Archives for October 2016

Welcome to the Ballroom, Vol. 1

Welcome to the Ballroom Volume 1 by Tomo Takeuchi

The ballet manga Swan is one of my all-time favorites, and dance manga doesn’t get translated into english very often so I was very interested in checking out Welcome to the Ballroom, which has a shonen take on learning how to dance.

Like many shonen protagonists, Tatara Fujita is aimless and without purpose. When he’s saved from being bullied by Kaname Sengoku, Tatara is dragged along to a ballroom dance studio where he is part of a new student round-up campaign. Kaname yells at him, “Through dance, you can absolutely achieve your adolescent fantasies of touching someone’s body!” Conveniently Tatara discovers that Shizuku, a girl at his school has been taking dance classes at the same studio. Tatara is too self-conscious and poor to sign up for lessons, but later on at home he watches a dvd of ballroom dance performances and decides that he’s finally found something that he can care about.

When Tatara shows up at the studio again and announces to Kaname that he’s going to turn pro and wants to learn how to dance, he’s set up for some serious hazing. Kaname instructs his new student in the box step and tells him to practice until he is given permission to stop. Tatara practices all through the night and into the next morning. It turns out that while he isn’t great at following directions, if he sees a dance performed he can successfully mimic some advanced movements.

I enjoyed the art in this book, while the dancing doesn’t reach level of the ballet in Swan, the dance scenes are suitably dynamic. I was impressed at how Takeuchi handled the varying looks and somewhat split personality of Shizuku’s partner Hanaoka, who shifts from being a polished and commanding presence on the dance floor to a scruffy student with a cold. The contrast between the dancers in daily life and their costumes and bearing during competition showcases how ballroom dancing is an entirely new world.


By the end of the volume, Tatara has found his purpose, started to practice with great devotion, and continued despite all of Kaname’s attempts to discourage him. It is possible to see the possibility that he might make it as a dancer, and I’m thoroughly enjoying seeing some of the shonen staple sports manga plot elements being applied to ballroom dance.

Komomo Confiserie, Vols 4 and 5

Komomo Confiserie, Vols 4 and 5 by Maki Minami

This series was five volumes long, and it feels like exactly the right length to wrap everything up and not leave the readers hanging. It was pleasant enough, but I don’t see myself rereading it anytime soon. Still, this is the first Minami series that I’ve stuck with all the way to the end, so there’s something about cranky pasty chefs that I must find appealing! The last two volumes of the series work through a few barriers to Komomo and Natsu getting together.

This volume shows how Komomo deals with a psychotic girl who has decided to stalk Natsu in a dramatic fashion. Natsu starts ignoring Komomo for her own protection, because he doesn’t want Komomo to become a focus for Noelle’s wrath. Komomo doesn’t deal well with being ignored though, and since Natsu doesn’t openly discuss this problem with her at all (which is standard practice for shoujo heroes) the situation drags on far too long. While Komomo manages to fly under the radar for a little bit, Noelle becomes suspicious of Komomo and Natsu’s relationship and decides to take out her revenge on the Meli-Melo pastry shop. Here, Komomo’s sheer force of will and commanding nature comes out when she decides that she will not stand for Natsu’s livelihood being threatened, and she takes charge in a spectacular fashion, exhibiting some emotional maturity that she wouldn’t have been capable of at the start of the series.

Mitsuru, an old friend of Natsu starts to move in on the story. He’s fascinated with Komomo and figures out that Natsu must be in love with her. However, he has his own secret motivation for becoming involved with the odd pastry-obsessed couple, which is explored more fully in the next volume.

While Komomo starts to realize her feelings for Natsu when she begins to feel jealous of Noelle in the previous volume, the dynamic in the final volume is reversed as Natsu is forced to confront just how precious Komomo is to him once Mitsuru comes charging on the scene. Komomo has a choice to go back to her old life or stay devoted to Meli-Melo, and while her feelings aren’t in question, it takes a bit of time for Natsu to actually acknowledge what the reader has known has been going on since the very first volume.

Komomo Confiserie isn’t the most innovative shoujo manga, but I enjoyed the pastry-themed setting and Komomo’s imperious manner, expressive eyebrows, and occasional fits of rage. I While I don’t see myself rereading this manga anytime soon, it was the first Maki Minami series that I actually read from start to finish. Even though I had a very clear idea where the story would conclude after reading the first volume, I still enjoyed reading the whole series.


Yona of the Dawn, Vol. 2

Yona of the Dawn Volume 2 by Mizuho Kusanagi

I’m enjoying the way this story seems to is moving along at a fairly fast clip, but still seems to have plenty of time for character development and world building. In the last volume Princess Yona’s world was utterly shattered and she has to go on the run with her trusty protector Hak. He takes her to the home village of the wind tribe in order to seek refuge for a short time. I was happy to see that in this volume, Yona’s resolute spirit is highlighted, since she was mostly silly, sassy, and incredibly depressed in the first volume.

As they reach the Wind Tribe, there’s a little bit of comic relief as Hak meets up with some fellow warriors. Yona is exhausted, but living among the Wind Tribe helps her gain back some resiliency as she’s surrounded by a warm family. Hak continues to tease Yona somewhat relentlessly in such a way that I’m assuming that he’s just trying to cover up for his feelings for her. Yona has an opportunity to stay and live a quiet live with the Wind Tribe, but when it becomes clear that Su-Won isn’t going to stop trying to track her down. Yona is still a valuable political pawn.

What I most enjoyed about this volume is that I was able to see some flashes of the heroine I’m sure Yona is going to become. When Hak tries to leave her behind, she cuts through his joking demeanor and demands his fealty, and they strike out on their own again. Su Won’s soldiers are determined to capture Yona, and she stands up to the enemy, demonstrating that she isn’t the broken princess they were assuming they would find.