My expectations were up in the air as I settled in for the world premiere of Yoshimi Itazu’s anime adaptation of the popular manga “Welcome to the Ballroom” in the crowded events hall of Anime Expo 2017. While my familiarity with the series’ production companies – Production I.G. and Pony Canyon – lies inherently behind Attack on Titan, I’ve never explored the world of sports anime genre, nor did I ever think that I would be sitting down to digest one about ballroom dancing.
Based on the popular manga of the same name by Tomo Takeuchi, “Welcome to the Ballroom” hits every beat you could want out of a high school shōnen: a hapless teen finds his calling in life by accident a la joining some kind of activity/organization that coincidentally is attended by his secret crush. But where “Welcome to the Ballroom” fits comfortably in its round pegs, it excels in every way possible.
As a hapless nobody, Tatara plays into the audience’s yearning for something beyond ordinary. As he taps into the world of ballroom dancing, we are drawn to his perseverance to succeed at the one thing he believes will improve his life. Meanwhile his crush, Shizuku, has her own foibles she must overcome while also finding herself gravitating toward Tatara’s innocence and budding passion for dance.
In the first two episodes we were shown, we are also introduced to Kaname Sengoku, Tatara’s reluctant dance instructor whose very appearance on-screen lauded uproarious swooning from the crowd. He is perfection in every way, but we can sense a shift in attitude as he comes to warm up to Tatara. But of course, this wouldn’t be an anime without a rival, Kiyoharu Hyodou, who has been dancing with Shizuku for quite some time.
The animation style is a little jarring, but I got used to it after awhile. Their facial makeup mixed with some of the expressions are a built uncanny but also fit perfectly with the sense of humor derived from the manga. However, the dancing is flawlessly animated by showcasing the elegance, grace and concise movements so realistically and whimsically that you feel as if you’re in line with every character with each step they take. There’s never a confusing awkward moment of trying to understand the structure of each type of dance on display and the animation feels thoughtfully executed in each frame. And coming from the Attack on Titan team, you can sense the sort of similar action in the movements of the camera and characters.
From only the first two episodes, I gained a level of respect for this type of anime I’ve never brought myself to watch before. There’s a polish to “Welcome to the Ballroom” that speaks volume to the kind of series that it will turn into. It’s a fun romp that isn’t as serious as something like Attack on Titan, but isn’t as fluffy as say “Your Lie in April.” With a combination of clever humor, breathtaking dance sequences, and wishful romance, “Welcome to the Ballroom” will be a delight for many looking forward to its debut.
The first episode can be seen on July 8 with a full 24-episode first season. Be sure to check it out and watch the trailer below.