Tetsugaku Letra Review

Tetsugaku Letra Review

Tetsugaku Letra manga series cover art
Tetsugaku Letra

Basketball and Flamenco

Tetsugaku Letra (鉄楽レトラ) is a drama manga primarily about flamenco dancing. There’s also some basketball in there too. But, that’s on the side. If you’re looking for a sports manga, this isn’t going to be the manga for you.

But, I didn’t know any of that when I started reading this series. I had no idea what it was about at all. Someone recommended it to me, so I added it to my list. I don’t remember who that person was. However, I can now say for certain that, whoever you are, you need better taste in manga.

I have a lot to complain about with this series. So, let’s ease our way into it by starting with the art. The art’s not great. It’s passable for a forgettable manga that you’re never going to think about again. But, it’s very bland.

Kimitaka and Takara throwing away their shoes from the manga series Tetsugaku Letra
Kimitaka and Takara throwing away their shoes

This bland art style also doesn’t help with the two main activities being performed in the manga. Both basketball and flamenco dancing have a lot of movement. This doesn’t come across in the manga, at all. All the basketball and flamenco scenes are very simple. And, most of the time, they’re done “off page” so we don’t see them anyway.

That’s a bit weird for a manga about those activities, right? It would be if this was a sports manga. But, again, this is a drama manga first and foremost. Basketball and flamenco are just used to illustrate how you should try new things.

In the first chapter, a boy and a girl run into each other on a school rooftop. The girl planned to throw away her dancing shoes and the boy planned to throw away his basketball shoes. Instead, they trade and each begins learning the other’s prior hobby.

Why Are the Characters Like This?

So far, you might not think anything I’ve said makes this series sound that bad. You might be fine with the art style and you’re more interested in the drama anyway. That’s all fine. But, now, let’s get into the major issues with Tetsugaku Letra.

The characters don’t act like real people and everything is spelled out for the reader. These two issues are connected, as the spelling out of everything is why the characters don’t act like real people. Nothing in this series is left up to interpretation. It’s all right there in the dialogue.

Let’s say a character is upset about something. Do they show this to the reader through their actions? Do they imply that they’re upset and leave the reader to understand why via context? No. They say exactly what’s wrong in dialogue that no real person would ever say.

Tsubura Ichikawa talking to Yuzu from the manga series Tetsugaku Letra
Tsubura Ichikawa talking to Yuzu

Okay, there are a lot of manga that have dialogue like this. You know what I’m talking about. It’s when a character goes on some monologue about the meaning of life and stuff. I find that pretty annoying because people don’t do that. But, in this series, it’s every character doing that all the time.

It doesn’t stop there, though. Every little thing has to be explained through dialogue. It’s as if the author doesn’t think the reader is smart enough to “get it,” no matter what “it” is.

For example, at one point, there are obvious parallels between how Kimitaka’s grandfather and another character are acting. They’re both coping by purchasing new clothes to make themselves feel better. Well, it couldn’t just be left up to the reader to recognize that. Kimitaka has to verbally explain it so there’s no doubt about these parallels being intentional.

Does This Count as a Romance Manga?

According to MyAnimeList, Tetsugaku Letra is not a romance manga. And, I have to agree with that. I wouldn’t count it as a romance manga. But, it almost feels like it wants to be a romance manga, which was weird.

First, there are Kimitaka Ichinose and Takara Fujimoto. Throughout the whole series, they want to see each other again. They’re each the reason the other is trying so hard. But, there’s never any actual romance between them. After Chapter 1, they don’t meet again until the second half of the final chapter of the manga.

Because of how they spoke of each other, I kept expecting something to happen between them. Like, surely they’ll actually get together at some point, right? No. The author explained everything else in the series. But, Kimitaka and Takara ending up in a relationship? Nope, that’s one’s only implied.

Takara Fujimoto playing basketball from the manga series Tetsugaku Letra
Takara Fujimoto playing basketball

There’s one other potential relationship in the manga I want to mention. This is Tsubura Ichikawa’s one-sided love with Yuzu. Yuzu’s in a relationship with a guy who openly cheats on her with multiple other girls. And, he’s generally verbally abusive toward her, too.

The obvious direction this subplot is going in is that Tsubura and Yuzu are going to end up together. But, that doesn’t happen. Yuzu sticks with her abusive boyfriend and that’s the end of that storyline. What makes this even weirder is that Yuzu has a twin sister, Tsubaki.

If Yuzu’s going to stay with her boyfriend, why not use that to set Tsubura up with Tsubaki? That would have been a satisfying conclusion. Instead, the fact that Yuzu and Tsubaki are twins only comes up once. It’s used to explain that Yuzu was always compared to Tsubaki, and because of that she has low self-esteem.

Final Thoughts

Tetsugaku Letra is a 4/10. After finishing it, I tried to justify giving it a 5 because it’s not a terrible read. But, I can’t. I don’t feel like it did anything well. Everything about it is sub-par, from the art to the characters to the themes. It’s a manga that just falls short.

Now, I didn’t read the manga, but I watched the anime of Dance Dance Danseur. And, if you’re looking for a very similar series (drama and dancing), I’d go with that one. At the very least, it didn’t feel like it was patronizing the viewer in the way that this one does.

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