Welcome to the Ballroom – Mid Series Anime Review
Synopsis: “Dance is a passion!” Tatara is an average middle school student with no particular dreams until an unexpected incident draws him into the fascinating world of ballroom dancing. “If I can just find one thing to be passionate about…”He dives into the world of dance, believing it’s his opportunity to change. (Official Anime Strike Synopsis)
Mid Series (12 Episodes) Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: Welcome to the Ballroom offers up character drama and an introduction to the world of competitive Ball Room Dancing with incredible visual fidelity. The shows entire first arc is squarely focused on Shizuku Hanaoka, a beautiful young female dance that sucks Fujita Tatara, our main character, into this not-often explored world. Drama develops around Shizuku and her partner, one Hyoudou Kiyoharu. While Tatara plays a significant role, he is the lead after all, his character remains uninteresting and under explored.
Linny: Tatara is unfortunately not a very engaging lead thanks in part to how little the show lets us see and learn about him. What’s divulged is very limited and basic, making him feel like yet another cookie cutter shonen lead. He’s dedicated to improving himself but easily intimidated and impressed by everyone else’s skills. And that’s it. There’s nothing extra special to make him stand out or add to his charm. Complicating this problem is the fact that nobody else in the cast is that well defined either other than in relation to their obsession with ballroom dancing and their desire to excel. We get peeks into the lives of some, and some of them sport lively personalities but it’s always centred around dance. Ultimately if you find the ballroom dancing theme itself a bit humdrum, you might find yourself struggling to care about anyone in the cast.
Tom: That lack of greater understanding for Tatara can make the first 11 episodes difficult to get into. This first arc is predicated on showing Tatara’s burgeoning passion for ballroom dancing and competition. But when the main character remains so distant, so under explored outside of ballroom dancing it creates a bearer of entry. This is where I disagree with Linny however and feel that the drama provided by the rest of the cast, and their more overt/lively personas, helps to alleviate the stress Ballroom suffers from with its weak main character.
Linny: I will say the fact that Welcome to the Ballroom spends so much time building up its protagonist’s foray into his new passion does give the show an edge for those who like attention to details and helps it to stand out, as other similar shows often devote at best an episode or two to the same kind of arc. That said, if you’re hoping for the classic speedy run through sports anime approach, you might get bored as the show really takes its time, roughly half its episode count, depicting Tatara from dancing out of sheer curiosity, followed by infatuation to finally and truly developing his own drive for dance.
Tom: While I’m more positive on this first arc than Linny, I do fear the show will become a less engaging ride should they focus too much on Tatara as he is now. By Episode 12 he’s the same bland, practically self-insert, main character we were introduced to in Episode 1. We need to learn more about him, see the other parts of his life. We need to know the kind of boy he is outside of ballroom dancing to really feel like he’s a full, three-dimensional character, otherwise he comes off as paper thin. (And yes, I am aware of the irony of this sentence when talking about an anime character.)
Linny: Welcome to the Ballroom has a rather peculiar approach to comedy, in particular lewd jokes and gags, such as an elderly judge trying to grope a fellow female judge’s breasts while her teenage son is right next to them or a protective older brother accusing Tatara of having caused his younger sister’s breasts to grow. While these jokes could maybe still make some people uneasy, they’re executed so randomly and in such a strange manner that you’re likely to be left flabbergasted or they’ll just fly over your head unnoticed.
Tom: As the art goes, Welcome to the Ballroom produces some incredible visual fidelity. There’s few places where the art looks weak, stilted, or off-model. In fact, most sequences feature incredible detail. That said, the show sometimes utilizes imagery that plays fast and loose with human anatomy. In fact, it gets downright abstract in Episode 12. It’s still solid animation however, even if the art can sometimes produce giraffe length necks and Attack on Titanesque smiles. It’s not as ambitious as Yuri on Ice!!! however, which attempted to constantly capture the fluidity of dance, yet was never able to maintain true quality. Ballroom forgoes that effort, often making use of static images to depict our characters efforts on the dance floor.
Linny: While I am aware that Welcome to the Ballroom is an anime and anime is free to play with the human form, but as it is dealing with and depicting something ‘real’ aka ballroom dancing, it gets very distracting when the characters seem to be able to fold their spine in half or their necks and arms stretch like Mr Fantastic from the Fantastic Four every time they take to the dance floor. The elongation and depictions are so extreme that most audiences are likely to find them ridiculous, hilarious or maybe even horrifying.
Tom: Overall I’m lukewarm positive on Welcome to the Ballroom. I think Tatara’s bland nature is majorly damaging to the audiences’ ability to become invested in the series, unless they see him as a vague self-insert. The show is only saved by having more grand and boisterous personas from the rest of the cast, who also provide much of the personal drama. As the series heads into its back half, I’m apprehensive, but hopeful that a couple late cast additions might continue to offset Tatara’s paper thin characterization. As I have zero assurance they’ll now explore the other facets of his character.
Linny: I’ve definitely had a more difficult time becoming invested in the show than Tom. There would be an episode or two when a cast member, other than Tatara, would catch my attention thanks to their more interesting story line but as soon as that story wrapped, it was back to struggling to care about our generic and under-explored lead’s journey. In the show’s defense, it has managed to win me back a bit thanks to yet another new side character and maybe you too will find yourself latching on and watching for the sake of the other cast members. But unless the theme of ballroom dancing itself grabs your attention on its own, I would recommend you either give this a skip or put it on the lower half of your ‘to be watched’ list.
Welcome to the Ballroom is available for streaming via Amazon’s Anime Strike Channel.