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This is a past article published in Hiragana Times. Each Japanese paragraph is followed by its English translation or vise versa, and furigana are placed above each kanji to make Japanese study even easier. [Magazine Sample] [Subscription Page]

Coming of Age Story About a Girl Striving to Become a Ballerina

[From July Issue 2014]

201407-10-1

Swan Collector’s edition: Cover of issue 1.
Written by ARIYOSHI Kyoko. Published by Heibonsha

SWAN

In recent years, it’s not all that unusual for Japanese people to win international ballet competitions or to join famous overseas ballet companies. But this was still a distant dream in 1976, when the serialization of “Swan” began in the women’s comic magazine “Weekly Margaret.”

Fifteen-year-old HIJIRI Masumi travels to Tokyo from Hokkaido to watch Alexei SERGEIEV and Maria PRISETSKAYA, famous ballet dancers from the former Soviet Union (now Russia), perform in Japan. Unexpectedly the road towards becoming a ballerina opens up, when, deeply moved by the performance, Masumi unintentionally ballet dances in front of the two.

Because of this accidental encounter, Masumi is lucky enough to get lessons with Alexei, the star dancer of the Bolshoi Ballet troupe. There, her slumbering talent is revealed as is a problem that she must surmount. Through a severe regime and battles with her rivals, Masumi rapidly improves.

Many real personalities and ballet companies appear in these comics. Also, the meaning of each pose and technique is written about in detail. Since it contains explanations and interpretations of ballets, it is also an introduction to ballet for those who know nothing about the subject.

In addition, it portrays the protagonist’s love affairs – an indispensible part of the woman’s comic genre. Though her first crush is for KUSAKABE Sho, she falls deeply in love with Luci, who she meets in America. Her suffering from lost love and struggle to choose between love and the ballet, stirred the sympathies of readers.

After studying abroad in the U.K. and acquiring modern ballet skills in the U.S., Masumi becomes a top dancer. Then, she manages to be reunited with her former mentor Sergeiev and it is decided that she will be cast in the same role as one of Sergeiev’s students. One day, Masumi discovers an unexpected truth. With a wavering heart, the challenge to start life as a ballerina begins.

A 12 volume collector’s edition of this work was published in 2007. In response to demands from fans, the Moscow sequel was also published. The serialization of “Maia Swan act II,” featuring Masumi’s daughter Maia as the protagonist, continues to this day. Inherited by the next generation, the story continues even though 30 years have passed since the series began. From now on, after seeing the heroine appear on the world stage, more and more girls might aim to become ballerinas.

Text: KAWARATANI Tokiko


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