Wandance Volume 4 Review

Breaking: the most popular style of street dance, also known as breakdancing or B-boying.

Kabo and his senpai Iori are getting to know each other and their dance moves better. Now seeing Iori dance to real house music for the first time… he looks so cool, Kabo thinks admiringly. He looks as if he is the music. Kabo is eager to learn moves like Windmill and goes along with Iori to watch Endless Battle, where he sees young prodigy Gaku Kabeya compete alongside older breakdancers. We briefly met Gaku at the end of Volume 3 when we saw him being told off by an angry customer at the combini (where he works part-time) for not addressing her politely. This breakdancer knows he’s good and has a certain arrogance that comes from supreme self-confidence in his own talents – but will he give Kabo any advice? He and Iori don’t get on, even though they seem to respect each other’s skills as dancers.

Meanwhile, Kabo and Wanda are devoting all their free time to practice and learning new techniques. Unfortunately, this can’t be done in school any longer because ‘someone complained’ about the music and dance has been officially banned. Now they find themselves going at night time, with Iori, to the park where the B-Boys hang out.


While Wanda and Kabo are learning as much as they can to gain greater experience, the school year is ticking past and On-chan, the third year president and driving force behind the school dance club, will be leaving. She wants to appoint Iori in her place but he’s still far from sure about this. With a new inter-high school contest looming, he’s thinking more about entering the solo division, rather than choreographing a group entry. Does he lack confidence in his teaching skills? On-chan will be a hard act to follow. And as for Kabo and Wanda? They are still – very sweetly – rooting for each other at the next contest, each one wanting to do their very best so they don’t let the other down. But the competition is fierce – and perhaps Kabo is trying too hard?

Volume 4 of Wandance delivers another fascinating exploration of the world of street dance, seen through the eyes of first-year Kaboku, a recent convert and potentially a talented dancer. Nevertheless, by the fourth volume of a manga, I’d be expecting to have a much greater sense of connection with the main characters than I’m feeling with Kabo, Wanda, Iori and their contemporaries. There’s no doubt that mangaka Coffee has a gift for portraying dance and dancers and the dance sequences are just as breathtaking as in the earlier volumes, if not better. But though it makes sense; this is, after all, a manga about dance and the transformative power of dance (as in 10 Dance or Welcome to the Ballroom, where the respective mangaka also capture the main characters’ ballroom dancing on the page in an inspiring way) there’s still a certain lack of reader engagement, even given that Kabo’s stutter makes him a character you really want to root for. This might be because the manga’s main strength – the long sequences devoted to dance – take up so much of the narration that there just isn’t as much room for the characters’ daily lives. It’s not until the two-page preview at the end for Volume 5 that we see Kabo’s feelings for Wanda writ large, almost as if Coffee realized that a vital element of the story was being neglected. That said, we’re reminded that Kabo’s stutter is a very real impediment: the colour-blind test for getting a driving license which requires quick verbal answers; the run-down smartphone battery that means he can’t show his Stutter Alert/Dysphemia screen to tell others when he can’t reply quickly – or at all – to their questions.


On the plus side, Coffee obviously knows a lot (and has done a lot of research) about street dance and the manga, as in the earlier volumes, names dance tracks by artists like Kraftwerk, Blackstreet, Limp Bizkit etc. and gives fascinating explanations about the techniques involved, which sometimes we learn as the dancers talk to each other about what they’re doing. The scenes at night are atmospherically drawn, whether its dancers in the local park or in a club venue; you can almost feel the beats. It’s so… loud! It’s like the bass notes go right into my bones, Kabo thinks. Even my clothes are shaking!

Kevin Steinbach again provides a good translation for the Kodansha edition that covers everything from the casual dancefloor chat of the dancers to all the technical terms employed; the detailed translation notes at the back are really helpful too.

Wandance continues to dazzle with its street art-style and the impressive way Coffee captures the atmosphere of the dance battles. Volume 5 is not currently on Kodansha’s website but Amazon have a date of 23rd May 2023 so we shall see…

8 / 10


Sarah's been writing about her love of manga and anime since Whenever - and first started watching via Le Club Dorothée in France...

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