Junji Ito’s manga adaptation of Frankenstein features a devastating twist that reinforces the themes of Mary Shelley’s horror classic.
Warning: Spoilers for Junji Itos Frankenstein are ahead.
Famous manga artist and author Junji Ito is a true horror icon and its adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein Roman cements this truth. Known for works such as Uzumaki, Tomieand gyo, Ito’s horror is imbued with a sense of surreal body horror and psychological madness. Both themes fit perfectly Frankenstein, which tells the story of a young scientist’s attempt to create life from death and the brutal consequences of his actions. Despite being one of the most influential works of all time as the origin of the science fiction genre, Frankenstein has a notorious lack of faithful adaptations. Spawned several films and forays into other media such as comics and manga, Frankenstein Still, it remains an evergreen tale that speaks of the fears and pains of life and death.
It is Frankenstein Manga closely follows the plot of Mary Shelley’s novel. It begins with the discovery of a trembling Victor Frankenstein in the Arctic Circle, recounting his early life and education before revealing that he created a creature from the flesh of corpses. Seeing his creation come to life, Frankenstein was outraged and rejected the creature, who in turn discovers that his appearance renders him incapable of fitting in with human society. After Frankenstein fails to provide the creature with an appropriate mate, the creature kills several of Frankenstein’s friends and family members, leaving its creator in the same hopeless isolation as he did.
That Frankenstein Manga is refreshingly faithful to Shelley’s text, except for one detail that makes Ito’s story even more terrifying than the original. While the novel’s Frankenstein eventually destroys the female creature he had begun to construct, Itos Frankenstein manages to create one for the monster. While the creature smiles in anticipation of its new companion, its female counterpart is horrified at the sight of it, despite being created from corpses as well. The female monster attacks the creature with scissors, forcing him to kill her in self-defense. Betrayed by Frankenstein’s failure “with whom to find a mate [he] could share joy,” the creature vows to destroy everything its creator loves.
This twist on Frankenstein makes Ito’s adaptation particularly somber and reinforces the novel’s themes of isolation. By not only showing the female monster’s accomplishment, but also making her scream despite her own ugliness at the sight of the creature, Ito proves that Frankenstein’s creation can never truly be free from prejudice. While Frankenstein’s hand is capable of reproducing life, it is unable to restore innocence. That makes Frankenstein’s greatest sin not his rejection of his creation, but his failure to provide him with a means of escaping his creator’s prejudice.
It is Frankenstein Adaptation is full of scenes of body horror, but the most terrifying scene is of the interpersonal kind with the female creature’s rejection of her intended companion. It begs the question of how cultural fears evolve as the female creature is created with the head of Frankenstein’s unjustly executed family servant Justine. While fans of literature often lament the alterations of classic stories in remakes, Junji Ito‘s amendment honors the spirit of Shelley’s Frankenstein novel and adds another detail that makes the story’s emotional journey even more devastating.
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