Welcome to the Ballroom
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 19 of
Welcome to the Ballroom ?
There are some things that I can't help wishing were explained earlier in the series. This largely pertains to Chinatsu's past, because the more information we get, the more sense she makes as a character. None of it erases the fact that she's just not a good partner for Tatara, or even a good partner in general when she's dancing the female side, but it does help us to understand how she got where she is today. That's important both in terms of understanding her attitude toward Tatara and dance, but also for making her into a more rounded character.
Akira being a major part of Chi-chan's past shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. It's been clear from her introduction that there's some bad blood between the two of them, and this episode begins to explore that. We've seen that Akira didn't let Chinatsu dance the girl's part when they were younger, and now this week we begin to get to the root of that issue: Akira is, if not in love with Chinatsu, she at least has a major crush on her reaching back to their elementary school days. (I hesitate to call it “love” because even if it started out that way, something seems to have twisted it with time.) It began as hero worship, as Chinatsu stood up for Akira when she was being bullied back in the first grade (and major kudos to the show for illustrating that everyone has a different body shape even at that age), and by the time the two became fully friends, Akira's worship had turned into something else. Unfortunately, that came with a large dose of jealousy as she watched Chinatsu progress more quickly as a dancer, so by the point that Akira realized Chinatsu was both more into dance and better at it than she was, she might have begun actively sabotaging Chinatsu's chances of finding a male partner.
It's both interesting and important to note that Akira and Chinatsu have been dancing for roughly as long as Shizuku, Hyodo, Gaju, and Mako. This means that had either of them paired up with a male partner earlier, they could easily be on the same level as the others, particularly Chinatsu. Perhaps that's part of why she's so frustrated with Tatara now – along with knowing that she's a more competent lead than him, she's also been dancing for at least ten years longer. And while we don't yet know what caused the official break between Chinatsu and Akira, I suspect that it stemmed from similar frustrations – the kind that she could easily internalize in terms of blame and then take out on those around her.
It looks like Akira's about to feel the repercussions of her actions as she staggers under the weight of Chinatsu's casual (but deliberate) cruelty following the loss of one point. It doesn't help that her partner is thrown off by the fact that his wife and daughter have showed up to watch him dance (a good reminder that a dancesport couple does not equate to a romantic relationship), so both of them are just off their game enough to throw their dance off even further. Her burning jealousy of Chinatsu's relationship with Tatara seems bound to interfere as well, so the next episode could be a game changer for her—and eliminate one of Tatara and Chinatsu's major rivals.
While there isn't much dancing this week, we do get a good moment when two couples' routines end up being identical. It's a chance both for us to see the difference in skill between the two, but also for the show to throw in one of its more unintentionally funny similes, saying that one couple is like a bouquet while the other is like a barrel. Surely there was a better analogy out there? Like a bouquet and a bundle of sticks or something? Whatever the case, it pairs decently with the odd bathroom scene where Gaju and Hyodo go for a communal pee and then try to get each other wet, Hyodo by wiping his hands on Gaju's shirt and Gaju by spraying Hyodo with the sink. It's a nice reminder that they're kids, no matter how grown up they may seem when dancing. I think that's something that the characters need to be reminded of from time to time as well.
Welcome to the Ballroom is currently streaming on Amazon's Anime Strike.
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