Employees of Croach & Croach Jr. MUST NOT:
touch, breathe on, or stand too near Mr. Croach Jr. unless they wish to be fired immediately.
No children are allowed in any room Mr. Croach Jr. occupies.
Any member of the staff who has recently handled a child must undergo immediate quarantine.

–Notice at Croach & Croach Jr., the Proto-Hollow Fields

Manga >> Madeleine Rosca’s Hollow Fields (Vols. 1-2)

If you are one of those insufferable wights who believe that any story involving something magical or mysterious is automatically child’s play, you probably won’t like the Hollow Fields series very much. I would assume you’re not one of these, however, since you’re taking valuable time out of your day to read this weblog.

That said, the Australian Ms. Rosca’s Hollow Fields is an adorably Gothic tale in the tradition of another Poe-writ-small, Lemony Snicket. In fact, she even lists Snicket among her influences. Anyway, the basic premise of Fields is that Lucy Snow, the precious, bunny-eared heroine of the series, has been sent by her somewhat neglectful parents to a prestigious boarding school in the vicinity of Nullsville. Unfortunately, she ends up getting sidetracked and, with obligatory stuffed animal sidekick Dino in tow, she stumbles upon the secretive steampunk nightmare that is Ms. Weaver’s Academy for the Scientifically Gifted and Ethically Unfettered. In short, a school for mad scientists.

The “Engineers” that run the school are essentially undead corpses that have been kept alive through the magic of steam and clockwork-driven technologies. The children are essentially ensnared through a misleading contract. Every week, a child must be sent to the Windmill for a permanent “detention.” And yet, somehow, a light, silly air befitting an “All Ages”-rated comedy permeates the work, making it a manga I wouldn’t mind my children reading.

Well, except Summer’s evil Deathtrap maybe.

My only major quibble is… well, major. It’s the irritating habits of some characters to repeat quirks (i. e. Lucy’s constant treatment of Dino as if he’s alive, Groundskeeper Croach’s groundless hatred of children, etc.) and Lucy’s incessant st-st-st-stuttering. Venerable manga st-st-st-stereotypes all, but still annoying nonetheless.

Edited on: 06.02.10.

Well, after about two years, I have at last picked up the last volume of Ms. Rosca’s series. And I must say, the ending does not disappoint. Sure, it may be a bit too quick on its feet at times, but what else could one expect when you only have one volume left to tie up every single loose end. I personally found the fates of a minor character or two a little dark for the story, and… I can’t tell you anything else without colossally spoiling everything.

Final Grade: A-.