Freesia is set in an alternative Japanese society that is at war, and has passed a law legalizing retaliatory killings. If somebody kills your loved one, you are legally sanctioned to kill, or hire someone to kill, the victimizer. The manga is set around a character who works for a firm that specializes in these retaliatory killings.
Criminals do not always receive justice. If a murderer serves several years in prison and yet shows little change or remorse by the end of their sentence, should they be free to roam the streets and move on with their life? Written and drawn by the deranged Jiro Matsumoto, Freesia depicts a world where these criminals can be legally executed by a group of trained killers, formally known as 'enforcers'.
Rather than meeting a swift and painless end, targeted criminals are legally able to defend their lives by hiring a small group of bodyguards. If they cannot afford one (which is likely- a single bodyguard ranges in the hundreds of thousands of dollars) or do not have a friend willing to put their life on the line for their sake, the state will give them one free of charge. Or at least that is what they are led to believe. Far more often these 'free' bodyguards will abandon the criminal and leave them to an almost certain death. Corruption permeates the world of Freesia, but so too do many other awful things.
If legal assassination sounds implausible or absurd-- it kinda is. It would be one thing if these criminals were tried in a court and then executed via hanging or lethal injection, but instead innocent lives are put on the line for a twisted game of murder. I suppose entertainment in a story comes before realism.
Freesia is not a manga to be read while in high spirits. There are so many disgusting and inhumane events in the story that it is likely to make you pop a few anti-depressant pills. Gore, rape, betrayal, insanity, infidelity, corruption and domestic abuse are among the things that paint Freesia's cruel world. There is the ever-present theme of nihilism, and while it is not too overbearing, the lack of humanity in *any* of the characters is continually made apparent. Yamada is possibly the only character in the entire story who is not an absolutely terrible person, and that is even including the dozens of background characters who appear for only a few pages. This misanthropic portrayal of humanity feels a bit forced. The constant misogyny is also quite bothersome; if the girl has not been raped, she has been victimised or abused in some other way. On the other hand, all the male characters fall into the macho tough-guy persona. For a manga that deals with so much mature content, it can be awfully immature in how it chooses to portray it.
Thematic issues aside, Freesia does an excellent job of developing the main character, Kano. While he never becomes truly likeable, he does become more transparent. It is impossible to have any clue in hell what is going on with him at the start (what with his frequent hallucinations and out-of-place commentary), but his behaviour gradually becomes more coherent. Kano understands that something is driving him crazy and chooses to fix it. He realises that it was not the world around him, but he who was falling to insanity. He could have easily existed as a stereotypical anti-hero (the sort that 12-year-old boys go crazy over), but the mangaka thankfully treats Kano as a three-dimensional character. His role becomes less a plot device and more the central theme as the story treads on.
The same cannot be said for all the primary characters. Mizoguchi is as archetypical as they come, a cackling lunatic who kills for sport. He accidentally kills innocent bystanders during his job and does not bat an eye. He beats his wife and screams at her simply for doing as he asks. There is no redeeming feature in Mizoguchi. Not a one. A well-written character would at least have a believable personality, but Mizoguchi is a contemptible psychopath "just because". How did he become such a horrible person? Who knows. He receives little to no character development and exists largely as a catalyst for Kano's own issues. There is no excitement to his appearances; it is just another "Oh, great, it's this guy again!"
Freesia succeeds in making the reader care about the enforcements that take place. By spending several chapters developing the criminals' backstory and motives, it becomes difficult to decide who to root for. When they take that bullet to the face, they are permanently taken out of the story. It's always a bit of a bummer to see interesting characters perish in an instant (even if they were terrible people who deserved it). There is emotional weight to each and every major event.
There is also a bit of black humour spread throughout, such as during a scene where Kano casually sips his coffee as a bullet flies through the window right next to him. Are these moments even funny, though? ... Not really? It's hard to find humour in a world filled with chaos. Some of the scenes (like Kano having sex with his girlfriend on-top of his old, dying mother) are just downright disgusting. It takes a certain type of person to find scenes like that amusing, and I am definitely not one of them.
