Review: Anne Freaks

Anne Freaks
…I’m happy to follow her instructions… because she smiled at me…

Author
Kotegawa Yua

Status
4 Volumes – Completed

Plot Summary
Yuri is a young man caught in the act of burying his mother by a beautiful young girl named Anna, who matter-of-factly offers to help him “properly” dispose of the body, removing all traces of identification in the process. It turns out that Anna wants Yuri to become her partner in killing her father, though in fact it’s much more than that.

Anna soon thereafter recruits Mitsuba, whose father and older sister were killed by a radical organization called the Kakusei Group. It is this group that Anna seeks to bring down. Mitsuba throws himself headfirst into his new life as an assassin, while Yuri grapples simultaneously with both his aversion to killing and his growing attraction for the charismatic Anna.

Personal Opinion
I must confess to being one of those impatient readers – if a story doesn’t grab me quickly, I tend to lose interest. That said, the opening of Anne Freaks not only grabbed me, it gave me a good shaking by the metaphorical scruff of the neck. It’s clear from watching Yuri dispose of his mother’s body that he’s not the most mentally balanced person you’re likely to meet and within a few more pages, we realise that young Anna herself is about as sane – and dangerous – as a bag full of wasps on LSD. Admittedly, given that there’s only 24 chapters to tell what becomes a fairly convoluted tale, there isn’t really much time to fanny around, and apart from a brief wobble halfway through, the story doesn’t let up the pace, nor does it lose its focus.

Equally impressive are the number of layers surrounding the basic plot. Yes, it’s essentially a tale of revenge, except you’re rooting for some rather poisonous anti-heroes (in typical Bonnie and Clyde style, I guess). Even when the police become involved (and we are faced with a rather clichéd good cop / bad cop team at this point, although they are both female, so score one for Women’s Lib), you’d rather they didn’t catch the young killers… well, at least not until revenge has been had.

In a strange and slightly twisted way, it’s also a love story – albeit a very one-sided love story. Mentally broken from years of abuse and the recent trauma, Yuri becomes besotted with Anna, seeing her as a kind of redeemer who saved him from his past life. She exploits this to the maximum, ensuring his slavish loyalty. When a rival appears on the scene, who not only witnessed Yuri with his mother’s body, but wants to use that to blackmail him into going out with her (didn’t her mother warn her about boys like that?), Anna is pretty quick in making sure she won’t bother Yuri again… ever. It’s round about this point that I started to realise that calling Anna a cold-blooded killer, would give other cold-blooded killers a bad name. That said, the characters are not merely portrayed as ruthless killing machines. Kotegawa gives us glimpses of their human side too, one of the funnier examples being Anna muttering jealously (as many adolescent girls might) about the size of the female detective’s chest. Likewise, Yuri is often disturbed by Anna’s straightforward – and bloody – solution to problems. It’s simple, but effective – if they were simply mindless killing machines, I doubt the story would be able to sustain our sympathy for very long.

When Mitsuba, another troubled youth, is drawn into the fold, it adds another dimension to the dynamic of the team. Soon she’s playing the two boys off against each other, making each prove their loyalty to her (even if it just be via a shopping trip, or cooking supper), whilst being equally careful not to let the rivalry escalate into jealousy. She’s just happy knowing that they’ll do whatever it takes to please her. It might be stretching the metaphor a bit far, but you have the impression that if she rang a bell, they’d both start drooling. Certainly, it’s a performance that would have Svengali nodding and taking notes. Therefore, you could also add that it’s a tale about people and their interactions. It would have been nice to see some more ink used on character development, but it is interesting to watch what we can of the developing relationship between Anna, Yuri, and Mitsuba.

Finally, underlying all this is a very subtle steak of very dark humour. I don’t think it’ll have you laughing aloud, but it’ll wring a wry smile from you occasionally.

The central cast of characters is kept small, apart from a small army of expendable cult members, which gives us time to get to know them and their back-story, even if the story doesn’t allow much time for character development. Maybe character deconstruction would be a better phrase as we first watch Yuri and Mitsuba fall under Anna’s spell (not to mention watching Yuri lose touch with reality, illustrated by his frequent flashbacks to his mother), then realise that Anna herself as been carefully moulded to fulfil this role by people I’ll call her mentors (to avoid any potential spoilers).

