Review/discussion about: Ballroom e Youkoso
For as long as I have known my older sister, she has been a dancer through and through.
Everywhere has counted: at the school talent show, at her local studio, at numerous recitals, at different states. Everything has counted as well: tap, ballet, hip-hop, Latin. Across her entire leg-driven journey, she has claimed enough awards and cheers and experience to last a lifetime.
Basically, she has seen and partaken in nearly all that dance has to offer. Despite her dancing expertise, though, I have yet to hear any mention of ballrooms. And after watching the entirety of Ballroom e Youkoso, I can confidently say, as someone with zero dance moves whatsoever, she is seriously missing out.
The world of competitive ballroom dancing may not exactly be on the forefront of everyone’s mind. It exists within that niche corner given its lack of truly intense traits and low popularity. It tends to also be a very difficult sport to get into, demanding countless hours of repeating the same basic techniques and requiring certain physical builds to succeed. And its set of unfair stigmas potentially turn people away from the get-go before they even give it a fair chance.
Ballroom e Youkoso faces such negativity head up and foot forward without ever losing a beat.
True to its premise, the anime understandably makes it a priority to explain what goes on within ballroom dancing for the uninitiated (which, again, is most likely a majority). The dances themselves – the waltz, the quickstep, the tango – are paramount, so the differences, the nuances, and the moves between them become a focal point. Tons of smaller details about the league, the scoring, the ranks, the gender ratios, and the types also pop up to further flesh out the formation of the sport and thus the show itself.
The anime is not just content with explaining itself; Ballroom e Youkoso also demonstrates what makes ballroom dancing worthwhile to begin with. It does so with a passionate edge, a look-see into the minds of the dancers themselves. In doing so, the show grants itself a cooler, fuller picture of its scenes beyond just watching a bunch of people twirl and step about.
For instance, ballroom dancing posits that mutual chemistry between two people causes a better understanding of one’s self as adaptation and sympathy take hold. Moreover, it demonstrates a willingness and a purpose on behalf of the dancers, for they choose this sport not for direct confrontation but instead as a want and as a desire to prove their capabilities to the masses. And the sport simply brings fun and happiness as synchronized steps form rapturous emotion for the dancers, the judges, and the audience at large.
Looking into Ballroom e Youkoso on a narrative level, it showcases a solid-enough plot as the practices, the tournaments, and the conflicts naturally arise. Furthermore, themes on self-worth and numerous engaging moments affix an appropriate amount of drama. It could be argued that the competitions tend to stretch out too long at times, but the intermittent hype of the dances and those introspective thoughts of the characters yield the right amount of variety to keep these stretches manageable.
The anime does not earn full marks in every round, though. The occasional sexual content is not totally out of place when considering the sensuality of dancing itself and the attractive people who believe this sport to be their calling. Akira commenting on Chinatsu’s extreme beauty or Chinatsu in turn teasing Akira for her extra curves do not cross over into weird territory.
However, the infrequent “jokes” related to accidents, sizes, and masculinity can cross the line, clashing too much with the seriousness of the drama and leaning too far outside of the lighthearted direction of the comedy overall.
Besides this problem, some of the writing and the dialogue can come off as antiquated due to the terminology surrounding the male-and-female duos. But this awkwardness deals more so with the culture of the sport and treads into nitpicking territory since the ladies are themselves a powerful bunch anyway.
Otherwise, the setup, the purpose, and the structure of the story allow positivity to reign supreme within this dancing spectacle.
ART & ANIMATION
On the visual side, Ballroom e Youkoso continues its strong stride.
The character designs start things off right. Nice line work and facial details in general increase the accuracy of their depictions and therefore give greater definition to their expressions. Their casual garb versus their competitive attire – especially for how much handsomer and prettier the men and women respectively jump – makes for a lovely contrast, too. Even their overly long necks (giraffes or no) contribute an elegance and a fragility which further emphasizes the impact of their dances.
To be fair, the audience must suspend some disbelief that these near-pro-yet-still amateurs are at the tail-end of middle school despite looking like college kids or outright adults. Nevertheless, their slender frames once again bolster the ballroom motif, and their different builds even become a factor in the character writing itself.
Not so right is Ballroom e Youkoso’s penchant for reusing past moments or segments to a noticeable degree. Tatara’s ginormous smile as he comes into frame comes to mind. While not a deal-breaker (since it is unrealistic to expect an absolute, constant upkeep of new depictions), it leaves the show for want of stronger artistic appeal.
It combats against this detriment with interspersed scenes filled with style and creativeness. Kiyoharu and Shizuku turn on fire at one point as their dancing heats up, and Tatara and Chinatsu break down doors together amidst their foggy consciousness. Whatever the case may be, these scenes up the intrigue and the fascination of the presentation, giving Ballroom e Youkoso another leg to stand on as its vital events commence.
