- Mangaka : Coffee
- Publisher : Kodansha
- Genre : Sports, Romance, School Life, Seinen
- Published : June 2022 - Present
In recent years, there’s been a noticeable increase in seinen stories that try to paint a vivid picture about the struggles of its characters in their journey to pursue their dream. Sort of like a much more nuanced and flavored coming-of-age story. That is the case with Blue Giant, Blue Period, and also Double, just to name a few. Needless to say, that is a great thing for those of us who enjoy reading such inspiring and heartwarming stories. And now, a new manga has arrived that promises to give the same feeling as the aforementioned titles. It’s called Wandance, and here’s our brief review of this heartwarming manga.
Despite his good looks and towering height, high school freshman Kaboku Kotani prefers to hide from the crowd. He is quite talented in basketball, but he always passes the ball as soon as he gets it. That is how much Kotani hates being in the spotlight. He has been living like that ever since he suffered through an embarrassing accident in middle school. Add the fact that he also has to deal with his stuttering speech that always gets worse whenever he feels nervous, and it makes sense why Kotani prefers to dwell in the shadows.
That is until Kotani accidentally sees a fellow freshman, a girl by the name of Hikari Wanda, dancing alone with her eyes closed in an empty hallway, freely expressing herself without a care in the world. There’s something magical about that particular scene that leaves such a deep impact in Kotani’s heart. He too wants to be able to be as free as Wanda.
Thanks to Wanda, Kotani begins to feel interested in freestyle dancing. So he decides to take a quick look at the Dancing club at his school. Lo and behold, Wanda is also there, sitting among the other first years, impatiently waiting for her turn to shine. So begins the journey that will change the course of their lives forever.
1. An Inspiring Coming of Age Story
There’s nothing more inspiring and heartwarming in this world than somebody who is trying their best to overcome their shortcomings and break through any obstacles that stand in their way in order to achieve a better future for themselves. That is precisely the foundation for the story of Wandance.
Sure, it is presented with the beauty and intensity of freestyle dancing, but at the core of it, the story boils down to Kotani’s struggle to express himself with words, so he tries to do it through movements instead. He is scared to enter this new and foreign world that seems to not suit him at first, but once he dips his toe into the pond, Kotani is instantly addicted to dancing. It quickly occupies his mind, and takes a permanent space in his heart. We get to see the journey of somebody who finds his passion and works his hardest towards it. And that is what makes Wandance such an inspiring coming-of-age story.
2. A Healthy Blend of Drama, Romance, and Sport
Continuing from the previous point, it’s true that Wandance has an inspiring coming-of-age story as its core, but there are also all sorts of themes, topics, and tropes that are built on top of it in order to make a healthy blend of drama, romance, and sport.
There’s the story of Kotani falling in love with dancing, there’s the complex yet fascinating art of dancing itself being illustrated for all of us to see, and finally, there’s the subtle air of romance that can be felt whenever Kotani interacts with Wanda.
It’s hard to balance all of those major story elements into pieces of the same tale that work together in order to craft a coherent and interesting story. And yet, the author of Wandance manages to do so splendidly. Each of those important elements has their own chance to shine, and none of them snatch the attention away from the others.
1. A Cliché Protagonist
Kaboku Kotani is an incredibly relatable character. Lots of people can easily connect to his shyness, his views of the world, his day-to-day struggle due to his own limitations, and his desire to be better at something that he loves.
The problem, however, is the fact that Kotani is not the only character who has those traits. On the contrary, there are tons of main characters that use the exact same traits. A “socially awkward character who tries something new and turns out to be pretty good at it” is a dime a dozen at this point. There’s Handa from Handa-kun, Gojou from My Dress Up Darling, Aoyama from The Lines that Define Me, Sena from Eyeshield 21, and Tatara from Welcome to The Ballroom, just to name a few.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with this type of character, but using a cliché protagonist like this brings about the risk of having similar character development to the characters from other manga that have come before it. And that makes the entire storyline quite predictable, which is bad.
2. Stiff Movements
There’s something strange going on with the illustrations in this manga, particularly the dance parts. The author often chops up the dance scenes into several panels, each containing certain movements or poses of the dance. Maybe it’s due to how the author drew the poses of the characters, or maybe it has something to do with the effect lines that should or shouldn’t be there, but one thing’s for sure, it makes the movements look so stiff. As a matter of fact, the dance ends up looking like a series of stand alone poses, rather than one continuous movement.
Illustrating fluid movements is hard to do with a medium like manga, but since Wandance focuses on dancing, rendering fluid movements should be the most important part of its visuals. We won’t pretend we know how to do it right nor do we know what is the exact technique that should or shouldn’t be used for this particular purpose. However, we do know what good dancing illustrations look like, such as in Welcome to the Ballroom, and we also know how fluid movements are rendered, such as in the works of Yusuke Murata or Sui Ishida, and Wandance is still a far cry from them.
Wandance thrives in its relatable characters, inspiring story, and also its ability to balance the drama, the sports, and the romance aspect of the story. However, there are some noticeable issues in the art department, particularly during the dance scenes. Hopefully things will look better in the subsequent volumes. All things considered, Wandance is still an entertaining manga to read, so don’t hesitate to give it a try.
Have you read Wandance? If you have, what do you think about it? Let us know in the comment section below.