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Manga Review: Swan Volume One by Ariyoshi Kyoko

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Swan Volume One is a manga by Ariyoshi Kyoko, and it was published in North America by CMX in 2005. It should be noted that Swan was originally serialized in Japan back in the 1970s, but only came over to America after CMX acquired the license for the series. There were 21 volumes of this series released in Japan, but CMX only managed to release 15 of them before the imprint was closed down. When CMX published Swan in North America, it was given a rating of “E for Everyone”; after reading this volume, I agree with this rating.

The main character of Swan is a young woman named Masumi Hijiri, who lives in Japan. The series starts with her sneaking backstage at a ballet performance to express her admiration for the lead dancers, Alexei Sergeiev and Maria Prisetskaya. When Masumi meets them, she gets very tongue-tied, and instead shows her appreciation by trying to do a dance that Prisetskaya performed on stage during the show. The two ballet dancers excuse her, saying they appreciated the physical expression of her admiration.

This is followed by Masumi unexpectedly receiving an invitation to enter a nation-wide ballet competition. When she goes to the competition, she meets and becomes friends with Sayoko Kyogoku, Hisho Kusakabe, and Aoi Yanagisawa; these three are some of the best junior ballet dancers in Japan. It is learned during the competition that it is being held in order to find the best ballet students in Japan and to invite them to an exclusive ballet school that has been designed to improve the quality and standing of Japanese ballet. The series follows Masumi as she starts working her way through the world of ballet.

Since this series was originally from the 1970s, the art is reflective of the shojo titles of that era. As I read this volume, the art really made me think of the art style in the Candy Candy manga series. This older art style could potentially be a turnoff to modern manga readers, who have become accustomed to the art styles being used in current manga series.

I really have to get the American editorial staff some appreciation for including footnotes in this volume for the technical ballet terms that appear in this volume. If I didn’t have these notes, I wouldn’t have understood some of the scenes. I also have to give Kyoko credit for including background information for the ballet pieces that the characters perform dances from.

Admittedly, I’m really not a ballet fan. However, I thought that Kyoko was able to bring in enough drama and other storytelling elements to make the story interesting for readers who may not have much interest in ballet. One of the major running themes in this volume is Masumi’s perseverance, and how she continues to try even though a lot of things seem to be going against her.

Swan has a decent story, and it should appeal to manga readers who also enjoy ballet. This series should also appeal to readers who enjoy shojo manga with drama and an underdog character that the reader can root for. Unfortunately, since CMX never finished publishing Swan and no other publisher has acquired the rights to the series, there is currently no way to legally read the entire series.

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About Lesley Aeschliman

Lesley Aeschliman is a freelance writer who began writing on a full-time basis in 2007. She has served as the Anime editor at BellaOnline.com, and she also writes and maintains two blogs: Lesley's Musings... on Anime and Manga and AeschTunes.