Welcome to the Ballroom
Episode 11

by Rebecca Silverman,

How would you rate episode 11 of
Welcome to the Ballroom ?

Don't forget that pink-haired girl we saw briefly at the end of this week's episode. She's going to be important. That's largely because with the end of the competition between Tatara and Gaju, Welcome to the Ballroom is about to move on to what may be its saving grace storyline, with the potential for a renewed focus on learning to dance and a couple new female characters who arguably have more chutzpah than Mako or Shizuku. Of course, that's entirely dependent upon the show's take on its source material, but that's strong enough that there really is some hope.

Of course, we're not there yet. This week's episode still suffers from its usual issues, with the music made more egregious this time by the use of a random J-pop insert song that in no way matches the moves on the screen. The overall quickstep animation is a step up, and this time Tatara's explanatory narration is actually paired with the steps, which helps quite a bit. Generally speaking, episode eleven does a much better job of showing and not telling, and although it isn't perfect, it feels a lot more dynamic than many of its predecessors. Some of the best animation is still reserved for non-dance scenes, however, such as Tatara's walk off the floor before the credits (which makes sense, because we do need to see his confidence in this moment) or the collapse against a wall after the dance is done. In some ways, I felt as if the dance aspects of this episode started off much stronger than they finished, both in terms of animation and in the highly-suspect treatment of partnership. This culminates in the award Mako wins for the “best partner,” which as the show does point out, doesn't really exist. While it does serve as the ego boost Mako desperately needs (and it does feel like she's the one making the choice to get back with Gaju at the end), it also seems like a further misunderstanding of how a dance partnership works. On the other hand, Mako is the more accomplished dancer of her pair, so perhaps I'm being needlessly critical.

There was one moment this week that really solidified for me that this show isn't pursuing an audience of actual dancers. As they watch Tatara smile while he's dancing, both Sengoku and Hyodo think to themselves that they want to get up and dance, and Hyodo actually does a step, crutch notwithstanding. That's when it occurred to me that never once has this series made me want to dance after watching it. The manga has, as have other series featuring various ways of dancing. But this one leaves me sitting in my chair rather than tour jêté-ing around the living room. That feels like a significant issue, and it would be interesting to know if others feel differently, because to me, a story about movement ought to make you want to move yourself.

The outcome of the competition was never really in question. Gaju and Shizuku are more experienced, and Tatara was not physically ready for the demands of extensive dancing, which was another nice touch this week. I do appreciate that Shizuku was so heartbroken after Mako out-danced her, because that was the one major surprise of the results, definitely a blow to Shizuku's image of herself and potentially making her worry about a possible dependence on Hyodo. Everyone ought to have learned a little something from this exercise, which we should see going forward into part two of the story. How this next arc is handled will determine whether or not this adaptation is beyond saving for some viewers. For the first time in weeks, I'm looking forward to seeing how the show will handle things.

Rating: B-

Welcome to the Ballroom is currently streaming on Amazon's Anime Strike.

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