10 Dance, Vol. 1

By Inouesatoh. Released in Japan by Kodansha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Young Magazine the 3rd. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics. Translated by Karhys.

You can learn a lot from looking at a cover. This was one of those titles that I picked up solely because the cover looked so great, so it’s worth looking at. Clearly, based on the title and the two guys on the cover, it’s a ballroom dancing manga. Clearly, by the fact that there *are* two guys on the cover, it’s BL. The ’10 Dance’ part of the title is helpfully laid out for you in the text below their arms, showing us the ten dances in question – five Standard, five Latin. But most of all, the facial expressions and the posing of the two guys tells you immediately that this is going to be a contentious relationship, that they will probably dislike each other before they like each other, and that they’re both seriously attractive. It is, in fact, most everything that you could ask for in a BL title from a company that is just starting to dip its toe into that arena.

Both leads are named Shinya, and their last names are pretty close as well – Sugiki is the black-haired Standard Dancing champion, and Suzuki is the Latin Dance expert. Each wants to learn each other’s specialty so that they can compete in the 10 Dance, an endurance competition which, as the title implies, has contestants do all ten dances, five from each type. Both of them have female partners, who briefly get attempts at characterization before being quietly moved to one side, but we’re not reading this for them (though I loved the bit right at the start where Aki complains about female Latin dancers being pigeonholed as sluts or bitches). As a result, Sugiki and Suzuki take turns playing the ‘woman’ as they try to learn from each other, which mostly involves sniping at each other because each of them is wretched at the other’s specialty. Suzuki lacks the composure for Standard Dancing, trying to skip over the basics. And Sugiki is stiff and formal, which in Latin dancing is the kiss of death. Will they ever see eye to eye?

They also make a pretty hot couple, though neither of them is admitting it right now, or even admitting that they might not be as straight as they expected. We see Suzuki having various short-term affairs (including one who proceeds to rob him after sex), none of which are satisfying. The two women who are their partners are both in relationships of their own, despite media coverage (the media really like it when ballroom dance couples are also real life couples, which is not the case here). Suzuki sometimes makes suggestive comments, but you get the sense that that’s because that’s the sort of guy he is. That said… there’s no denying these two have a deep sexual tension right away, and they can’t stay away from each other. There’s a pilot chapter near the end that shows it even more – one woman is stunned when Suzuki hits on her, as she was pretty sure they were a gay couple. It’s a classic case of everyone can see it.

And, of course, there’s the main reason to get this – the art is great. The artist may not be as knowledgeable about the subject as, say, Welcome to the Ballroom’s artist (and given Ballroom’s erratic release schedule, fans of that may simply want to move to this title instead), but the drawings convey both a passion for dancing as well as the underlying sexual passions. Even if BL is not your thing, you may still want to read this – I enjoyed it quite a bit.