A School Frozen in Time, volume 1 review – the early work of two top creators

This month, we have the English language release of A School Frozen in Time, a hidden gem from two top tier creators. On a snowy school day like any other, classmates and childhood friends Hiroshi and Mizuki arrive at school to find the campus eerily empty. Before long, they find themselves trapped inside with six other friends, and even stranger, all the clocks have stopped at a very specific moment – the exact time when a former classmate jumped off the school roof to their death three months earlier. It turns out that this departed friend is their way out of their current predicament and may even be among their group… but no one can remember who it was that took their life on that sad day. The students must face themselves and their past memories to piece together the identity of this suicide victim or risk a similar fate – with their lives lost and forgotten inside these frigid school walls.

Originally an award-winning mystery novel, A School Frozen in Time is written by Mizuki Tsujimura, an acclaimed writer of crime and mystery novels. Her only other work to be released in English so far is Anime Supremacy, a brilliant novel that explore the trials and tribulations of women working in the anime industry. So it’s long overdue that we get a further look into her past projects. This manga adaptation is also the debut work of Naoshi Arakawa – who would go on to achieve huge success with Your Lie in April which was very popular with English speaking readers and became a hit anime series. His two football themed series Sayanora Football and Farewell, My Dear Cramer were also big hits, with an anime adaptation currently running. It’s definitely going to be a treat for fans to get a glance at his earliest work.

Aside from the appeal of the creators involved, this is a great mystery story to boot. Tsujimura provides a tense scenario and atmosphere that will keep the reader constantly on edge, making the eventual shocks and twists all the more impactful.  Along with the teenage angst, she’s not afraid to explore some difficult themes with suicide and depression being key factors in the story. This is supported by some fully rounded characters that all have their own degrees of insecurity. These aren’t the two-dimensional teen victims you often seen in slasher films. Mitsuru in particular gets the strongest spotlight in this volume as his past experience with being used as a support mechanism by someone suffering from depression takes a toll on him whilst his guilt that he can’t recuperate the feelings of a suicidal girl who asks him out makes it worse. His eventual confession to his long-time crush Rika amps things up further. Arakawa’s artwork is also strong, although lacking a bit of the refinement his current work does. The characters are a bit rougher and there is a bit less detail in the facial expressions departments, but I would argue this works better for this more thriller orientated work than the teen romance work he is now better known for.

This is an intriguing mystery manga that is already off to a good start, with the added bonus of being an opportunity to see two top creators’ early work. A must-buy for fans of both Tsujimura and Arakawa.

A School Frozen in Time, volume 1 is out now from Vertical (9781949980493, p/b, £10.99)

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