Manga of the Month: Wandance

Wandance by Coffee

Stories centering dance have a long history in manga especially when it comes to ballet, but Wandance takes us out of the formal theater and into the world of student led dance troupes highlighting hip-hop, house, breaking, and other styles and fusions of street dancing.

During his high school club fair, Kabo ignores the dance club presentation as it reminds him of an embarrassing episode in middle school. Later when he sees fellow 1st year student Wanda dancing by herself on the school grounds, the joy of dancing hits him. As Kabo and Wanda become friends, they realize neither of them is always comfortable communicating verbally. But dancing is a way to communicate, too.

The student led dance club is filled with dancers of all levels, but the best of the best are aiming to compete with other schools. Kabo is a novice and sticks out due to his tall stature and being one of the few (and currently only regularly attending) guys in the group. However, through a supportive club president, Wanda’s presence and partnership, and Kabo’s own self-determination he soon leaves behind his self-consciousness and embraces his love for dance.

Kabo is an earnest and sweet person so watching him gain self-confidence is really rewarding. I quickly became invested in Kabo and Wanda’s growth as dancers and their budding romance. The ease they feel with one another and their deep connection is beautifully depicted.

Manga-ka Coffee uses a fresh, frenetic line style that gives movement, energy, and a fast pace to the dance sequences. Plus, Wandance integrates plenty of dance theory, ways of approaching dance, and instructional sections into the story in a way that feels natural and helps you see each character more clearly. All of this for someone like me with zero dance knowledge has been illuminating.

Wandance is part coming-of-age manga and part sports manga, and doing both types of stories justice!

-Kate

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Manga of the Month: Shojo Fight

Shojo Fight by Yoko Nihonbashi

I’m very glad that sports series have been gaining so much momentum in the U.S., but there still are too few women-centered ones to enjoy in English. But never fear because now we have Shojo Fight!

Neri is on an all-star middle school volleyball team, but even in her third-year she’s the lowest rung and barely putting in the effort to be there. However, she is more than capable and it comes out in small moments noticed by few. Turns out Neri is hiding a passionate devotion to volleyball and a sometimes belligerent attitude that isolated her in elementary school.

Like many sports series, Neri is having trouble moving past an unexpected death in her life. Her grief has driven a wedge between Neri and volleyball, Neri and her friends, Neri and herself. Just as she starts reconnecting, a fateful meeting with a coach gives her the final push she needs.

Shojo Fight has a classic sports setup while still feeling fresh. It has the passion, the humor, and the sadness it should. On top of that is Yoko Nihonbashi’s unique art style which has thick, graphic lines and detailed use of screentone has the feel of something more Western.

~kate

Manga of the Month: Ace of the Diamond

Ace of the Diamond by Yuji Terajima

I can go on for a long LONG time about how much I love Ace of the Diamond. That podcast is a spoiler minefield by the way. Yet, I haven’t put that love into writing here on the blog before. In fact, the only time I talked about it on Reverse Thieves proper, I wasn’t actually very taken with it. It is a series with a slow roll; after giving it a second chance, I discovered it pays off big time.

Eijun wasn’t planning on playing baseball seriously, he just wanted to spend time with his friends. But after he is invited to see a major high school team’s practice, everything changes. He gets to pitch a few, piss nearly everyone off, and gets recruited thanks to star catcher Miyuki and coach Kataoka.

Eijun, however, is not the ace of the Seido baseball team. He dreams it. He wants it. But he isn’t it. You might think it is obvious that Eijun will become the ace, but the series has a lot of uncertainty. As I see it, there are many aces of the diamond because this, as with all good sports series, is about a team and not a single player. Different moments have different aces.

At first, Eijun is hard to like.┬áHe begins the series as a sincere baseball lover but also a bullheaded jerk. More than likely you’ll be like me and become very passionate about the stories of catcher Miyuki, captain Yuki, injured Chris, the Kominato brothers, and the many other players. However, Eijun, for all his flaws, learns so much in the early parts of the series thanks to the stellar cast. It doesn’t take too long (but certainly more than a couple of volumes) for him to realize the error of his ways and start down his true path.

And finally what keeps me glued to Ace of the Diamond for the long haul is the emotional resonance. The series is top-notch when it comes to showing the determination and heart of the Seido team. I have cried harder, cheered louder, and raged more fiercely when it comes to Ace of the Diamond than I have for any other sports series.

So you may not like Eijun at first. And the series is more than 50 books and climbing (Ace of the Diamond is 47 book, Act II is 8 and ongoing). But I am here to tell you that it is absolutely worth the investment.

I’ve been beyond elated with the recent offerings of sports manga in English. Ace of the Diamond is another series that is getting a digital release which is a great way to go with these long-running series.

~kate