Welcome to the Ballroom
Episode 23

by Rebecca Silverman,

How would you rate episode 23 of
Welcome to the Ballroom ?

We've known for a while that the finale of Welcome to the Ballroom was going to have to go beyond the manga, but that's a thin excuse for the amount of flashbacking this episode does. It actually feels less due to the lack of original material and more like an attempt at drawing the finale out – there need to be two more episodes, so the show has to milk its plot points for all they're worth to get there. Since the other option is a late-breaking clip show, this is doubtless the better way to go, but it still robs the episode of some of its potential tension.

The competition has now come down to Tatara versus Kugimiya. Both have their issues that could easily sink them, as this week reminds us: Tatara's a new dancer with a partner he's barely formed a working relationship with, and Kugimiya is not only recovering from a catastrophic injury but also grappling with the loss of his mentor and changes in dancesport. This puts the two on at least comparable footing emotionally, but their physical issues don't seem particularly equal, even though both dancers are in less than ideal shape for the competition. When Kugimiya's leg initially gave out during the tango, my first thought was that this could make a Tatara win seem more legit. Kugimiya is pushing himself too far too fast after his accident, and his body simply can't take it. That may still be true, but Hyodo's quick write-off of this being a leg cramp seems more likely to be the route the show will take.

On the bright side, Kugimiya's issue did allow his partner to take some time in the spotlight. It's not much of course, but it's nice to see that she's capable of supporting her partner both on the dance floor and off. She says that she sees herself as invisible, but that doesn't seem to apply to her status as the follow in the dance relationship, it's just how she thinks of herself as a person. I was afraid that the show would try to make that into one of her “strengths” as a dancer, but I was pleasantly surprised that others tried to talk her out of seeing herself as a mere ghost. She's a good dancer in her own right, and Kugimiya worried about holding her back when he was in the hospital, while others urge her to consider dance as more than just a hobby. While I wish we'd gotten to know her better than this limited time allowed, seeing her as a person outside the dance floor was a good experience.

Along with the lack of immediate dancing and competition this week, the visuals feel like they're suffering. While some aspects are more humorous than anything – I don't know why, but I found it very funny that Tatara got nipples but no outline of genitalia in his naked rendition, making him look like a dancing Titan – others are more troubling, such as the near-constant deformation of feet. There's one scene where everyone's legs look twisted, and Chi-chan is definitely missing ankles in a few shots. There's also been a cutback in the actual dancing again (although Ballroom has gotten more adept at hiding its lack of dancing in the second half), and the music backslides away from dance music once again, making this episode feel like it would be more at home in the first cour.

There's only one week left for this flawed adaptation, but this episode only leaves me looking forward to the series' end. That's not to say that it's been a terrible experience, but there isn't enough here to make me anticipating the finale for its own sake. This episode is a return to the show's old form, which doesn't do it any favors. I'm hoping that just means that the show is saving up its resources for an excellent final episode, because I'd rather see it go out with a bang than a fizzle.

Rating: C+

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

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