The artwork of Freesia is abrasive and sketch-like, though that isn't necessarily a bad thing. The lack of refinement makes the awful events of Freesia stand out all the more. Had it looked clean and polished, these scenes would only feel out-of-place. This does not excuse the many instances of lazy drawing, however. Panels frequently contain backgrounds that resemble doodles, while others (mostly the gore scenes) are drawn with expressive detail. There's absolutely no consistency to the artwork.
Is Freesia an enjoyable manga? Absolutely not. Is it a good one? Sometimes. There are some really interesting themes tucked away in here, but they are inevitably held back by the constant gore and childish misanthropy. Freesia regularly switches from maturity right back down to immaturity. It does not quite know what it wants to be or what it wants to say. It will take a skin of steel to handle the awful things Freesia throws at you, but if you can look past that you will find something much more thoughtful. Probably. read more
In a modern Japan inexplicably at war with vague foreigners, its prisons emptied to fill the military with soldiers, its population constantly reminded via loud speakers in public streets, we begin the tale with a delusional young man, Hiroshi, who talks to an imaginary friend while killing people with remarkable ease thanks to an interesting suppressed past.
This initially unflappable man gets a job working as a proxy for vengeance-seekers via a newly instated vengeance act. The act is so outrageous that even author Jiro Matsumoto is laughing while he writes this brilliant manga. We are looking at a Japan where courts receive petitions from victims of crimes, whereby local vengeance enforcer agencies inform the intended targets then use government proxy enforcers, aka assassins, to hunt down and kill whoever the victim has a problem with, regardless of whether the criminal has served time already or not.
This ludicrous notion is balanced out by informing the ex-convicts of the date of when the hunt will begin and by being allowed a weapon and even a bodyguard to defend themselves. "It's not a death sentence!" a character quips pleasantly. It’s a decisive and detailed government that is in control of Japan, detailed to the point of having a thick manual of rules and regulations guaranteeing the 'rights' of both proxy and target of retribution. A government that’s still following a political correctness-obsessed culture, and the result is both hilarious because of how close to reality Freesia's idiosyncratic world is, and horrific because of how it’s not but might be.
If the man who killed your loved ones is freed from prison, would you pay an agency to legally attempt to kill him for you? Would you legally attempt it yourself? Would you try to forget and move on? This is the world of Freesia. As bold and outrageous as the vengeance act is, its born of necessity to fight a war and to placate friends and families of victims who deem it unfair to free criminals early, or at all.
On top of the basic premise which is the backbone of the story, there is the added dimension of having a cast populated by mentally unstable narcissists butting heads constantly. The biggest conflict is between Hiroshi and a mystery woman, working for an enforcer agency, who gets under his skin making him doubt his entire way of life, to a fellow proxy enforcer who sees himself as a hunter and feels threatened by Hiroshi’s non-prey like atmosphere. Matsumoto ramps up the tension through numerous hallucinations and moments of reflection by Hiroshi who is the by-product of the insane environment depicted.
Jiro Matsumoto's wit is absolutely scathing. The black humour is dripping off almost each panel in this sordid tale, with nonchalant quips and payoffs that are so droll you have to be a fan of Kafka-esque lunacy to enjoy it, otherwise you'll turn away in clueless disgust.
Matsumoto's writing snakes its way through simple laughs like uninvited sex on top of a poor granny, to terribly mean-spirited wit like the first instance of the vengeance act being delivered to an uncomprehending mother of a killer who has already served time for his crime, and ultimately to more darker territory with harsh flashbacks of rape and murder that are anything but attempts to make you chuckle. The enormity of the consequences of having such a government sponsored act are fully explored through various situations, all of them unflinching as they should be.
In short: Matsumoto knows how to tell a tale and how to use humour. He knows exactly when to throw punches and pull them, (although in this case ‘pulling punches’ means having conventional humour and not something dreamt up from the lower depths of the demonic dimension) he knows when to inject a particular type of comedy into a scene, he is the master of the form and his punch-lines are devastating.
