Swan Vol. #06 (Mania.com)

By:Julie Rosato
Review Date: Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Release Date: Wednesday, March 01, 2006

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

What They Say
When the naturally talented Kyogoku Sayoko injured her ankle, the chance of a lifetime fell into Masumi's lap. She's now faced with the challenge of representing Japan in a competition in Russia, far from home. Masumi is up against two of the finest Russian dance prodigies, but the tremendous stress and fear cause her to lose her hearing. Can Masumi dance the finest performance of her life without music to inspire her?

The Review
Masumi's competitor for the lead role in the Bolshoi production turns out to be Lilliana, Larissa's friendly cousin. Unfortunately for Masumi, Lilliana radiates the rare grace and ethereal beauty so sought after in romantic ballet that she seems to have been born to dance the role of the Swan. Faced with such an inevitable loss, Masumi suffers a break down before her own audition and loses her hearing! Oh no! It appears the flaw behind Masumi's inconsistency stems from how poorly she handles the stress of competition. How can she ever overcome such a flaw?

Her audition cancelled and her chance in Russia lost, Masumi returns to Japan in time for the holidays ... and another audition competition! This time it is among her schoolmates at the academy to determine who will participate in the upcoming international competition being held in Tokyo. When she is nominated for the chance at the lead role in place of Sayoko, Masumi protests; clearly the instructors had overlooked the progress Sayoko's made since her accident. She suggests they compete for the audition, not realizing how much of a strain it would put on Sayoko -- and everyone else. This creates a terrible rift between the girls and Kusakabe, but even after Masumi takes back her inadvertent challenge, Sayoko is determined to compete and make her new debut.

The first half of this volume was a little jarring. It jumps quickly ahead to Lilliana's performance (punctuated by several bits of dance history) and Masumi's fast failure. The resolution to this competition is so hurried that it feels more like Ariyoshi just wanted to get back to an environment that we haven't seen since volume 3. Thus the second half doggedly rekindles the drama found earlier in the series. While this switch in gears is a bit abrupt, it is not necessarily unwelcome, as this story is still very much a human drama. Once again together at the academy with her friends, Masumi is inspired and hopeful, but also plagued by immaturity, jealousy and doubt. Where the last couple of volumes centered almost solely on ballet competition, this one brings back into play those powerful character relationships that shape both the life and art of these young dancers.

While I did spot some minor text issues inside, the trade dress for this series drastically improved with this volume. Not only does it benefit from a more flexible binding, CMX has done away with the poor design motifs of their earlier volumes, giving cover art full (and proper) run of things here. The logo is consistent on both cover and spine, where color is also now applied, and the painful diagonal layout is gone. The older shoujo artwork and soft colors definitely make this an extremely girlish-looking book, but they are far more appealing now that they're properly showcased.

Mania Grade: B
Art Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: A-
Text/Translatin Rating: B+
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: CMX
MSRP: 9.99
Pages: 192
ISBN: 1-4012-0866-5
Size: B6
Orientation: Right to Left