Freezing — Manga and Anime

So, after watching Freezing ep. 3, I got the urge to back to the manga and pick up from where the anime currently was. After I spent a couple of hours re-reading it, I was fairly annoyed that it left off where it did– I really wanted more of it. Mainlined like that, a lot of the earlier problems I had with it went away. The major problem I’d had was that too many girls got added too fast, and I couldn’t keep track of them, reading a chapter or two every few months. Reading through it all at once, it was much easier to keep track of them and grasp the subtleties. Also, I had apparently missed the chapter with Sattela’s back story. Then I wrote this review, and…

Let it sit in draft purgatory, while I tried to fix issues with taking screenshots. I never solved them, and the article remained in draft, for months. There’s an indication that I scheduled it to appear anyway, but I don’t see it in the list for January. (Actually, it looks like the post scheduling feature has failed, perhaps more than once and I never noticed, as I tried to get this to appear yesterday.) I’ve now rescued it (again?) and updated it slightly. Read on, but there aren’t any more screenshots like in the first article. I’m working on a solution to that.

The setting is Japan, 2061. Beings from another dimension, known as Nova, are attacking humanity. The novas generally resemble humans, especially in the face, but are 10-30 meters tall, and are extremely powerful. They also have a habit of heading straight to an occupied area and blowing up in, if not Earth-Shattering Kabooms, at least city-busting ones. This may not be a case of “Tokyo is the Center of the World”, but Japan appears to be the major target and have the lead in defenses. It has established two schools, called ‘East Genetics’ and ‘West Genetics,’ to train special fighters, because conventional weapons are useless against Novas. They can project a “freezing” zone around them, which takes a few moments to manifest, but nothing can move within it. Their weaponry appears to be mostly short range at first, though quite powerful.

The family of El Bridgette owns “L Corp” which is a huge defense contractor, behind most of the bio/techno-innovations, funds the schools, and is generally considered to be very, very powerful, if somewhat private. The only system capable of fighting the Novas are paired boy-girl teams, as young as 15. The girls implant 2-4 “Stigma” crystals into their bodies, usually on the back. The actual source is secret; they are small (1/2″) crystals that merge with their bodies to give them increased strength, reflexes, super-speed, and other abilities. Afterward, the women are known as “Pandoras.” Beyond those abilities they have a “Pandora mode” which enhances all the above, including a super-leaping ability that approaches flying. They can move within a nova’s freezing radius, and manifest weapons (or sometimes armor) capable of damaging Nova, but every girl’s is different. The number of chips is limited; when a Pandora dies or retires, their chips are transferred to other girls if possible.

Once the chips have matured to a certain point in the female (takes about a year), one of them is removed, and implanted in a male partner, usually a year younger. Thus sophomore girls partner with freshman boys, who become known as Limiters. They do not get the same super-abilities of the women though they do gain some powers (such as “freezing”). Beyond that, there is no formal process; the girls and guys are left to sort it out themselves, because, well, there’s this strange effect — their five senses can be linked in what is known as an Erinbar Set; so that each feels everything the other does. You can imagine the implications among a bunch of randy teenagers. The process of the transfer is known as “baptism” and there’s some hints that it might involve a little more personal exchange than some kind of biological chip. It can, however, be done very quickly in emergency situations, and it doesn’t have to be one-on-one; there’s one senior with three limiters. Once the transfer is complete, not only are the two (or more) linked, but the male (after the chip matures a bit more) now has the power to neutralize a Nova’s Freezing and deploy one of his own. While the females attack, the males lock the Nova down, but their own defenses are limited. Therefore the pandora/limiters operate in teams of about 6-8 pairs, in which some Pandoras are Decoys (protecting the others), some are Strikers (that breach the armor) and one’s the Finisher, who destroys the sphere that seems to power the Nova. In a pinch, one girl did it alone once, but she was a special case.

The schools are military academies; like any such, the class levels are military ranks themselves. However, in addition to the normal three years, there is a 4th year, made up of students that were good enough to be inducted into the reserves, and who desire to go on to active duty. These are available to reinforce the active Pandora/Limiter teams. In a dire emergency, 3rd years can be deployed also, and there’s one case of a team of 1st and 2nd years that were attacked in the middle of a training exercise. It didn’t go well for them; they lacked the high end skills, and the males’ chips weren’t fully matured/integrated yet. Some of them are seniors as of the current story. One who would have been died saving the others.

Similarly, several years before the start of the story, the heroine Aoi Kazuha died in battle, taking out a very powerful Nova single-handedly (Yes, she was the special case). It cost her life. She was special; whereas most girls can host 2-4 stigma, and 6 stigma marks an elite, she had twenty. She developed most of the high-end skills used by Pandoras as of the series opening, but her dying nearly crushed her younger brother, Aoi Kazuya. (Talk about confusing names). Now, as the story begins, he is transferring to West Genetics as a freshman. And unknown to anyone but the government, he’s special also.

