Forbidden Dance Volume 1 by Hinato Ashihara

In 2018, when this review is written, titles such as this can feel very dated. The artwork is very shoujo 1990s and can be hard to like at times with the era’s huge foreheads and small faces. As well, we have the protypical shoujo cliche of mean girls all sabotaging each other and fighting over one guy. But the plucky heroine here is likable when she’s not being a jealous screeching cat and the author really warmed up to the dance and ballet world.

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Story: Aya has trained most of her life in ballet; it is her love and her passion. But an error in one show has traumatized her to the point where she self sabotages when it is time to perform. Thinking she has to give up dance forever, she goes to see a local dance company and is spellbound by the lead dancer, Akira. She demands he dance with her but he tells her she can join his dance company only if she places first in the next big ballet competition. Challenged by rivals, Aya will have to not only find her own confidence but also give the performance of her career in order to meet Akira’s demands.

So, as with most shoujo titles, we have a girl who is plucky and will work hard to ‘win her guy’s affection/attention.’ Of course, they will start out on the wrong foot and she’ll think he’s a devil in the beginning but fall all in love with him anyway. The love interest will be intrigued by her spirit and pluck but require that she prove herself to him. She will work hard and do well in the final test and show her mettle.

We’ve seen it all before – the story and plot countless times. I think this played much better in the millenium era than it does now nearly 15 years later. The mangaka only has a passing knowledge of ballet, enough really to tell the story but not enough to really impress the reader on the intricacies of the dance. As well, the ugly catfights and slut shaming here got really old fast – these are shoujo machinations that really need to be put to rest for more original writing. The ‘plot twist’ at the end was so patently obvious as to be painful.

So although not terrible, there’s nothing new under the sun here. This might have felt fresh when it was written but we’ve seen so much of this by now that one would have to be new to the shoujo genre not to feel like they were crossing very familiar ground.

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