Welcome to the Ballroom
Episodes 14-15

by Rebecca Silverman,

How would you rate episode 14 of
Welcome to the Ballroom ?

How would you rate episode 15 of
Welcome to the Ballroom ?

These were two particularly difficult episodes to rate because they're a combination of basic Welcome to the Ballroom issues that add in a couple much more troubling elements. Most of the latter come in episode fifteen, when not only does the concept of “breaking” and “controlling” the female dancer rear its head, but a gay stereotype also appears to grab Sengoku's crotch. Add to that the clearly rushed pacing of Tatara's decision to switch studios and you've got two episodes that appear to be taking the series in the wrong direction.

But first things first – we get a lot more context for Chinatsu's unpleasant behavior, which definitely helps her likability as a character. It turns out that she was indeed the lead in a two-girl couple until recently, although that was not necessarily by choice: Akira, her former partner, refused to take the male part. It's almost a throwaway comment that tells us this, but there's clear antagonism between the girls when they meet again at Akira's family restaurant, and given Akira's goading nature, I'm inclined to believe that Chinatsu's attitude resulted from this fallout rather than being a natural offshoot of her personality. Akira is catty and snide, poking at Chinatsu's insecurities as she smiles sweetly, provoking the other girl into making rash decisions. She's possibly the reason why Chinatsu quit dance in the first place, as well as the most obnoxious character in the series thus far. Akira has a smug sense of her own control over Chinatsu and clearly delights in it, and while that does motivate Chinatsu to declare herself Tatara's official partner, it also stands to be the prime undermining factor in that partnership.

The big issue is that Chinatsu and Tatara have very different ideas of what a partnership is. Tatara is much more egalitarian – he wants the partners to be equal or at least for the girl to be as important as the boy. Chinatsu and the rest of the cast take a different view: the male is supposed to lead the female as if she were his puppet. Actually, “horse” is the word used in the manga, but I'm definitely glad that this “break the horse” language from the manga has been left out of the anime, if only at least in subtitles. Marisa Hyodo sees Chinatsu's backleading as a habit that she needs to be “broken” of, meaning that Tatara has to take the reins. This leads to an interesting lack of continuity between the episode previews and the titles on Amazon – one mentions “taking the reins” while another uses the word “breaking,” suggesting either discomfort with the manga's choice of metaphor or differences between translator interpretations. In either case, it would be too bad to see Tatara fully change his attitude when Chinatsu's also needs adjustment – I could argue that she's more in need of learning to not let Akira get to her than Tatara needs to learn to be forceful.

Regardless, it's not difficult to see that Tatara and Chinatsu aren't good for each other at this point. This partly seems to be because of Sengoku's lackadaisical instruction – Tatara has only learned standard dance routines and seemed to miss out on a lot of the fundamentals of movement. That's going to change now that Marisa has agreed to take him on, but it will also be a question of attitude on Chinatsu's part as to whether or not they can make their partnership work, which begs the question of whether or not it should. They're only partners at this point because they were available at the right time and place. Their frustrations with each other may help them to grow, but the underlying toxicity of their pairing doesn't feel like a great foundation.

Fortunately, some of the second cour changes for the better are still in place through these two episodes. Proper dance music is still being used, and we see more actual dancing than before, although still not a full routine. This seems to have been made possible by the introduction of some CG dancers, but as it isn't terribly out of place, that's not too terrible for now. Chinatsu's blue dress in episode fourteen is one of the most beautiful costumes we've seen thus far, and the animation of her backleading Tatara in the competition is well done – you can feel the press of her hips as she forces him to follow her guidance. There's something that feels off about the faces in episode fifteen – they look too simplified at times – but for the most part, the show is looking good.

Despite these positives, the more troubling aspects of episodes fourteen and fifteen bring them down. Hopefully, the grabby portrayal of Sengoku's Slavic competitor was just a misguided moment of “humor,” because the show really doesn't need to burden itself with negative stereotypes of that nature. What it could use is some likable female characters with actual personalities, and it's possible that Tatara's new training will eventually bring us a working partnership and a Chinatsu who's comfortable enough with Tatara to be more genuine with him and (more importantly) with herself. It's worth keeping an eye on, but let's hope that the long-standing issues dissipate too, because the series definitely does not need them.

Rating: C+

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


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