Sunday, December 26, 2010

Manga Review: Swan (volume 1)

Another CMX manga that I only heard about after they went out of business and another unfinished series, 15 out of 21 volumes in the US and since it's a 1970s shojo manga about ballet I doubt it's going to get re-licensed.
But nevertheless! I did dancing a bit when I was little (Irish dancing of course, I did live in Cleveland after all) and when I was a kid I managed to find a fair few books that had dancer protagonists but I can't recall reading any lately. There's no reason for this, dance, especially ballet, is just as strenuous and demanding as any other sport and, unlike team sports, the characters are also constantly competing against each other so that adds in tons of (melo)drama. So again I ask, why isn't there more of this? I can name a half dozen anime/manga that have a similar premise but no Western stories, how very odd.

Swan by Ariyoshi Kyoko
Summary: Masumi may be a nobody from Hokkaido but recently she was selected to compete in a national ballet tournament whose overall goal is to create the first national school of ballet for Japan. The thing is that, while she has plenty of potential, she's still much less experienced than her competitors and has had less than stellar training. She's willing to overcome all of these things, no matter how much time it may take, but will she have enough time?

The Good: I find dancing fascinating and probably found this much more interesting than any sports manga about soccer or baseball (interestingly enough, those would probably be shonen manga too, and Swan does have a few elements of a tournament style manga so kudos for pulling that off well). And thankfully we don't have any backstabbing characters, at least yet, so all of the main characters can be portrayed as both sympathetic while remaining serious threats to Masumi.

The Bad: Oh the melodrama, I ended up giggling over it but that's one thing that didn't age so well. It's not that bad yet but I think a lot of people could be turned off by the fact that the characters actually take ballet seriously, why they ever picked this up I have no idea but it's still an argument against. I'm more worried that the story will never achieve an ending, that the characters will never consider themselves truly great dancers and the story will drag on forever. Considering it's finished at 21 volumes that's less of an issue here but that's still rather long.

The Art: Like I said, this is 1970s shojo so the art style is a bit different than the current mainstream style. It's more detailed, especially in the hair and eyes, and comes across as having a more delicate feel which I love. I didn't think that the characters looked terribly different from each other to be honest, in the first chapter I had to do a lot of flipping back and forth to figure out who was who, but since it doesn't have a huge cast after one volume this isn't a huge problem yet.

Man, when I was double checking a few things I came across even more lists of CMX manga which actually sound interesting. Thankfully most of the titles that caught my eye were 4/5 volumes long but still, I really wish they had gotten more publicity when they were around recently because I would've enjoyed these stories then. Still on the fence whether or not I want to get Swan (it's unfinished here but it still has 15 volumes out), so far I want to get Emma (10 volumes), still need the first Key to the Kingdom volume (got the other 5), and there seem to be more by the day that I want to try. The only thing I take refuge in is that many libraries seem to have bought these books so that does mean I'll have a shot at getting them in 10 years or whenever the libraries clean through their old stock and sell them.
Also, when reading Swan I was struck by the urge (although I've been thinking about this for a couple of weeks now) that I really want to re-watch Princess Tutu. They're totally different stories (Swan is a modern day story about ballet, Princess Tutu is classic fairy tale a ballet is based on, both the fluffy version and the grimm version) but it still reminded me of it. Also reminded me that I've seen trailers for a movie, Black Swan, which seems to be getting a limited run in December, which is also about ballet and the behind the scenes backstabbing that happens so often in ballet stories. Again, they look fairly different (Black Swan seems to have all these psychological elements to it but after seeing the reasons for the R rating I'm worried that it's going to turn out that the protagonist was just doing drugs instead of actually crazy) but hey, there are so few ballet stories out there that if you see one title you're gonna be reminded of most of them.
Hmmm, and now I want to see titles about other kinds of dancing like tap, a short about Irish dancing would be pretty fun actually....