Magical Girl Meets Disney Princess Magic in Frozen 2: The Manga

Image from VIZ Media

Phantom thieves, enchanted singing girls, and former gangster bodyguards—these are the stories Arina Tanemura is known for. And then there’s Frozen. From spin-off books such as A Sister More Like Me, to an immeasurable amount of Olaf toys; it’s a phenomenal franchise that continues to provide content within and outside of its films. A childhood icon with a CV full of strong and unique female characters, a story of two sisters – one born with magic and one not-so-ordinary in personality – Frozen 2: The Manga looks ever so promising.

Frozen 2: The Manga was first announced at New York Comic-Con 2019. A collaboration between VIZ Media and Disney, the manga is a retelling of the film in Tanemura’s art and script. A perfect fit if one considers Tanemura’s style of design and storytelling. A veteran shoujo manga artist – Japanese comic books aimed specifically at young girls – she has quite the experience exploring the same kind of development and dynamics found in Frozen. From sisterhood, romance, parents with dark secrets, to the magical elements of Elsa’s powers; Tanemura has at one point touched on these same topics.

To be released on 15 April in the UK, the manga follows closely the film’s events, with minor tweaks and changes to accommodate the panel format. It’s ever just as full of heart as the original story is, minus the flamboyance of color and songs. But the manga does offer something new and different, achieved only by its form. Such as, detailed interpretations of clothing thanks to the achromatic palette. There’s also a little further insight into the character’s inner psyche, and a balanced focus on the two sisters. Which overall, brings home the concept of bridging two worlds together in a decent manner. Tanemura’s signature character design is present, with noticeable change from her earlier works; smoother and more refined, but less distinctive in identifying characters.

“I paid a lot of attention to their facial expressions. For Elsa, I tried to make her look elegant. She is originally reserved and has a responsibility as the Queen and as an older sister. Based on that characteristic, I depicted her own joy, anger, sadness and sorrow. Anna looks free-spirited, but I kept in my mind that she is actually more realistic and steady than Elsa,” said Tanemura in a Q&A with Viz Media. Because of the focus on Elsa and Anna’s relationship, the manga does not prominently feature Kristoff, with his scenes heavily omitted. This comes as no surprise as according to this interview with Tanemura, she doesn’t like drawing male characters in general. Fortunately, this just results in a more fleshed out dynamic between Elsa and Anna.

Having drawn a number of fanart for Sailor Moon and Cross Ange throughout her lifetime, Tanemura’s most popular works include Full Moon, Phantom Thief Jean, and The Gentlemen’s Alliance †. All of which feature strong female protagonists, each with their own unique stories and backgrounds. What makes her work so accessible is the translation of darker and more nuanced themes into the shoujo genre. She explores gender identity and sexuality, morality in the grand scheme of life and death – among other things. Yet she still manages to provide fun and vibrant worlds; whether they be within a magical lore, or a typical high school setting. Tanemura covers the wide spectrum of the shoujo demographic, while still branching out to an older and more mature audience.

As such, it comes to no one’s surprise that she was tasked with the Frozen 2: The Manga project. From her expertise in the magical girl art style, her affinity for drawing singers; translating the animated musical to paper is very similar to adapting one of her manga into anime. In fact, this is an experience she’s familiar with through Phantom Thief Jean and Full Moon. With the Frozen franchise’s premise – of two sisters, of ice magic and conflict, with music as a prominent form of storytelling – Tanemura is the perfect fit to bring Frozen 2: The Manga to life as a whole new medium.

Words by Mae Trumata

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