Helen McCarthy checks out an old school, with new shorter uniforms
Imagine the old-school genetic-supremacist whimsy of Mamoru Nagano's Five Star Stories and the alien threat of Evangelion, crashed into the violent fan-service ethic of Ikki Tousen. That's Freezing.
Once again, only high school girls can save the world from alien invasion. This time, the girls are genetically engineered beings called Pandoras. Their power is enormous, but they must still be assisted and controlled by an outside force. Enter the all-male Limiters. To be a Limiter one must have an inborn ability called "freezing". This limits the enemy's movement when a Pandora is fighting. Limiter Kazuya Aoi, whose late sister was a Pandora, decides to become the partner of a powerful but cold-hearted Pandora with a horror of being touched.
The arcanely named techniques, ranks and titles rework Nagano's concepts for a new generation. The less pleasant aspects are reworked too: exploitation under the guise of seeking "soulmates", slavery, disposable lower orders and genetic experimentation on children. The neo-Victorian costume elements are symbolic as well as decorative: in this version of the world, the true power of women can only be exercised through men. But it's the slam-bang action and the absurdly overdeveloped bosoms that give Freezing its unique appeal. Nagano draws his girls slim to the point of etiolation. Kim Kwang-Hyun, the artist on Freezing, doesn't.
Author Lim Dall-Young has had success both as a comics artist in his ancestral land, with Unbalance Unbalance, Zero, Aflame Inferno, Black God (animated in 2008 by Sunrise as Kurokami The Animation) and Freezing. Artist Kim worked with him on Aflame Inferno before signing up for Freezing. The Freezing manga was launched in Comic Valkyrie in 2006, and had clocked up seven collected volumes by the time anime production house Media Factory announced that the anime would make its Japanese TV debut in 2011. Funimation signed an online simulcast deal for the show, making it available to fans across America on a schedule that made piracy, if not unprofitable, much less excusable.
South Korea has become increasingly important in the animation world over the past two decades, both in its own right as a creative force, and as a major contributor to the making of anime. There is a sizeable ethnic Korean population within Japan; talent-hungry Japanese publishers and production houses have begun to hire artists of Korean descent as well as outsourcing work to Korea.
The crew is a solid one: Takashi Boogiepop Phantom Watanabe directs, Masanao Akahoshi (The Big O, Demon King Daimao, Ikki Tousen) and Takao Yoshioka, who worked with Akahoshi on Demon King Daimao and Ikki Tousen, provide the scripts. Masaru Yokoyama's music is driving and dynamic. It all adds up to content that does exactly what the box art promises. Girls kick alien ass, let off steam with the odd cat-fight for rank and supremacy, and are, ultimately, just looking for love in a harsh universe: same old ideas dressed in new and skimpier outfits.
Freezing is available on UK DVD from Manga Entertainment.