In 1975, Aaron Spelling produced a little television show called CHARLIE'S ANGELS featuring three beautiful women solving crimes and running about without, er, proper upper body support. This dose of daytime televised sexuality grew popular and before long shows like THREE'S COMPANY, BIONIC WOMAN, and WONDER WOMAN would make up a new genre called "the jiggle show." The shows themselves may have been funny or interesting, but the real hook lay in seeing the ladies jumping around and acting in an animated fashion, making their, er, assets exponentially more noticeable.
What's the point of bringing up this thirty-eight-year-old television tidbit? Because FREEZING, a series about women trained to fight extra-dimensional monsters, is the anime equivalent of a jiggle show. The show's cadre of busty females with semi-ridiculous names run, jump, and fight, often exposing their underwear or undergoing suit transformations that expose their bare bodies. They also lose their shirts more often than James T. Kirk. FREEZING's obsession with the female form is certainly not an anomaly, SEKEREI was pretty similar, but the nudity and panty shots go far beyond cheeky fanservice. FREEZING pushes the boundaries as much as it can, stopping just short of being porn.
Japan is at war with the Nova, a race of extra-dimensional monsters that can phase into our reality, incapacitating humans with their unique "freezing" technique before causing all sorts of rampant destruction. To combat this menace, military academies were created to train women to become Pandoras and wield special Volt technology, allowing them to materialize weapons and access superhuman abilities. Supporting these Pandoras are Limiters, young men functioning as support by countering the Nova's freeze ability with their own, allowing the women to get in close enough to destroy the creatures.
West Genetics Academy is the new home for Kazuya Aoi. A transfer student, he is led around the grounds by the president of the student council until he comes across a tall, stoic woman named Satellizer el Bridget, whose combat prowess is so exceptional she is referred as The Untouchable Queen. That is, until she crosses paths with Kazuya. Overwhelmed by emotion, he mistakes the woman for his dead sister and embraces her wildly, his face firmly placed within her fleshy chest. (Yes, it is as weird as it sounds.) This causes just enough of a distraction for her rival to step in and cut her down for the very first time. The skirmish exposes the harsh reality of the academy. The girls are trained to become vicious fighters, instilling the spirit of competition between them. While school holds a battle royale event called the Carnival every year, which allows sanctioned fighting between students, no one really stops them from duking it out on school grounds.
It is difficult to find enjoyment with FREEZING because of its not-quite-subtle masochism. The series is clearly intended to arouse a specific demographic, a task that is accomplished at the expense of putting women into danger and inflicting as much violence against them as possible. To be a Pandora is to know pain. The process of grafting a Volt system, called the Stigmata, involves harsh surgical procedures. Volt technology comes with the Wolverine-like ability to heal injuries at a faster than normal rate. Limbs can also be regrown. Thanks to this gift, the women are often shown being beaten, stabbed, and sliced senseless by an array of dangerous weapons ranging from swords, axes, and spiked chains. These weapons are also capable of tearing away their clothing, which is something that happens frequently. Hardened by their experiences, most of the students are ferocious bullies, acting under a survival of the fittest frame of mind. This causes Kazuya to be harassed from time to time, although his treatment pales in comparison to the suffering Satellizer experiences. When Kazuya catches the eye of a hypersexualized, man-eating upperclassman, she humiliates poor Satellizer by tearing off her clothes, fondling and forcing her into thoroughly humiliating positions while her fellow Limiters take pictures with their camera phones. Satellizer is hardly defenseless and manages to fight back against her opponents, but seeing her suffer under her upperclassman gets to be way too much. Satellizer's past reveals a harsh childhood under the heel of her sadisitic stepbrother who pretty much raped her at every opportunity.
When not bloodied or having their unmentionables exposed to the student body, FREEZING treats its characters as sex objects. It is a Pandora's duty to choose a Limiter that will support her in battle through a process called "Baptism," which implies that the woman initiates some form of sexual contact with her chosen boy. Nearly all of the major characters are incredibly well endowed, their figures nearly bursting through their uniforms. The title cards placed within each act break show each woman in various forms of undress and seductive poses. In battle, when a woman activates her higher level Volt tech, she moans with pleasure. The academy's beauty pageant has the girls prancing around in skimpy outfits to delight the boys. It is all absolutely ridiculous. And what of the men? They simply stand on the sidelines, doing very little (if anything) to stop the girls from hurting each other.
FREEZING would have been a good series if it didn't treat women so disrespectfully. The animation is detailed, bright, and colorful, blending CGI effects with traditional animation. The show's idea is interesting, but with the emphasis placed on depicting day to day academy life, the threat the Novas represent is lessened, especially since they don't make any real appearances until late into the show. The biblical references feel a little out of place and under-served, as if it's trying to evoke memories of NEON GENESIS EVANGELION.
FREEZING is a hard series to recommend. It can be sexy when it isn't incredibly exploitive. It isn't nearly as bad as MASTER OF THE MARTIAL HEART, though it gets pretty close.
FREEZING: THE COMPLETE SERIES
directed by Takashi Watanabe
300 minutes, Number of Discs: 4
Company Age Rating: 16+