Out of all Kodansha’s latest releases, 10 Dance Vol. 1 by Inouesatoh is one of the most unique. The series’ debut introduces us to Shinya Sugiki and Shinya Suzuki, Japan’s best standard ballroom and Latin dancers respectively. After meeting each other Sugiki suggests that they both compete in the 10 Dance, a competition in which competitors must show mastery over both styles. The two then begin training each other in their respective specialties, and tensions rise as their personalities and outlooks on dance clash. It’s not all conflict, however, as ample sexual tension develops between them. Vol. 1 collects the manga’s first five chapters, as well as a few extra short comics. Does the series get off to a good start?
The visual character work in this volume is amazing. So much of Sugiki and Suzuki’s dynamic is conveyed through facial expressions and body language, without any words being spoken. Inouesatoh masterfully conveys subtle changes in feeling with slight arches of eyebrows, telltale glints in the characters’ eyes, and more. This superb visual storytelling heightens the manga’s comedic moments as well as the duo’s sexual tension. Sugiki’s frequent smarmy faces are hilarious, as are his occasional pouts. Then there’s the characters’ looks of longing, desperation, and exasperation with one another. Their demeanors are also fully evident in their dancing. Sugiki and Suzuki’s respective specialties make sense given their individual quirks, and watching them dance (both individually and as a pair) reveals a lot about them, some of which they’re not even fully cognizant of.
The writing in this volume is also excellent, and the pacing throughout its first two-thirds or so is impeccable. The main characters, their respective styles of dance, and several major international dance competitions are all introduced quickly without the story ever feeling rushed or confusing. The dialogue and narration is great as well. There’s never a sense that Inouesatoh is forcing characters to deliver straight exposition instead of allowing their voices to flow naturally. Sugiki’s more prim and proper personality contrasts hilariously well against Suzuki’s flippant and sexually expressive self. All in all, the writing is strong both in terms of character development and world-building.
This volume’s main cons all arise in its final few chapters. While these portions are still very enjoyable, their pacing falls apart a bit in comparison to the book’s first half. Sugiki and Suzuki’s relationship gets tense as their practices seem to yield less and less improvement. This conflict is definitely interesting, and it interjects some added drama besides just the pair’s sexual tension. With that said, it doesn’t feel entirely believable. Virtually all the scenes immediately preceeding these difficulties show the duo improving over time, to the point that their dancing together is sometimes outright euphoric. While its certainly believable that the two of them would encounter difficulties during their training, it still feels disruptive to see the characters’ reactions but not the difficulties themselves.
There are also some clarity issues in chapter four when a present-day scene transitions into a flashback with virtually no indication given that there’s a time shift. Given that the characters look very similar in both scenes, it took me several pages to realize what was happening. This confusion significantly disrupts the otherwise near-perfect flow the manga has prior to flashback.
Overall, 10 Dance Vol. 1 is a fantastic debut volume and one of my favorite books of the year thus far. The character work is amazing, thanks largely to the subtle but expressive art. This volume also does a great job introducing readers not just to the characters but to the whole world of professional dancing. The last third or so of the book has some problems with pacing and clarity, but it’s still great. Even with its cons, 10 Dance makes a great first impression.