Cooldown and some plot hole fillers this week
Changing the entire direction of a show midseason can have exhausting effects, creating a need for the audience to catch their breath. Thankfully, Welcome to the Ballroom provides both a cooldown and some plot hole fillers this week.
Last week, we learned that Chinatsu’s surprising ability to lead compliments Tatara’s ability to follow. The ladies at Ogasawara Dance Studio believe that Chinatsu may have partnered with another girl at a younger age because of a lack of male leads, explaining why she fits with Tatara better as a leader instead of a follower. Chinatsu never confirms this herself, but a chance encounter with the flirty boss’s daughter at Tatara’s new job introduces us to her former partner, Akira.
It remains unclear whether Chinatsu and Akira did more than just dance together (as Sengoku’s lascivious tone in the previous episode suggests), but their subsequent lover’s quarrel not only hints at a romantic history but also gives Chinatsu a proper motivation: envious rage. She agrees to partner with Tatara to prove her superiority over Akira.
While Tatara probably did not want Chinatsu’s jealousy to convince her to dance with him, his motivation to compete with Shizuku doesn’t appear much different than Chinatsu’s motivation. Tatara + Chinatsu is a relationship of convenience, though considering Chinatsu’s inability to follow and Tatara’s hesitation to lead (and their initial blind acceptance of gender roles), it may not be as convenient as planned.
Ballroom can now settle into its plot now that it has established concrete motivations for its two main characters. Small details like the length of Chinatsu’s step and Tatara’s dedication to his side hustle no longer need a drawn-out explanation since we now understand each character’s goals. The internal monologues feel more understandable than in previous episodes, and the humor flows more naturally than the less-than-subtle slapstick stapled in the show’s first half. We don’t understand much about Chinatsu’s past, but now that we know her direction, all of her previously important plot holes now become fussy details.
As for the direction of the show, there might be a slight cause for concern.
Last week’s episode had Chinatsu swing Tatara around the dance studio in a bold gender-role reversal. But because Banba and Tsuburaya explain Chinatsu’s style so early in this week’s episode as a math quirk instead of a dancing preference, the show concedes to classical viewpoints on gender normativity instead of expanding upon their previous progression.
When Chinatsu once again takes the lead, this time from her follower’s position at an amateur competition with Tatara, Akira and her partner describe the balance as if two men were dancing together. Hyodo’s mom Marissa, there only to cheer on her students, notices the couple as well and informs them she knows what they’re doing at the very end of the episode. Whether she outs the couple or becomes their ally has become the show’s most subtle and vital cliffhanger to this point.
Before Tatara and Chinatsu begin their first competitive dance together, Akira points out that this will be Chinatsu’s debut wearing a dress in a competition. Of course, she looks beautiful, but will Tatara also make his debut in a dress at some point in the future? This isn’t to say that Ballroom can’t make its grand statement without putting their lead man in a dress…but one can hope.