Welcome to the Ballroom
Episode 20

by Rebecca Silverman,

How would you rate episode 20 of
Welcome to the Ballroom ?

If the goal of the last two episodes was to make Chinatsu and Akira more sympathetic characters, I'm not sure that they succeeded. While Akira's past with Chinatsu now makes more sense, or at least we better understand why she's so obsessed with her erstwhile partner, neither girl comes off as particularly likable even given this background. In Chinatsu's defense, she has always simply been herself, the young woman we've been watching for this entire second half of the series. It's Akira who saw her former friend as someone she wasn't, pinning her own expectations on the other girl in a way that would have been impossible for Chinatsu to live up to. Now that she's becoming more aware that Chinatsu is not who she made her out to be, she's able to think about why she wants to keep dancing in the first place.

Of course, we don't get any firm answers in this episode. While Akira and her partner do dance much better in their next heat, she still hasn't had the necessary epiphanies, and the flashback to how she decided to show off her ample cleavage in order to ensure her (married!) partner would be willing to dance with her highlights the insecurities that are still holding her back. Akira may be getting better, but her need for Chinatsu's gaze still dictates most of what she does, and that's ultimately what seems to bring her down.

Despite this continuation of the serious subject matter from last week, what episode twenty really does well is its awkward humor. From the visual representation of what it feels like to get heeled while dancing (those high heels can do some serious damage) to Hyodo commandeering Tatara's dryer while he sports the always awesome full-body towel look, these little bits of humor are a welcome respite from the melodramatic competition vibe that has been prevalent over these last few weeks. Even little things like Tatara meeting Chinatsu's over-eager dad, which is at least one of the oldest gags in the book, or the too-gooey couple in the hallway, the lighthearted angle of this episode's middle is very welcome. It may not be advancing the plot or doing much to develop the characters, but it is an awful lot of fun in a show that's been lacking for fun in recent episodes.

It's also a little calm before the coming storm. With the semifinals now directly pitting Tatara against his studio-mates, there's a lot more at stake for him and Chinatsu. Hyodo's probably well-intentioned massage may not have been a great plan, because Tatara's now so loose that he's not sure how to control his movements anymore. This is definitely overexaggerated for our benefit, but his increased flexibility could have serious consequences. I'm fairly certain that Hyodo didn't mean to harm the other dancer's abilities; it's more that Hyodo has a hard time thinking outside of his own experience and may just be a teensy bit self-focused. (Stealing—er, borrowing—Tatara's dryer when he needed it to puff up his own sweaty tailcoat was not a nice move.) While it remains to be seen how this will affect the competition's outcome, I can't help wishing that it was Gaju, jerk that he is, who had helped Tatara prepare, because he's at least a little more aware of how others differ from himself.

At this point, we'll just have to hope that Tatara can pull it together or Chinatsu can finagle something, because there's a lot riding on this heat for them. I'll definitely miss this lighter air next week, but things do need to get serious again if they're going to get out of this pickle.

Rating: B-

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

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