Swan Vol. #04 - Mania.com

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  • Art Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: C
  • Text/Translatin Rating: A
  • Age Rating: All
  • Released By: CMX
  • MSRP: 9.99
  • Pages: 198
  • ISBN: 9-781401-205386
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Swan Vol. #04

By Audrey Zarr     September 29, 2005
Release Date: September 01, 2005

Swan Vol.#04

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

What They Say
A young girl dreams of becoming a beautiful prima ballerina! But there are many challenges on the way to the top of the professional dance world.

Masumi learns strength of the heart can help her overcome any obstacles!

Masumi meets yet another talented rival, Sidney Eglund, who is determined to prove herself the better dancer. Their rivalry heats up when they have a chance to compete in front of the legendary prima ballerina Margaret Fonteyn. A victory could give Masumi a chance to win the lead role with the Bolshoi. But first she must defeat the star pupil of the Royal Ballet Academy!

The Review
I could not find the original art on-line to compare it to this cover (please send info if you own the original volume or if you have a link). The cover art is just right it shows us our main characters, Musami and Kusakabe, dancing together. The blue text throughout the cover complements Musami's dress. The layout of the cover isn't particularly stylistic (without an original to compare, I'm not sure if they're mimicking that); the Japanese characters used as a backdrop just bring to mind a large company bringing out translated books. Mostly this impression comes from the fact that there's nothing particularly Japanese or anything having to do with the Japanese language per say within the story itself.

The CMX logo is on the cover in the upper left and is non-intrusive. The text used throughout the cover is okay, but I would think with a manga about ballet, a more elegant font would have been appropriate. The cover art looks like it opens up against the title and background blue Japanese characters... just not sure about why this choice of layout was made. The other CMX covers are not like this... why this layout?

I found nothing wrong with the printing inside the book. All the lines, no matter the light gray tone of their nature, came through clearly.

This is old skool. There are two copyrights in the inner cover: 1976 for the original art, I believe, and 1992 for when the manga was first printed in Japan. The art, in comparison to today's shoujo art, is hardcore shoujo. There's barely two pages without a background of flowers or stars. As a modern American reader, I had a tough time getting used to this art, perhaps partially due to the antiquated hairstyles and clothing. It caused the story to lose some immediacy; as if watching a movie from the 70s about the politics of the day.

The layouts are amazing. This is the manga that Will Eisner would have read to compare layouts. No five panels and onto the next page, oh no. There's huge dance scenes on one page then small panels that convey the intensity of a character's struggles on another... or sometimes both on the same page. After reading this, I read another manga and the layouts seemed boring in comparison. Kyoko uses her layouts as a tool in telling her story.

Perhaps because I don't read many manga from this time period, the eyes in Swan are unique. They give each character a swirling soft feeling. Also, all the character designs are long and lanky, which make the drawn movements throughout somehow seem more alive.

All SFX are translated...CLAP CLAP CLAP

While reading this volume, I detected no problems in the translation.

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The "story so far" didn't match up with my memories of what happened in the last volume. However, no matter what happened in the past, Masumi is on her way to Britain to study at the Royal Academy with Fernando (whom she's met previously). Upon her arrival, she learns that there is to be a competition between different groups at the school; the foreign students at the Royal Academy are their own group. You will be surprised to learn that the competition isn't in basketball or baking, but instead ballet! Each group has chosen a ballet and must put the entire thing together themselves. Having always been directed, and never having been involved in the more creative side of a ballet at all, Masumi isn't sure how to begin. To heap on further worries, Masumi will be competing against an old rival, Sidney, who's also her roommate. To help inspire her, Fernando takes Masumi to see the most adored ballet dancers in all of England: Waldorf Nureyev and Margert Fonteyn, both of whom exhibit an aspect that Masumi has been missing in her dancing: acting. Afterwards, Masumi is able to become more engaged in her own role and in putting the ballet together. Even though her group doesn't win the competition, Masumi feels undeterred, sure that her dancing has been taken to the next level.

Practicing after the competition, even though everyone else has gone to celebrate and unwind, Masumi runs into Sidney, who won the competition. Through the power of the manga gods, Margert Fonteyn herself shows up, causing the impetuous Sidney to ask for another dance competition between herself and Masumi. After they both dance, Dame Fonteyn complements both girls, but says if she had to choose she would choose Masumi, as she was compelled to watch her, even though her dancing wasn't as technically perfect as Sidney's. That night Masumi catches Sidney meeting with a boy with whom she is in love. Sidney tells Masumi that she has sacrificed all her relationships, her family and, even love, for ballet.

After her time at the Royal Academy, Masumi returns to Moscow to compete against Larissa Maximov, the Russian prodigy, for the lead role in Swan Lake.

Calling all sports fans! This series most reminds me of a sports manga: the unknown, unschooled novice building up her skills as she learns more about her chosen sport, in this case ballet. Sometimes it hits you when reading sports manga that the characters within it think that the sport, in this case ballet, is the most important thing in the world. Get over it! Having said that, geniuses throughout history have almost always had this one-sided devotion in their lives, at the expense of all else. Seriously, though, here are kids who are sixteen and younger who have devoted their lives to ballet and are not going to a regular school where they could learn day-to-day subjects such as math and science. It reminds me a bit of some of the themes of Million Dollar Baby: working hard for that shot at the top, even if you don't make it, you can say you truly tried. So, if you like this type of story, pick up Swan; it's a classic of the shojo genre.

One of my favorite parts of this series is the informative bits the author gives about the different ballets in which the characters perform. Also, this helps set the scene as to why the characters' attempts at a certain dance contains such difficulties. Also adding to the realism of the volume is the author's inclusion of actual famous ballet dancers like Margot Fonteyn. I had to chuckle at Masumi's thoughts about her: "she looks so young, though she's not." After reading this volume I looked up this ballerina to learn she danced until she was fifty-eight: dang.

Middle Schooler Safe
When they say E for Everyone, they mean E for Everyone. There's extreme balleting throughout that you may not want to expose a child to... but if you're comfortable with that, then it's all a go!

Great Volume To Jump On To The Series?
Not the best volume, as the synopsis isn't quite giving the whole story of what has come so far, leaving a new reader to wonder just what the relationship is between all the different characters mentioned. Even having read the volumes before this, I had trouble remembering everyone.

Ballet I Most Want to See After Reading This Volume
The Firebird by Stravinsky.

A Great Manga to Start My Boyfriend on Shoujo?
Probably not; this may even be too shoujo a manga to give to a girl as a first example of the genre.


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