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Manga / Hollow Fields

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Step one: put his soul in a box.

Hollow Fields is an OEL Manga series written and illustrated by Australian artist Madeleine Rosca and published by Seven Seas Entertainment. Spanning three volumes, the first was released in June of 2007, with the final volume out on January 6th, 2009. Hollow Fields placed Rosca among four winners of the first ever International Manga Award in Japan.

It follows the adventures of a girl named Lucy Snow as she attends Miss Eleanor Weaver's Academy for the Scientifically Gifted and Ethically Unfettered (also known as Hollow Fields); where steam-powered teachers, called Engineers, teach students various aspects of mad science. Each week, the student with the lowest grades gets sent to the Windmill, whence no one has ever returned. She barely manages to avoid detention with the tutelage of the mechanical box Dr. Bleak and soon decides to investigate the mysteries of the windmill with her new friend, Claude McGinty. All the while, Lucy must try to make nice with the other students, some of whom are out for blood.

A prequel, titled The Clockwork Sky, tells the story of Mr. Croach's niece, Sally Peppers, and his most recent creation, a robotic police boy named Sky, who has the mysterious ability to dream.

Tropes Demonstrated:

  • Alpha Bitch: Summer Polanski.
  • And I Must Scream: Anyone who has had their soul transferred to a clockwork device, which includes Doctor Bleak and Francine.
  • Artificial Human
  • Bad Powers, Good People: Invoked by Doctor Bleak at the end, when he plans to make benevolent use out of mad science.
  • Being Good Sucks: Summer admits this when she begrudgingly enrolls under Doctor Bleak's new rules, knowing that she'll have to use mad science respectfully from now on.
  • Beta Bitch: Carmen until her Hidden Depths show.
  • Big Good: Doctor Bleak, the husband of Miss Weaver and an acclaimed scientist in his day. By the end of the story, he takes command of Hollow Fields, and promises to teach mad science for the sake of good.
  • Big Red Button: Summer's death machine falls apart once the huge screw on its top is gone.
  • Bio-Augmentation: One of the classes at Hollow Fields.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Volume 3 ends this way. Miss Weaver is vanquished, and Hollow Fields is now under the leadership of Doctor Bleak, who promises to teach students how to use mad science for good. However, Claude is forced to stay on the premises, due to a lethal Tracking Chip implanted on him much earlier in the story, Francine is still missing a body, and Hollow Fields is in a state of ruin.
  • Blind Obedience: Miss Notch in the present. In flashbacks, she's still clearly doubtful of Miss Weaver's intentions.
  • Bomb Disposal: Miss Weaver's test for Lucy.
  • Boarding School of Horrors
  • Child Prodigy: Nearly all the Students
  • Clockwork Creature
  • Clock Punk
  • Cool Toy: Owned by Lucy.
  • Companion Cube: Except this one really does talk.
  • Creepy Child: The Windmill Children
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Any battle with Carmen's golem. It loses to Lucy after being tripped over, then defeats Mr. Croach by grabbing him and throwing him aside.
  • Cynical Mentor: Doctor Bleak is one to Lucy. He's invaluable to Lucy's knowledge and survival within Hollow Fields, but insists that the other kids are irredeemable and can't be trusted. He eventually realizes that this isn't the students' fault, but the system they're kept in.
  • Death Trap: Summer builds one of these to get rid of Lucy and Claude.
  • Doomsday Device
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Stinch catches on by the climax that none of the other Engineers have given him the respect he deserves, and has a Villainous Breakdown because of this.
  • Eating Lunch Alone: Lucy and Simon.
  • Empty Shell: Miss Weaver's goal in her personal experiment is to be able to remove children's bodies of their personalities, making them capable of being vessels for the aging Engineers. The thousands of failed experiments have become this anyway, having lost their memories and essentially become a horde of zombies.
  • Elegant Gothic Lolita: Summer in the Remnant Room chapters, along with a Parasol of Prettiness.
  • Enfant Terrible: Summer Polanski
  • Extranormal Institute
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Carmen is willing to help Summer lower Lucy and Claude into a Death Trap, only to be horrified when she realizes it will actually kill them, rather than just scare them. This is when her Hidden Depths begin to show.
  • Evil Feels Good: Summer's moment under Being Good Sucks implies that she really enjoyed being a malicious Mad Scientist.
  • Evil Weapon: Stinch's Crook
  • Former Friend of Alpha Bitch: Carmen dumps Summer after the latter shows herself to be an Ungrateful Bastard.
  • Freudian Trio
  • Gadgeteer Genius
  • Giant Equals Invincible: Averted
  • Girl Posse: An Elementary School version.
  • Gonk: Miss Scurt. Just imagine Stinch in drag.
  • Grave Robbing: It's an actual class.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Summer is very often this.
  • Hate Sink: Summer Polanski makes her debut sucker punching Lucy and berating her, and continues to torment her in every other appearance. Worse yet, she has the highest grades in the school, meaning she isn't being sent to detention anytime soon.
