Welcome to the Ballroom Episode 1: “Welcome to Ogasawara Dance Studio”
Production IG’s Welcome to the Ballroom’s blends realistic scenes of everyday Japanese life and hyper-stylized cuts of ballroom dancing to form an eye-catching introduction in what looks to be the one-of-a-kind show this summer.
Based on Tomo Takeuchi’s manga of the same name, Welcome to the Ballroom follows the story of Fujita Tatara, an aimless middle schooler looking for a passion before entering high school. A DVD of a national competition sucks Tatara into ballroom dance’s mystique, goading him with the promise of an audience of thousands paying to watch him.
The first things you’ll notice in this episode are the elongated bodies and sharp lines that draw attention to the dancers’ posture. Hips and backs curve at unnatural angles to emphasize a dancer’s taxed body, and the pain shines through in the rest of the show’s excellent animation. Some of the details may strike as jagged and ugly, but they all serve the same purpose as ballroom dance itself: to make you look.
Welcome to the Ballroom will understandably earn comparisons to Yuri!!! on Ice with its good-looking men chasing competitive glory. But little from the first episode suggests that the comparisons hold merit. While Yuri created a beautifully sterile atmosphere, Ballroom shows the sweat, sprains, and blisters from the start. The show also presents Tatara as an amateur, allowing us to anticipate his growth in a way we didn’t see with Katsuki Yuri, taking us through the pain and suffering needed to achieve world-class status. Most importantly, the ultra-conceited teacher Kaname Sengoku demeans Tatara with a jealous suspicion, forcing him into an impossible task and ridiculing him for completing it. In other words, he’s no Victor Nikiforov.
In the final frames of the show, early morning light spills into the dance studio, highlighting the beads of sweat on the dance-floor glistening like dew drops on grass. It’s the show’s first pleasant moment, displaying a lush animation that justifies the uncomfortable frames shown before. It might take a while to adjust to Ballroom’s storytelling, especially when it addresses a competition that values beauty above all, but all the show wants you to do for now is to look.
Episode 1 Grade; B+
Updated 7/9/17: Name error fixed