Monday, March 4, 2013

Manga Mondays #141: Swan vol. 1 by Kyoko Ariyoshi

Manga Mondays Meme

**Hi everyone!!!! I'm back! The bar exam is over and I am ready to blog again. I hope to get caught up on commenting on all your blogs as well.

I've been doing Manga Mondays every week since I started my blog 2 and a half years ago. It's always been a personal feature, but now I'm going to try turning it into a meme. There are quite a few people who do Manga Mondays. I don't claim by any means that I owned or created the idea of Manga Mondays - it's an obvious choice given the alliteration. I think a meme would be a good way for everyone to publicize their own Manga Mondays and get a little more publicity.

The linky will be below my review.

Swan vol. 1 by Kyoko Ariyoshi


One of the most famous shoujo manga books ever published, SWAN is Ariyoshi Kyoko's best-selling classic about a girl who strives to become a great ballerina. Masumi Hijiri is a 16-year-old girl about to enter her first ballet contest. The competition is fierce, and there's no telling whether she'll win, or how far her training can take her. After seeing her performance, the great director Sergeiev Alexej invites Masumi to join his company, and it is thus that she launches her career -- only to spend years dancing in the shadow of prima ballerina Kyogoku Sayoko. SWAN Vol. 1 begins the tale of Masumi's incredible journey through the great baller companies of Europe and America and through both triumph and despair as she struggles toward her goal of becoming the greatest dancer of her generation! (courtesy of Goodreads)


*Warning: Potential spoilers. My manga reviews tend to be more of a summary than a review. I find it hard to review manga in the same way I do regular books.

I picked up Swan without knowing much about it. According to the blurb at least, it's a classic. The story was first published in 1976 but it has a timeless feel to it. No matter the decade, the story of a girl driving to make something of herself never gets old.

Masumi is an underdog. She is from rural Hokkaido, an island at the northern end of Japan (very cold, but very beautiful - I really want to visit). She loves to dance, but lacks the rigorous training opportunities that are open to girls from more urban areas of Japan. The volume starts out with Masumi at her first ballet competition. She does well, but ultimately fails because she doesn't have the right training.

Luckily, a Russian ballet instructor sees her potential and invites her to be part of a new training program in Tokyo. Masumi is at a disadvantage not only because of her training, but also because she is the only one who didn't earn her way there through the competition. Some of her classmates see her as a usurper. Plus, she also has to adjust to her strict Russian instructor and the relentless and seemingly pointless repetition of the basics. But by the end we all see Masumi's potential begin to blossom.

As I said earlier, this series is nearly 40 years old. I loved the references to the Soviet Union and the seventies style fashions. It was so quaint. This is the first older manga series that I've read. I can't see a big difference in the art or writing. It does seem a bit denser than other series. There are more drawing boxes (the proper term escapes me right now) per page than in other series. Interestingly, there were no author side-bars. I wonder if that's a more modern tendency of mangakas.

Swan is definitely a series I want to continue. It was satisfying to see Masumi change through hard work while maintaining her cheerfulness and humility. There's no romance in this volume, but it's a charming tale nonetheless.

Sign up for the Manga Mondays Meme!


  1. There's just something about a good underdog, isn't there? Love those kinds of stories.

    Welcome back! How did you do on the exam? *fingers crossed* (Though I'm sure you did great!)

  2. HOPE YOU KICKED BUTT ON THE BAR ALISON!!!! A huge congratulations to you for even finishing it, I don't think I have the dedication in me to study for something as epic as that:) Glad to have you back!

  3. WOOHOO! You made it through the bar exam!! I'm confident that you did well, you smartie. :)

    Oooh Swan sounds really good! I like reading manga from time to time so I will put this one on my list. :)

  4. CMX from DC had some really great maga titles. Some of them actually completed their run, but there were quite a few I was collecting that stopped in the so I never found out what happened in the end.
    Awesome achievement even taking the bar exam, so I'll keep my fingers crossed for you.
    Tammy @ Bo's Book Nook

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  6. I really like the sound of Swan! I will have to check it out :)

    Sugar & Snark

  7. Never heard of this series before, but I love a girl-power reading series. Looking forward to learning more about this series and its characters.

    p.s. Just finished VK Vol. 16. Wow, what a doozey! Still lots of questions.

  8. ive been trying to read this manga since 2006

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