Written by Jonathan Wojcik
DECEMBER 3: Bogleech.com's Favorite Franken Fran Moments!
Bogleech.com's Favorite Franken Fran Moments!
So, the chronicles of Franken Fran were wrapped up earlier this year with over sixty chapters in seven volumes, and it's a shame it never got that coveted animation deal. Chock full of graphic body horror, real world biological trivia and scathing social commentary, Franken Fran's humor is as deep and dark as the Mariana Trench and a must-read for those who enjoy any combination of horror, manga, medical anomalies, invertebrate zoology or strange, strange monsters.
Created by a scientific mastermind whose exact whereabouts are never revealed, Fran herself is a marvel of mad medicine who takes charge of her master's manor and continues his incredible work in his absence, for better or for worse, depending on which end of the scalpel you're standing. The surgical equivalent of an ironic genie - or PC repair shop - Fran can technically solve any medical dilemma she's tasked with, but her definition of a successful operation tends to be a little more flexible than that of her patients, to put it mildly.
Fran somehow looking even better than usual. I can't quite place it.
If you've never checked it out and you're beginning to think this series sounds like a good time, you can currently read it online at Mangahere,and should be aware that I'm about to heavily spoil several select stories, including 14.5 (Bloody Veronica), 15 (Eternal Youth), 16 (Adorea), 17 (Sea Monster), 26 (piety), 29 (Egg Partruition), 37 (Two Dimensions), 38 (Imaginary Self), 39 (Rolling World), 45 (Cockroaches 2) and 47 (Living Dead). Fortunately, most chapters are self-contained, episodic narratives, and can be enjoyed in just about any order! So, if you're feeling properly prepared or just can't help but read on (and you probably can't), let's spoil us some twists!
#13: Pudding the Dog (ch. 27)
In one of the more heartwarming - then immediately heartbreaking - stories, a little girl beseeches Fran to save her beloved dog, Pudding, appropriately reduced to nearly the consistency of his namesake by a careless driver. No sweat for Fran, who just puts Pudding's brain in a spare body she had lying around; an overweight, middle-aged male human cadaver. While disturbing as hell to see crawling on a leash and licking his owner's face, Pudding is still just a loyal puppy, and is even accepted just the way he is by his master's mother and neighbors once he violently thwarts an attempted sexual assault. There's more to the story from there, but I don't need to spoil this one all the way to share Pudding's magnificence.
#12: Tunicate Boy (ch. 38)
Always the good samaritan, Fran fixes up a bullied, lonely High Schooler with hyperactive stem cells that respond to his emotions, effectively allowing his body to adjust and adapt at the slightest whim. At first, his newfound athletic powers turn his whole life around - the risk of sprouting tentacles when aroused notwithstanding - but when he discovers the girl he's always pined for is already dating, he effectively gives up on feeling anything, ever again, and undergoes the same metamorphosis undergone by most tunicates as they mature, which is all too appropriate if you know your tunicates. Why don't you?
#11: The Brain Worms (ch. 47)
When a mysterious infection seems to transform its victims into bite-happy shamblers, a panicked public is quick to perceive a real Hollywood-style zombie apocalypse. Fortunately, the true culprit - a brain parasite Fran likens to a favorite of mine - is really only temporarily hijacking the motor skills of these still living, fully conscious hosts. They're easy enough to cure, and even destined to recover on their own...so long as, say, reactionary gun-toting geeks don't blow their heads off by the dozen.
#10: Whale Girl's Good News (ch. 17)
In a story inspired by the modern Japanese legends of eerie Arctic sea-giants, an enigmatic anthropomorph of titanic proportions lumbers its way from the ocean and terrifies Japan as it marches its way to an unknown destination. As usual, the police turn to Fran for her knowledge of monsters, and sure enough, the creature is one of her creator's past accomplishments - a girl who dreamed of living alongside her beloved whales. She's only returned to her home town to pay a visit to her mother, and share her good news!
#9: Life is Precious. Horridly Precious. (ch. 14.5)
While the "victims" of Fran often bring their suffering upon themselves, we're frequently reminded of her frighteningly indifferent, rigid adherence to her singular function. Fran was created with the hard-wired directive to preserve life by any means necessary; no more, no less. It defines her entire character and drives almost every event in the series, but it's particularly sobering in the Bloody Veronica chapter, when she patches together what was either a squad of terrorist soldiers or an innocent family of campers, blown to chunks by her own sister in a misguided act of "defense." We never find out for certain who these people were, but Fran couldn't care less either way; she saved them, as best as she could. That's all she's capable of concerning herself with. She only wishes they would show at least a little appreciation for her hard work, instead of constantly begging for death. Some people!
