Anime Review: Welcome to the Ballroom

Kerberos reviews the hit sports anime from last year produced by Production I.G. and based on the manga by Tomo Takeuchi: WELCOME TO THE BALLROOM
By Kerberos, Feb 21, 2018 | |
  1. ANIME REVIEW: WELCOME TO THE BALLROOM
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    Genre: drama, music, romance, sports, shonen
    Studio: Production I.G.
    Original year of release: 2017
    Director: Yoshimi Itazu
    Writer: Tomo Takeuchi (manga) Kenichi Suemitsu (series composition and script writing)
    Number of episodes: 24
    Runtime per episode: 24 mins

    STORY AND CHARACTERS
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    As the title indicates, this show revolves around dancing - specifically, ballroom dancing. Our lead character is Tatara Fujita, a teenager who discovers ballroom dancing and becomes utterly obsessed with it, wishing to become a competitive ballroom dancer.

    However, it’s not until the show’s second half that we really get into the swing of things (pun intended) with the introduction of Chinatsu Hiyama, a dancer with a lot of experience leading but not so much when it comes to following. She is then promptly assigned as the partner to the meek and shy Tatara. From there, the show follows these two very different people as they slowly bond through their shared passion for the competitive art form of ballroom dancing.

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    If there is one genre in anime that I never really managed to get into, it’s sports anime. This might well be because I’ve never really come across a well-made sports anime. That is, until now because Welcome to the Ballroom is a very well made sports anime.

    One of the things that I think makes this sports anime so special is that while it is about ballroom dancing, it doesn’t exactly promote it. This show definitely doesn’t shy away from depicting the more taxing and emotionally draining aspects of the sport it depicts. We see friendships being broken up because a certain dancer is more talented or more passionate than his or her partner. We see someone’s initial enthusiasm turned into downright agony over the years because he or she can’t seem to evolve his or her style. Ballroom dancing is not a sport for the faint of heart and likewise if you’re looking for the kind of anime that inspires you to pick up the sport it depicts, this may well not be the show for you.

    So if this show has no great love for the sport it depicts what does it pay tribute to then? Well…the people practicing that sport. This isn’t a show about dancing, it’s a show about dancers. It explores the hopes and dreams as well as anxieties and, sometimes, crushing feelings of depression of the people who chose ballroom dancing as their sport of choice and it does so with the utmost love and respect for these amazing people. This series is about passion and personal growth that just happens to use ballroom dancing as a backdrop.

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    While none of the characters in this show are prefect by any stretch of the imagination, there isn’t a single character that I did not find likable or relatable in some way. Throughout the entire series, Chinatsu has a very aggressive and standoffish attitude, but at the same time, she is a very headstrong and capable woman trying to make it in a sport where the role of the woman is traditionally submissive. The way she outright refuses to give into the stereotype is something I deeply respect and made me very much admire her as a person. Similarly Tatara’s burning desire to be seen and noticed as a dancer despite his very meek personality was something I could absolutely get behind. He is someone who will go to any lengths and overcome any obstacles to achieve his dreams even though sometimes, he doesn’t even realize why he is doing what he’s doing. He’s also someone who’s very good at self-reflection and always tries to change himself for the better. Which was something that I could relate to on a very personal level.

    Every single character in this show is someone that you can root for and you want to see win even though, given the competitive nature of the sport depicted, you know that not all of them will. Even so, at the end all of the characters did achieve the thing they wanted most, which in some cases was something they didn’t even realize they wanted until after they had achieved it.

    ART AND ANIMATION
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    With so much of this show revolving around dancing you really want the dance sequences in this show to look gorgeous and thankfully, they do. The dance sequences in this show are incredibly fast-paced and adrenaline-fueled making extensive use of speed lines. This is then interspersed with highly dynamic long takes where the camera just sweeps along the ballroom doing all kinds of turns and pans while the dancers themselves are also swirling around in their glamorous outfits making for some of the most insanely chaotic yet utterly mesmerizing sequences ever to be animated. Welcome to the Ballroom is one of the most well animated and well directed anime of 2017.

    The music in this show as well, is fantastic. It was composed by Yuki Hayashi, whose style of music makes extensive use of rythmic beats, is one I usually don’t really appreciate. But in this case, it worked really well. Not to mention that the show has not one but two opening songs by Unison Square Garden. I don’t know how many more times I can state my insane love for them and the music they produce but well…I looooove Unison Square Garden. So that was a big plus.

    PERSONAL RECOMMENDATION
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    Welcome to the Ballroom is a show that doesn’t shy away from the emotional turmoil and heartache that competing in ballroom dancing can bring with and the relationships and important connections these dancers have to give up to achieve their goals. But it also pays an enormous amount of respect to these athletes who share an endless amount of passion for their sport and will overcome any obstacle to achieve their dreams.

    Welcome to the Ballroom isn’t the best anime of 2017 nor is it a show that I think I’ll be watching again anytime soon. However as a highly entertaining look into the very niche sport of ballroom dancing it’s absolutely amazing.

    8.5/10

    WORTH BUYING

    Welcome to the Ballroom has been licensed by Ponycan and can be streamed legally on Amazon Prime. A DVD or Blu-ray release has not yet been announced though I assume that won’t take too long to happen.

    RECOMMENDATIONS
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    First recommendation goes to Kids on the Slope, another coming of age drama that revolves around music albeit with a whole lot less dancing. This is honestly one of the best anime I’ve ever seen and if you haven’t seen it yet, you owe it to yourself to do so. Also check out my review for it if you’re interested:
    https://www.sakugacity.com/ams/anime-review-kids-on-the-slope.89/

    Second recommendation is a blind one: Your Lie in April. I haven’t seen this show myself yet but from what I hear it’s well worth watching and as another drama series centered around music I figured it would make for a good recommendation for this show.

    Special thanks to @Tonto-banchou and @Kuze for editing and feedback.

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