Dragon Voice, vol. 1

Rin Amami can dance like nobody’s business, but his bullfrog-like voice keeps him from being able to do what he really wants to do: sing. When an opportunity to audition for the Beat Men, an idol group, literally stumbles into his life, he goes for it, until his voice ruins everything once again. However, Shino, leader of the Beat Men, sees something in Rin that no one else has—something that could propel the Beat Men to the top of the charts.

Nishiyama, manga-ka for the basketball series Rebound (originally released as Harlem Beat) turns her attention to the world of stardom in an earnest, if slightly cheesy effort. Most of the characters are fairly undeveloped in this first volume, the members of Beat Men, especially. There’s the tough guy, the sweet sensitive guy, and the emotionless genius. Shino, however, is fleshed out a little more. He obviously loves performing and it is that love, echoed in Rin, that speaks to him and makes him want to give the younger man a chance. Rin’s conflict is obvious from the harsh font used to illustrate his tortured voice, but no explanation is given for why his voice is the way it is. None of the characters have much in the way of background, but I am hoping that will be gradually revealed over the next eight or so volumes.

The Beat Men’s routines will be laughable for anyone who likes their music more rough-edged. They are sharply choreographed, lighted, and scripted to show off their handsome performers in the best possible light. What made the story work for me, though, is the sense that Rin and Shino truly love performing, that they have to perform in much the same way that most people have to breathe. This comes through because Nishiyama takes those performances and her performers seriously, saving the comedy for other scenes.

Nishiyama intends this to be a shonen series, so the comedy tends toward the slightly bawdy, from the lecherous boss of the studio to the big-breasted, but extremely nearsighted manager of the band. The art should appeal to female readers, though, as the boys are all ruggedly handsome with soulful eyes and Rin, in particular, tends to run around without a shirt on. Panel layout sticks mostly to one large panel surrounded by a series of smaller panels, with a lot of action in each scene. Backgrounds are heavy on the movement lines. TokyoPop, which doesn’t always translate sound effects, much to the distress of people like me who yearn to know everything that is going on, here has decided to translate if the sound effect is necessary to the scene. This does help a lot in being able to follow the musical elements of a written and drawn story.

Though Nishiyama doesn’t break any new ground in her story of a boy dreaming of stardom, she does offer a funny and readable tale that should appeal to those looking for yet another manga about performers striving for fame.

Dragon Voice, vol. 1
Yuriko Nishiyama
ISBN: 978-1-59532-119-0
Tokyopop, 2004

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