#8: The Mascots are Revolting! (ch. 39)
Long ago, the Disneyesque amusement park Rolling World commissioned Fran to bring its famous mascot characters to life. Little did they know, they had built their park over the natural habitat of another intelligent, infectious brain parasite, slowly and secretly adapting a close symbiosis with the living, breathing caricatures. You better believe they go haywire, and that any normal human infected undergoes hideous transformation into a flesh-and-blood cartoon animal themselves. On the bright side, they really mellow out by Chapter 56.
#7: Ultra G! Battle for Roach City! (ch. 45)
Fran shares her manor with a lot of other not-so-natural life forms. It's positively crawling with biological anomalies, many of them her own loyal creations and beloved "family." Not so much the hyper-intelligent cockroach infestation, an unintentional laboratory by-product which establishes an amazingly human-like civilization of its own in a relatively short time span. A civilization positively obsessed with its many super-powered heroes and villains, an endless conflict which Fran's sister Veronica, herself a bio-engineered weapon, gets quickly caught up in. Possibly the cutest detail is how much the dark-shelled, shadow-loving insects, logically enough, are excited and awed by how "black" Veronica is, or at least her outfit. Big and black! ULTRA Black! ULTRA COCKROACH GIRL!
#6: Cancer Woman (ch. 15)
A wealthy, selfish businesswoman pursues the secret of eternal youth, and, desiring the gift all to herself, attempts to have her own doctors assasinated the moment their work is complete. It takes more than mere decapitation to keep our Fran down, of course, and in her usual innocent, unintentional fashion, she delivers a hardcore ass-kicking with a harsh science lesson on the side.
#5: OSWALD! (ch. 5)
This isn't an extremely significant plot point by any means, but it's still one of my favorite scenes, and it's my list. Oswald is another of the many monsters inhabiting the manor, and tragically only ever seen for about two pages. Two wonderful pages. Can you comprehend the preciousness of such a tiny, well-mannered electrical reptile? He's prickly! His eyeballs are huge! He feels a disturbance in the waves! He's probably the only thing here that never ruins anyone's life. At least not in any scenario we're ever privileged to see.
#4: Adorea's Face (ch. 16)
Hands-down the sexiest thing in the series (your mileage may
vary be wrong), Adorea is one of Fran's recurring helpers and the focus of more than one short story. Her job? To store internal organs for emergency field use, accessible via the zippers throughout her body. In her first starring role, we eventually get to see exactly how she gets the organs, when a dying patient, having fallen madly in love with her, makes a final request to see her beautiful face...shortly before it slurps out his brains. I'm sure he was satisfied. I would be.
#3: The Flying Spaghetti Monster (ch. 26)
The satirical anti-God, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, is the last thing I ever expected to see referenced in a Japanese horror manga, though I'm strangely not as surprised in retrospect. It's only a superficial resemblance, of course; it's not spaghetti at all, but a reality-bending psychic mutation nurtured by a cult from the fortress-sized artificial womb built around and through its young virgin mother. You know, religion.
#2: "Two Dimensional" (ch. 37)
Intent on landing the lead role in a live-action anime adaptation and winning the heart of its handsome, otaku director, a young actress seeks out increasingly drastic surgery to look more and more like a living, breathing anime character. The author later notes some concern that this was difficult to illustrate when his characters already have such an anime-like look. I don't think he has anything to worry about.
#1: It's a boy! And a girl! And a boy! And... (ch. 29)
Always eager to improve nature's laughable oversights, Fran develops a method by which a woman can give pain-free birth to a large, soft-bodied maggot which eventually pupates into a complete, human infant...or something strongly resembling one, at least. The discovery is quickly stolen and shamelessly marketed by an unscrupulous rival doctor, but Fran is indifferent at best; she hadn't finished testing on human subjects anyhow, and the grotesque mishaps befalling the thief's patients are piling up... not the least of which are the natural parasitoids who have quickly adapted to a more nourishing new food source! It's always a good day when I get to see a baby hollowed out by wasps.
On the other hand, the original test subject came away completely satisfied!
I'll admit, as I often do, that it wasn't easy to narrow down such a short favorites list, but any more and I'd be giving away just too many precious moments from the life of a cute, blonde doctor made of dead people. All 60+ chapters are as inventively morbid as any I've just ruined, and with so much ghastly scientific mayhem crammed into its run, Franken Fran is one of the few works of entertainment - across any genre or medium - that truly, utterly incorporates everything I could have ever asked for, its one and only downside that it finally ended for good. We'll never get to meet any more of her and her long-lost master's outlandish offspring, nor get to check up on any of the tragic characters we last saw writhing under heaps of their own misshapen body parts. It could be for the best that it stepped down before it grew too stale, but I have to say I still hold out hope that it may one day receive a faithful, high quality animated adaptation, video games or other spin-offs. Fran is a lot older than her ageless undead flesh might look, but she's still too young to die.
And way too cute.
HALLOWEEN 2012 ARCHIVE:
HALLOWEEN 2012 ROUND II:
HALLOWEEN 2012 ROUND II: