Welcome to the Ballroom
Episode 24

by Rebecca Silverman,

How would you rate episode 24 of
Welcome to the Ballroom ?

I think most of us saw this coming – Tatara and Chinatsu won the competition. On a storytelling level, it does make sense. Not only are they the main protagonists of the show, whose hard work we've been following for two cours now, but their win also forces Kugimiya to think about why he dances and what he really gets out of it. While he wasn't precisely going through the motions, he certainly has been questioning himself for the few episodes we've gotten to see his thoughts, so being bested by a couple of kids, one of whom has only been dancing for a year, forces him to realize that he truly does enjoy dancing to some degree. So why does this finale ultimately feel kinda empty? While it certainly could be because we saw this coming, that doesn't seem right because plenty of predictable endings are perfectly satisfying.

I think this episode isn't as effective as it could be because it tries to throw too much Chinatsu/Tatara partner-building in at the last minute. We've seen them struggle a lot as a couple, so to suddenly have Tatara declaring his love for Chi-chan in his head feels last-minute and kind of odd. Certainly part of this can be attributed to the heat of the moment, but one good competition is not going to erase all their previous issues like this episode seems to suggest. Their sudden affection for each other smacks of a too-obvious attempt at fabricating a perfect happy ending, and while I might have been able to buy one vaguely ridiculous finishing move, this is pushing things.

It doesn't help that the show is up to its old tricks with the music and the dancing. Hyodo's assertion that both partners lead in the Viennese Waltz (which we've been told Tatara and Chinatsu have not been practicing) seems to be an attempt to explain the cross-body lead, but it's not a very good one. As I understand it, the Viennese Waltz is more or less a faster waltz where you turn 180 degrees with each step (though that's an oversimplified explanation), so it wouldn't make sense that the partners would share leading duties for it. (My background is in Martha Graham-style modern dance, so bear that in mind.) Regardless, the episode's heavy reliance on this specific dance for Tatara and Chinatsu's win makes it harder to get behind it. It doesn't help that the dance music is subbed out for a (very pretty) insert song, although it's clear that this episode is trying harder to keep the music appropriate for the dancing.

On the plus side, we do see more of that dancing, with some very nice sequences of the dancers' feet. Given how important that footwork is to the dance, it's nice to see a little more of it this week. Kugimiya and Tamie get some more time in the spotlight as well, and since they've managed to become two of the most sympathetic characters in the series, it's nice to see them get their due. Even better is the brief scene we get during the credits with Mako yelling at Gaju. If she's learned not to put up with her brother's jerk ways, then I'm at least a little happy.

At the heart of this final episode is the question of why Tatara dances. He and Kugimiya both ask themselves that question as they compete, and although neither comes to a solid answer, it's an interesting question. Personally, I dance because I love it, even if it can only be around my living room post-injury. Although Tatara doesn't come out and say it, that's the reason why he dances too – but also because it gives him a sense of belonging, something to look forward to that he didn't have before. Sengoku, jerk that he is, does deserve some of the credit for that, because he's the one who really showed Tatara what he wanted to do, even if he abandoned him soon after. Deep down, that's why Kugimiya dances too, and seeing him teaching again at the end is perhaps the most hopeful part of the series.

I have mixed feelings about Welcome to the Ballroom. I still like the manga, and I do maintain that it's more enjoyable if only because we get more of the girls' thoughts, making them more fleshed-out characters. The anime hasn't really lived up to my hopes with its attitudes and inaccuracies, to say nothing of the lack of dancing and dance music. But it hasn't been all bad, and I never dreaded watching it. Ultimately, I think this falls into the realm of “it could have been better.” That's perhaps damning the show with faint praise, but I think that's ultimately what it deserves as a show that strangled itself with the “might have beens.”

Rating: B-

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

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