This anime deserves some extra credit, too. Animating and articulating the complexities of dancers, both on their own and in unison, is by no means an easy feat. And, despite the troubles outlined above, the dancing depicted almost never took on any outright mistakes or notable hiccups. Rather, Ballroom e Youkoso took many a creative liberty with perspectives and proportions to up the ante.
Yes, the back bending could be slightly less obtuse, but this exaggeration furthers the finesse this sport demands. A praiseworthy stride no doubt.
While Ballroom e Youkoso does well on both a story and artistic front, the characters make a claim for the strongest part of the entire show.
It all centers on Tatara, the main protagonist of this dancing tale. Without much in the way of prospects, his humble beginnings make him a prime candidate for everlasting change. He has no experience whatsoever in this field, and he only joins the studio after watching the entrancing footage which Sengoku-san, the best ballroom dancer in the world, lent to him.
As such, Tatara’s journey is far from an immediate rise to the top. He has sharp eyes that let him absorb information by studying those around him, and he has a keen knack for dance in general, but he begins at the bottom like any other jelly-legged nobody. Stamina issues, confidence issues. The anime makes it clear that Tatara is a bright young man with a good heart yet still needing all the help he can get.
That’s where the supporting cast members arrive. Ballroom dancing is a paired sport, so the people around Tatara offer their aid either directly or indirectly through mentoring, coaching, or battling. For instance, Shizuku will offer advice or encouragement from the sidelines, or Mako, with her own low self-esteem, will lean on him in her own time of need to challenge his perception.
Then similarly, Tatara sees Sengoku-san and Kiyoharu as companions-in-arms (or rather legs) that inspire him. Sengoku-san represents his role model as he strives to be like him while also realizing how vastly inferior he is skill-wise. As for Kiyoharu, he wishes to compete alongside him someday soon, for they see in each other the same knack of passion and of potential.
Truth be told, these side characters do not normally have the largest depth given the small amount of background exploration and the quickness of its delivery. But again, they exist mostly to compare and contrast with Tatara and show his strong points, his weak points, and everything in-between. Plus, Mako, Kiyoharu, and others still either receive their own time to shine or otherwise have portions of episodes dedicated to their past experiences and subsequent upbringing. That’s more than enough for their supportive roles throughout the series.
What they and Tatara cannot fix, however, is his lacking foundation. In other words, Tatara’s motivations and personal conflicts stem from a rather nonexistent place. His desire to change and to kickstart his static path is flimsy at best, and his background, home life, and general non-dance life is hardly (if ever) explored outright. So, while the path he takes develops him well, his core character never truly emerges.
To combat this problem, Ballroom e Youkoso doubles down on Tatara’s character growth in the back half of the season. It does so not with its standard approach but instead by introducing into the fray a newcomer and, perhaps surprisingly, the second-most important person in the show: Chinatsu.
Chinatsu puts up a tough personality, dislikes dance, and maintains a lot of experience. Basically, she is the complete opposite of Tatara – naturally making her the perfect partner for him and him for her. They therefore don’t quite get along (at first anyway), but they need each other more so than they realize. If for nothing else than to discover the “other side” of sorts.
These sides capture what they each fail to do. Tatara cannot lead; Chinatsu cannot follow. By mirroring their individual yet interlinked struggles in this manner, the show marks their bond as a stellar point of the series. They test and practice, fight and compromise. All in the name of leaving everything on the dance floor.
As this dichotomy plays out, he finally discovers the magic in his footing thanks to her uncompromising will, and she finally learns to trust others thanks to his unflinching determination. Thus, she goes from leading to following, and he goes from following to leading. Such a reversal in roles makes for an awesome dual character arc that they share together in splendid fashion.
Simultaneously, more supporting characters arrive during this home stretch, too. Akira and her relationship with Chinatsu. Kugimiya and his internal frustrations. Once again, Ballroom e Youkoso enlists the help of these extras who both affect the mains in a worthwhile way and receive at least a modicum of attention to give their presence more than a passing stance.
By the end of this two-cour season, Tatara, Chinatsu, and a host of other characters form a stalwart cast who not only contribute to the well-being of one another but also charge ahead with advancements of their own. They don’t reach that top-tier spot, but strong execution in the writing can be seen readily enough.
MUSIC & SOUND
Speaking of leading and following, Ballroom e Youkoso leads with several nice musical pieces and follows with some swell audio decisions as well.
The show kicks it off with its first opening track, “10% roll, 10% romance”. The rhythmic drums and the upbeat guitar build the foundation for this peppy song, and the lighter vocals form the mood equally as light. Better yet, the step-wise delivery and the multitude of pacing switch-ups coincide with that all-encompassing dancing motif, placing this OP into good graces.
