Around Akiba proudly presents Welcome to the Ballroom anime review episode 10, “Voltage.”
We left off with Mako blooming at Tatara’s expense at the Tenpei Cup finals, with Gaju and Shizuku up next with their solo heat. Though the previous episode spent fifteen minutes on Tatara’s 60-second solo, the dynamic animation and lush music blossomed into the show’s best performance.
Unfortunately, this week’s episode halts that momentum.
Gaju and Shizuku trip in their solo heat, opening the door for a Tatara and Mako upset victory. But then Gaju inexplicably steps it up for the group heat, impressing the audience with his violent tango. Despite their best efforts, Tatara and Mako can’t keep up with the amateur genius, who we learn more about in the episode’s first segment.
The show spends its first seven minutes on Gaju’s backstory, giving Tatara’s only true antagonist some much-needed context. We learn that Gaju started dancing only because Mako insisted on learning ballroom with her brother and that he quickly climbed the rankings due to his natural athleticism and competitiveness. We also learn that Gaju’s current disdain for his sister didn’t appear from his own will, but from the suggestions of people around him that he pair with a better dancer.
An entire episode of Gaju and Mako’s backstory would have helped flesh out the two siblings, but the show cuts back to the finals before finishing Gaju’s history. We’re left wondering if there’s more to his partnership to Shizuku than his bloody noses and if he sees a future with his now-blooming sister. Instead of answering these questions, however, the plot veers towards Tatara’s newfound stamina and Shizuku’s conflicted feelings about her partner.
Shizuku recalls when Hyodo once proclaimed her a rival instead of a partner, and while at the time she found it flattering, she now sees that Hyodo has surpassed her in stature and now aims to halt Tatara’s rapid ascent. With Gaju bringing Shizuku’s best out of her, she no longer aims for Hyodo’s respect, but simply his attention.
Ballroom needs to find its most interesting character something to do.
And as for Hyodo, he has been brooding for the last four episodes and has provided nothing but menacing stares and curt advice for Tatara. His foggy goals retain some mystery, but at some point, Ballroom needs to find its most interesting character something to do. While the show improves with every nugget of nuance, that we’re ten episodes in and only have backstories for Tatara and Gaju limits the impact of any potential conflict, especially if it involves Hyodo.
Even the animation stuttered a bit this week. The animators replaced last week’s deluge of yellow flower petals with buckets of sweat, and though probably more realistic, they don’t exactly hit the same emotional note. “Voltage” was also the first episode in the series without any obvious jokes, and considering the lack of plot development, there should’ve been plenty of room for gags. Maybe this show can’t present great art and story in the same episode, but up until this week, it usually handles one just fine.