Anne Freaks (アンネ フリークス) is a 4-volume psychological suspense thriller by Yua Kotegawa originally serialized from 2000-2002 in Japan, and published in the US in 2006 by ADV manga.
Yuri Kitagawa is having a bad day. He just killed his domineering mother (granted in self-defense) and is trying to bury her body when a girl shows up to tell him he sucks at disposing of corpses. She eventually gets rid of his mom for him and introduces herself as Anna, telling Yuri she wants his help in killing her father which Yuri eventually agrees to as he has nothing left holding him to his current life. They’re eventually joined by another boy, Mitsuba, as all 3 have connections to a fanatical cult from 10 years past that Anna’s father is the head of, and begin trying to hunt down still active members of the cult to find its headquarters while staying one step ahead of a team of police detectives also investigating the cult.
Of all the series Ive covered for the Avocado this might be the hardest to convey the appeal of as a lot of it is in tone and feeling; if you’re in a mood for the series to click you’ll breeze through it in no time. The plot is a little shifty with the main stated goal (finding and killing Annas dad) less important than the connection the 3 kids have together, especially Yuri and Anna who develop a very strange (very unhealthy) codependency as they come to realize the rest of the world means less to them than each other. Yuri is in some ways almost a proto-Rock from Black Lagoon in that he’s pulled into a world of crime and while he attempts to keep his hands more or less clean for as long as he can you can slowly see him unraveling as the series goes on. If you can dig the somewhat angst ridden story of teenagers lashing out against their parents as told through a lens of a gritty mobster/detective back-and-forth you need to read this.
The art is fairly strong too (mostly, see below), with some distinct character designs and liberal usage of screentone for much of it, while allowing Anna to occasionally slip into a more rubber faced pseudo-chibi mode when shes just teasing the boys to break up some of the tension. Without going into spoiler territory, it has one of my personal favorite uses ever of just a pure black double page spread near the end that conveys a whole lot of different meanings with a whole lot of nothing that has stuck in my mind for 15 years now. Fairly briskly paced means the volumes read faster than most other seinen fare so even an average reader can knock out the whole story in less than 2 nights.
The plotting in the series can be a little odd, in particular the start of volume 4 has a weird jump from the end of 3 that makes it seem like you skipped something before using the rest of the volume to fill everything in through flashbacks. Its an odd device that reeks more of the story being cut short than something intentional and results in at least one characters story ending more vaguely.
Then there’s the art. Kotegawa is great when its character designs or even people sitting around talking, any kind of motion though is rough with some very stiff looking shots a lot of the time. Its certainly not bad, its just something they obviously aren’t used to drawing and if someone like me can pick out when you’re art is getting stiff than you know its rough. On a personal level the original version had a bunch of full color pages for each of the chapter starts with some gorgeous spreads… that ADV printed in just black and white in an utter disappointment. At least give them to use at the start or end of the volume ADV, god, no wonder your manga division collapsed so fast.
Sadly, no. In the early aughts it was probably a little too bleak for a lot of people to take a chance on, and now its too old and too obscure for anyone to bother even though it totally would be great for one.
Weeb Level: Fairly minimal. Its closer attitude to crime stories means it avoids any of the usual tropes and Anna is arguably closer to a Manic Pixie Dream Girl than anything weeb-ish. A psychotic serial killer MPDG but one none the less.
Content: Fanservice is almost non-existent so thats good. It is fairly violent though, and while it keeps most of it to just off-page or in the shadows there is still a LOT of people getting hurt and killed here with a decent amount of blood splatter.
Worth Reading: Read it if you want something darker that explores a human mind as they lose touch with reality. Check it out if you want to read a more mature title like Monster but want to be done in one day instead of a month. Skip it if you have any qualms about the content as there’s nothing here to distract you from that.
Where to read it: Legally, well thats a bit difficult. ADV Manga was shut down not long after this was released and very few of their licenses were ever picked up by anyone else, this not being one of them, so the physical editions are long out of print and its not available digitally either. You can find copies on Amazon for less than 10 bucks, or you can sail the high seas of piracy and see if any of the scanlated versions are still around.