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Manga Review: Hollow Fields, Vol. 1

Posted by: Katherine Dacey on July 12, 2007 at 12:05 am

Hollow Fields, Vol. 1

By Madeleine Rosca
Seven Seas, 192 pp.
Rating: All Ages

hollow_fields.jpgHollow Fields begins, as so many books for children do, with a youngster being dispatched to boarding school. Nine-year-old Lucy Snow, a plucky girl with smartly striped stockings and a stuffed pal named Dino, arrives in Nullsville bound for the genteel halls of Saint Galbat’s Academy for Young Ladies. Bad directions from a stranger lead her instead to Hollow Fields, a.k.a. Miss Weaver’s Academy for the Scientifically Gifted and Ethically Unfettered. Though Lucy’s gut instinct is to flee, she enrolls at Miss Weaver’s school—after all, the tuition is free and her private room has its own bath. (Anyone who’s ever endured the indignities of dorm life will appreciate Lucy’s delight at having en suite amenities.) Not surprisingly, the cheerful, naïve Lucy struggles to fit in with the sour, competitive snots in her taxidermy and robotics classes. But when a shy, underachieving boy named Simon Belljoy is sent to detention—a punishment from which no one has ever returned—Lucy decides to tough it out until she can rescue her friend.

While the story is a bit derivative, borrowing elements from Lemony Snickett and Harry Potter—not to mention Castle in the Sky and Steamboy—Rosca’s artwork is crisply appealing. The Hollow Fields faculty are a sinister-looking lot, from animatronic dorm mother Miss Notch to grave robbing instructor Mister Croach. (Did I also mention that Rosca has a Dickensian flair for names?) Miss Weaver is the picture of menace, clad in a Morticia Addams gown and a gravity-defying ‘do that would be the envy of Frankenstein’s bride:


Rosca lavishes similar attention on the school grounds, rendering Hollow Fields as a lugubrious, gothic heap of a building with exposed ironwork and steam seeping from vents in the walls and support columns:


Though many of her images are detailed and heavily toned, leaving little white space on the page, Rosca’s precise linework and artful panel arrangement ensure an easy visual flow.

Some readers may feel that Hollow Fields strains too hard to be “authentic,” with its right-to-left orientation, steampunk elements, and saucer-eyed moppets. Granted, there are a few design elements in the book that seem a bit gratuitous. Most of Hollow Fields’ staff members, for example, dress like employees at a maid café—a design decision that seems especially impractical, given the curriculum’s heavy emphasis on blood, entrails, and machines. But Rosca’s smart-looking artwork is as good—if not better—than the artwork in many licensed series, employing the visual tropes of shonen manga to tell a story that would resonate equally with Frances Hodgson Burnett and Hayao Miyazaki fans.

If I had any criticism of Hollow Fields, it’s that Rosca never settles on a consistent tone. Sometimes the story aims for black comedy a la Lemony Snickett; other times the story seems like standard-issue boarding school drama. I suspect that this tonal issue will resolve itself in subsequent volumes as Lucy unravels the secrets of Miss Weaver’s Academy. (It would also help if Rosca fleshed out some of Lucy’s classmates, most of whom seem like one-note characters at the moment: the Mean Girl, the Know-It-All, the Ditz.) Here’s hoping that Rosca continues to mine that same dark vein of humor that inspired the series’ tagline: “Forgetting your homework was never this dangerous.”

Volume one of Hollow Fields is available now; volume two will be released in January 2008. To read the first three chapters of volume one online, click here.

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5 Responses to "Manga Review: Hollow Fields, Vol. 1"

1 | Brigid

July 12th, 2007 at 8:53 pm


Nice review! I read this as a webcomic and really enjoyed it, especially the art. I wonder if Rosca made any changes, such as more toning, when she went from webcomic to print book.

I’m definitely interested in seeing where she goes with this.

2 | Katherine Dacey-Tsuei

July 12th, 2007 at 9:18 pm


Thanks, Brigid!

If you buy the print version, you’ll see that a considerable amount of tone has been added to the images. The extra grays and blacks make some of Rosca’s images really pop, and give the school a suitably gothic feel. A really nice-looking series that I think will get even better as it goes along.

3 | Devil-wish (not my real)

September 5th, 2007 at 8:49 pm


umm i really like hollow fields, im odering book one is there a book two and where can u read it online please send my an email at Lunaxxmoon@aim.com, please do…. i really like this review.

4 | Katherine Dacey-Tsuei

September 5th, 2007 at 9:45 pm


Volume two is scheduled for publication in June 2008. My suggestion is to check the Seven Seas website for a preview of the next volume:


5 | lol

March 4th, 2009 at 1:53 am


Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…? ? ?

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