bad, and the pure imagination devoted to each rather short chapter makes for a consistently engrossing and fresh creation.

However, the impact is diluted somewhat by vague, sometimes overly-detailed artwork that makes the goings-on in a particular panel hard to puzzle out without accompanying text.  It’s effective once you know what’s happening, but reaching that point and puzzling out what’s happening breaks flow at its most crucial. The gruesome detail borders on tasteless without quite crossing the threshold; this isn’t something you want to read while eating a hearty chili dinner, and some of the panels will stick mentally a long time after reading.

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If my bias in its favor hasn’t shone through, it probably will when I say that Franken Fran is my favorite manga. Though the science is questionable at best, it still feels like a series of cautionary tales of the follies of man with enough of a devil may care attitude to provide appropriate levity. That, and Fran is really adorable, even when her body parts are falling out every which way. All in all, if one can get past the gruesome, if occasionally iffy artwork, there’s a lot to like here.

Recommended Chapters: Chrysalis, Two-Dimensions, Hold Me Tight, Unhappy Birthday, Her Pet Dog, Octopus, and Adorea

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14 Comments

  1. Posted May 21, 2013 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    Well, that all sounds more than interesting.
    To be honest, I was deceived by the cover art, quickly ignoring it when it popped up in some places. I probably won’t buy the volumes as the covers are a little bit too much to explain to my parents, but will give it a read for sure.

    • Inushinde
      Posted May 21, 2013 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

      Just explain to them that it’s actually about a psychotic doctor who mutilates people beyond repair and I’m sure they’ll understand.

  2. Shinmaru
    Posted May 21, 2013 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    I was really intrigued by Franken Fran when 2DT told me about it at Anime Expo last year. I’m always down for anything that melds horror and humor, so this definitely sounds perfect for me. I’ve held off on reading it on the slim hope that it will be one day licensed; however, that seems incredibly unlikely at this point. Maybe I’ll give it a go once I’m all caught up on JoJo.

  3. Scamp
    Posted May 21, 2013 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    “unless you find cosmetic surgery, schadenfreude, and body mutilation arousing”

    You’d be surprised what kind of people you find on the internet…

    • Aelms
      Posted May 21, 2013 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

      Is there a difference between finding those things arousing and not exactly understanding why, rationally, they are supposed to always be non-arousing?

    • Hanasra
      Posted May 22, 2013 at 9:36 am | Permalink

      Considering how many actual people that like Shinra who see Celty naked body as fanservice, yes, I agree with Scamp.

  4. Nazaren
    Posted May 21, 2013 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    It’s been on my radar for a while now, but the few Fran fans I’ve known haven’t said much beyond “<3 Fran!!!". Nice to know there's actually substance, so I think I'll give it a go.

    Unless there's teeth/fingernail stuff.
    I can't handle teeth/fingernail stuff.

    • matrixEXO
      Posted May 21, 2013 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

      <3 Fran!!!

  5. Posted May 21, 2013 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    The more praise and recognition for this manga gets, the better.

    Sad that the mangaka has to end it, but otherwise I think it’s wise since the later chapters all feel a bit off some ways. It’s fun ride though!

  6. rubberluffy
    Posted May 22, 2013 at 4:05 am | Permalink

    I think I read about 10 or so chapters of this years ago and just calling it quits after that. Never funny to me, just uncomfortable and disgusting. Oh well.

  7. Hanasra
    Posted May 22, 2013 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    I’ve heard a lot about Franken Fran, and about is dark humor. I might it is time for me to go for it.

  8. Posted May 23, 2013 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

    Another body horror manga uh? PASS
    “It’s the closest thing that manga has to The Twilight Zone”
    Where can I read it?

    Actually, even though similarities to the twilight zone series might intrigue me enough to give this manga a go I’m still hesitant about the kinky body horror.
    Eventually, however, I might get over that and love this piece as much as you do.
    So thank you for sharing it.

    • Inushinde
      Posted May 28, 2013 at 10:50 am | Permalink

      It’s not really all that kinky, all things considered. Yeah, there are people who want Fran to create an ideal partner that’s often naked, but 7/10 times they end up with eggs laid in their eyesockets.

  9. Magicmew
    Posted May 29, 2014 at 4:53 am | Permalink

    You should read Black Jack.

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