Ep. 24: Franken Fran v1&2 and ZOM 100 v1&2
It’s our second two-fer episode! First up, David leads the gang through the ero-guro-comedy Franken Fran by Katsuhisa Kigitsu! Then after the break at 45:00, the team checks out #sponsored read ZOM 100 by Haro Aso and Kotaro Takata. It’s a very creepy, crawly, and occasionally unsettling episode! Listener beware!
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Franken Fran Volumes 1-2
By Katsuhisa Kigitsu
Translated by Jocelyne Allen
Adaptation by Sahnti Whitesides
Lettering and Layout by Pawel Szczeszek
Published by Seven Seas Entertainment (Digital Only)
Show notes by Christopher Butcher. Edited by Deb Aoki.
00:00: Before we start:
Content Warning: This book has some really fucked-up shit in it, cannibalism, guts, surgery, body horror, sexual violence, all that stuff. We talk about it, there are images below, and if you’re sensitive to that, maybe stay away and skip to the next Break (44:45) and see what we had to say about ZOM 100 instead.
Also, we swear a lot in this one, more than usual…? Not just me either. It’s that kind of book.
Finally, and most unfortunately, the sound for the first ten minutes or so is kinda borked due to a technical error (my computer crashed, so we needed to use the ‘live’ audio rather than the separated, filtered, much nicer audio). It’s not too bad, but it gets much better about ten minutes in.
00:45: This book was recommended to David by Cartoonist Christine Wong! Check out Christine’s comics and work at https://onechrispy.com/.
01:00: That Blurb on the back that explains things:
“Meet Fran, the finest creation of the brilliant mad scientist, Dr. Madaraki. When the “good” doctor goes missing, leaving Fran alone in a house full of stitched-up monsters and scientific equipment, who better to take up his scalpel? With a combination of enthusiasm, skill, and heart that just can’t be beat, Fran wields mad science with a sunny disposition to solve the problems of the lonely, downtrodden and lovelorn people who come through her door. But the people seeking help aren’t always what they seem, and Fran’s solutions are rarely what they expect…!”
03:38: Osamu Tezuka’s Black Jack is probably his second most-popular series, behind only Astro Boy. About a brilliant surgeon with questionable methods who practices outside of society, the series is largely a collection of short stories with a guest-star-of-the-week coming in, needing a medical problem addressed with surgery, that can’t be accomplished by ‘normal’ means, and then moving along with Black Jack (the name of the surgeon) offering up some sort of moral judgement. That’s also the rough plot of Franken Fran, fwiw. I actually thought that, because Fran’s dad, the brilliant surgeon, is never shown, that it meant to imply that he was actually Black Jack, and Fran maybe a grown-up Pinoko.
06:50: “Fan Service!” I think we’ve mentioned this term before, but just in case: Fan Service (ファンサービス, fan sābisu), is material added to manga or anime intended just to please the audience, usually by including nudity or sexual content. If you’ve ever been reading a manga and then like, a shower scene appears out of nowhere, that’s Fan Service. Back in the day it used to be the ‘panty flash’, where a female character in a skirt would lean over or move too quickly and her underwear would poke out, and that would be huge. We were so innocent then. Full on shower scene at the minimum, now. And you know, North American horror movies, especially older movies, would always have some sort of sexual content included, so in the context of Franken Fran it does kind of make sense.
I couldn’t find a great image for fan-service to go with this blurb. But later in the episode while we’re talking about fan-service and the manga-ka being kind of obsessed with boobs, I mention that even the gross mutant dog-lady is given ‘pendulous breasts’ as fan-service, and well, here’s that image for your nightmares.
07:42: Tezuka’s Black Jack has a lot to recommend it, but, yeah, “borderline crimes against god” as Deb says is… accurate. Oh speaking of, Black Jack was published in English by Vertical Inc., but those volumes are now largely out of print.
[Deb]: It’s not impossible to find print copies of Black Jack, but as Kodansha’s website points out, Black Jack is available in digital on Amazon Kindle, Nook and Google Play.
08:50: SPOILERS! We actually spoil a bunch of the twists in the first volume, I’m so sorry about that. But there’s not really a way to talk about these stories without talking about spoilers.
10:20: It’s interesting that Chip bounces so hard off the cover, because it’s something I think we should’ve talked about, and that’s how it can be VERY hard to change the cover design from what was used in Japan… Moreover, because most titles arrive in North America these days with a fan-base, mostly due to reading scanlations, changing the cover can upset the fans who want the sexy lady stuff… even if it doesn’t have much at all to do with the contents. That’s why 99% of the time, you’ve gotta use the original cover, regardless of whether or not it will cause problems down the line… like not fitting the content in the west the way that it does in its home country.
That said, we do talk about the cover treatment at that 33 minute mark, if you wanna hear more about the covers…
11:22: This is another call-back to not being able to tell if the manga-ka is drawing a dog or a cat, from 7 Billion Needles.