  • Hospital Hottie: Miss Ricketts
  • Hot Teacher
  • If I Can't Have You: Summer claims that it's Nothing Personal, but if Lucy hadn't teamed up with Claude, she wouldn't have activated her Death Trap on them.
  • Immortality Immorality
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Lucy is too nice to be corrupted by the negative atmosphere of Hollow Fields.
  • Irony
    • When Lucy first joined Hollow Fields, she was given flak by ace student Summer for being too naive. Under Doctor Bleak's authority, Lucy is now the ace student, and Summer is the Black Sheep for stubbornly keeping her old ways.
    • In flashbacks, Miss Weaver insisted on transferring her body to a clockwork body instead of a steam-powered one, as she trusted her field of research more than she did this new, then-unfamiliar science. She doesn't survive in the end because Lucy was able to take advantage of her weakness: the Wind-Up Key needed to keep her body in motion.
    • Miss Rickets was the only Engineer to transfer her soul to a child's body for an extended life span, and disappeared in the end along with Miss Weaver because she resembled the sister of one of the Windmill Children (and couldn't fight them off with her now child-like strength).
    • A painful example is described under Yank the Dog's Chain: Claude is the student most anxious to leave Hollow Fields, but is the only one in the end that can't leave at all.note 
  • Jerk With A Heart Of Jerk: Summer shows signs of warming up to Lucy in Chapter 8, only to drop her and Claude into a Death Trap.
  • Just Following Orders: Miss Notch's defining character flaw. As a human, she readily obeyed Miss Weaver's commands, even when she knew what she was doing was wrong; her expressions of uncertainty show this. In the present, she remains Weaver's most loyal Engineer, even though she doesn't share her malicious intent or even act evil.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Lucy Snow has difficulty making friends with any of the other kids, who either bully her alongside Summer or just push her away. Then again, these are mad scientists in training, and influencing them to be nice like Lucy is not on Miss Weaver's agenda.
  • Late for School
  • Losing Your Head: Mr. Croach's body completely falls apart in the climax, reducing him to this in the ending.
  • Lotus-Eater Machine: The Windmill turns out to be this for the failed experiments. Being too brain-dead to realize their situation, all they care about are the new kids that are sent here every week, in which they show excessive glee.
  • Mad Doctor
  • Mad Scientist
  • Mecha-Mooks
  • Mood-Swinger
  • My Little Panzer: Summer's rabbit, and Dino, after some alterations.
  • Nice Girl: Lucy Snow, who stands out among the meaner kids.
  • Ninja Maid: Miss Notch
  • No Indoor Voice: Mr. Croach. For someone with a decaying body, his larynx holds up very well.
  • The Noseless: The art style makes noses appear almost never, especially with the children.
  • Nonuniform Uniform: Lucy wears stripped red and black tights/leggings, where most of the other girls wear plain socks, tights and knee/thigh-highs.
  • Plot Coupon: The Key to Hollow Fields.
  • Plucky Girl: Lucy.
  • Ray Gun: Specifically an Ivy-Ray
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: All the Engineers have these by the time Lucy shows up, though at least some of them had different colors once.
  • Room 101: The Windmill. Double Subverted: At first, Simon tells Lucy that it isn't so bad in the Windmill, only for him to retract his statement when he realizes how much worse she and Claude will be punished than the others.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Upon his introduction, Simon was the only nice kid in Hollow Fields other than Lucy. He’s the first character shown to be sent to the Windmill, but later re-appears as a ghoulish shell of himself.
  • Sadist Teacher: Miss Weaver and Mr. Croach are the most obvious examples, but most of the Engineers fall under this.
  • School for Scheming: Hollow Fields itself, and an occasionally mentioned rival school called Great Gears.
  • School Nurse: Miss Ricketts.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!
  • Spooky Silent Library
  • Steampunk
  • Stockholm Syndrome: The Windmill Children look up to Miss Weaver, despite her having put them in their state of mind in the first place.
  • Stranger in a Strange School
  • Trash the Set: The Engineers bring Hollow Fields to ruin in Volume 3.
  • Two Girls and a Guy: Lucy, Claude, and Carmen.
  • Verbal Tic: Miss Notch refers to female students by "mademoiselle."
  • Walking Spoiler: The Windmill Children. Knowing what happened to them in the Windmill, why it happened, and what they've become are all huge spoilers that tie into the central mystery behind Hollow Fields.
  • Was Once a Man: Most of the Engineers.
  • Wind-Up Key: Miss Weaver depends on one to keep her body in motion.
  • Woman Scorned: In the flashbacks, Miss Weaver is revealed to have been Dr. Bleak's wife. He didn't respect her as a scientist, and in order to further her own goals and get him out of the picture, she put his soul inside a clockwork box.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Claude spends the entire series trying to escape from Hollow Fields. He seems to get this opportunity in the end, but is stopped by the Tracking Chip implanted on him, even though Miss Weaver has already been defeated and the other students have the freedom to leave.