By Dustin Cabeal
I took one look at Welcome to the Ballroom and knew that it was the same team that handled Haikyu!! I wasn’t wrong as this was highlighted more when the actual dancing kicked in, and the movement was fluid and beautiful. This is quite possibly the anime of the season, and while it doesn’t have the love story of Yuri on Ice, it may just resonate with audiences in the same way.
The story follows a junior high school boy by the name of Tatara Fujita who is average at life and can’t decide where to go for high school. It doesn’t help that his father is poor and any life changing choices would only make his family struggle. While in the teacher’s office he spots a girl from another class that he assumes, is just like him when he overhears that she hasn’t picked a high school either. Later he sees her going into a basement business and out of curiosity looks inside. He’s bullied before he can look though, but saved by the owner of the dance studio that assumes he’s a young boy afraid to show his love of ballroom dancing. It's a small, new dance studio and they’re very aggressive with their sales pitch. It’s here that he learns that he’s nothing like Shizuku Hanaoka, the girl he followed there.
The charm of the story comes from how quickly Tatara falls in love with dancing. He goes to return a DVD of a dance competition, and instead of turning them down he ends up saying what’s actually in his heart. This is fantastic for two reasons; it cuts to the chase with Tatara’s character, but then also pisses off the studio owner Kaname Sengoku. Sengoku is offended by how Tatara comes across, in that he seems to think that it’s easy to dance.
The story pacing for the first episode is wonderful. A lot of times with an anime of this nature there’s the tendency to introduce as much as possible or worse, so very little that you’re forced to watch several episodes just to get an idea of what’s happening and only then can you decide if it’s worth continuing. That’s where Welcome to the Ballroom is so similar to Yuri on Ice in that it introduces enough of the characters and the focal point of the story but smoothly and organically. Tatara is a little annoying, but by the end of the episode you can’t help but see something in him, that perhaps Sengoku sees as well.
The animation is stunning. It’s leaps and bounds better than anything I’ve seen in the last two seasons of anime. There is so much detail to the artwork. The world feels lived in and alive which is incredibly rare in anime. Typically everything is new and beautiful or the exact polar opposite. With Welcome to the Ballroom, there’s a real balance of new and old. The studio looks clean and beautiful, while Tatara’s house is old and used. There’s a scene in which he’s in a very small bathtub, and you can see the rust that’s starting to wear through, the fading of the paint that only happens over years and years of use. It was such a small detail, but incredible that it was included. That’s the example I wanted to give because it stood out to me, but the episode is filled with similar examples.
While I haven’t watched a ton of shows from this current cour of anime, I will say that Welcome to the Ballroom has my attention the most. So much so that I decided to cover it in reviews, which is something I’m not doing as much anymore. You’ll see more and more reviews for the entire season rather than episodic reviews like this one, but for Welcome to the Ballroom, I decided to make an exception because I wanted to talk about it and continue the joy and excitement it left me feeling.
Welcome to the Ballroom E.01
Director: Yoshimi Itazu
Writer: Kenichi Suemitsu
Studio: Production I.G.