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Forbidden Dance
Synopsis | Review

Hmm. I'm not really into ballet very much, but this manga sounded interesting. There's this girl ballerina who falls in love with a guy ballerina, and they live happily ever after. The end. Well, actually, it leaves some of that storyline to the reader's imagination. Being a sucker for full-blown romantic stories, you can probably imagine what I felt about that.

Forbidden Dance was created by Ashihara Hinako and consists of four volumes. It's licensed by Tokyopop and it's the first Ashihara manga I've ever read. I figured I better be more well-rounded as opposed to sticking with Watase Yu and Shinjo Mayu. I discovered Forbidden Dance in Amazon.com's "If you liked [stick a shoujo manga title here], you'll love [stick Amazon.com's recommendation here]." Sometimes those things are dead-on, but they do miss sometimes. I don't know how it is for Forbidden Dance, but yeah, I got this recommendation when I was checking out Mars.

Synopsis
Fuji Aya likes ballet, and ballet likes her. She's the best dancer in the Machida Ballet School, and her ballet master always puts her in leading roles. Naturally, this causes resentment among her peers. One of them is Yoshino, a classmate who's ideal for modern ballet but cannot compete with Aya in classical ballet. Aya and her best friend, Nachan, had to put up with Yoshino's bullying at school. Nachan is also in Machida Ballet School.

One day, Aya got into an accident, fell during a ballet competition, and got badly injured. As a result, Yoshino won first place. It took Aya a month to recuperate, partly because the experience left her with stage fright. When she returned to the ballet school, she found the Yoshino became even more overbearing and worse, got the lead part in their upcoming performance, Sleeping Beauty. However, when the ballet master heard that Aya returned, she gave the leading part to her despite Yoshino's kicking and screaming. Then, during the performance, Aya fell again.

After her second spill, Aya decided to quit ballet. Shortly afterwards, she was sitting on a park bench, depressed, when a guy came up to her. His name is Tetsuya, and he recognized Aya because they're schoolmates. He invited her to his recital, which was going to be in a nearby theater. Having nothing better to do, Aya decided to go and check it out.

Tetsuya actually belonged to a small dance troupe named Cool. What Aya saw at their recital bedazzled her. They had high jumps, amazing flexibility, and quick and precise execution of movements. Most of all, she was entranced by the lead dancer, a masked guy whom the woman beside her identified as Hibiya Akira. On an impulse, Aya went backstage and begged Akira to let her join Cool. It took a lot of persuasion, but finally, Akira relented. He agreed to let Aya join his troupe if she wins first place in the upcoming national ballet competition.

Shortly afterwards, Aya discovers that Cool is acutally an all-male troupe and that Akira didn't seem serious about letting her join. Bristling with resolve, Aya proceeded to prepare for the competition and at the same time start working with Cool, even if it meant just cleaning the theater.

And so Forbidden Dance unfolds. As Aya struggled to prove that she could be as good a dancer as Akira, she discovered that the person who most resented her dancing success was the person she least expected. She would confront various individuals who question her talent, and along the way, she would have to remind herself why she loved dancing. Oh yes, and she would be irresistibly drawn towards Akira. Let's not forget about that.

Review
In Ashihara's first free talk (she called the section "Ashihara's Diary"), she indicated that Forbidden Dance is her longest series to date because her earlier mangas never went beyond three volumes. Honestly, I think it should've been longer. It ended just when things between Akira and Aya were getting better and when he was starting to get likable. Because honestly, he's not exactly a knight in shining armor.

Throughout the manga, it was clear that for Akira, Cool came before Aya. And his ex-girlfriend came before Cool. He was mean to begin with, and I think he was still mean to everybody--Aya included--in the end. Actually, it doesn't look like he and Aya will live happily ever after. Methinks he would get some wonderful offer to study ballet abroad (going abroad is a very common theme in anime and manga. As often as Babbit appears in Kodocha episodes) and never look back. Clearly, Akira's a guy who doesn't seem to care about anyone except for himself. It even looks like he wouldn't give Aya a second glance if she's not a good ballerina. Geez. Hey, doesn't this sound familiar? Akira reminds me a lot of Mamoru. However, Mamoru's a sexy bishounen, which probably redeemed him. Akira's not as hot. Maybe that's why I'm bashing him so much.

Actually, interestingly enough, Ashihara seemed to hint that maybe Akira and Aya won't end up together. Volume four only had one issue of Forbidden Dance. Then Ashihara added Alpha Kiss and Land of Happiness. While the latter is an unrelated story about a desirable young woman about to marry a lecherous, bad-tempered old novelist, the former is about Tetsuya. That made me happier. I was kind of hoping something would happen between him and Aya. He's clearly so much nicer than Akira. In Alpha Kiss, he revealed to Akira that he was in love with Aya and that it was not too late for him. That made Akira lose his composure. Whee. And then it ended. Damn.

As for Aya, she's okay. It looks like she's more excited at the thought of being in love with Akira than she is about actually being in love with him. But yeah, she's not the typical delicate shoujo heroine, although she did let herself get pushed around for the sake of her beloved. Geez. When will these girls learn?!

The artwork took some getting used to. Ashihara's not into the usual classical lines. However, the scenes with Cool dancing were fantastic. Imagine all these hot, buff men wearing nothing but tights and striking great poses (okay, they're actually dancing, but manga drawings are essentially motionless. You know what I mean). They have this dramatic effect on the reader. I would probably hold on to the manga just to drool over those scenes.

If you like ballet, this is worth checking out. It's a good title to add to your shoujo manga collection. But if you couldn't stand Mamoru in Sailor Moon (the anime, not the manga--Mamoru's sweet in the manga) and get frustrated with underdeveloped relationships, you'll probably be disappointed with this manga too.

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