Ballroom e Youkoso – 02

I’m going to be interested to see how this episode of Welcome to the Ballroom plays with the viewing public.  Having seen the first two eps of the series at Anime Expo I already had a pretty firm opinion, namely that this ep was substantially better than the premiere (which was quite good in its own right).  Stage-setting is hard, and sports shounen often seem to take a bit of time to find their stride.

In the final analysis, I think expectations will have a lot to do with how this series is perceived.  The notion of a series about ballroom dancing carries a whiff of something exotic and unusual (though dance manga have had a minor boomlet in recent years).  But in point of fact, I think it becomes apparent quite quickly that Ballroom e Youkoso is quite a conventional story – Haikyuu!! is the obvious comparison but by no means the only one.  Thing is, though, calling a show conventional is not a criticism.  Chihayafuru is likewise a series that quickly reveals itself as fairly conventional despite its unusual premise, and even Boku no Hero Academia – while obviously not sports-themed – is a very traditional shounen in terms of structure.

In the end it all comes down to execution.  Are the production values strong?  Check – Team Haikyuu!! is on the job.  Is the main character relatable?  Roger – Tatara has enough quirkiness and grit to lift him above what’s superficially a stock personality type.  Is there a distinctive supporting cast?  Is the core subject matter treated realistically, and does the work display a thorough knowledge of it?  Do the original author and director have a sense of snappy dialogue and good pacing?  Every bit of evidence suggests that the answer to all this questions is affirmative, and that makes Ballroom e Youkoso a good bet to succeed – probably winning itself multiple seasons of anime to adapt the manga in the process.

More members of that supporting cast emerge as the story proper rolls into motion this week.  First, Banba Karen (Kodaira Yuki) and Jinbo Tomochika (Horii Chado), the unlucky pair drafted by Sengoku-san to teach Tatara (they’re still students themselves, so his lessons are free).  Inexperienced teachers and a student with poor concentration and no experience yield predictably disastrous results, but Tatara-kun’s spirit remains unbowed – especially when he sees Hyodo Kiyoharu (Okamoto Nobuhiko, admirably off-type) and Shizuku dancing together at an amateur competition (which they win).

Kiyoharu is obviously an important character, the frival every good sports shounen needs.  But he also represents something real and tangible in a way Sengoku doesn’t – Hyodo-kun is a boy Tatara’s own age, and he’s dancing with the girl Tatara is smitten with.  Yet he’s also a stretch goal for sure – he already dances at a professional level (Shizuku claims even she’s not in his league, though there’s a degree of modesty in that I suspect), and even last year’s practice pants are too long for Fujita-kun.  Kiyoharu is a fierce competitor but seemingly a flatliner when he’s not practicing or performing – you can see Tatara trying to psyche himself into believing the two of them are rivals, but the truth is that Tatara isn’t even a blip on Kiyoharu’s radar screen (yet).

It’s going to be interesting to see how this triangle evolves over the course of Ballroom – will Kiyoharu wind up being effectively a co-male lead, as we have in Chihayafuru, or is he here mainly as a foil for Tatara?  Again, Tatara tries to convince himself that Kiyoharu is spoiled, entitled – his family owns a dance studio and he’s been Shizuku’s partner since they were five years old – but the truth is, Kiyoharu busts his ass to be as good as he is.  As for Tatara, his genius seems to be of the instinctive kind – explanations don’t do it for him but if he can watch, he can learn (and quickly).  So much so, in fact, that he can already “shadow-dance” with Shizuku just from watching Kiyoharu do so a few times.  There are already a lot of flags being hoisted in Ballroom e Youkoso, and they don’t all agree with each other – and to me, that makes the series that much more of an interesting prospect.  Remember, conventional doesn’t have to mean predictable…

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8 comments

  1. H

    Kiyoharu sneezing and falling down the stairs was hilarious! I never expected something like that to happen to someone so gifted at being graceful and it cracked me up. I hope he ends up becoming a co-male lead since I think that would be a lot more interesting than if he were just competition. This definitely was a step up from an already great premier and has set the bar high for the rest of the series. So far I have not been disappointed with this show whatsoever. I love the cast, the animation is fantastic, and the story is sucking me in.

  2. D

    I, for one, thought this episode was decidedly weaker than the first one. From the boob juggling opening to the walking in on the female lead getting dressed, it had too many anime-isms in it for my comfort. I just hope this was an anomaly and not a sign of things to come.

  3. Y

    Is it normal to be this bothered by the necks? They just look so… disturbing to me, they’re so unnaturally long it’s downright creepy. And it’s not just them — the proportions in general seem to be exaggerated, which is something I normally dislike seeing. And of course, the “accidental perv” tropes aren’t helping AT ALL… I don’t think I’m sticking around. I feel more weirdly distracted than genuinely invested while watching this show.

  4. d

    Count me out, too. I struggled to finish the first episode and I found the second to be much worse (too many shonen sports cliches to count, the surprising lack of animation in the dancing scenes… and the perv joke was just the final straw…). I really don’t get why this is so popular, tbh.

  5. You guys do understand that these are the opening chapters of a shounen manga, right? Where you have to hook an audience accustomed to formula to keep your manga from being chopped? If the cliche stuff is predominant week after week, I’ll worry. A couple of concessions in the 2nd episode? Not a deal-breaker for me.

  6. s

    hahaha that giraffe thumbnail is too much hahaha; top tier comedy right there enzo

  7. lol I somehow didn’t get the joke until you pointed it out. Dance Haikyuu with Necks indeed.

  8. Y

    More than the necks, I can’t help but feel there’s a disconnect between Haikyuu-esque animation for the ballroom dancing action (specifically the part where Kiyoharu is practicing on his own). I just don’t think the motion of spinning should be animated the same way as the speedy movements in volleyball. Maybe I’m just not used to it yet.

    I did find this second episode more entertaining than the first though. The characters are more solid, and although there were some cliché comedy moments mixed in, there was still plenty funny stuff.

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