Let's be honest: this series is a toned-down version of "Claymore." The fights are brutal, the ladies are powerful, the monsters are terrifying... and it's ripped right from the disturbing series we all know and love. Don't get me wrong — I'm not saying "Freezing" is a total knock-off of "Claymore," but that many elements were borrowed from the older manga/anime. While I was a little suspicious from the get-go ("Claymore" has ruined "young women fight terrible monsters"-based stories for me forever), what really sealed it was the revelation that Pandoras can become Novas, whether unwillingly or willingly. While this seems pretty innocuous, the idea that these young women can transform when pressed hard enough (or by activating the Stigma's full potential) comes off as derivative. Another problem with "Freezing" is that it vacillates between gripping and dull. The battles are consistently hopeless and gory, to the point that the Pandoras seem pretty useless. Unlike series such as "Berserk" and "Claymore," in which battles may involve a large loss of life, individual attention is paid to the combatants; in other words, we actually have a reason to care about what is going on. In "Freezing," however, scores of anonymous young women are slaughtered without us ever knowing who they are. At the same time, the main characters have immunity to this, or at least, that's how it seems. If the battles alternated in scope, "Freezing" would actually be a very interesting series (that is, not all battles involved massive amounts of death — some may be minor skirmishes, others are devastating struggles). I just can't be immersed in a story in which everything seems pointless, in which everything seems to be going downhill (there are series that can pull this off and keep my interest, however, but they are character-driven). Finally, the creators of the manga seem determined to sap all hope and life from the series. Take, for instance, Cassie: a character who deserves to be happy and alive, a character who has found love... she probably won't make it out of the series alive. Some manga can pull your heart-strings like this and make it work; this one doesn't. I only hope that the creators stop being so derivative and actually make this into an engaging, deep series.
Idiot plot? Rape fetish?
The good: The characters are diverse, well written. The background, and the world setting are very realistic and internally consistent. The threat is real, menacing, and completely mysterious. The art is also well drawn. Characters are easy to tell apart. Also, Chevalier acts as expected for a nebulous organization with unlimited power, funds, and little to no oversight. The bad: Not only does the author seem to have some kind of rape fetish, but each arc is just one idiot plot after another. Start: Stella's backstory. Sexual harassment in spades by her half brother. Outright rape is only barely avoided. What's the best way the powers that be see to train their soldiers? Have them fight with live weapons in a "carnival" to the point of unconsciousness or death to see who's the strongest. Apparently, from that point on, the strongest gets to brutalize everyone else in her class, and the senior students can brutalize their juniors. In universe, this is called "military discipline." Can anyone explain what military in a civilized society allows their officers to brutalize their subordinates? In fact, a third year, Miyabi, decides to "claim" the new transfer student, Kazuya, whether he consents or not, and when he refuses, she, in essence, tries to rape him. She also decides to have Stella raped for coming to his defense. When Stella ACTUALLY DEFENDS HERSELF, the entire class of third years, minus Chiffon, decides it's a good idea to beat her into submission. (Furthermore, the teachers do nothing to stop any of this.) El Bridget resort: Violet: Really? Trapping Lois and Satellizer on an island with no way to leave sounded good to you? Poor Holly. Alaska Arc: So the best way to answer a soldier's questions regarding the efficacy of a drug upon which the lives of all personnel in the base may well depend is electric torture? Oh, and the best way to treat subjects of a drug trial is to kill them when the drug doesn't work as intended, and let them know it? Busters Arc: The best way to eliminate Gengo Aoi "quietly" and with plausible deniability is to let four of the most mentally unstable people possible go on a rampage using equipment effectively stamped with your name, who see nothing wrong with BRAGGING ABOUT IT? After promising them a "get out of jail free card?" Why does no one ever bother to train Kazuya Aoi?
Seriously Flawed, But Entertaining
To make things seem a little less sour, I'll start with the bad and end with the good. The Bad: The setting itself and the plot, while fun, require you to turn off your brain for a while. As has been mentioned elsewhere, Genetics as a military institution is laughable. Sure, one could look at it as part of a borderline-Crapsack World in which the rich control things to their liking, damn everything else (Satellizer, for example, gains stigma/stigmata through her family's wealth), but treating humanity's last hope like an expensive boarding school serves little realistic purpose, other than setting up a typical boarding school for people with magical abilities plot. This wouldn't be a problem, except for the somewhat irritating point that some characters have of making the point that THIS IS A MILITARY SCHOOL. Unlike others, I did not find the bullying particularly unrealistic, given that the world has some serious flaws. The fight scenes are decent, but unfortunately follow a pattern that makes them pretty dull: Satellizer gets beat up, then pulls some new level of power out of her rear and beats her previously unbeatable opponent. Or, Satellizer gets beat up, Kazuya gets mad and uses freezing, then Satellizer pulls more power out of her rear and wins. This fight dynamic is fairly weak. Against the Novas, the Pandoras seem relatively weak (which would be fine), but for some reason never seem to use Pandora Mode (did the authors forget about it?). Also, the Novas themselves leave much to be explained (such as why not attack in larger numbers) but given that the series is still young, I will let this slide. Most characters are flat and, while somewhat interesting, aren't particularly notable. Lana is one (extremely annoying) example. The less that is said about Louis and his whole arc, beyond Satellizer's wonderful character development, the better. The Good: The art is well-done. There are a good number of fleshed-out characters (Satellizer, Kazuya- if just a bit, Ingrid and Cassie are good examples). Personally, I did not find them to be compelling, but I do recognize the strengths of their characterization. Overall, I'd like to point out that this is a fun read. I did not find it that good, but I read all 50-some chapters available on Manga Fox, and was entertained. If you want a quick read with some potential, this is it.