15:00: I think we’ve mentioned Kitaro, also known as Gegege no Kitaro, before. It’s a manga series by Shigeru Mizuki, about the land of yokai, or Japanese spirits/demons, that touches our own. Kitaro is half-yokai and can walk between the human and yokai worlds, either causing trouble or solving the trouble that other yokai have caused. Specific to eye-trauma, Kitaro sacrifices his eye and his dead father reincarnates into that eye, and sort of walks around or sometimes sleeps in Kitaro’s empty eye-socket. It’s a horror book, did I mention that? There are 7 or 8 Kitaro collections available from Drawn & Quarterly.
15:15: Yeah there’s eyeball trauma in this book. From Franken Fran‘s first chapter.
16:00: David mentions EC Comics were notorious, and that’s true. First up, notorious comics censor Frederic Wrtham specifically singled out the “injury to the eye” motif in his book Seduction of the Innocent, and pre-comics-code comics were full of that motif, especially crime comics. You can check out a big list of eye-trauma comics at this blog.
Meanwhile, EC Comics were some of the very best comic books of the golden age. Founded in 1944 and defunct by 1956, the publisher produced a wide variety of genre comics including romance, crime, war, fantasy, horror, sci-fi, and much more! The books were generally considered to have higher quality art and stories than the average comic at the time, and the publisher’s legacy continues today with always-reprinted material from their Eerie, Creepy, and Tales from the Crypt magazines, archive collections of their stories, and so much more. If you’re reading this because you like manga horror, check out a few EC Reprints, there’s good stuff in them-thar books.
16:40: Yeah, the reconstituted head was gross as heck.
17:30: “Take those jaws and gobble me up.” I think that quote is from volume 2, cuz I can’t find it in volume 1. So, uh, congrats you don’t get to see that image and it’ll be a nice surprise when you check that book out yourself, right…?
19:00: So yeah, the shorts at the end of the book. They’re all just a couple pages, “omake” or bonus content as David describes them. But they just kind of… don’t turn into anything? Like here’s a two page story, complete, nothing else. (Read from right-to-left)
See what I mean? Dude in a ‘main character’ outfit, doesn’t get lines, the story just ends. I dunno, you either vibe with this or you don’t, and I didn’t.
21:55: So the yokai/ghost/spirit/demon that David mentioned, the “Slit-mouth woman”, is also known as Kuchisake-onna. Like David says, she asked you a no-win question and then did you in, in the folklore. This character has appeared a lot as of late, with multiple anime and live-action films featuring the character. The character also, obviously, made an appearance in Shigeru Mizuki’s Gegege no Kitaro, here’s how he depicted her hiding in modern day Tokyo… with a mask… 😉
29:30: So maybe that’s a non-sequitur, but yeah, Yaoi. Yaoi is portmanteau of yama nashi, ochi nashi, imi nashi (山[場]なし、落ちなし、意味なし), which translates to “no climax, no point, no meaning.” So, if you’re wondering how I got to yaoi from those backups, now you know. 🙂
30:30: Junji Ito is basically the most popular and successful Japanese horror manga-ka whose work has been published in North America. He’s best known for his manga Uzumaki, Gyo, and the short story The Enigma of Amagara Fault, but he has almost two-dozen books released in English. We’ve opted to go a slightly different route with our coverage of horror on this podcast, but I can’t imagine we can go toooo much longer without covering a book by Ito-sensei sometime soon.
32:30: Franken Fran’s cover treatment really is weird. You can see here as we compare the Japanese covers and English covers, that the Japanese is more ‘serious’. A sort of computer-script font, black and red, a skull included. It’s classier, and its accompanied by what looks like a weird boudoir-photo for the cover. Meanwhile, it looks like Seven Seas did try to soften up the series a little bit in English, with a goofier logo treatment. Green ‘Frankenstein’ lettering.
33:50: This is the watercolor pencil crayon drawing that I thought was charming that Chip described as the worst art he’d ever seen, and that Deb described as high school quality. U-DECIDE!
36:00: I know Chip and I go back and forth a bit, but I thought for a ‘going to a haunted castle with a dark deed’ opening, the first page was actually pretty great! The style changes pretty dramatically from that though, and doesn’t use a lot of zipatone after the first or second chapter.
“Justice tends to follow in [Franken Fran’s] wake, whether she realizes it or not.”David Brothers, Mangasplaining
“If you’re some sort of twisted, sick fuck, who gets off on gore and a bit of boob… then this book’s for you.”Chip Zdarsky, Mangasplaining
…and that just-about wraps up Franken Fran! Thanks to David for suggesting it, and I hope that if you read this out-of-left-field pick along with us that you got something out of it! We certainly got a very spirited discussion!
44:45: THE BREAK! Please remember that after this point all timestamps are approximate due to dynamic ad insertion.
