Thursday, March 24, 2011

Manga-- Forbidden Dance

I have another ballet manga! After this, I'm planning on a Top-10 list for ballet exercises and perhaps some ballet tips I found very useful in my first couple months taking ballet. Though I understand the latter is like the blind leading the blind, I do think I have some tips that could help the basic beginner. So anyway, back on target, this is a brief look at the manga series called Forbidden Dance.

Forbidden Dance is a series with four volumes. You can read a fan scanlation online here. This series is a bit old; released in 1998.

The story is about the best dancer in her ballet school named Aya. During a competition performance of Giselle's solo, she trips and sprains her ankle. Though she recovers, she is now terrified to dance. It's not until she watches an all-male ballet troop with an impressive male dancer that she wants to try again, but she just doesn't want to dance in her ballet class, she wants to dance with the all-male troop, regardless of her own gender.
This impressive male dancer is named Akira. And he's sort of a douche-bag. He's tough, but he knows his dance. Despite his poor first-impression, Aya still wants to dance with him one day on stage. even though it's an all-male troop, offers her a deal. He tells her that if she can win first place in a national audition, she can join his group. 

Aya knows that it was in this very competition that she fell last year but wants to join the group so badly that she is willing to confront her fears. She practices with all she has in order to be up-to-par with the rest of the girls in the competition.

*spoilers ahead*

Of course, there are more complications than just overcoming her fear during the competitions. First, there is the highly-critical judge. Second is her high-strung rival. Lastly is the unsuspecting peer of Aya's, Nachan. The rival tosses insults and could jeopardize Aya's chance of winning first, but the friend of Aya's proves even more troublesome. Nachan actually sabotages her dance shoes so her feet get cut right before performing! Harsh. 

The judge is no easier. He is a British ballet instructor brought in for the competition. Though the crowd loved her early performances during the preliminaries, he criticized her dancing as unrefined. Now Aya must quickly learn what she needs to do to change her performance, or she'll risk a zero from this particular judge.

Ayais lucky enough to find the judge in the lobby. She asks him about what she did wrong and he tells her that she lacks the stability and attention to detail that mark the very purpose of ballet. Though she did many tricks, it needs more fine-tuning. Aya won't let this stop her, and borrows a video of a British dancer named Diana. She realizes that what she's lacking that Diana has is poise and working every inch of her body--right down to her fingertips. Though the finals are drawing near, she practices so she can perfect her solo from Giselle.

But that friend, Nachan, is back again. This time, when Nachan doesn't make the finals like Aya, she threatens to kill herself if Aya doesn't step down from the competition. Luckily, Akira, the troop leader, is able to calm the girl down so Aya can perform. Thanks to all of the work Aya put into fine-tuning her dance, she is able to win first place and is now aloud to join the dance troop.

Aya joins the troop but has to work extra hard to keep up with everyone. It seems that no matter what she does, she's always behind. Add to her insecurities a rival dancer, and you've got major problems in both the personal and business fields. Aya has started to fall for Akira at this point, and though she's confident in herself, the dancer to enter the scene is the very same British dancer she looked to for form correction, Diana. 

But Diana has her own problems. During a performance of Swan Lake, Aya notices that Diana's ankle is bothering her. She runs behind scenes to talk to Diana about it, but she refuses Aya to tell anyone, convinced that such a reveal would ruin her career. Aya knows she can't dance the Black Swan on her bad ankle, so offers to dance the Black Swan for her. How they could swap a 100% Japanese girl for a 100% British girl and have NO ONE backstage notice is beyond me (they do notice during the performance, but only by her dancing).

But Aya is able to hold her own and perform the moves that she knew Diana wouldn't be able to do if she wants to finish the ballet. Thanks to Aya taking over, Diana is able to finish up the last act easily.

 This helps Diana and Aya sort of make peace, but it by no means helps end all problems. Diana collapses at the end of the performance and must be taken to the doctor. They are unsure if she'll be able to dance again, which greatly upsets Diana. Akira is revealed to have gone to the same ballet school as Diana when they were younger, and apparently, were quite close. Aya learns this information and becomes jealous again of all the attention he gives to her.

Still, Aya doesn't let this interrupt her work. She continues to practice hard to be able to keep up with the senior members, but it's still not enough. When Akira tries to get a sponsor for the group, the sponsor says he'll support the troop if Aya sits out. This angers her, but she doesn't let this get her down. She's convinced that if she practices enough, she'll be let on stage.
Remember to read right to left!
The groups also practices hard, but Akira must leave for a while to help return Diana back to Britain. This puts the entire group on edge since he's the star performance, but Aya also sees an opportunity. If Akira can't dance, she will take his place. She cuts her hair to blend in more with the boys and starts practicing more than ever.

Luckily Diana returns home safely. Her ankle is looking better and she may even be able to dance on it. The troop's show starts, but Akira barely has time to make it home in time. Aya must take the stage in his place for the time being. She dances, unbeknown to the audience and sponsor, but the crowd is getting anxious--they came to see Akira dance, but he isn't there.
 Akira arrives back just in time for the ending of the show. Aya and Akira admit their feelings for each other as Akira goes on to perform. When he steps off, he takes Aya back out with him and they dance a routine they had been practicing together. Though the sponsor isn't pleased, he admits that they worked well together. The troop will have money to keep performing and looks to have a promising future.

*end spoilers*
This was actually a really well-written, well-paced manga. Though I felt the romance was weak, I did understand a bit why she admired Akira so much. He did redeem himself in his own way, but was still kind of a douch-bag in comparison to some of the other dancers in the troop. Diana's character was a bit snoobish, but you really understood the pain she went through when she realized she might not be able to dance ever again. Aya's character was definitely the best--a strong-minded, confident woman who never gives up on her dreams and is not afraid to confront her fears. She knows what she wants and isn't afraid to work her butt off for that chance. She was a great female protagonist that I wouldn't mind having little girls look up to as a role-model.

The art was pretty good, but I'm sure you can tell from some of the scans I posted that the anatomy is bizarre. I'm not quite sure if that was creative freedom or what, but if you look, for example, at the scene where Diana injures her ankle, her hand engulfs her ankle. I doubt anyone could really do that, no matter how small your ankles. There were other bizarre mistakes, too, but it wasn't too bad overall.

Though the ballet was pretty accurate, I did notice (and this could actually be a translation error) that the acts of Swan Lake were off. The graphic novel says that the Black Swan comes out in Act 2, but she doesn't come out until Act 3. So some slight errors there, but nothing detrimental to the story.

Overall, this was a very nice story that I'm glad I read. I loved the leading lady and I loved the ballet! Very good and I highly recommend giving it a shot if you're interested.

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