This Week in Anime
What's Missing From Welcome to the Ballroom's Characters?

by Nicholas Dupree and Michelle Liu,

Welcome to the Ballroom has dazzled audiences this summer with its immaculate ballroom dancing animation, but people haven't seemed quite as enchanted by its story so far. This week in anime, we try to suss out what's holding the characters back in this ambitious shonen anime.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.

You can read ANN's weekly coverage of Welcome to the Ballroom here!

Micchy
Hey Nick! How's it hangin?

Nick D
Not bad. Picking away at the anime mines hoping for something interesting, mostly.

Haven't been sucked into Uta Macross gacha hell yet, I take it?

I know about as much Japanese as I do Ancient Greek, so no I haven't fallen into Free-To-Play space idol purgatory yet.

I have, however, been working on my rhythm in other ways

How 'bout them hips. Welcome to the Ballroom sure is a thing, huh? I was told it was rote sports shounen coming in, and I guess it's more or less lived up to that assessment so far.

I suppose so. I can't say I'm all that impressed with it myself so far, but that's less to do with its Sports Shounen formula and more to do with its characters. I mean, I've sat through 80+ episodes of Yowamushi Pedal. So I have a pretty high tolerance for generic sports action.

Yowapeda, generic? Perish the thought.

In fairness, there's only so many ways you can make "Pedal Faster" into an interesting plot twist.


But anyway, even as a by-the-numbers sports story, I think Ballroom carries some potential with its premise - Ballroom Dancing is a pretty unusual sport as far as anime narratives go, and it's got a hell of a production behind it.

I'll say! The Haikyu!! team is solid as hell, even if they're not quite working at their full potential here. Remind me, you don't have much experience with ballroom, right?

Absolutely none. I didn't even know there were separate categories until watching this show.

Wait did you not watch Dancing with the Stars ever. Nick.

Listen, Awkward Teen Me had an aversion to any kind of dancing. Unless moshing counts as dancing.

Either way, I'm out of my element here.

Okay, so you weren't put through the rigorous ballet/ballroom/figure skating regimen I went through in middle and high school. Welcome to the Ballroom touches on some things I recognize from that background, namely the kind of drama that occurs between teen (ice) dancers. Because oh boy.

That's actually something I wanted to ask you about. Because this show keeps framing dance partners as like, pseudo-romantic pairings that break up and cheat on each other and stuff. When my understanding is most treat it as like, business relationships.

Adults yes, but don't get me started on how horny 15-year-olds act when partnering for the first time. In my experience there was a fair amount of ill-advised dating around that age. All the lasting teams figured out that was bullshit sooner or later though, mind you. But yeah, teens can get attached in a way that's not quite romantic, but the confusion that is puberty sometimes confuses things.

That makes sense. I'm not wild about the show putting so much emphasis on that aspect, but I can at least buy it. Now, my other question: How often did the instructors and coaches call their female students skanks and easy women for switching partners?

Yyyyyeeeeahhhh Sengoku is kind of irredeemably terrible, ain't he?

He can go take a long waltz off a short pier if you know what I mean.

His character's easily the biggest problem I have with the show, tbh. All machismo of the shitty variety. Let's not forget how he casually tears off Shizuku's dress and it's played off as comedy. If his stupid ideas about partnering being a show of dominance! Between! Men! weren't voiced every few minutes, that would be great. Worst shounen sports mentor ever, I swear.

Not to mention the way he treats all of his students. Throws Tatara into the deep end, then berates him for it like it wasn't his idea in the first place. Lies to Shizuku and then dismisses her as "having a fit."


Right, which is why I'm tempted to believe we're supposed to think he's a total ass who's in the wrong. But then again, the show could lean into those weird-ass gender politics and make me eat those words. It's hard to say at this point?

I /want/ to think it's setting him up as a good dancer who's bad at teaching, but the show lets him slide with this stuff so much I can't help but think it just intends for him to be funny. Slapstick smacking can only go so far.

It depends on how much of Shizuku's (and Mako's) perspective we get going forward, I think. This could easily be offset with some dedicated focus to them.

I would certainly like some focus on Shizuku. For somebody who's ostensibly our primary love interest, she's gotten very little focus even when she's featured in almost every dance sequence in the show and is supposed to be mega talented.

