Swan Book 11

Review by Rob Vollmar

This volume of Swan continues the international ballet competition begun in volume ten that will, in fact, continue and, no doubt, conclude in volume twelve. With most of the characters already well-developed and the contour of these competitions well-established in earlier volumes, the plot through this section hinges around the introduction of the enigmatic German dancer Leonhardt von Christ and the effect his presence has on the various dancers in the competition.

Swan Book 11 cover
Swan Book 11
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At eleven volumes into the series, there is little here that feels unfamiliar. Ariyoshi seems well set into her formula of presenting Masumi, the lead character, with some competitive challenge one notch beyond that which she believed herself capable. After nearly suffering an emotional breakdown, she is somehow able to reach into the core of her person and pull out a performance that is technically less impressive than her rival, but possessing some unquantifiable emotive quality that wows the judges enough to hand her a surprising victory.

This one-note samba of a plot line, ever accompanied by sobbing and wailing, would no doubt become unbearably tedious in the hands of a lesser storyteller. What makes Swan one of the best shojo manga to be translated into English, then, is Ariyoshi’s unrelenting excellence in the execution of that story. Freed from elaborate plotting, she focuses her energies on costuming and experimental visual devices designed to suggest the singular qualities of the various ballet and dance styles employed by her players. As always, her layouts positively sing with imagination and amplify the visual impact of the often-wordless dance sequences.

Even with several continuity threads yet unresolved, I don’t get the impression that Swan is likely to veer into unexpected territory before its eventual conclusion. Personally, the process elements of the series (i.e., the dances themselves) that serve as vehicles for Ariyoshi’s stunning artwork are more than enough to sustain my enthusiasm and interest in Swan for as long as CMX continues to publish it. The soap opera plotlines, limited as they are, do little to diminish the undeniable virtuosity on display, even if they add little to its narrative substance. Whatever its weaknesses might be, Swan is one of the few shoujo manga available in English that earns every iota of its status as a classic of the form.

13 Comments

  1. [...] Disciple posts an overview of A.I. Love You. At Comics Worth Reading, Rob Vollmar reviews vol. 11 of Swan. Greg Hackmann finally cracks open Fruits Basket: Ultimate Edition at Anime on DVD and while he [...]

  2. Agree with you entirely re the fabulousness of SWAN, Rob, but in fact the main storyline is due to take an unexpected turn quite soon… (well, “soon” in story time; in CMX’s terms, who knows?) – JennyN

  3. Rob Vollmar

    Jenny,

    I look forward, then, to seeing the twists arise in upcoming volume but, in all honesty, you had me at “Swan”

  4. I FREAKING ADORE SWAN~!

  5. Mimi,

    I second that emotion.

  6. I thought Swan was 22 volumes long? CMX isn’t planning to cancel it are they? Because I totally asked them and they said they’d keep publishing it…

  7. Sorry, 21 volumes…

  8. Rob Vollmar

    Erin,

    Everything I’ve read suggests that CMX is committed to publishing the entire series in English. Was there something I said above that suggested otherwise?

    R.

  9. You know what? I read your first sentence too fast “no doubt, conclude in volume twelve.” and skipped over that the competition would conclude… sorry!

  10. [...] the characters. I was reminded of the innovative panel designs used by Ariyoshi Kyoko in her manga Swan. Once I finished reading the book I went back and just flipped through the pages admiring the page [...]

  11. [...] inspired by manga, and reviews of a wide variety of well-known female-oriented titles (including Swan, Hot Gimmick, Fruits Basket, Paradise Kiss, and many more), as well as other, non-manga-related [...]

  12. I find the graphics in Swan absoulutely amazing, although this series was created in the 70’s (which is a little creepy, no offense)but has CMX trnaslated all 21 of these books? Why did they only translate 15 of them? (I was just going to read the first and last book to avoid reading the samething over and over)

    The pictures in this book are pretty amazing but the story line wasn’t exactly the best. I couldn’t understand some parts and there was a little too much drama in it.

  13. The series is still being released here, as far as I know. Book 15 is due next month, and the others will likely come out over the next couple of years.

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