The Spring 2022 Preview Guide
Dance Dance Danseur

How would you rate episode 1 of
Dance Dance Danseur ?
Community score: 3.9



What is this?

Junpei Murao was fascinated with ballet as a child, but in his second year of middle school, his father passed away and he decided he needed to become more "masculine," and he gave up on his aspirations. While still having an attachment to ballet, he takes up the martial art of Jeet Kune Do, and becomes popular in his class. Then one day, a new transfer student named Miyako Godai arrives in Junpei's class, and her mother runs a ballet studio. Miyako realizes that Junpei is interested in ballet, and invites him to do ballet together.

Dance Dance Danseur is based on George Asakura's manga and streams on Crunchyroll on Fridays.


How was the first episode?

Richard Eisenbeis
Rating:

Hey, did you know that toxic masculinity really messes people up? It's insidious. It trickles down to others subconsciously, teaching men, even as children, to encourage those who follow the classical male ideal and shame those who do not. Dance Dance Danseur is like a case study showing how these commonly held beliefs can rob a child of his dream and destiny—and how he has to fight against his own ingrained worldview to get them back.

As a child, we see that Junpei was willing and able to follow his dream to become a ballet dancer. He was even willing to fight his friends when they disparaged it. However, what really messed him up was the death of his father. His father was a martial artist and stuntman; in other words, he was about as stereotypical of a manly man as you can get.

When Junpei brings up his dream to his father, his father initially tries to dissuade him and get him to do Jeet Kun Do instead. This is partly due to his own ingrained toxic masculinity, but it's also because he wants a shared interest through which he can connect with his son. But Junpei can't see that second bit. All he can see is that his father wanted him to do something more manly than ballet, an idea that is reinforced when his uncle (a likewise manly man) tells the young boy to be strong for his family after his father's passing. In his own way, he is trying to help Junpei through his grief by giving him a reason to fight on, but Junpei (being a literal child) only hears: manly=good, girly=bad.

Now, years later, Junpei has done everything he can to be the manliest man he can be. He sees it as his way of honoring his father, making his family and friends happy with how great he has become. The only problem is that in doing so, he has forgone his own chance at true happiness. Is it any surprise he's turned out to be such an angry young man? He forced his own desires deep down inside but they keep bubbling up. The loving support of his mother and sister isn't enough for him to accept his true self. What he needs is someone to confront him on a “masculine level”—to aggressively attack him right in the male ego and make doing ballet part of his manly pride. Its only through regaining his own inborn self-worth—by determining for himself what it means to be a man—that Junpei can find happiness. And while in this episode he has taken a step towards that, it is only the first step of many.

Dance Dance Danseur's first episode is a fantastic breakdown of toxic masculinity and the harm it subconsciously inflicts on children. Moreover, it has fantastic animation and a great moral. Honestly, there's not much here to dislike.


Nicholas Dupree
Rating:

This is one of those premieres that's frustrating in good and bad ways. For the good, when this episode ended I seriously wanted the next one right away, which means this premiere did its job. For the bad, part of the reason I wanted another episode is because this one only feels like half a story.

On the one hand, that may be a good decision – plenty of otherwise good shows rush through their premieres in order to get to some kind of climax, sacrificing important character work to reach a suitably big moment to end on. So it may ultimately be good thing that Junpei's story feels like it's still stuck on the tarmac waiting for permission to take off. Because what we do get from him is really interesting, and tells us a lot about who this kid is and what the overall theme of this story will be. We see a kid who clearly wants to follow his passion, but a mixture of grief and toxic masculinity keeps him from pursuing it.

Those combative forces cause him to waffle a lot through this episode, insisting he's left ballet behind as a childhood whim while coming back to Miyako's studio every day once the offer's extended. It can be a little irksome to see him going back and forth like that, but it also builds anticipation for that moment when he'll finally let go of all that baggage and dance the way he so obviously wants to. But that moment is not coming now, and it does feel a little underwhelming when the episode just kind of stops, rather than ending. We've gotten the setup, but no payoff. There's enough good stuff here that I'm confident that payoff will deliver, but having to wait is, well, frustrating.

The other stumbling block for some will probably be the character designs. An admirable job has been done to translate George Asakura's lanky, limpid-eyed designs for animation. The dance scenes are also all-around solid, capturing the grace and precision that can make ballet such a delight to watch. It's everything that isn't a dance sequence that leaves some worries for me – there's a number of awkward still frames and edits that could just be a consequence of the brisk pace of this premiere, or be portents of a looming production collapse from an overburdened MAPPA. I'd like it to be the former, as there's a ton of potential for an anime that can really deliver on honest-to-goodness ballet performances, and it'd suck to see that fall apart.

Hangups aside, there's a lot of good here and it's a unique offering in an already packed season. That will hopefully make it stand out, and if nothing else I'll be hanging around until we get that big moment of catharsis for Junpei. Consider it a hesitant thumbs up.


Rebecca Silverman
Rating:

If you don't know, until I broke my left ankle in four places, I was a dancer. Primarily modern dance, but ballet as well, and I was serious about it that I would have, as the unpleasantly abrasive dance teacher says in this episode, given up everything else to pursue it. But that's not how life works, and it certainly gives me mixed feelings about Dance Dance Danseur's first episode. On the one hand, I absolutely agree with some of what the teacher says – to really excel in dance on a professional level, you do have to start early and you do have to give up most other things…and even then, it might not work out, as one of my cousins learned when she was told she didn't have the right body type to ever be a prima ballerina. But there are also ways to enjoy being a dancer without putting in that level of commitment, and there's nothing that says that Junpei can't perform and be a dancer while still keeping up with his other activities.

That of course is part of the conflict. Junpei's always wanted to do ballet, but the levels of fragile and toxic masculinity around him are astronomical, preventing him from pursuing what he loves. His dad's comment that people “already think he's a girl” because he plays piano made my skin crawl, because way to randomly gender music and dance, sir. Then when his uncle (who I suspect may be one of those family friend uncles rather than blood related) tells him after his father's death that Jumpei has to be the man in the family now, the damage is complete—Junpei has to be the man, dancing isn't manly, therefore, he can't be a dancer. It's terrible and all too familiar, and the poor kid is still busy lying to himself when he's a second year in middle school, fooling everyone except his older sister and Miyako, the newish girl at school. Miyako knows a dance move when she sees one, no matter what crap Junpei feeds everyone else about martial arts kicks, and she becomes the one person who's willing to support him—or at least to do so without being a jerk about it, like her mother.

Basically this episode was an exercise in frustration begging for relief that will almost certainly come in later episodes. Junpei is clearly working towards accepting himself and what he loves, and he's got a lot to work through, including being a fourteen-year-old boy who can't think of any reason why Miyako would want him to dance besides that she likes him. (More likely the reason is that there are so few male dancers that she's having a hard time finding a partner her age.) It's mostly a good frustration, because it does look to be in service of something rewarding, and the dancing is well enough animated that we can feel the muscles engaging, especially in the opening performance that hooks Jumpei on dance in the first place. Likewise we can see how Jumpei is self-taught in his movements, which is an excellent detail. I'll need to give it a couple more episodes before I decide, because this is a subject I could be very picky about, but since it seems to be as close to a Swan anime (or even getting the rest of the manga in English) as I'm likely to get, I suspect I'll end up taking it.


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