Swan Vol. #05 (Mania.com)

By:Julie Rosato
Review Date: Wednesday, January 03, 2007
Release Date: Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Ariyoshi Kyoko
Translated by:Maya Perry
Adapted by:Maya Perry

What They Say
When the legendary Dame Margaret Fonteyn encourages Masumi to be herself and express her inner strength through dancing, Masumi gains the hope and confidence she needs to rise to her next challenge. In Russia, Masumi will audition for the lead role in a special performance, but she will be competing against Russia's own prodigy, Larissa Maximova. Will Masumi use Margaret Fonteyn's advice, or be defeated by Larissa's perfect skills?

The Review
Having returned from her brief training in London, Masumi must again face off against Russian prodigy Larissa in order to determine her eligibility to audition for the upcoming special production at the Bolshoi Theater Ballet School. The two girls must dance Swan Lake twice together, each alternately playing the roles of the white and black swan. The intent of this competition is not only to judge their technique, but also their interpretation and creativity as newcomers about to debut on world stage of ballet.

Where previous volumes included several different ballets and roles danced by the various characters, this one is wholly made up of this Swan Lake competition. This is still quite a packed volume, however, as the physical and emotional struggles alongside the detailed interpretations by both Larissa and Masumi make for a very thorough story of this particular ballet. The girls dance their souls out, each performance wowing the judges and audience in turn - truly it seems as if there can be no clear winner. Yet of course there must be, and in the end Masumi is chosen, no doubt for her very bold, innovative and artistic interpretations of her roles. But this isn't the end of her rivalry with Larissa, actually it's just beginning in earnest now. The third competitor in the audition is finally unveiled at the end of this volume and is a lovely dramatic surprise!

This is a series, like any good tournament manga, that can get a little confusing if you don't keep current. Masumi has already engaged in several mini-competitions, each as intense as the last, leading up to one major audition! The packed story and quick-moving pace is something I like about this series, but after four volumes I admit it a welcome deviance that this one moved at a slightly less break-neck speed and its coherence improved by a more singular focus. The artwork is also quite captivating here, its movement and style showcased with lots of double-paged, sweeping panels and layouts. Of course we mustn't leave out the human drama; despite focusing so intently on the battle of the Swans, Ariyoshi doesn't forget that the small seeds of mystery and romance need tending to as well. These things, together with the surprise ending, make picking up volume 6 a sure bet.

Mania Grade: B+
Art Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B
Text/Translatin Rating: A-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: CMX
MSRP: 9.99
Pages: 192
ISBN: 1-4012-0539-9
Size: B6
Orientation: Right to Left