Come the second half of the anime, the second opening track, “Invisible Sensation”, replaces the first one. While it returns with a similar sense of instrumentation and singing, this new OP takes on a slightly different tone. A twinge of both passion and melancholy now exist in the composition as the hopeful arrangement carries on. While this track is somewhat of a downgrade, the nuanced shift in the overall feeling, to reflect the remainder of the season upon its arrival, can at least be appreciated.
“Maybe the next waltz” isn’t a statement but instead the title of the first ending track. Compared to its two OP counterparts, this piece invites the listener with gentleness aplenty. Piano keys and string instruments provide an orchestral base for a grander sound, but the chimes and general daintiness keep the song in check as its fantastical aura moves about softly on the ears. The main vocals dance along, the backing vocals uplift the track, and, in unison, they round out the rest of this unassuming melody.
As for the second ED, “Swing heart direction” combines a bit of each of the three songs heard already while carving out its own piece of the dance pie. Drums and guitar accompany a piano, working together and on their own, towards a sincere yet mellow angle. It doesn’t quite dazzle as much as the other tracks, but its simplicity and (as it denotes) heart fill the song with a steady amount of emotion.
Ballroom e Youkoso also creates a bunch of sweet pieces for its original soundtrack in-between these OPs and these EDs. Dramatic tunes of violins and of pianos add the necessary weight to the more powerful moments, such as when Shizuku talks to Tatara about how he (and others) have already left an impression on her. A defined acoustic-guitar gets at a tensioned, almost sexy atmosphere when required. And hip-hop beats with a nearby saxophone push scenes along with a smooth, jazzy hand.
This diverse and intriguing OST is perhaps the best trait from the music-and-sound department, but the remaining elements deserve at least a shout-out, too. The anime demonstrates attention to detail with the squeaking of shoes on wooden flooring and, while the voice acting may not exactly enrapture, the ensemble cast provide very solid performances.
At the minimum, Chinatsu Akasaki as (coincidentally enough) Chinatsu displays a directness and a range of emotion that elevates the red-head above her peers. Alongside the strength of the audio direction overall, Ballroom e Youkoso caps off its production values with a lot of clout, indeed.
Slap on me a bowtie and nickname me “Tango” because I was a fan of this anime the whole way through.
The gentlemen brought a lot. Tatara is an earnest fellow, and I like seeing him face his position with realism and guts. Gaju is at first a jerk, but he turns into a cool friend. And Kiyoharu is the quiet star, yet his wisdom and advice are honest and true. Each of the main ladies were a treat, too. Shizuku’s alluring, thoughtful intimidation. Mako’s tiny, cute smile. Chinatsu’s tomboyish, fiery passion.
These characters are a ton of fun, and their rivalries and interactions translated into entertainment galore. I found myself rooting for and cheering on Tatara and Mako as their combined efforts led them to sincere happiness, and I invested emotions into Tatara and Chinatsu as they fought with everything they had.
Plus, as someone without much interest in ballroom dancing, it kept me hooked. This sport is not technically a marvel, and I’m certainly no expert in that field. Meaning, I’m aware of its existence but I place myself in that group I described way earlier who truthfully cannot say it has landed on my radar in the past. Yet I’m always open to trying out stories or premises that don’t automatically fall into my favorite categories, and so I was pleasantly surprised that it basically never lost its luster and kept me engaged throughout its whole run.
And I cannot forget to mention the other likable parts of this anime. The blonde Russian bombshell Marisa and the attractive Chizuru. The slight sparks of romance. The hilarious comedic segments throughout. Even if these parts weren’t here within this anime, I would still be singing its praises – or, more relevantly, attempting a jig in its honor.
Ballroom e Youkoso impresses the judges and wows the onlookers with its moves. The audiovisual elements grab some attention, but the worthwhile setup, the strong character writing, and the huge amount of entertainment glide this project towards the front of the line. While not going everywhere or doing everything, it wins out regardless.
Story: Good, ballroom dancing takes center stage, delivering a stout introduction to the sport and the benefits it brings, while also putting together a solid, exciting plot despite the occasional tactless “joke”
Art & Animation: Good, wonderful designs, intriguing stylistic moments, and, for the complex dance numbers, both an avoidance of major mistakes and lots of creative liberties overcome some of the issues with reused segments
Characters: Good, despite the weak motivations backing the core of Tatara’s person, his growth throughout the season is reasonable and meaningful, his pairing with Chinatsu is stellar, and side cast members such as Mako and Kugimiya both support and improve
Music & Sound: Good, a collection of interesting OPs and EDs, a diverse OST, and some solid VA performances put the audio on the correct footing
Enjoyment: Great, waltzed right in and quickly became fun as it tangoed without end
Final Score: 8/10
Thanks for taking the time to read my review.
If you want, take part in the discussion below! :3