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Manga / Embalming

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A manga by Nobuhiro Watsuki, Embalming is set in a turn-of-the-century Europe where a number of people are using the notes left behind by one Dr. Victor Frankenstein to do their own crazy monster-building experiments. The resulting creatures, called Frankensteins, come in all sorts of sizes, shapes and mental states: from grotesquely monstrous to seemingly human, and from slightly nuts to batshit insane.

Instead of one main character, Embalming features an ensemble cast: revenge-driven Fury Flatliner, who wants to destroy all Frankensteins; happy but dumb Frankenstein girl Elm and her misanthropic human companion Ashuhit Richter, who belong to a secret society dedicated to Frankenstein research; John Doe, a mysterious and dangerous Frankenstein, and others.

The full title is Embalming - The Another Tale of Frankenstein, but that's both too long and too Engrish to be used in real life. The manga ran in Jump Square from 2007 to 2015, though it was placed on hiatus in March 2012 until the fall, while Watsuki worked on a limited run reboot of Rurouni Kenshin. The series is based on a one-shot story Watsuki wrote in 2006 that appeared in the final tankoubon of Buso Renkin.

The manga provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Wraith's alcoholic father
  • Ancient Conspiracy: Polar Route, a secret society of Frankenstein creators Used to be a pretty nice place before The One's rampage and the fall into madness of Grosse and Dr Richter.
  • And Then John Was a Zombie: Fury's friend Wraith is killed then revived as a Frankenstein within the first chapter. At the end of the first arc Fury realizes that he too had been turned into a Frankenstein by Dr. Peabody, having died in the same event that killed Wraith.
  • Anti-Hero: John Doe, Ashuhit Richter, Dr. Peaberry...
  • Attack of the Monster Appendage:
    • Scavenger's introduction has the heroes attacked by massive earthworm-like monsters with teeth and later a bigger worm-like fanged monster. We later learn that they're part of Scavenger's body.
    • During the final confrontation, Dr Richter unleashes a series of creepy long arms carrying all sort of deadly weapons and popping out of holes in the ceiling, floor and walls.
  • The Berserker: Fury hates Frankenstein, and goes into a homicidal rage whenever he finds one. Given that he's a Frankenstein designed specifically to destroy other Frankenstein, it very likely that this a function built into him, and possibly one he can't control either.
    • Though when he's not in his "Kill all Frankenstein!!!" mode, he's a pretty nice guy.
  • Big Bad: Lord Corpse, alias Tod Schatten, alias the Eighth of the Frankenstein.
  • Body Motifs: Each of the nine special Frankenstein has a special power based on a body part, which often extends to their personality and traits:
    • Ein (Exoskeleton) can control bones and is a skeletal Frankenstein. Like bones support the body frame, he can act as a battle suit for another warrior and thus support him.
    • Zwei (Jack the Ripper) has control over respiratory system and can expel air to fly around or rip people to shreds. In life he was a boundless criminal who valued his personal freedom.
    • Drei (Scavenger) controls the digestive system and attacks through giant intestinal parasites: he's a lazy Villainous Glutton.
    • Vier (Muskel Ungeheuer) controls muscular fibers and is a massive brute who's a ruthless Blood Knight.
    • The fifth one, Tiger Lily, has power over sensory system (mostly eyes, but also hearing and touch): she's utterly devoted to the Big Bad and acts as his right hand woman.
    • Sechs (John Doe) has power over blood and is indeed a sanguigne man who's not afraid of battle and secretly wishes to find a bride, a typical way to "continue the bloodline".
    • Sieben (Elm) has control over her skin and can do plenty of things with it. Turns out, unlike the other Frankenstein, her creation was shallow and mediocre, "superficial" so to say.
    • Number eight Lord Corpse has power over bacterias and will do anything to survive and rule over his paradise of corpses and shape everything else into his vision.
    • Neun (Fury) has powers over his nervous system and electricity, the source of power and Achilles' Heel of Frankensteins, which he wants to destroy.
  • Broken Pedestal: Shade the man that raised and trained Fury and Wraith and Lord Weiss who took them in.
  • Came Back Wrong: Even if a Frankenstein is created using nothing but the original human's body, they will not come back as the person they used to be. At best, they will develop a different personality but at the worst, they will become Ax-Crazy with both memory loss and personality change.
