Being a big fan of Your Lie in April, I’m always eager to read new works from mangaka Naoshi Arakawa. So today I’m delighted to take a look at A School Frozen in Time Volume 1 from Vertical, which is one of Arakawa’s older series making it to English for the first time. Does it deliver an interesting read? Let’s find out!
The story follows Takano and Mizuki who are heading to school during a record snowfall. When they get there, they find the school is quiet, except for a handful of their classmates. As time goes on and their teacher doesn’t show up, the two decide to head home, only to find that they can’t leave the school!
As the group try to find a way to escape, they realise that they might be caught in some kind of supernatural phenomenon. A mysterious message appears on the classroom blackboard asking, “Do you remember?” and then the clock changes to 5:33 pm.
This leads the group to think back to the school festival two months ago where a student from their class committed suicide, but no matter how hard they try, they can’t remember who this person was. Eventually, Takano reasons that it must be one of them trapped here and to leave the school, they must work out which of them doesn’t belong. This sets each of the cast on the road to face their various demons, all in the hopes of remembering the person who was unfortunately pushed to the brink.
If you’ve read this far, then you’ll be under no illusion that A School Frozen in Time is a heavy story. The first page of this release even includes a warning about the focus on suicide, so if you aren’t okay with that for whatever reason, this won’t be a series for you.
When you think of Naoshi Arakawa’s works your first thought is no doubt going to be free-spirited characters and energetic main characters, so this series is certainly a big change compared to their other manga available in English. This is in part because this manga is based on a novel by Mizuki Tsujimura (Anime Supremacy!).
At first glance, the comedic and free-spirited artwork Arakawa provides clashes with the emotionally charged story Tsujimura has written. As the volume goes on, it becomes clear that having Arakawa handle the artwork helps to offer some relief between the doom and gloom. It also helps us get attached to the characters, which is especially important, given how many are introduced!
Trapped within the school are eight students, who all vaguely know each other and in some cases can even consider one another friends. Since this book only contains four chapters, there isn’t a great deal of time to get to know everyone. Having originally been one novel, now split into multiple volumes of manga, it’s always going to be difficult to make that transition and give the reader as much information as they would have otherwise had. Considering that, Arakawa has done a great job so far to get us as endeared to the cast as I was.
I also want to say that on the part of the author this is a very interesting mystery. There are plenty of red herrings and just enough information for you to want to see it through to the end – provided you’re okay with the whole premise.
A School Frozen in Time is finished in Japan at four volumes, which feels like the perfect length for it, given what I’ve seen so far. This series predates Arakawa’s more popular works in English, having run between 2007-2009 and that does show in the artwork which isn’t as polished as the current output. The characters are expressive, but backgrounds can be quite empty in a lot of panels. That said, Arakawa does use a lot of small panels anyway, so there isn’t always room for detailed backgrounds and it’s not as much of a problem as it could have been. Also, you may notice that a lot of the character designs look similar to those used in other Arakawa manga, which may bother you if you’re familiar with the other works.
As previously mentioned. A School Frozen in Time Volume 1 comes to the West thanks to Vertical and has been translated by Michelle Lin. The translation reads well with no issues to note and there are some helpful translation notes at the end. Also included in this first instalment is a colour page depicting some of the main cast. Volume 2 of the series is currently scheduled for release in June.
Overall, A School Frozen in Time Volume 1 brings together a gripping mystery with Naoshi Arakawa’s free-spirited artwork. With such a heavy premise, the series won’t be for everyone, but for those who are interested, I’m sure it will deliver a memorable experience.
A free preview can be read on Kodansha’s website here