The art is in typical Matsumoto style, at first glance it’s as if he drew it in five seconds, but it’s all actually well detailed with many things going on in the background. The composition is skilful and overall it just all feels the complete opposite of the majority of polished manga out there. His art world looks lived in strangely enough. It’s the care and attention to detail despite how crude the art looks that is what gives it charm and the sense of aliveness about it.
Freesia has plenty of laughs but is not a mere comedy, it’s too detailed in its execution of the bold premise and too wildly satirical for that. Although it veers off into supernatural action hijinks at times, it maintains a surreal vibe about it consistent with the mental instability of most of its cast.
Freesia is of the same ilk as Joseph Heller's Catch-22, Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five, and Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club. It’s a mirror of the present, a notebook doodle imagining of the future; it’s the best kind of tale, full of rich content told vividly and with creative unabashed irreverent flair.read more
Freesia is a fairly simple-minded Psychological, Action, Drama and is the sort of manga you'll either enjoy reading or a get bored of it quickly.
This is about criminals who've been let out early because of overcrowding, so the government allowed a new "Vengeance Law" allowing people to hire Enforcers to kill ex-cons who have affected you or your family. This kind of story should be easy to follow but for some reason the author felt the need to add some complex psychological stuff. The plot is pretty interesting and has the potential to do well however the story does become very inconsistent, at times, where it adds in some random stuff like a war.
The artwork was pretty terrible to begin with, because the author is known for drawing everything all sketchy. It eventually improves later on but it still looks pretty crap.
The characters are all pretty insane, in some way, especially the main one (Kano)who's always talking to himself but at least one or 2 characters are developed well in the end. Well Freesia started of pretty crap but now that it's improved, it makes the people who have stuck at this manga, feel like reading the next volume. Let's just hope this story undergoes some major improvements.
As someone said elsewhere, Freesia is a great manga for traumatized people. The level of enjoyment that you will get from this manga depends on your ability (and willingness) to relate to a cast comprised exclusively of various kinds of broken people, maniacs and madmen. If it’s not your cup of tea, then you will, probably, see it as a weak political satire on modern society, full of forced gibberish dialogues and illogical actions. If you can get in sync with the characters’ idiosyncrasies, than you’ll read it as a witty essay on the two most important searches, that any person conducts throughout its life – the search for the goal and the search for the balance.
Freesia doesn’t allow sane characters into its main cast: the trio of protagonists consists of a clinically insane guy, a psycho and an idealist. The lead character, Kano, is an unstable schizophreniac, who experiences hallucinations, delusions and memory failures on daily basis. He somewhat compensates for this with his ability to become invisible. (The setting isn’t exactly realistic and allows for some usage of ESP powers.) While technically the plot is organized around the cases taken by the vengeance killing company, that employs the three main characters, the author is more interested in the personal stories of the company's workers and their victims. The manga explores how people affect each other in both physical and psychic ways. (The revenge agency really isn't the point, I have no idea, why people focus on talking about it in legths in the reviews.)
The best part about Freesia is that it is not safe. It doesn’t embellish its characters, it doesn’t pity them and even their darkest moments are shown mercilessly, all with a great dose of dark humor. Be warned though that the manga contains large amount of gore and several rape scenes.
The art won’t be to everyone’s liking. It is not pretty and it doesn’t try to be. Though, if you’ve read some works by Nihei or are familiar with Dorohedoro you will, most likely, discover its appeal. The drawings are raw, unpolished and gritty, backgrounds are overloaded with details, faces are often oversimplified for the sake of expressiveness. The composition is superb. The art slightly changes from volume to volume: the first ones are a bit unpolished, the last two have slightly different tone to them.
Freesia has most of the features, characteristic of Matsumoto’s works – it is dark, dirty, satirical and twisted. But while some of his latest mangas seem to be style over substance, Freesia is still very focused and content-rich. It is a very mature and, in the end, very humane statement on the complicated art of living and on the way we have to fight constantly with the world in and around us.read more