Welcome to the Ballroom
Episodes 4-5

by Rebecca Silverman,

How would you rate episode 4 of
Welcome to the Ballroom ?

How would you rate episode 5 of
Welcome to the Ballroom ?

I'm not sure why Amazon put both episodes four and five up this week, but I'm not going to complain – especially since episode five marks a major change for Tatara in that he finally gets a partner. That's a big deal in more ways than one, in part because it allows the show to begin to explore what the relationship between partners is. Sengoku compares it to a marriage, and on one level he's not wrong: a dance partnership requires the same level of absolute trust that a marriage partnership does, at least ideally. Although Tatara immediately misunderstands that comparison to be a romantic one, that's really not what Sengoku is getting at. He's mad at what he sees as Shizuku's betrayal of her professional relationship with Hyodo, and, although he's not verbalizing it, Gaju's similar betrayal of Mako.

Of course, all of that is in episode five. Episode four wraps up the Mikasa Cup storyline, which does begin the whole partner issue when Hyodo becomes enraged at Tatara for “stealing” his partner and his choreography. Tatara's actions (via Sengoku, which we really shouldn't forget) do spur Hyodo on to whip out an impassioned tango, but they also lead to Shizuku finally vocalizing her dissatisfaction with Hyodo's attitude: he doesn't trust her enough to tell her when he's hurt. This, she reveals later on, isn't the first time he's hidden an injury or a cold; Hyodo has a history of not letting his partner know when he isn't in top form. As we see here, he simply forces himself to push through, which is rarely a good idea, although pretty much every dancer has done it at some point. By not telling Shizuku, Hyodo isn't just preventing her from adjusting her movements to ease his (as much as that can happen), but also jeopardizing their level of trust.

This we see repeated when Gaju, having heard that Hyodo is down for the count, comes racing in demanding that Shizuku become his partner. While there are several things wrong with this scenario, number one among them is that he's already got a partner, his younger sister Mako. Without a thought for her feelings, Gaju basically steamrolls along, loudly proclaiming that Mako is holding him back and basically disregarding her worth as a dancer and a person. He's definitely Sengoku's top challenger for the Asshole of the Week Award.

All of this does help to highlight Tatara's desirability as a partner, despite his near-total inexperience. Given that this is a shounen sports show, that's not unexpected, especially since we've already established his ridiculous level of intuitive skill. But for Mako it's much more important – if she's been dancing with her jerk brother for most of her life (they're an established Latin favorite), think how amazing it must be for her to suddenly dance with a guy who cares that she doesn't get hurt and worries about upsetting her. Newbie or not, he must seem worth her time and effort. That's something Hyodo also seems aware of when he has his not-quite-heart-to-heart with Tatara in episode four. Apart from the fact that Tatara's granny may be my new favorite character, Hyodo's visit to Tatara's house and his subsequent request indicate that he sees something in Tatara's enjoyment of dance that he's forgotten. Hyodo's visit doesn't acknowledge Tatara as a rival or an equal, but it does say that Hyodo thinks of him as a fellow dancer, and that's no small thing.

The dancing this week features moments of Shizuku and Hyodo's tango that are amazing – and they capture that “I hate you but I want you” feel that the dance has, although there are a lot of still frames this time. The brief glimpse we get of Gaju and Shizuku doing a Latin routine in episode five is breathtaking. Welcome to the Ballroom still does manage to keep itself grounded in dance culture. It might seem weird for Sengoku to talk about a girl's bra strap, but underwear is a fact of life, as is the idea that if you don't need to wear a bra, you might not bother and that's nothing to overreact to unless you're not used to talking about it. This is also part of Tatara's dancesport education, albeit on a different level, but it's nice that little details are included.

Getting a partner marks a major step in Tatara's dancesport career, something the ending theme is only too happy to show us with the addition of Mako to his waltz. Watching he and Mako learn to work together is worth looking forward to next week, even if the preview seems to indicate that the original author's good sense of anatomy isn't going to carry over to the anime any time soon.

Rating: B+

Editor's note: this review originally contained language that was insensitive given recent events surrounding this series - the author of the review was not aware of those news developments. The review has been revised, and we regret the error.

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

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