The artwork is crisp and clear with good attention to backgrounds and little details that might just as easily pass unnoticed. Even the crowd scenes are filled with individuals (well, within reason anyway), not faceless blobs. It’s nice to see Kotegawa giving the character design a feminine touch, making everybody variously pretty or handsome – but not overly so.

Right: Aww! Anna & Yuri have a ‘moment’

It might even be borderline shoujo-esque. I don’t mean this in a bad way – after all, there’s something to be said about pretty girls with guns… sorry, I thought I heard an angry buzzing sound just then.

It’s also not afraid to occasionally switch to chibi mode for a couple of frames – normally just before something nasty happens. It might be a cheap attempt at shock value, but used in moderation, it does work. In addition, Kotegawa also scores points for her attention to detail when it comes to weaponry. I’m no expert on guns, but I’m guessing any fancier worth his salt wouldn’t have trouble identifying those used in the manga.

The real skill of the mangaka comes through in the action scenes. Firstly (much like Aida Yu of Gunslinger Girl fame), the frames aren’t cluttered with unnecessary sound effects, or action lines, yet still manage to convey the impression of motion and force. Secondly, much of the violence (and don’t get me wrong, although this is a fairly violent manga, it does pause to take a breath now and again) is implied rather than shown.

Right: The eyes have it- Anna puts the boot in.

Taking a leaf from Hitchcock you’ll be shown a before and after frame, and maybe a hint of what’s happening in between (one of the nastiest involves a glimpse of bloody scissors). Just how much violence is actually happening is left up to you and the size of your own personal bag of wasps. A picture might paint a thousand words, but the imagination makes movies…

Take all that, then add a plot that twists and turns on itself, a cast that straddles that fine line between the perception of good and evil, a climax that covers the better part of the last 2 volumes (including a bit that will hopefully have you going “I can’t believe he did that…” and stir vigourously. The result is a pretty decent, fast-paced action tale, that doesn’t really pretend to be anything else. Even its conclusion, which might be described as “open-ended” and probably not as “happy” should leave you satisfied.

If you’re looking for a fairly quick read, that’s not too taxing on the mind and if you don’t mind a spot (or a splash, in this case) of violence, Anne Freaks is worth looking at. Now, if only they’d make the live action version…

Personal Rating
8/10

[Reviewer: Gerwyn Petty]

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One thought on “Review: Anne Freaks

  1. I don’t know if there’s a point in posting a comment on this, but since I just finished reading it I figured I’d might as well. Before reading, though, please understand that I read the raw and not the translation, so perhaps there is a difference in how things were portrayed to us. I agree with much of what you said about the manga, but I see more of a point in commenting on the things I disagree with, so I will discuss that instead.

    I disagree with your portrayal of Anna in the fourth paragraph(after Personal Opinion). Mitsuba was never portrayed as having an interest in Anna. He knew that Yuri had an interest in Anna and supported it, but Mitsuba’s entire focus throughout the series was to avenge his father and sister’s murder. If Anna exploits anything about him, it’s that fact and his own pride when she questions his testicular fortitude during the school bombing event.

    As to whether Anna herself was tempting Yuri, I suppose that’s up to the reader to decide. She definitely continues to test Yuri throughout the manga. Rather than Yuri and Mitsuba, I think it’s more appropriate to compare Yuri and Moe’s relationship with Anna. That’s what the third and fourth volumes make clear, at any rate.

    Yuri had no desire to live except with Anna. His flashbacks did indicate that he had lost touch with reality, but more precisely they were a representation of his guilt in letting his mother kill herself and lack of desire to live due to his past(they also serve as a reminder that he wanted to end it all as well but was too cowardly to do so). They were also consistent throughout the manga, and only occurred during bouts of separation with Anna.

    While Anna did use his hopelessness to put him through a number of tests, she put him through them because she wanted to know if he was willing to be on a level with her. Calling them simple tests of loyalty ignores that. And this is where Yuri differs from Moe; Moe desired simply to keep Anna alive as an obligation(if we can trust the Pastor’s inference in v3[I think it was]), not to live by her, and it is implied that Anna may not have wished for this.

    In the end I saw Anna as a woman who accepted the fact that she’s a psychopath who enjoys the danger of lawlessness and most of all killing, and wanted someone to enjoy it with. Moe did not provide this. No judgment was made as to the morality of this, although the good cop/bad cop side was definitely in disagreement.

    If this comment contains too many spoilers or something like that and you decide to delete it, I wouldn’t mind discussing it over email(if there’s anyone left to do so–this review is a year old).

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