Update! What I Recently Read: "Waltz no Ojikan — Let’s Dance a Waltz" Volume 1 by Natsumi Ando

UPDATE!

“Let’s Dance a Waltz” has been licensed by Kodansha USA! Information here! If this series seems interesting to you, please support it by purchasing the book in Spring 2015! It would be a great starter manga for a tween or a young teen, of course, in conjunction with a talk about healthy weight loss.
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Title: “Waltz no Ojikan — Let’s Dance a Waltz” (”ワルツのお時間”)
Mangaka: Natsumi Ando
Publisher: Kodansha
Magazine: Nakayoshi
Genre: shoujo
ISBN: 9784063643909
Purchase: Amazon JP / YesAsia

Synopsis: When Hime Makimura was young, her mother told her that she could become like a princess. Now that Hime is in middle school, over weight, and unpopular, she believes her mom’s expectations were too high and that the world is a cruel lie. Tango Minami is a popular high school boy who hides his job as a ballroom dance instructor to maintain his image. But what happens when Tango’s mom urges Tango to take Hime as a student?! Will Tango’s embarrassing job be revealed to his classmates?! Will Hime find the self-confidence needed to be like a Princess on the ballroom floor?! And what will it take to get Tango to dance competitively and challenge his childhood friend Yuusei?

The first volume includes chapters 1 – 4. There is a postcard pack-in included with the volume.

First Impressions — 
Hime is really cute! She seems like a girl that we shy and unpopular girls can relate to.  The main male character Tango is an ass in a bad way.  I don’t like people who hide their true selves for the sake of popularity. Oh gosh, please let Hime understand that being like a Princess comes from the heart and not from her surface appearance.


Breakdown –

Artwork B+: It’s typical Natsumi Ando. There are big eyes, flower sprays, and sparkles everywhere. The cover, though, is beautiful and attracted me to buy it before I knew that it was by Natsumi Ando. That character designs are simple and clean. The characters can be distinguished from one another and the character’s emotions are easy to read. The dance scenes are very dynamic and fluid and give a sense of the rhythm and the feel of the dance. These drawings are also the most detailed and are quite lovely. I also like the ballroom dress designs. There are lots of frills and flowing fabric that please my maiden’s heart.

Presentation C: The dust cover is very pretty. Otherwise, it is an ordinary book. There are no color pages and on some pages, the text is really small because the book is small format. There is a post card packed into the volume. It’s flimsy and monochrome, so I’m not sure how useful or collectible it is.

Story C: I like Hime, Yuusei, and Sumire a lot.  Hime has the potential to learn to love herself as she is, and Yuusei and his dance partner, Sumire, are the kind of caring people who could protect Hime as she goes through the process of self discovery.  However, Yuusei and Sumire are side characters who look like love triangle fodder, and the focus of the story is on the relationship between Hime and Tango. I understand that this is going to be a journey for both Hime and Tango, but Tango is too much of an ass for me to believe that Hime feels anything for him initially. I would like it more if Hime was focused on the dancing and self-improvement, while Tango wrangles with his popularity “issues”.

While I like having a chubby female main character, I think the mangaka missed the opportunity to do something interesting with that character. Rather than her coming to like herself as she is and showing that body type does not impact the beauty of dance,  Hime is transformed into a Princess after getting put in to dress and having her hair and make-up done. To pile on the insults, Hime loses 40 lbs in two weeks by the end of the volume. And now suddenly-skinny and made-up Hime is a cute girl that Tango notices. This is an awful message to girls. I understand that I am approaching this from the standpoint of an American and that notions of being overweight and lady-like are different to Japanese people. But 40-lb weigh loss in two weeks is a dangerous expectation to set regardless of culture.

Anyhow, this is typical brain-rotting shoujo. There was potential for Hime to grow and become like a princess through her discovery of her natural dancing talent, but instead the story is reduced to pretty princess production through hair, make-up, dress, and weight loss, and she’s dancing because she’s crushing on Tango. It’s hurts my soul, but I have to give this a C because it’s typical of shoujo to take this vapid viewpoint. But outside of the context of shoujo, this is an F.

Readability — Easy: This series has furigana and many of the words are spelled out in hiragana rather than kanji. Because I am not a native speaker, the lack of kanji for some words drove me nuts because of the myriad homophones in Japanese. Regardless, this series uses typical shoujo language, so readers used to shoujo should breeze through this. The only things new to me were the dance terms, some of which had weird Katakana. Fortunately, all of the terms were in my iOS dictionary. The entire volume took me a little over an hour to read.

Overall C+: This is vapid and potentially damaging to already fragile tweens and teens. However, this is typical shoujo, so hopefully readers enter expecting purely imaginary fluff. The pretty pictures and Hime’s and Yuusei likable personalities save some of the story for me.  However because it follows a strict shoujo formulation, I don’t feel like I need to read the rest of the series. If you are learning Japanese and want something to read, this is a good first manga. Otherwise, unless you are a hardcore shoujo fangirl who loves ALL the tropes, you can skip this a miss nothing.

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