Like, when the show lingers on shots like these I find it hard to believe it doesn't plan on giving her SOME focus

It's really unfortunate that up to this point she's largely been an accessory to the plot. Mako's been in one episode and already has better established character and motivations.

Heck, I'd settle for having somebody acknowledge that she's got a point about Sengoku and Hyodo lying to her

YYYYYYUP those goddang dudes

I may not know much about dancing, but I know enough about character and narrative to know that partnerships need to have trust and mutual respect to function.

I get Hyodo's unwillingness to let inconsequential ("inconsequential") things like ~injury~ hold him back, but yeah. That's real dickish.

Heck, just let Shizuku and Hyodo have a conversation or something.

I think it's worth noting that their on-screen interactions have been pretty strictly professional, compared to Mako/Tatara's relationship.

So is that intentional or just a symptom of bad character writing? I dunno, but I'm willing to give Ballroom the benefit of the doubt right now.

The stuff from episode 2 suggests they don't get along too well outside of competition/practice, but then we get Hyodo's line about "taking care" of her, which is a whole 'nother kettle of eye-rolling fish.


Tatara u poor dumb child that's not what it means

I am curious to see how things go with Tatara and Mako though. I think their partnership could set the tone for the show moving forward. If it's about them getting to know each other and building trust, I could see myself getting back into the show. If it's about them crushing on each other though...

I skimmed through a bit of the manga and uh. It's really walkin the line.

sigh

(Oh god, what does this make her relationship with her brother?)

I know this sounds like bullshit coming from a Macross fan but man do I hate Love Triangles.

Not enough dimensions for you, I take it? You only want Love Polyhedra?

I do want to stress that I'm not totally down on the series right now - it's done a lot to frustrate me, but there are still fun moments.

That dancing animation makes me really, really happy, ngl. It's really cute knowing the staff took ballroom classes for this.

Those bits are probably my favorite moments so far. Granted I know dick about dancing, so I have to take the characters' word on whether a move is impressive or not. But it's a lot of lively movement that's just nice to watch when it shows up.

The stylized proportions look real funny in stills but damn if they aren't effective in motion.

Like, this is some cool stuff

It's a really incredible cut; doubly so knowing that it was some of Kazunori Mizuno's last work before his untimely death :(

Yeah, it's a fantastic piece. Hard to think about knowing the circumstances behind it, but it's absolutely beautiful..

Outside of animation highlights though, I am struggling to get into the series' narrative. Tatara's frustrating enough that I have to work to stay interested in him, and the humor hasn't worked for me much.

They're pretty boilerplate characters, yeah; if not for the subject matter (competitive dancing! is! my! shit!!) I doubt I'd be as invested. Having made my peace with the fact that this is a shounen sports manga though, I find I'm more willing to put up with (and halfway enjoy??) the romantic drama.

I think there's still potential! Dance as a form of expression, or as a means of bonding and communicating with another person, seems like a really interesting angle that the series has hinted at a few times. I'd love for Tatara's story to focus more on that aspect rather than the Sunday soaps drama.

hell if I'm not a sucker for Teenagers Being Horny™

I'm...less into the horny than you are. But even that would be okay if the girls in the cast get to stand more on their own two feet.

Look, if you weren't yelling when Shizuku made this face, I don't think we can be friends

But yeah, the character writing really needs to step it up a bit for the series to stand out.

It just occurred to me that with all the long necks in this show we could make some really bad deep throat jokes. I applaud us for not doing that.

NICK

But at the same time I'm a little disappointed in us. Man, how big must hickeys look in this universe?

I was just about to say I like Mako's character even though she's a pretty rote archetype but you just killed that thought.

I like Mako well enough. She seems likable and could be a good pair with Tatara. Just please avoid any incest overtones with her, please?

Meek girl trying to break out of a dependent sibling relationship by doing an emotionally charged partner/group thing with a nice boy? Where have I heard this before...


There, I solved the mystery of why I like Mako so much; she's blonde Mikono from Aquarion Evol. Anyway, as long as Ballroom remains less incestuous than that Crispino twin subplot in Yuri!!! on Ice, I'm good.

Yeah I guess that's all I really have left to say about Ballroom right now too. It has potential, but I'm wary about it going forward.

If it can't give me more of a reason to stick around, I don't know if I'll bo--

never mind I'm on board, Anime Of The Season

Finally you see the light!


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