SWAN Act II Maia – Ended, so… here’s my full review.

It’s no surprise that Amazon Japan recommended me the seventh volume of Maia. The actual surprise was that the second recommended item was the seven volume set of Maia as complete. That got my attention since I had assumed that Maia had only just started. Only to realize when researching that Maia has been publishing since 2005. In Kiyoshi Sensei’s magazine of course, but the fact that this series has been published for seventeen years blew my mind a bit.

I’ll process that at a later time, but for now since I have dutifully covered Swan from the beginning to this point: I feel inclined to give my final thoughts. I highly encourage anyone new to read this post first, as a primer. I promise to not repeat myself too much, but there will be some overlap.

For starters is the premise, Maia is the daughter of Hijiri and Leon making her a nepotism baby in the ballet world. She has her sights set to become a dancer for the Paris Opera House troupe, but just because her parents are famous doesn’t mean there’s all smooth sailing ahead…

I’m reusing photos… they’re mine anyway.

But being fully honest, Maia was a breath of fresh air originally. Unfortunately by the end the series was dragging, and felt rather repetitive. Having the focus being on the child of nepotism in a competitive art sphere like ballet could have been interesting. It should have been interesting but never was. I can’t really point at a singular reason as to why, because there were several.

The first and foremost was that Maia as a character, was boring. Her personality was pretty bland. She was sweet, a bit naive in terms of the opposite sex, but overall good natured if not a bit stubborn. She had flaws, but any conflict Maia’s flaws created was resolved rather quickly and without much in terms of repercussions by the end. Like sure, she eventually realized that her parents weren’t going to tell her everything always, nor were they going to let her into elite events just because she’s their kid… But it’s not like it really impacted her beyond ‘guess I’ll try harder next time!’ mentality. Which is a good message, but rings a bit hollow knowing she doesn’t have to work particularly hard to achieve that.

Secondly, despite this being about Maia I still felt that there was too much influence of Hijiri and Leon. The influence those two have as parents is obvious. The context of Maia being in their shadow and getting all sorts of opportunities due to their relationships makes sense. If Ariyoshi-Sensei had been serious about centering this on Maia the least she could have done was fling Hijiri and Leon out of Europe for an extended residency somewhere so they couldn’t appear as often. Yet this wasn’t done, and so Maia felt less of a passing the baton to the next generation and more like an excuse for Hijiri and Leon to appear – especially in the last volume.

Still one of the prettiest panels of all of Maia.

Thirdly, the most interesting points of the story weren’t really part of Maia’s story, but her classmates. Fiona had a more complex personality then Maia while still being the good natured once in a generation talent. Danni’s struggles given her background made her infinitely more interesting and conflicts with her continuing to persue ballet complex then Maia’s by a longshot. Rio, despite being creepily obsessed with Hijiri, had a unique viewpoint and perspective that we hadn’t seen explored in Swan previously that made him compelling. Even Sei and Matthew who are rather innocuous at first, have their moment at the end. Although in retrospect, I think their story was more an afterthought for diversity then intentional. Still more interesting then Maia floundering about.

A lot of my earlier points about how Ariyoshi-Sensei has been writing still ring true here. She’s too invested in telling us what’s going on, then showing and letting the reader fill in the rest. This last volume had more showing pages which was wonderful, but still everything else defaulted to the formula. I do still stand that Maia is drawn with a modern flare, and with love but it feels rather strained at this point.

I also still do have a fair amount of questions. Maia‘s pacing never really faltered, which is a series positive. However the conclusion seems to be a bit jumbled with a mix of ‘they all lived happily ever after chasing their dreams in ballet’ and just enough open ended elements where another spin-off cold happen. Personally, I hope there isn’t. Swan‘s legacy at least for me, has seen decreasing returns since the initial spin-offs and Maia only really served to further prove that.

However, I don’t think another spin-off is being planned at the moment. The back page announcement is that summer of 2023 there will be a Maia specific illustration book released. Going forward with Maia‘s 20th anniversary in 2025, and Swan‘s 50th anniversary in 2026 that they’re planning anniversary event(s) for that.

I am, through this blog post going to attempt to manifest something regarding this huge milestone. I’m crossing my fingers that potentially, this announcement might catch an English publisher’s attention so we can finally get this title rescued and the original series licensed all these years later. A girl can dream.

Going back to Maia, I’m left with a lot of mixed feelings still. I didn’t dislike Maia, but Swan the original still remains far superior at this point. I give a lot of kudos to Ariyoshi-Sensei for publishing her story as long as she did, but I have to wonder if Maia managed to somehow overstay her welcome. For now the curtain has fallen and the applause finished, I can only wonder what’s waiting for us in the next rehearsal room over…


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