Author: Tomo Takeuchi
Genre: School, Sports, Comedy, Drama, Romance
Production Studio: Production I.G
With sports anime having expanded its reach into various realms such as tennis, volleyball, basketball, soccer, running, swimming, and even figure skating, I didn’t really think that there was much more to cover. Therefore, I was immediately intrigued when I heard that a ballroom dancing anime was going to be released. It certainly seemed a refreshing twist on sports anime, and I was curious to see how something as fickle as dance would be handled. I looked up all the trailers and thought the series seemed pretty promising, so I decided to give it a go!
The series starts off by acquainting us with our middle-schooler MC, Tatara, who has no passions and no idea what he wants to pursue in life. A tad bit cheesy, as it is a recurring theme in other anime (think Free!, Chihayafuru etc.) However, we can cut them some slack because – let’s not kid ourselves – it is a very real world problem that most of us have gone through.
Anyway, Tatara is bullied by a bunch of delinquents outside the Ogasawara Dance Studio but is saved by Sengoku, a renowned professional dancer who mistakenly thinks that Tatara is interested in dance and drags him into the studio. From there on, Tatara embarks on his journey in professional dance and discovers a newfound passion for it.
One thing I like about sports anime is the spirit, vigor and excitement that comes with a competitive setting. Moreover, one gets a deeper look into the world of competitive ballroom dancing such as the lead and follow dynamics and the unique point system, which has been aptly described as a zero-sum game. I do have to admit that I am slightly concerned about the accuracy of the gender bias towards the role of the male characters as the leaders in the series as I’ve seen many comments and complaints about it, but that is something for someone more professional to decide. That being said, I felt the series redeemed itself in this respect through the introduction of the strong, no-nonsense Chinatsu in the second half of the series. Dubbed by fans as “best girl”, she truly enabled Tatara to grow as a person and a dancer.
The pacing can be odd at times. Unlike most sports anime where each tournament is considered a major event, Tatara and his partner would sometimes arbitrarily decide to enter a competition and immediately lose, and the series would move on as though nothing has happened. I don’t really have too much of an issue with this because this is what typically happens in real life, but it can be a bit unsettling to some viewers. Some of the episodes towards the end would also focus primarily on flashbacks, which would sometimes kill the momentum especially when the character being focused on was of no particular interest to me.
However, it’s possible that this was due to the anime catching up to the manga as the mangaka, Takeuchi faced some health problems towards the end of the anime adaptation and had to temporarily halt the release of new manga chapters.
Animation and Art
Production I.G has always been on point with animating crisp movement in popular sports anime, e.g. Haikyuu!! and Kuroko no Basuke. Ballroom e Youkoso is no exception. I found the dance scenes very smooth and dynamic. Seeing as many people compare the series to Yuri on Ice, I personally feel that the animation in the Ballroom e Youkoso flows a lot more smoothly compared to the sometimes rigid skating scenes in Yuri on Ice. On the other hand, I wish the production studio would have let the viewers enjoy more completely animated dance routines rather than showing closeups and a just a few teaser scenes from the dance.
The art is done in Production I.G’s iconic style; I immediately recognized that the series came from the same production company as Haikyuu!!. Having been a ballet dancer before, I’d say that the studio succeeds in portraying the grace of a dancer’s body well and that really impressed me. Another plus point: the girls are really attractive – I am a straight female but I admit that Chinatsu and Shizuku are seriously waifu material. Don’t get me wrong, male characters like Hyodou are pretty much eye-candy as well.
In constrast, as most viewers have pointed out, Production I.G REALLY does take some liberties in portraying the flexibility of the woman’s spine and the length of the human neck. I find this odd because the studio usually handles anatomy really well, but it is just mildly amusing to me and doesn’t take too much away from my experience of the anime.
Sound and Music
Both openings by Unison Square Garden were very upbeat and did a superb job hyping up the atmosphere for the main course. The endings by Mikako Komatsu were really sweet. The first ending in particular, Maybe The Next Waltz left a deep impression on me when I first heard it. Incorporating instruments like the violin and the bass and paired with just the right art scenes, it gave a sort of classical vibe that is rarely heard in nowadays music.
I thought the voices complemented the characters’ personalities well, so no complaints from me in the voice acting department. The OSTs aren’t particularly memorable in my opinion, but they match the scenes well and does their job.
Ballroom e Youkoso puts the focus exclusively on a few select characters, rather than a whole cast of characters, and I think this allows each character to have their fair share of the spotlight. Rivals and new characters were introduced gradually into the series with each arc, giving us time to get to know each character and get comfortable with them before new characters are presented. Indeed, the story is centered around Tatara’s perspective and his growth, but ample time is given for the other characters to shine as well.
The diverse mix of personalities in the series keeps it interesting – the timid Tatara, the dark Kugimiya, the talented yet sometimes oblivious Hyoudou, the determined Shizuku, the cute Mako, and the bossy but skilled Chinatsu. Indeed, I think that Chinatsu is one of the most intriguing characters in the series. It’s always nice to see strong female personalities in anime (and I don’t just mean females who only know how to beat up their male friends), and Chinatsu’s fiery disposition truly depicts that. The clashing dynamics between Tatara and Chinatsu, whose personalities are the complete opposite of the other’s can be very entertaining to watch.
Some characters were given less development than others – I wish I had the opportunity to learn more about Shizuku’s story as she is a really promising character. But perhaps that is something that will be elaborated on in future chapters of the manga!
All in all, Ballroom e Youkoso is an enjoyable series that provides a great introduction into the world of competitive dancing. While the series has certain flaws, I’d still recommend this series to dance enthusiasts and anybody looking for a light-hearted way to pass time.