A young girl joins a dancing competition with her fellow students and soon realizes that she has two left feet! She spends a lot of time practicing but is discouraged by her results. Because of the young girl’s passion and dedication, Tinker Bell appears to grant her a wish. When Tinker Bell casts a spell on a magical card, the young girl enters the magical world of Disney and learns the joys of dancing!
Once upon a time, Disney worked with Sega to make an arcade game in Japan and got the mangaka behind Disney's Kilala Princess to make a tie-in shoujo manga for kids. The result is Disney's Magical Dance, which unfortunately did not leave a magical impression on me.
Magical Dance wastes no time on unveiling its main characters, but within the first few pages, it seemed very clear that the story would feel as cliched as the first four words of this review. The story starts off with showing our main character, Rin, and her goal, by simply having her watch a dance event on TV. It
then goes straight to introducing Kai, who obviously seems like he will be the main character's love interest if you're familiar with a lot of shoujo stories. Another character, Yuna, is introduced in the next page, and it is very clear that this character is the main character's rival. Each of these characters and their roles in the story are introduced in the most basic way possible.
It's easy to guess how Rin will end up in relation with her goal and the other characters, but despite the predictability, I read on in hope for some kind of enjoyment. Rin evenutally runs into Tinker Bell, who for some reason gives her a card that can be used to summon Disney characters.
I'm assuming the Disney characters that are summoned are supposed to teach Rin something about dancing, but most of the time it feels more like a cheat card to get herself out of the problems she gets herself into. In situations where there's a crowd, the Disney characters come out of nowhere near Rin and suddenly makes the crowd looking approvingly at her, with not much questioning. There are times where Rin can't do something until a Disney character eventually says one thing, and suddenly she does it perfectly, without it being feeling like she earned it or was actually demonstrating it in a way that I could properly understand.
I'm not sure if this is a pacing issue or not, but the execution of the morals certainly feels half-baked and there could have been more to this story than letting Disney characters win everybody and the reader over.
Speaking of characters, the Disney characters that were featured are pretty much the only characters that don't feel flat in this story. This is perhaps because Magical Dance relies on the reader to recognize these famous and already-established characters in order to want to read the story. It's pretty clear from the author's side-notes that there was a lot of work in making these characters feel like the same ones everyone's known and loved, since they re-watched Disney movies for this manga.
So when it comes to re-creating the Disney characters accurately, this manga does that well. However, the new characters, such as Rin and Kai, don't feel memorable to me.
Rin is a tomboy who's energetic enough to want to follow her dream of being a dancer, but her lack of dancing skills lead her to not be so confident about that. Kai seems to notice her, despite the fact that he doesn't interact with her much aside from when she's troubled. Yuna clearly wants Rin out of the spotlight and from Kai's way. It sounds like they have some character, but to me, from how they're portrayed in the story, they could be replaced by anyone.
We never get to really know the characters outside of their dancing goals, like their family or their home lifestyle or any real worldbuilding, which is pretty ironic considering there is a chapter where the moral is that people should get to know others better.
Despite the lackluster story and characters, the art is very cute and is actually worth mentioning. Nao Kodaka knows how to draw cute, yet realistically proportioned characters with stunning eye designs, and basically has the shoujo drawing style straight to its essentials. Kodaka also kept the Disney characters to the art styles they were originally drawn in as close as possible, as she did in Kilala Princess, and these characters are re-created very well from their iconic appearances. There's nothing overly noteworthy or unique about the panelwork, but it's functional enough that it's easy to read— which is good enough for a manga aimed at kids.
Sadly, the artwork is the only real recommendable part of Disney's Magical Dance. I tried to go into this manga with a neutral outlook, but in the end, it was impossible to unsee that this was just a basic shoujo manga filled with fan-service for die-hard Disney fans. To me, the characters never really feel like they truly earned what they got or learned something from this story. It was frustrating for me to figure out how to convey why I easily got bored with this manga, but somehow was impressed with other kids manga similar to this. Unless you have a younger girl in the family who loves Disney and might like reading manga, I can't really recommend Disney's Magical Dance to anyone.