Written by Katsuhisa Kigitsu
Illustrated by Katsuhisa Kigitsu
Published by Seven Seas Entertainment
Suitable for ages 16+
If there’s one thing we’ve learned Franken Fran can provide, it’s a bloody good time. Volumes 1-2 (review) introduced a procedural story where every chapter is different, with some loosely tying together. Volumes 3-4 of Franken Fran are no different. The overarching narrative is the same, Fran helps with unusual medical problems in her own unusual way. While in her mind she has her patients’ best interests at heart, Fran’s methods don’t always work out. While Volumes 3-4 are the same old same old we were introduced to in Volumes 1-2, that’s completely fine. Franken Fran can be compared to long running procedural shows on television, insomuch that no matter how much of the same it is, we still love it. Think Law & Order or Supernatural.
One of the best parts of Franken Fran throughout is Fran’s inability to recognize tragedy. She sees all of her work as a positive thing, no matter the effects (usually negative) it has on people. When one character bursts into continually replicating tumors, rather than be horrified, Fran revels in the fact that she has discovered cancerous cells are the key to immortality. When some of her patients begin to die after emergency surgeries Fran conducted free of charge, she’s just glad to get her investment back. I.e. she harvests their organs to recoup the ones she donated to them in the first place. Fran’s inability to empathize with her patients adds another level of horror to this already great manga.
Another part of Fran’s personality that adds to the overall ambiance of Franken Fran is her usually unimpressed attitude about things that most of us would consider a big deal. Fran’s neck gets sliced open by an assassin? No biggie, she calls her sister off from seeking vengeance. One of her patient’s dying wish is to finish the film she was currently acting in? No problem, Fran makes a meat suit out of her remains and continues acting in her place. While of course this adds to the horror we’re supposed to feel at Fran’s inhumanity, it also sometimes does the opposite. Fran’s attitude tends to rub off on the readers and we are lulled into a sort of complacency, where we start to think these terrors aren’t so bad either. It’s a true mark of genius when a story really puts us in the mind of its main character, and here, Franken Fran truly shines.
On to the specifics of Volumes 3-4 of Franken Fran. Each of the stories are memorable in their own ways, and there really is something for everyone. The stories that haunt one reader might be different for another, but that’s why variety is the spice of life. One example we’d like to share with you though is inspired by a story known by many. If you’re familiar with the Japanese tale of “Hachikō,” the dog that waited, then the story of “Pudding,” the “dog” that waited, will have some striking similarities. While out one day, Fran and her sister come across a young girl whose dog has just been hit—and killed—by a car. The girl begs Fran to do something, and after some protesting, she agrees to help. Fran tells the girl that she will revive her dog, and some months later returns with the canine (Pudding). In true Fran fashion, the dog is not exactly the same as before. The Pudding that Fran presents is a large, hairy man with the brain of the young girl’s dog. She initially recoils and doesn’t believe that this is in fact the puppy she lost. Fran tells her to take care of him just as she would her own dog, including taking him for walks. The girl knows of course that she can’t take him out during the day, and so treks out at night with him. Some hooligans mistake it for a fetish of a sexual nature, and attack the girl. Lo and behold, Pudding saves the day, and the girl’s opinion of the “dog” forever changes. Of course, this is Franken Fran, and true happy endings are few and far between. So the story continues with the girl being diagnosed with Leukemia. Pudding waits for her return at the train station day and night, even after the girl eventually passes from her unfortunate disease. People at the train station are originally creeped out by the man, but eventually feed him until he too passes. A statue is erected at the train station in remembrance of Pudding, the “dog” who waited. This perversion of a classic folk tale is a fantastic example of the horror Franken Fran presents.
We could certainly talk at length about more stories in Volumes 3-4 of Franken Fran, but part of its charm is the discovery of each narrative as it comes up. If you like anthologies, Franken Fran is a horrific, yet satisfying wet dream. If collections of stories are not usually your thing, you should definitely still give it a try since the titular character Fran is really a gruesome treasure. We continued to be impressed with Franken Fran in Volumes 3-4 and can’t wait to see what subsequent volumes have in store for us.