I could not figure out if both Nina and Johan were brainwashed since babies, or if they were allowed to grow up with their mother at the “Three Frogs”. The manga shows how their mother tried to escape when she was about to give birth and she was caught. Yet, it does not give much details on how did the mother and the twins end up living at the “Three Frogs” and if they had contact with Franz Bonaparte during this time. Anyhow, I tried to give my own theory on why a monster started burrowing his way into Johan.
There are two points that seem crucial for the development of Johan. The first one is the Red Mansion where the slaughter took place orchestrated by Franz Bonaparte who was trying to erase traces of the experiment. The second point is the Kinderheim 511 orphanage where kids were further experimented upon. Was there a link between these two places?
It was the Red Mansion where the seminars were held as well. Where did Johan hear about the stories of Franz Bonaparte, if not at these seminars?
If they were into hiding, why would their mother give them the books of Franz Bonaparte to read if he was the enemy?
Was there more brainwashing before the Red Mansion’s slaughter?
Now my theory is that the twins participated in the seminars where Franz Bonaparte taught them of the concept of “no identity” and how one’s moral compass can be broken. If no one knows your name, if there is no one who can keep you tied up to your history, then you can become anything you want and you can do anything you want. If you accept your bad side, you can be free to live without struggles in this world. This might have been one of the messages that might have shaped the seminar kids’ lives.
Yet, Franz Bonaparte fell in love with the mother of the twins and helped her escape. That is why Johan knows about the storybooks before the Red Mansion slaughter and he reads them over and over again.
The mother of the twins might have tried to disguise her backstory and hide the fact she had twins. She lived quietly and she dressed them up with the same clothes and bought Johan a wig to look like his sister. The fact that the mother chose the figure of the daughter as the disguise might have been a coincidence. Yet, from my perspective it would have been much easier to cut Nina’s hair to make her look like her brother. Thus, there would be no issue of wigs. Anyway that might have been the author’s choice.
Now the crucial point comes when the mother was found and she had to decide which twin had to be taken for the final experiment that would awaken the demon of the story that had laid its foundation from the seminars. The mother had to decide. She had nowhere to go and she had to decide. Why did she not let the officers make the choice?
Yet, she chose. Did she know if she was choosing Nina or Johan since they were both identical and wearing the same clothes and with a wig? She happened to choose Nina. Why? Why? Was it the tightness of their grip? Did she choose depending on which of the kids was holding her hands more strongly? Did she sense that Johan was born with an already awakened demon and he would be more at risk?
Anyhow, I would like to believe she choose on a whim. A purposeless choice which would give rise to a purposeless monster.
Nina was taken to the Red Mansion and she was subjected to isolation where she was left on total darkness and could not hear a thing. Are these the conditions to turn a kid into a monster? Perfect solitude?
But Franz Bonaparte had not given up and wanted to redeem himself. He was no longer in control of the experiment, but he orchestrated the slaughter of all the people who knew about the experiment by giving them poisoned wine. Was this wine poisoned with cyanide? The weapon of choice of Johan later on?
Nina got out of her solitude box and witnessed dozens of people dead. What was what she truly saw?
(Nature? Lack of Meaning?) Franz Bonaparte came to her, advised her to forget about all of this and go back and live her life.
She escaped, and went back to Johan who was awaiting for her still wearing her sister’s clothes and wig. Was he pretending that he was alongside Nina all that time?
It was at this moment, he got rid of his wig. He became Johan and he listened to his sister’s story. Because of his mother’s choice, Johan felt guilt. He felt betrayed. His mother chose between the two and the point of who she chose has no meaning for it was at the moment she decided to choose that Johan was broken. He was saved from the atrocities of the Red Mansion but he decided to live those atrocities through his sister. Johan made her sister’s memories his.
What happened to their mother? Did Johan decide to escape with Nina because he found out he could not live with their mother anymore after she made the choice?
They might have well escaped from their mother. Having been part of an experiment since they were born, they had no names, no registries, thus they were no one’s kids. They were found at the border and separated into separate orphanages.
Why did Johan end up at Kinderheim 511? They said that the last survivor of Kinderheim 511 was Johan, so he could not have been there with Nina.
Was it again choice that brought him to Kinderheim? Or was it because only boys went to that orphanage?
Maybe there was indeed a link between Kinderheim 511 and the Red Mansion and that was the reason why the mother chose the twins to disguise themselves as girls. Maybe this might have been a reason why she chose the girl over the boy because a mother is supposed to know the difference between her kids even if they are identical twins (which they must not have been for twins cannot be identical if they have different genders). She chose the girl thinking that she would be denied entry to Kinderheim which was the final stop? That would be good although it turned out for the worst.
Anyhow Johan ended up there, separated from Nina and having seen betrayal and having been brainwashed, he decided to tell others the truth. I guess he might have been a master manipulator since he was able to manipulate himself as well.
The reason of those manipulation skills might have lied hidden behind the meaning of one of the other stories of Franz Bonaparte or Klaus Poppe (his other pen name). The story was about the Demon God who did good deeds for others but did not have time to look himself in the mirror. One day a kid gifted him a hat and he wanted to check how it looked and what he saw in the mirror was a monster.
People who think they are good, have simply forgotten to look at their inner self, where lies hidden a monster. Once you see the monster, there is no turning back. This is what Johan showed to people. And those serial killers who he manipulated so easily, had already seen their own monster but no one had acknowledged this bad side of theirs until Johan showed up. It was the acknowledgement of their monster and their acceptance by Johan that made others obey to him and fear him.
After all, people have two beings within themselves. We are taught to show only the good side, and we are cursed for showing even a tiny bit of the dark matter that eats our brain at night. But “the good” and “the bad” are ever present inside of us. We want others to acknowledge our bad side for that is what can bring us peace.
At the orphanage, when the slaughter began, having been orchestrated by Johan in remembrance of the Red Mansion’s slaughter, some kids hid in a cupboard place. They hid for many hours while the massacre kept going on outside. When it was quiet, one of them decided to go to check and he promised to come back to tell the others. But he left. One by one the kids betrayed each other and the disciple of Johan was the only one left at the cupboard. He waited and waited, and that was why he was saved by Johan. Because he did not leave and he did not betray. (This scene is to show that Johan could relate to others in some sort of level.)
After Kinderheim, Johan met with his sister and they escaped again. What was Johan’s goal now? Why did he kill any foster parent who showed them kindness? I suppose he did not trust them. He knew that at the crucial moment they would choose between him and Nina. Yet, he believed Nina and him were one and the same.
That is why he tells Nina that she could kill him and it would be alright for he was her and she was him. He was referencing the story of the two demons without names of Franz Bonaparte.
But why did he want to die? I suppose his whole goal was to kill people who could betray him and his sister. He also wanted to erase any traces of people who knew about them. Yet, in the process he changed his mind over and over again. During his plan he kept making more and more people know about his past. Plus, he never attempted to trace his mother who was actually in a hospital or mental facility as shown in the last chapter when Tenma goes to visit her. Did he want to live according to the story but change the ending?
He wanted to eat anyone who had ever known him and in the end he wanted to die by the hands of Nina, who he knew to be the demon who did not need a name. He wanted to die because in death all are equal, and that was the only way he could make up for his mother’s choice.