Mel Johnson Posted December 12, 2004 Report Share Posted December 12, 2004 Just in time for Christmas, CMX manga has brought out the 1992 Swan by Ariyoshi Kyoko. It's in the obligatory manga style, which means it reads from what westerners would consider the back to the front, and from reader's right to reader's left and down the page. After you get used to this convention, it's easy! The comic is shoujo (girl-comic), so the plotline is kind of Harlequin Romance: Can Hijiri Masumi, a girl from the outlands of Hokkaido find true love and happiness in the world of international ballet? The art is rather remarkable. Ms. Ariyoshi obviously knows ballet, as her artwork depicts parts of many ballets accurately, down to the costume detail. The characters in the comic are also true-to-life; real stars are the stars of the programs that Masumi sees. The first is indicative that the artist knows the ballet business, but someone in production doesn't, at least not as well. It's kind of odd to see "Maria Prisetskaya" featured. (Japanese lacks an unvoiced "L" phoneme, so it is often rendered as "R") I doubt that it's the translator's fault, her name is Maya Perry, and she would know rather well how to render her own name correctly in the katakana alphabet and phonetics. Look for figures that look like their aunts might be Barbie and Sailor Moon. Long, very long, legs and arms, short torsos, slightly large head, huge, pool-like western eyes, used frequently for expression, a convention going back not only to the first modern manga and anime, Tetsuwan Atom (Astro Boy), but also into the general history of popular art in Japanese culture. The standard against which the Japanese ballet student is judged is a high one: Russian ballet. Judges at a ballet competition are pictured as "G. Ulanova" and "S. Messerer". Oddly, it is "A. Messerer" who is pictured. S had more hair, for one thing. Ms. Ariyoshi's drawings owe a lot to various photographs of productions going back into the 1960s (Raymonda is illustrated using the costumes for Sir Frederick Ashton's pas de deux for Svetlana Beriosova and Donald MacLeary) and also Carlus Dyer's drawings for the Kirstein/Stuart The Classic Ballet. It's a rare day that ballet is the feature of a comic book series anywhere. I recommend a careful look at this work, not only as popular entertainment, but as a cultural artifact of ballet in Japan and its spreading popularity. (US$9.95 at manga stores) Quote Link to comment
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