  • Death is Cheap: Once at least. A dead human can still live on as a Frankenstein but Subverted once it's found out that they will not come back as the same person.
  • Dem Bones: Ein/Exoskeleton is the bone-based Frankenstein and, basically, a living skeleton. He's however completely unmoving and barely sentient on his own, only by latching on another Frankenstein he can actually fight.
  • Dual Wield: Fury's weapons are usually knives, one in each hand.
  • Elegant Gothic Lolita: Elm, who has the body of a 13-year-old
  • Expy: Edel is very similar to Mahiro from Buso Renkin, both in design and personality.
  • First-Episode Twist: Fury is revealed to have been turned into a Frankenstein at the end of the first arc.
  • Frankenstein's Monster: Duh! They range from grotesque stitched-up cadavers to super warriors to recreation of mythological monsters such as angels, dragons and minotaurs.
  • Shock and Awe: As a Frankenstein, Fury can wield his artificially boosted galvanic current as a weapon, inducing malfunctions in other Frankensteins.
  • Genki Girl: Elm
  • Gratuitous English
  • Gratuitous German: A LOT. Examples include "Eisen der Arm", "Panzer das Bein/Bain", the obligatory Baumkuchen-joke and don´t even get me started on the use of the word Frankenstein.
    • It's borderline Bilingual Bonus in the second oneshot, when the German word for "liar" appears written on two signs, and of course it turns out that Kiefer is lying and it's all a trap.
  • Harmful to Minors: Fury and Wraith watch their parents get murdered by a Frankenstein when they are 13. And Ashuhit is attacked and crippled by John Doe, who also kills his friend Elm right in front of him...
    • Well, in typical Watsuki fashion, half the characters have horrible childhood traumas.
  • Historical Domain Character: Jack the Ripper, Queen Victoria, Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes, and knowing Watsuki, many will follow.
  • Hunter of His Own Kind: Fury Flatliner was created by Dr. Peabody to destroy other Frankensteins.
  • Idiot Hero: Elm, of course.
    • Fury has also been called a "Country Hick" more than once.
  • Immortality Seeker: The true goals of Dr Richter and Grosse: the latter wants to avoid his impending death by old age, the former wants to revive his wife and daugther as immortal Frankenstein.
  • Lightning Can Do Anything: Frankensteins are brought to life when struck by lightning. Lightning, however, cannot bring them back the way they were.
  • Madness Mantra: When Fury enters combat with three other Frankensteins, he continues to yell 'Kill All Frankensteins!' while he tears them to piece.
  • Mad Scientist: In spades
  • Redemption Equals Death: Wraith sides back with Fury against Lord Corpse but is brutally slain.
  • Replacement Goldfish: Robert Weiss adopted Edel because she looked very much like his lost daughter. So he gave her the same name. And planned to transplant her eyes with the right eye colour. And turn her into an undead Frankenstein so he would never lose her again. Also Elm, who was revived by Ashuhit's father after Ash begged him to do it. Ash, however, is not content with the Frankenstein Elm and will do anything to have the real Elm back, even if it means killing the Frankenstein Elm's personality in the process. Turns out, his father actually stole Elm's real corpse and wants to revive both her and his wife as s superior type of Frankensteins.
  • Revenge: Fury's drive. Partially due to the death of his parents, and partially for the events of the first arc.
    • Interestingly, despite his hatred towards all Frankenstein he gets along quite well with Elm.
      • Most likely because he is unaware that she is one.
      • Still, when he's made aware of that, he turns his hatred into an ultimatum: he'll return for Elm after having killed every other Frankenstein, hoping Asuhito had already restored her humanity by then
  • Shout-Out: A little more than that, actually. Upon arriving in London, Ashuhito meets with a man called Mike Roft, who then sends his younger brother to search for Fury and Dr.Peaberry. On the next page Peaberry suggests going to a famous detective on Baker street. The silhouette of whom then shows up with the signature hat and pipe.
  • The Ditz: Elm
  • Undignified Death:
    • Dr Richter is fatally shot in a Mutual Kill by Grosse and his nurses and bleeds out on the floor, forsaken by his son as he realizes that now he'll never see his wife again as he wanted.
    • After revealing himself and nearly killing John Doe, Lord Corpse is burnt down to ashes twice by Fury's lightning and what's left of him is consumed by John Doe's leucokytes as he pathetically begs for his life. So yeah, he's Eaten Alive by blood cells...
  • Victorian London
  • Villainous Breakdown: As what's left of Corpse is being melted down by Doe's blood cells, he screams in panic, begging for mercy and a second chance as he's eroded away.
  • Yandere: Wraith