Posted by SuperWooper on 23 November 2017 with categories: Ballroom e Youkoso, Finished Series: Sports

It seems that the closer Ballroom e Youkoso gets to the end of its run, the further it moves from my strike zone. The series’ wide-ranging cast is its greatest asset, so you’d think that an extended flashback exploring Akira and Chinatsu’s shared past would be a slam dunk, but these episodes left me cold. There are too many hurdles for the show to overcome, between a lack of expressive motion, inconsistent portrayals of skill and compatibility, superfluous dialogue, and poor scene transitions. Assuming I continue doing double-episode posts, I’ve only got two more to go, but I’m dreading the final review that lies beyond them. Takeuchi Tomo, the original creator, has given us the heads-up that the Ballroom anime may receive an original ending due to delays in the manga’s release schedule, which only adds to my apprehension. Then again, the show has been pretty faithful to its source and still ended up in this rut, so maybe some fresh material is just what it needs.

There was a minor controversy surrounding Ballroom’s 41st chapter (from which “Rival” draws) a while back. When it was first published in Monthly Shounen Magazine, it contained a page where Akira thought to herself, “What I love is something else.” She expresses a similar thought in this episode (though Amazon’s subs use “like” instead of “love”), a reference to her affection for Chinatsu, rather than the sport that binds them. However, when chapter 41 was included in a compiled volume of the Ballroom manga, that text was removed, probably because it suggests a same-sex attraction on Akira’s part. Coming into this episode, I was curious which way the show would lean, and to my pleasant surprise, they included the line. In fact, this episode was heavy with lesbian subtext, from Akira’s descriptions of heart-pounding excitement at being around Chinatsu, to her “embarrassment” at studying the nape of her neck, to her jealousy at the thought of anyone else teaming up with Chinatsu.

Now we know that Akira is gay (or at least bisexual), and that her attraction to her former partner has shaped their relationship coming into adolescence. We even delve into her psyche a bit, as she manipulates Chinatsu into dancing the boy’s part because she prefers her in a “male” role, and labels her feelings as “wretched.” Despite its success in telling their story, however, Ballroom fails to connect it to the larger picture of the current arc. Akira dances to be close to Chinatsu, not because of a particular love for competition; Tatara’s current goal is to become a better competitor by understanding what it means to lead. Those ideas don’t have much to do with one another, although you could argue that the show has lost sight of Tatara’s arc, as well. The show is constantly giving us mixed messages about both him and Chinatsu. Take Mine-san’s evaluation of the pair, for example: “They have childish faces, but their childishness has disappeared.” Hello?! How does this explain Chinatsu’s relentless mocking of Akira in this episode (which kind of undercut the emotional aspect of their backstory), or Tatara’s exasperating timidity?

That brings me to my next point, about the lack of consistency surrounding the show’s treatment of the Tatara/Chinatsu partnership. Just a couple weeks ago they were in the zone, flying through the early rounds of the competition, and using their clashing personalities to push each other to new heights. We even got that scene where Chinatsu was viscerally influenced by Tatara’s movement, so much so that it threatened to overtake her. Then we get to these episodes, and the entire peanut gallery is shit-talking them, Chinatsu is acting totally aloof, and they’re literally stepping on each other’s feet. Then we move to the slapstick second half of “Friend,” which features a scene where Hyodo sits on Tatara’s back and “separates his muscles” over his anguished cries, while Chinatsu and Akira nonchalantly eat bananas in the foreground… I’m cool with anime moving rapidly between different styles and tones, but only if they establish that versatility as a part of their DNA, and Ballroom has never been as wacky or felt as conflicted as it was here. The majority of this doubleheader’s appeal was lost on me, but hey, there’s only four episodes to go.

2 Responses

  1. Avatar Weakness says:

    Probably the weakest episode yet. I think it was supposed to be a breather episode.

    I agree with basically all of the critique, although I think think this is still watchable, there is dancing animation (I mean more than what you can find elsewhere) and music as well. There are some great musical pieces in this show’s repertoire and when it uses them to its full advantage, the result is quite powerful. An example would be the ending of ep13, when Chinatsu was leading Tatara. When she approached him, with dead-serious eyes set on him, commanding him, freezing his senses, you could feel her domination completely wrapping around Tatara’s body and compelling him to dance her bidding – that was amazing and it sold her character to me. I love that moment.

    Warning! Rant Alert!

    Unfortunately, ever since then the show has been hammering in their role reversal – both of them doing the part they suck at – and it simply was not interesting at all. Tatara and Chinatsu are supposed to be facing a challenge and grow, but this only means we constantly get to see their weaknesses and because the show is confused about the solutions, it’s tedious and unfulfilling.

    Tatara is supposed to be using his Reading-Steiner ability to master moves he shouldn’t be able to master in real-time and Chinatsu should dazzle everyone with her cold bone-headedness, that Tatara’d somehow manage to humanize and steer on the floor to utilize her in the best possible way. THIS is what I was expecting and wanting the show to be all about!

    But nope. Instead we get Tatara’s 101 mini-adventures with side characters in hallways, balconies, roofs, hotsprings and restrooms, meek Chinatsu crying in childish tantrums over bananas and Yuri on Bait and instead of Tatara’s analytical handling of the dance floor, we get body smashing, stepping on each other’s toes and Haykyuu lvl comments on how they have grown or not grown into this and that, sugercoated with metaphors about four-legged demons and black blood transfusions.

    It does not help that ‘final boss’ Hyoudo was reduced to naked walking commentary generator, Gaju into his pet, Sengoku used his BigTit BlondeMilf jutsu, Mako sublimated and Shizuku (easily the most complex female character – she has her dark snarky side) drops by about as often as never. And I have yet to see what this pro-dancing looks like, because so far everyone talks about it, but where is it? Why do they tell me ‘now, be impressed’ instead of showing me something impressive? Is it because I am not familiar with dancing?

    In a year, I’ll remember one-two highlights of this show, but not much else. Too bad.

    • Avatar SuperWooper says:

      Music is definitely one of the series’ most effective weapons, though a reliance on the same four or five tracks has taken a bit of the shine off at this late stage. It’s as you say – only specific moments are worth celebrating, and the rest of the show is destined to fade away.

      Dying of laughter at “BigTit BlondeMilf jutsu,” btw.

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