Manga Review – Magical Dance

Magical Dance Volume 1

Magical Dance
Disney’sマジカルダンス!!(Disney’s Magical Dance!!)
Disney, KODAKA Nao
Shoujo – Fantasy, romance
2 Volumes (complete)
TOKYOPOP

Summary:

Rin loves dancing, but she’s not very good at it. Some members of her dance class see Rin as a drag on their chances of winning competitions. As Rin feels dejected, who should appear but… Tinker Bell?! Why is she here?!

Review:

You know those generic versions of food (and medicine) that don’t taste as good as the original? Well, generic cola is to Coca-Cola as Magical Dance is to Kilala Princess.

So Rin fell in love with dancing as a young girl, dreaming of making the ultimate dance event Dream Stage. Now at age 13, she’s a part of a dance team, but she’s clumsy and off-beat. Another member, Kai, offers to give her extra lessons so that they can make it through qualifiers, but Rin can’t stand him. Other members like Yuna can’t stand Rin for her lack of talent and experience. Depressed Rin runs off, and suddenly the Disney fairy Tinker Bell appears and gives her a strange card.

Rin doesn’t understand what is going on, but the next day, Rin challenges a couple of playground bullies to a dance-off. On the brink of defeat, Tinker Bell tosses the card at Rin. Confused Rin repeats the words Tinker Bell mouths at her: “Let’s go! Magical Dancing!” — and out pops Mickey Mouse! Mickey knows her name, and Rin thinks she’s got the competition in the bag now that Mickey’s here. But he says he’s heading for the sidelines, and as Rin chases after him, she realizes his movements are in rhythm. Dancing with him and the crowd reignites Rin’s love for dancing, and she is determined to dance with her team.

Magical Dance Sample 1

Some of that may be slightly off, as the manga doesn’t do a good job of introducing the situation. Yuna, for instance, tells Rin to stay away, but I have no idea why Rin needs to ask her for permission to get up on stage. Or why Kai, who also is one of the stars of the team, is the one offering to give Rin extra training sessions over some adult. (Where are the adults? They’re barely around!) Heck, at first, I assumed they all were part of a special dance school, but the second chapter has Rin saying she’s not part of a dance school. So I guess this school has a dance squad.

Despite each chapter being titled “Card” and Rin receiving a card in the first chapter, it’s either Tinker Bell or Rin’s summoning phrase that causes Disney characters to appear. At the very end, a Cardcaptor Sakura-style Clow Card of the Disney character is shown that, evidently, Rin collects. I kind of think it should have been one card that worked like Sofia’s amulet.

But maybe just holding the card is what causes the Disney characters to immediately know Rin’s name. Even when ♫Under the Sea♫, Sebastian and Flounder don’t freak out over a human swimming with them, so who knows if it’s the actual Disney characters, a spirit version of them, or like House of Mouse where everyone is both their movie/TV self and a bit of an actor. No one can see Tinker Bell hanging around Rin, but they can see the other Disney characters. You know this is fiction since no one pulls out a cell phone to record a literal Mickey Mouse March!

But Magical Dance, as you would expect from the Disney label, is made for younger readers. It’s an episodic adventure, but the story is also building to the dance championships. Rin has some kind of crisis related to dancing directly (needing to master a move, ruining a party by crashing into other dancers) or indirectly (learning how to swim), and Disney characters show up to support her, sometimes causing a new issue. Lilo, for instance, loses her temper when people call hulu and substitute teacher Rin stupid and a waste of time. But whether it’s those two adorable troublemakers, classic Disney characters like Mickey, or a Disney Princess like Cinderella, meeting them causes Rin to take a step forward on her personal journey to be a master dancer and not hurting her team’s chances to claim victory.

Magical Dance Sample 2

Rin’s team may be competing against a bunch of other squads, but the biggest rivalry is right in the team. Yuna is the best female dancer who wishes to take center stage with Kai. Yuna is not cruel to Rin, but I’m sure we’ve all been frustrated at one time at the weakest link in a group. She also obviously has a crush on Kai, but he seems to take a special interest in looking out for Rin.

Not that she notices. I don’t really get why she calls him a jerk in the opening chapter; he may not be super sweet and gentle but they both know Rin needs more practice and is offering to help. Maybe the author felt like she had to have the usual irritating male lead. Again, the story isn’t that detailed, but it’s likely Kai knows Yuna has a crush on him and is just ignoring it. In one chapter, the whole class is at Yuna’s beach house, and she says she only invited Kai. Kai has a mischievous look on his face and replies Yuna never said to come alone! Rin’s feelings, meanwhile, seem to change suddenly.

I also think the manga could have used a little more variety. Several of Mickey’s core group makes an appearance, which is one thing since they come separately, but Stitch arrives three times. When there’s only 14 chapters, that’s a significant amount. Also there may be some odd choices in helpers to improve Rin’s dance moves. But it’s the usual power of believing or loving what you love that pushes her to the next level. Rin (and heck, the troupe as a whole) seem to get lucky a few times, but the rather shallow story details gloss over anything that isn’t Rin spending time with Disney characters. Sometimes her immaturity pushes them away for not joining her onstage or teaching her a dance move, so Rin often has to eat humble pie before discovering their purpose for being summoned.

I will add that I read this via INKR Comics, which does not include the bonus strips. One strip introduces Rin’s home as “Magical Town”, so maybe these little strips add a few more details. But they’re obviously more about humor than anything else, so probably not.

Magical Dance Sample 3

But with the manga being a Disney manga, of course the art is going to be cheerful. It’s very bright and clean filled with smiles. A bit simplistic too, as the manga’s brightness means she sacrifices any meaningful backgrounds or screentones. We do see Rin and others in some cool outfits, which makes sense with the dance theme. Otherwise, artistically, the series has a lot of similarities to Kilala Princess, which isn’t surprising since they are both about young girls meeting Disney characters. Also hilariously enough, she’s wearing shoes very similar to a certain other Disney-meeting protagonist. Ironically, there’s a picture of a Disney character Rin did not meet with — an axed chapter maybe? Tinker Bell can’t speak human, but it was nice to see some of her temper, which is often whitewashed in Disney media. Classic Disney characters look just like how you see them in other media, so that helps readers get drawn into the world. Dance moves are not always easy to understand, but at least you can hunt for a few Hidden Mickeys!

Translation:

No honorifics are used. Not much to say since it’s a Disney manga, and story details are rather light. English text is used on the cards in Japanese, so that didn’t need to be edited. Sound effects are in Japanese with English equivalents.

Final Comments:

Magical Dance features some cool cameos, but even among the Disney manga titles, readers can do better. It’s just too light on details to fully connect with Rin and her world. The Peanuts comic strip almost has more adults than this manga!

Kodaka drew the original Kilala Princess manga as well as The Princess and the Frog manga adaptation, both available from TOKYOPOP.

Reader Rating


5/5 (1)

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