Aya has always devoted herself to ballet, but when she loses her nerve after an injury, getting back on stage proves to be nigh impossible- until the night her inspiration is rekindled by the performance of a new troupe named Cool. Filled with a renewed desire to dance again and become accepted as a member of Cool, Aya takes to her feet one more, but there’s just one tiny problem- Cool is an all-male troupe, and they aren’t interested in adding a female amateur! Can Aya improve her skills enough to melt the frosty demeanour of charismatic troupe leader Akira, or is she just wasting her time? And could it be that Aya’s feelings for Cool and its leader are to do with more than just dancing?
I don’t mention it much on here, but I love dancing, and so it was that one day I thought it would be a great idea to meld two pastimes by finding anime and manga that covered that very subject. Unfortunately, Princess Tutu aside, my only luck came from an advertisement at the back of a Tokyopop manga, highlighting a series named Forbidden Dance. My manga sense told me that it was likely to be a standard shoujo tale, but even so, I knew I just had to give it a try.
Unfortunately, it soon became clear that despite its unique setting, Forbidden Dance was indeed going to be generic shoujo all the way. From the plucky and determined lead and the initially icy male who you just know is going to soften up as she falls in love with him to a whole range of minor allies and jealous rivals, Forbidden Dance is home to every cliché in the book. Worse yet, it never even affords the time to develop them properly; for example, one minute character A is so desperately jealous of the lead that she’s putting glass in her dance shoes and threatening to commit suicide if she attends an important competition, but flip forward a few pages and she magically realises how wrong she was, before leaving the series never to be seen again. It’s a pattern that’s repeated over and over, with changes of heart and revelations flashing by with only an “oh, by the way” to mark their passing. Admittedly, the manga is only four volumes in length, but when other series can accomplish far more in half that time, there really is no excuse.
With this in mind, it is hardly surprising that nothing about the series is memorable in terms of either story or characters- apart from the leads and their generic personalities, the supporting characters are so minor that even special sidebars to describe them cannot help the reader to even recall their names on a long-term basis. The only character who makes any sort of impression is prima ballerina Diana Roberts, a young woman who overworks herself and ends up with crippling injuries, raising a moment’s thought as to whether enjoyment can ever be found from taking something that is meant to be fun to a serious professional level.
Visually, Forbidden Dance’s art is just as mediocre as its story- since most characters are dancers, everyone has exaggeratedly long limbs, but overall character designs and hairstyles are generic and simplistic. Backgrounds are equally underwhelming, and, hard as this must be to achieve in the medium of manga, there is never any feeling of the dancing coming alive, which divorces the reader from the one unique point this manga had going for it.
Forbidden Dance was Hinako Ashihara’s first attempt at a longer series, and that shows in its lack of polish- the story is textbook shoujo, the pacing is poor and even the artwork shows little to write home about. If you need an inoffensive romance, then it will help to pass the time, but this one holds little appeal for fans of either good dancing or good manga.
Volumes: four [complete]
Creator: Hinako Ashihara
New: the judges review!
A panel of four fictional judges with very distinct and demanding personalities summarise their thoughts on the series!
Beige: That was quite frankly a mediocre series, completely lacking in any sort of originality.
Pink: The so-called romance bored me to tears! Was I supposed to believe they were really in love?
Blue: It was a good effort, but that’s about all I can say.
Orange: Dancing is supposed to be exciting, but this was very safe.