Manga: Helen ESP

A manga written and drawn by Kigitsu Katsuhisa, the same mangaka responsible for the remarkably dark Franken Fran.

It tells the story of Helen Takahara La Guido, a young Japanese girl who, five years ago, lost her sight, hearing, and ability to speak in a traffic accident. Until the beginning of the story, Helen was having a peaceful and normal life with her uncle and her guide dog Victor, when suddenly strange powers woke on her. Despite the range of those powers are unclear, the series shows Helen helping several people in extremely unusual ways with them, as well as sensing and meeting beings that are unseen to normal people. Beside all this, she also can communicate with Victor via telepathy. With her innocent and optimistic nature, Helen is able to solve problems that couldn't be done by a regular human, albeit some of them make her in getting herself trouble.

Started in 2008 and finished in 2010, spawning only two volumes, the series is a big surprise to the readers who know Katsuhisa's other work. While Franken Fran presents us with shockingly violent scenes, very disturbing situations and (usually) not so happy endings, Helen ESP surprises in showing a more positive and light-hearted story. However, one thing that both series have in common is that the protagonists see themselves entagled in problematic situations of the human nature, and try to solve them no matter what cost. A good suggestion for someone who is looking for something completely different, but which still retains the great story-telling seen in Franken Fran.

This series provides examples of:

  • A Boy and his X: "Helen's Song" features a young circus performer and his giant boar.
  • Ant War: In "Helen And The Dream", two warring ant colonies are who Helen has been advising.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The way how several chapters end. The bitterness to sweetness ratio depends on the chapter, but there's usually a little bit of both. However, this doesn't apply to every chapter, as some have downright happy endings with no bitter notes, like chapter 14.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: The last chapter of the series has Helen having a dream where she comes in contact with the person who was reading the story all along. She then warmly greets the reader.
  • But Not Too Foreign: It is stated that Helen is half-Japanese, half-French.
  • The Cameo: Fran (yes, that Fran) makes a special appearance in the bonus chapter of volume 1. She even offers to help Helen in getting out of her disability. Hilariously, however, Helen asks Fran to help her in something else: to read Braille faster.
  • Canine Companion: Victor.
  • Cordon Bleugh Chef: Helen, surprisingly enough. Her uncle was cringing at the sight of the food she managed to cook despite her handicap, but was ready to eat it anyway so as to not hurt her feelings, and to his surprise, it actually tasted delicious. He attributes this to the fact that because she's lacking two of her senses, the other ones became a lot more acute to compensate.
  • Creepy Doll: One story features a female manequinn of the school falling in love with the teacher who built her, and tries to kill him because she can't have him physically. Subverted since the mannequin herself knows she is doing something wrong.
  • Cute Mute: Helen. She's mute, but adorable as hell.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Again, Victor.
  • Disability Superpower: Helen may have lost her sight and hearing, but her other senses became a lot sharper because of that, and her ESP powers grew to the point that she can communicate with her Canine Companion Victor.
  • Face of a Thug: Helen's principal is introduced with Scary Shiny Glasses, steepled fingers, claiming his school supports diversity and tolerance while his face can only be described as Japanese Hitler. This turns out to be entirely correct, with every student being more than willing to help Helen (the principal himself makes no further appearances).
  • If I Can't Have You: In the chapter "Helen and the Doll".
  • Invisible to Normals: Occasionally Helen meets supernatural deities that can't be noticed by other people. Some of them tend to be good-natured, while others... not really.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Devil's death in chapter 4. He gets brutally and literally clubbed to pieces by angry townspeople who thought he was going to attack Helen. However, while the action takes place offscreen, you do get to see surprisingly gory glimpses of it and its aftermath; the end result wouldn't look out of place in Franken Fran (Though it would be tame by its standards).
  • Japanese Delinquents: Oguri's older brother Midou is a classic example, though he reforms himself later.
  • Lighter and Softer: To the eyes of readers who have read Franken Fran first, at least.
  • Magical Realism: The series' attitude toward Helen's esper powers gives it a Magical Realism tone. We never find out exactly why she has them or how they work, and despite Helen being powerful enough to "destroy this world" (according to the demon in the first chapter), her life doesn't change much after she finds out about her abilities.
  • Misunderstood Loner with a Heart of Gold:
    • The supernatural creature of chapter 2, who helps Helen when she is about to be attacked by a would-be rapist.
    • Devil, from chapter 4. He's a dog who constantly steals food and can get pretty violent, but that's because he knows how dangerous humans can be, and has to feed a baby that had been abandoned in a shrine.
  • Nice Girl: Helen is an absolute sweetheart. In fact, Victor notes a few times that she's sometimes too nice, leading her to trust people too easily.
  • Origins Episode: Chapter 13 explains how Helen and Victor met.
  • The Pollyanna: Helen.
  • Psychic Powers
  • The Speechless: Helen.
  • Talking with Signs: Helen's primary method of communicating with other people.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Helen's schoolfriend Oguri plays the former while Helen herself is the latter.
  • When She Smiles: Victor was originally just the family's puppy, but when Helen lost her senses and parents, she understandably became a lot more withdrawn and bitter for a time. Getting her to smile again was the reason why Victor decided to train hard to become her eye-seeing dog.