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Written by Ross Locksley on 23 May 2023

Distributor Kodansha • Author/Artist Coffee • Price £10.99

Kabuko Kotani is a tall young man starting life in high school, which isn't helped by his self-awareness due to a stutter he's developed. He tries to keep his head down and appear "normal", until chance has him cross paths with Hikari Wanda, a dance enthusiast who moves her body to the rhythm without a care in the world. Inspired, Kabuko joins the dance club, and together they'll take their first steps into a brand new world.

One of the things I instantly liked about the book that was Kabuko was shown as a fairly popular young man despite his vocal tick, something I think is very important - I would have been far less interested in the characters had he been shown to be completely isolated and bitter. Instead his friends are easygoing and relatable, not only including Kabuko with no reservations, but actively teasing him as well as providing encouragement. While Kabuko has his issues and moments of self-doubt, he faces them head on and pushes himself to go further - a protagonist I can really get behind.

Wanda is a touch more one-dimensional at first glance, just being a girl who likes to dance with a carefree abandon. She has a natural talent for keeping to the beat and a supportive enthusiasm that makes it easy to see why Kabuko is drawn to her. They work together to improve their skills, joining the dance club and proving to themselves, as well as the class, that they have what it takes.

The challenge for Wandance is bringing the motion and excitement of dance to a static, silent medium. Artist and author Coffee creates some incredibly dynamic panels and dance poses to the work, with some excellent and stylish single page splashes that showcase a real talent for how to draw the human body in motion. While it's well executed (and requires no music licenses for the tracks mentioned, including Ed Sheeran's Shape of You, it's really begging for an animated adaptation where the beauty of the dances can really come to life. Much like the Carole & Tuesday manga, you can provide the essence of the drama, but nothing really beats the movement of a real performance.

Speaking of the art, aside from one panel where Wanda's arms are comically short, it certainly stands out. This is in no small part down to the need to provide a feeling of movement within the pages, the imaginative stances adopted by the dance routines and even the dance fashions that show a breadth of understanding on the culture, as well as a great deal of imagination on Coffee's part as well.

There are some other instances where attention to detail pays off beyond just the artwork - there's a fantastic rendition of Scatman John's "I'm the Scatman" music video, along with an explanation as to why the late artist is such an inspiration, as well as a solid choice of manga on the Kabuko's shelf - you can't argue with his taste when he has Maison Ikkoku and Slam Dunk on display.

High school competition manga are naturally replete with teenage drama, angst and romance. Wandance appears to be no exception to that rule, and if you're looking for a story with some street cred, this could be right up your alley.

Interesting character beats from the off provide this coming-of-age drama with a tight rhythm and engaging moves.

Ross Locksley
About Ross Locksley

Ross founded the UK Anime Network waaay back in 1995 and works in and around the anime world in his spare time. You can read his more personal articles on UKA's sister site, The Anime Independent.


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