Let’s Dance a Waltz, Vol. 1

By Natsumi Ando. Released in Japan as “Waltz no Ojikan” by Kodansha, serialized in the magazine Nakayoshi. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics.

Natsumi Ando’s back again, this time with a shorter series – this is only three volumes long, I believe. Which is good, as I felt the pacing was very rapid for a shoujo manga like this – it would only make sense if it was going to be wrapping up fairly quickly. I’m not sure if this was deliberate or not – her previous series, Kitchen Princess and Arisa, were both double digits. But short doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a failure, and there’s much to like about Let’s Dance a Waltz, with its grumpy hero held back by an incident in his past, and a self-deprecating heroine with an unfortunate first name.

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First off, a word of warning: the moment I saw that our heroine, Hime, was overweight and a bit frumpy, I thought “she’s going to lose all the weight and be gorgeous by the end of this volume, isn’t she?” And sure enough, that’s exactly what happens. She too has a tragic backstory, as her mother, who was the one who named her (Hime means princess, something that gets hammered home quite a bit in this series) passed away from tragic backstory disease when she was just a little girl. (This is a common disease befalling young women in manga – young men tend to have dads disappear (the scum), not die off.) Still, the mother may have had good intentions, but it’s left Hime teased her entire life thanks to the wonderful world of Japanese schools, whose bullying is always important for character development.

Our hero, Tango (no, I’m not making these names up), is dealing with similar peer pressure problems, but from the opposite direction – he’s handsome and popular, and in accordance with his name actually is an amazing dancer. But he doesn’t dance competitively anymore due to a mistake he made in his childhood that haunts him, and prefers to be the class clown, breakdancing and avoiding any mention of the fact that his mother runs a dancing school (because dancing is not “cool”, and kids turn on cool kids who are now uncool faster than anyone except perhaps girls with the name ‘princess’. Tango can be quite the jerk through this volume, but we know he just needs his true love to make him straighten up.

Though there were a few times I was surprised through the first volume – secondary couple Yusei and Sumire, who have no issues whatsoever (possibly as they have standard Japanese first names) are dedicated to helping the two wannabe lovebirds rather than, say, getting jealous, which is what I was suspecting of Sumire when I first saw her – but for the most part this is a manga that runs on timeworn cliches. But this is fine – Ando is an expert at this sort of thing, and it’s nice to sit back and just let a skilled artist take you where she wants to go. At three volumes, this seems like exactly the right length for a sweet manga about a couple who can connect to each other though the wonders of ballroom dancing.

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Comments

  1. You know, I read your reviews all the time (probably years now) but never comment: I really enjoy your reviews. They always have this humor in them that would seem to only come from having read manga for a really long time and knowing the tropes, but still really enjoying them for what they are. (The “standard Japanese name/no tragic backstory” had me cracking up…)

    I’ve been sort of on the the fence about this one since it got licensed — Kitchen Princess never really grabbed me — but I may have to check this one out if just for the comical names.

    • Sean Gaffney says

      Thanks! I try to keep things sort of stream-of-consciousness, which can be both good and bad. Glad you’re enjoying the reviews.


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