It’s our second Manga Blind Date, sponsored by VIZ Media! Click here to find out more about ZOM100 on the VIZ website, and hey, it kind of supports our podcast as well! bit.ly/ZOM100podcast
Let’s start off with the publisher’s description of the premise for ZOM 100:
In a trash-filled apartment, 24-year-old Akira Tendo watches a zombie movie with lifeless, envious eyes. After spending three hard years at an exploitative corporation in Japan, his spirit is broken. He can’t even muster the courage to confess his feelings to his beautiful co-worker Ohtori. Then one morning, he stumbles upon his landlord eating lunch—which happens to be another tenant! The whole city’s swarming with zombies, and even though he’s running for his life, Akira has never felt more alive!From VIZ.com
It’s true. The art does a REALLY good job here as well, at clarifying just how miserable Akira is, how depressed and beaten-down. Here’s the first 2 spreads of the book.
47:00: So yeah, my take? This is actually a great manga. It’s written from a very different place than a lot of seinen manga we’ve read, although there’s a certain indefatigable spirit to lead character Akira that’s sort of like a typical shonen protagonist, maybe Goku from Dragon Ball Z or Luffy from One Piece. Or another famous character that comes to mind at the end of this segment. But maybe it’s coming from a much, much darker place.
49:20: “They must be one of those exploitative corporations!” It’s worth noting here, that the Japanese term that’s probably in the original is “Black Company” (ブラック企業, burakku kigyō) which means a company that is deeply exploitative and sweatshop-like office job. I can absolutely understand why the translators went a different direction with the translation on that one, that phrase does not resonate the same way in the west, and it’s a good example of why the most ‘accurate’ translation isn’t always the best one. Deb also uses this term a little later, that’s what it means. 🙂
50:00: Shawn of the Dead, the excellent self-referential zombie movie by Edgar Wright, had a strong influence on this one for sure.
50:00: I also felt very good about that beer sequence.
54:00: Deb is absolutely right, I’ve never enjoyed a zombie story quite like this. The zombies, the horror, the stakes are all real, but the lead character–and his buddy–are so damaged by the way the regular world was, that when the world collapses it sets them free and lets them act like… well, a certain kind of manga character. The humour comes from the two leads and their reactions to things. But, as I maybe keep alluding to this podcast, I think the fact that Akira was at the lowest, most miserable part of his life, and then ended up ‘free’ still has a lot to unpack. I’m hoping that this is the kind of story that sucks you in with fun antics and then sucker-punches you when you actually care about the actual characters. I guess we’ll see!
55:40: Good observation by Deb on The Walking Dead, I never really thought of it as American either, but it absolutely is.
56:22: ZOM100 Volume 3 drops on August 17th, 2021.
57:30: Good news! Since we recorded this episode, it’s been announced that VIZ will, in fact, be publishing Haro Aso’s Alice in Borderland! It’ll be headed to North America beginning in March 2022. Aso’s previous English-language manga, Hyde & Closer, is still available digitally from VIZ Media.
1:00:15: That’s a call-back to the weirdly PTSD-focused first and second volume of Yona of the Dawn, from a few episodes ago. 🙂
ALRIGHT IT’S TIME FOR SHOUT-OUTS!
Deb is happy that Witches by Daisuke Igarashi, has been licensed for publication by Seven Seas. Igarashi-sensei is best known for Children of the Sea, a 5-volume manga series published by VIZ, recently adapted into an animated film. I like David’s description of it as “a vibe,” though there is a sort of fascinating supernatural mystery at the heart of the series, really, it’s just about hanging out in beautiful ocean environments.
1:01:00: It’s worth noting that we really love certain manga, like Pluto by Naoki Urasawa, but getting Chip to commit to 8 volumes of manga is a big ask for a weekly podcast! I can’t imagine we won’t get to Urasawa’s manga in some capacity in the second season of Mangasplaining.
1:02:15: CHIP LIKED ANIME! Weird as hell. He went back and watched the Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-Kun anime and actually dug it… once he got to the stuff that wasn’t in the anime. I like his explanation here too.
1:03:00: Christopher shouts out another Seven Seas manga acquisition, Robo-Sapiens: Tales of Tomorrow. The art is kinda wild, a contemporary-looking throwback to Tezuka, Franco-Belgian clear-line, and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince. David references the Japanese culture-magazine Brutus (a spin-off of the fashion & culture magazine Popeye), and you can see that article referenced here.
1:04:00: Patron-Saint-Manga of Mangasplaining, George Morikawa’s Hajime no Ippo. Now finally available digitally… in Japanese! As David says, you can buy it in Japanese from North America at Bookwalker.jp. I made it really easy, just click this link: https://bookwalker.jp/series/4258/list/ to see the complete list of volumes in the series, and scroll forward a few pages to get to the free 1st, 2nd, and 3rd volumes.
And that’s it for this episode! Only 2 episodes left! Episode 25: AKIRA Volume 2, and Episode 26: The Recap Episode!
You can find all of the books mentioned in these show-notes and so many more at a manga or comic specialty shop, find one near you at comicshoplocator.com! Thanks again to D.A.D.S. for their musical accompaniment this week, and we’ll see you again next time! Take care!