Applause began its life as a very shoujo manga, but once it hit New York grew up into something thoroughly josei. Both Shara and Shelle, aka Junaque, have left their childhood behind them and so has the artist. Art, story and sensibility have all moved on from the world of the ridiculously privileged atmosphere of a European girl’s school into a still somewhat enchanted, but more realistic look at show business in New York City. (Back to that “practicing ’til you puke” thing. I don’t mind watching people becoming the best of the best – as long as they work for it. No idiot savants with magically appearing mad skillz need apply.)
Shara, having decided to never again wait for Shelle, moves in with a gay couple, Jon and Chris, and their dog Oscar. She returns to the dance studio at which she previously studied and her life, which had been a storm of emotional upheaval, calms down again into something she can live with and in. To add to her happiness, she meets a man, Shalat, who is perfectly compatible with her as a dancer, as a friend and eventually, as a lover. Shalat is part Asian Indian, and he loves his heritage. His apartment is decorated to reflect this, and Shara loves how he is an amalgam of places, times and dreams. The two of them are extremely happy together.
When an open audition announcement goes out for brand new Broadway show, Shalat and Shara vow to train and audition together, which they do. And together they make the final round. As the final auditions begin, it is announced that, yes, the auditions are partly to fill background dancers, but one role will be a lead role. To judge who is most suitable for the role, the show’s other lead actress is brought in. As Shalat watches, Shara goes pale, and seems to become completely paralyzed. The lead actress, of course, is to be Shelle Bejart.
When Shara’s name is called, Shalat calls her name too, trying to keep her by his side. Shara completely breaks down, as Shalat tries to coax her into telling him what is wrong. With tears streaming down her face she apologizes and leaves him, to follow Shelle after all, hating her own weakness the whole time.
Shortly thereafter, it is announced that Shelle and Shara will be starring in the most anticipated new Broadway show, “Modern Dancer.”
The story of “Modern Dancer” is about a former dancer Maria, played by Shelle, who has become crippled (emotionally and physically). Another dancer, Tracy, tries to convince Maria that she can still dance. In the climactic scene, Tracy takes Maria into her arms and they dance, even though Maria cannot stand. It’s pretty great melodrama and the art for this scene is awesome and over-the-top every time we see it (and we’ll see this scene *a lot.*)
At first, it’s a terrible fit. Shara and Shelle aren’t speaking and they don’t gel well at all. The media starts to report how they think Shara is a bad choice for the role of Tracy. Whether to provoke Shelle or Shara or just to cover his ass, Georges brings in a young male dancer, Fred – who is instantly irritating – to potentially take over the part of Tracy, if Shara can’t get it together.
Shara takes some time to visit Alphie and Gerald and the gang and get her head on straight.
The media uncovers the fact that Shelle and Shara went to school together. Shelle says that Shara was just another underclassman, that they had no special relationship. Shara, on the other hand, when questioned about Shelle, comments on camera that she never knew anyone with the name “Shelle Bejart” at school.
The two of them continue to breakdown in pieces and the show starts to fall apart too. One day, just as in the last volume, Georges takes Shara out on his yacht. This time, she’s also accompanied by Oscar the dog and when he jumps into the water, so does she. Georges also dives in and again, kisses her, but this time, she doesn’t seem to be affected by it at all. When they arrive back at the marina, soaked to the skin, Shelle is there. She gives them both the cold shoulder.
Georges continues the losing battle of wooing an increasingly frigid Shelle. He holds a big birthday party for her, which Shara attends, but can’t stand to watch the circus that Shelle’s life has become. She leaves, but Shelle follows her in her car.
Shelle confronts Shara and they lose it completely at one another. Shara runs off in anger. Shelle, trying to catch up to her, gets into an accident, which Shara witnesses. Forgetting her anger at Shelle, she goes running over, screaming Junaque’s name, and drags a semi-conscious Junaque from the car. Junaque/Shelle and she cry together. That night they end up back in Shelle’s shore house and once again, they have a few days of bliss together.
Back at rehearsal, no one can figure out why, but suddenly, they work perfectly together. The climax of the play is climactic and breathtaking. Fred is defeated – Shara owns the role of Tracy – sadly, he sticks around anyway.
Meanwhile, back at home, Chris has collapsed. No one knows why, but he is in the hospital.
Then the media attacks again – this time with a call to Shelle. Is it true, she’s asked, that you are Shara were lovers in school? Poor, fragile, confused and weak Shelle, lies. Then tells Shara to stay away – she doesn’t want the media to know about them. Rejected for the third time, Shara falls apart. Again. (It’s true – she was the first to reject Junaque, but I think she’s paid the price, really…)
But the show must go on – and it does. In the last chapter we see the whole of “Modern Dancer,” but it’s almost a reflection of Junaque and Shara’s lives so far. And together they dance their feelings out in a beautiful final scene. “Modern Dancer” will obviously be a success.
End of Volume
So, yes, heaps of melodrama. I feel bad for Shalat, personally, because he was a nice guy and didn’t deserve the drama. Shelle and Shara clearly do deserve one another. Oh, and don’t feel *too* bad for Georges – there’s a sense I get that he and Fred were very close. ^_^
Technically, the artist clearly hit her peak here. There’s none of the crowded panels and confusion of the first volume here. The only thing – and this is me being picky – is that the dance moves look dorky a lot of the time. OTOH, modern dance looks dorky a lot of the time. So there you go.
Art – 8
Story – 7
Characters – 7
Yuri – 8
Service – 3
Overall – 7
Volume 4 – anyone want to place bets on the ending? I bet you’ll never guess what happens. Seriously – go ahead and guess in the comments. (No cheating if you know. Only if you’re guessing!)