Unfortunately, he ends up in the middle of the final match of “Carnival”, which is an extremely violent deathmatch (or at least it would kill any non-Pandora). It’s sophomores only, and the contest establishes the pecking order among the women. Sattelizer El Bridgette, “Satella” to her friends, (of which she has precisely none), “The Untouchable Queen” to her detractors (of which she has many), has mercilessly and emotionlessly cut her bloody way through her mostly-terrified classmates and is about to dispatch Ganessa, the #2 ranked girl when Aoi sees her. Mistaking her for his sister from behind (despite a radical difference in hair color!) he runs forward and tackle-hugs her, somehow ending up face-planting. (He came at her from behind and face-plants? Wow, that’s talent!). Bear in mind that it’s later revealed that she damn near killed her prior partner when the Erinbar set kicked in. Her punishment? She was suspended for a year. They really threw the book at her, didn’t they? It’s assumed she got off because of her family connections, but it’s entirely possible that it was also because she’s a six-stigma Pandora.

Everyone is “OMG! HE’S DEAD!!!!” only to be stunned when not only does she not kill him instantly, she even blushes and acts like a weak schoolgirl. Then it gets really weird, as a Freezing field deploys around her. Stuck and unable to move, Satellizer is quickly finished by Ganessa, who scores the first-ever victory by anyone over her. (Except for the aforementioned incident, which required a team of seniors to bring her down.)

Kazuya feels guilty over costing her the victory, so when he chances to encounter her later, he tries to apologize. He grabs her hand, and again she reacts completely the opposite of what everyone expects. Then Ganessa shows up to vindictively abuse Satellizer. Kazuya defends her, and Ganessa turns on him. From this point on, the two of them, Kazuya and Satellizer, end up in a spiral of mutual obligations as her enemies think she’s slipping, and start coming after her — and he tries to help. It’s profoundly obvious to him that she’s lonely and confused; of course he doesn’t know her history, so he ignores the warnings to stay away from her. For her part, she doesn’t understand why he’s the only person who can touch her without causing a violent reflexive reaction. The anime has hinted but never really gotten there yet, but it has to do with what you might expect… let’s just say she’s not on as positive of terms with everyone in her family as everyone might think. (The manga was quite explicit and dark.)

But the seniors don’t fear Satellizer, and that’s a mistake. When Miyabi, the senior with three Limiters, picks a fight with her over Kazuya, Satellizer loses and is subjected to tremendous humiliation — and Kazuya suddenly manifests an impossible Freezing field so strong, it stops all four of them in their tracks instantly. But not Satellizer; she’s free to move, as if they were paired. By the time the school president arrives to stop her, the guys are all unconscious, Miyabi is begging for mercy and Satellizer is on the verge of killing her outright — she stops, not at the president’s request, but Kazuya’s. This is the point at which episode 3 ends (she gets brigged for a week this time).

Unfortunately one does not challenge the pecking order lightly, A loss by a senior to a 2nd year brings in most of the top seven ranked girls in the entire school out against Satellizer, and they begin a campaign of challenges and deception to destroy her.

I’ll skip the gory details (and they are sometimes fairly gory), but eventually a second girl (Lana in the anime, Rina in the manga — alternate translation) shows up, and Kazuha is also compatible with her. It’s only briefly a harem setup that gives Satellizer a much more likeable, but unfortunately naive, rival. They’re manipulated into fighting, but what’s important here is that, over the course of the battle, at first with Lana, and then later alongside Rina against two seniors, Satellizer is pounded into a bloody mess by the use of high-end skills she’s never encountered before — until she learns to duplicate, and in some cases, improve on them. In the course of perhaps a half-hour of fighting, she advances about two years worth of skills. The abuse turns out to be a blessing in disguise when the war turns hot…

Gven the 12 episode cour, I wasn’t sure that they’d get to the point that the scanlations had reached at the start of 2011. They did, but included a terrible anime-original episode with a beauty pageant. Nova attacks used to be years apart and by singletons, but at the end of the series, the war went very, very hot, with an unprecedented attack by four Novas that are not only using strategy for the first time ever, they’re exhibiting new powers, and using captured Pandoras as catspaws. It’s a deadly series of battles, but the Novas are after a secret hidden at West Genetics… the source of the stigma crystals. . Unlike the manga, they made it explicit that there’s a certain scientist hidden behind the scenes, working with the government. A certain Dr. Aoi, as it happens…..

One of the things they did that really helps is that the ED contains a montage of all the girls, with their names. So even though “Elizibeth Mayberry” only appears briefly in a couple of stories, it’s not hard to spot her; given her importance among the seniors that’s a good thing. Given that she’s stacked like.. um, never mind. On with the review. It also helps to separate Gannessa from Ingrid; as both are redheads; they’ve got slightly different builds, but it’s hard to tell in the close-up. While there are more blondes and redheads than you’d expect, there are no weird green or purple-haired girls.

Is this show worth watching? Depends on what you’re looking for. Lots of bare tits, upskirt shots, semi-dressed girls. But character development isn’t a strong part of the show; it’s there, but the focus it on the breasts and the fighting. Animation’s average, with a lot of CG enhancement anytime something technical is onscreen. The OP and ED are not bad, BGM is unnoticeable thus far, but mostly the show is bloody and violent as well as sexy — a typicality of Kim Dal Il mangas. Unfortunately, the girls aren’t really rounded out; enemies aren’t developed, and the males are afterthoughts (even Kazuya). Nor is the plot complex or deeply laid; I called “seinen with tits” and I still stand by that description. Much to my regret, the writers have not tried to address these shortcomings from the manga; it’s questionable whether they might have actually made them worse.

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