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When I first heard of this manga, I was a bit cynical. It’s meant to be a slightly-ecchi horror comedy, however it’s a shonen manga, so it’s aimed at the 10-18 target market. That means it’ll likely be like one of the too-numerous generic stories out there with it’s cliched scenarios and character interations. Thankfully, I was wrong. Yes, it’s a shonen manga, and yes, it is a comedy, but wow is it dark.
Title: Frank Fran
Author: Katsuhisa Kigitsu
Artist: Katsuhisa Kigitsu
Genre: Shounen, Horror Comedy
First release: September 2006
English License: None
The story revolves around Fran, a patchwork girl created by the world’s greatest biologist and biotechnologist Professor Madaraki. He is so good that people are always approaching him with requests for extreme medical assistance, such as raising the dead or when the police find lots of dismembered body parts but don’t know what’s going on. The only catch is that he’s never around, meaning that Fran ends up helping out.
However, while she is medically brilliant, she is also very naive – she doesn’t always consider the repercussions of her actions. Take, for example, the very first chapter, where she’s asked to help raise a guy’s dead son. Long story short, she ends up attaching the kid’s brain to the fathers and putting his face on the back of his dad’s head. Later on, she cries with happiness at the “tearful reunion” they must be having. Riiight…
So, a story about a brilliant medical practitioner who can perform medical miracles? So far, so Black Jack. Right? Well, sort of. While Black Jack was a medical god-send who’s operations normally ended on a good note, Fran’s more like a medical genie – she’s able to give you what you want, but there is always a hidden cost. The humour comes in from the fucked up shit that normally happens to her patients, and the fact that she’s a bit insane and rather oblivious to the suffering that she inadvertently causes.
Another difference is that while Black Jack consisted almost entirely of self-contained stories, by the end of volume 2 Franken Fran looks like it’s entering a story arc, as Fran’s “younger sister” (another girl created by the Professor) rocks up. However, while Fran is dedicated to helping people and preserving life, Veronica is the polar opposite in that she’s an assassin who happens to enjoy killing people. She is so dangerous that the Professor’s enemies couldn’t get past her, so they’ve decided to target the “research lab” (the mansion Fran stays in), which Veronica was sent to protect. This makes for an interesting dichotomy – one dedicated to saving life, the other ending it – and it looks set to result in some more weird shit to happen.
While only 2 tankuban out of the 3 released so far have been translated (as far as I know), I will be keeping an eye on this series to see what happens next. It’s weird, dark and very funny in a black-comedy sort of way.