Review: Let’s Dance a Waltz Vol. 1 by Natsumi Ando

This week is a week of manga reviews at Sequential State;
the next on the pile is Natsumi Ando’s Let’s
Dance a Waltz
, a 3-volume shojo series originally published in Kodansha’s
Nakayoshi manga anthology. Ando is known best in the United States for her
titles ARISA and Kitchen Princess, both books that were initially published by Del
Rey Manga and then rescued by Kodansha Comics USA. Monday’s title, Your Lie in April, was a little off the beaten
path, but music manga has something of a history in the US. Let’s Dance a Waltz is so far off the
beaten path as to be wandering in the manga wilderness – dancing manga isn’t
exactly common.

The story features a middle school girl Hime Makimura who is
haunted by her given name (hime means princess in Japanese). Hime is a little
overweight, and that combined with a timid personality has led to her ostracism
at school. Trying to break out of her shell a bit, she enrolls in a ballroom
dance class at the local dance studio. A fellow classmate, Tango Minami (what’s
with the given names in this manga?) is the son of the dance instructor and is
trying to hide his afterschool job from his classmates. When Hime pairs up with
Tango for a lesson, they’re a perfect match.

There’s a lot to be said for Natsume Ando’s comics that have
thusfar been very popular in the US. Ando knows how to do shojo well. Her work
is often the essence of shojo – Kitchen Princess
shojoed so hard all you could see were flowers, sparkles, and cake. Still, Let’s Dance a Waltz feels a little
clumsy at times. The beginning of the first volume gets going pretty well, and
Hime’s crush on Tango is believable enough, but there are a few scenes that are
eyeroll inducing, including Hime and Tango’s dance at the bus stop. The timeframes
also don’t make a lot of sense; Hime loses a LOT of weight in a short period of
time (an unhealthy amount, honestly – 20 kg in 2 weeks is more than 3 lbs a day).

It disappoints me that manga that feature overweight girls
still have to use their weight as a sticking point or reason they’re not liked
at school. Hime’s looks are constantly criticized, and while Ando isn’t drawing
Hime as ugly, there is a pretty stark transformation in the last bit of the
book that feels a like a bit of a betrayal. Does the change in weight mean
anything to the plot? It’s hard to tell, but for now it’s looking like a no.

Let’s Dance a Waltz
is cute, and it does some things really well, especially building tension
before the first big competition where Hime and one of Tango’s best friends
enroll in a dance competition in order to lure Tango back to competitive dance.
Hime takes inspiration from her crush on Tango and learns how to dance the
rhythm after he shows her how to dance it better. Still, Let’s Dance a Waltz is a mixed bag – this series will likely be a
fun read for fans of Ando’s previous work, but may not appeal to readers
looking for a little more subtlety in their shojo reading.

———–

An advance copy of this comic was
made available by Kodansha USA for the purpose of this review. You can see more
of Kodansha’s kodanshacomics upcoming releases at their website.

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