Around Akiba proudly presents Welcome to the Ballroom anime review episode 11, “Evaluation.”
A long way to mastery, but intriguing enough to hold attention.
With so much focus on the Gaju/Shizuku-Tatara/Mako rivalry, Welcome to the Ballroom’s past four episodes has convinced the audience the Tenpei Cup is a two-horse race. But this week’s episode pulls two bait-and-switches that twist the plot, revealing there is more in the stable than expected.
Tatara and Mako perform Sengoku’s quickstep variation for the Cup’s final heat, but the judges soon recognize Tatara’s amateur footwork and inadequate conditioning. Marissa blames Sengoku’s poor coaching for Tatara’s missteps, while Tatara judges himself an inexperienced dancer. Neither point can be disputed.
Tatara and Mako fall behind Gaju and Shizuku’s masterful routine. But, Tatara’s contagious emotions bring out applause from the crowd, sending Sengoku into a whirlwind of anticipation and even drawing the smiling Hyōdō to step and twirl in the hallway. Though Tatara and Mako can’t keep up with their routine, Sengoku’s complex variation doesn’t serve to demonstrate Tatara as a capable lead but to highlight one or two moments that leave the audience breathless.
This week’s episode follows the same pattern. Though the first few minutes don’t give us any new information (we know that Gaju dances better than Tatara, okay?), the three-dimensional dynamic crane shot towards the middle of the episode gives an already stellar animation crew another accomplishment to celebrate. And when we get a well-deserved breather in the episode’s second half, the show acknowledges it’s similar to Tatara’s: a long way to go to mastery, but intriguing enough to hold attention.
Tatara and Mako don’t finish the Tenpei Cup in first, nor second, but seventh, good for last amongst all the finalists. Even though Gaju and Shizuku finish first as a pair, the judges award the “Queen of the Floor” trophy not to Shizuku, but to Mako. Her victory separates Gaju and Shizuku and brings out an emotional range we haven’t seen before from Shizuku. Even though she speaks the least of the main characters, Sakura Ayane’s Shizuku has emerged as the show’s best vocal performance, outshining newcomer Tsuchiya Shinba’s Tatara with her grounded and moving portrayal.
Though one episode away from its numerical midway point, the show’s coda puts a pin in the first half of the series with worthwhile questions. Will Gaju and Mako reappear as a competing pair? Will Shizuku wait for Hyōdō to heal before competing again? Who is the mysterious redheaded girl we see looking at Tatara? An episode ago I wouldn’t have cared about any of this, but Ballroom has enough inspiring qualities to merit a second heat.