Posted on 31 August 2017 with categories: Ballroom e Youkoso, Finished Series: Sports

Here are a few reasons why Hyodo Kiyoharu was the MVP of this week’s episode: he noticed Tatara’s fatigue and flat-footedness before the kid’s own coach. He kept his cool while everyone else was busy flinging petty insults or embroiling themselves in love pentagons, and provided his rival with both straight talk and sound advice. He watched his mom flirt unashamedly with a guy nearly twice her age, and somehow managed to retain his dignity. He managed to motivate someone as talented as Shizuku to dance her best with his mere presence. And he looked fly as hell with his sweater robe and crutch, even amidst a sea of tailcoats and bowties. If I were a judge at the Tenpei Cup, I’d call off the competition and just award Hyodo the trophy.

Unfortunately, I’m not qualified to evaluate ballroom dancing (or men’s fashion) – only to talk about Japanese cartoons. So despite Hyodo’s greatness, there’s one scene I really want to focus on this week, and that’s the moment when Sengoku instructs Tatara not to do the special Quickstep variation they’d been practicing for weeks. Even without seeing his pupil gasp for breath in the corner of the room just moments beforehand, Sengoku knows that Hyodo is right about his exhaustion. Tatara is already on the floor by the time he can speak with him, though, so Sengoku is forced to shout across the hall not to use their trump card (which would likely result in his collapse). What follows is dead silence, and eventually a shot of Tatara, who looks exhausted and embarrassed, but more than that, he looks crushed. He’s upset that his coach doesn’t believe in him, even though he’s shaking and sweating and barely maintaining his hold on his partner. This is a boy with prior self-image issues being told to alter his routine to account for his lack of experience and stamina; it’s no wonder he sobs and collapses in Sengoku’s arms after his neutered performance.

I’m glad that Ballroom continues to expose this side of Tatara, even if the results are sometimes hard to watch, because it makes him more human even as the shounen clichés pile around him. The Destined Rivals bit that he and Hyodo have going on is farfetched, though the show played it well this week by making Kiyoharu the voice of reason during an emotional scene. “Reality” is the title of this episode, and Tatara’s reality, as explained by his rival, is that he can’t possibly beat Gaju given his current lack of talent and conditioning. The solution is to allow Mako to outperform Shizuku, and that’s a plan I couldn’t be happier with, especially after two months of hearing that the man leads and the woman follows, the pair’s score is largely determined by the leader, etc. I don’t doubt the truth of those statements, since ballroom dancing is quite traditional, but when Mako asks Tatara to “make me bloom” at the episode’s end, it feels great to know that she’s allowing herself to command some attention for a change. That final line also carries with it a hint of romance, given the sensual connotation that blooming holds. Sengoku teased the two kids about a potential relationship midway through the proceedings this week, so I expect that their partnership may become a bit more complicated in the future.

Love is in the air for several other characters, as well, but Shizuku’s crush is the most interesting. She looked stunned after seeing Hyodo at the Tenpei Cup, perhaps for the first time since his hospitalization, which is a total reversal from her invulnerable attitude just hours earlier. Tatara tries to explain away Hyodo’s strategy as a plan to separate her from Gaju, but she still feels him slipping away, as she did back in episode two. Her resolve now is to impress her former partner, which is an okay development in my book. This is an unsanctioned event with nothing on the line for a seasoned pro like Shizuku, so what’s the harm in a little showmanship for the sake of the boy she likes? Besides, her desire to impress Kiyoharu is tied to her need to reach his skill level, and prove to upstarts like Tatara that you can’t waltz into this scene and start winning trophies left and right – pun very much intended.

Posted on 22 August 2017 with categories: Ballroom e Youkoso, Finished Series: Sports

I spent the majority of the previous review breaking down a single scene, so let’s play catch-up for a bit. This episode features the Tenpei Cup, an annual event held by some rich dance enthusiast. Despite not being an official competition, the stakes are high: if the fledgling pair of Tatara and Mako can outplace Gaju and Shizuku (who are favored to win), Gaju will be forced to take back his sister as his partner. Thankfully, Sengoku has given his full support to his new student, having supplied him with a new tailcoat and a strategy to impress the head judge during the Quickstep round. It’s a relief that Sengoku has quit trying to embarrass and discourage the impressionable Tatara, who needs all the support he can get, given his lack of self-confidence.

Regarding that timid streak, this episode didn’t bring it across as well as the last one. During his previous phone call with Mako, we got a clear picture of how unworthy Tatara felt, both as a dancer and as a young man. This time, he was a simple scaredy-cat, begging his coach not to put him back on the floor after nearly every round, then finding his groove again once the dancing started. I get that the major story of Ballroom is Tatara’s journey to find himself, but we don’t need a miniature version of that arc every six minutes. The show even commented on this practice through Sengoku, who quickly became fed up with what he described as a “rollercoaster mentality.” It’s good that the writers aren’t totally clueless, I guess, but the show’s awareness of the problem doesn’t make it any less boring to watch.

Thankfully, the episode really picked up during its second half, especially after a dance floor collision between Tatara and Gaju. We never got a definitive answer on whether Tatara purposely engineered the crash, but after he watched Gaju and Shizuku steal the show during the second round, I’m choosing to believe that he made a conscious decision to level the playing field by drawing attention to himself. The waiting room confrontation that ensued was highly dramatic, with all the yelling, punching, and crying that you expect from shounen anime. I liked almost everything about it, though. Gaju is a very believable villain, whose insensitivity and tendency to belittle others read like those of a real high schooler. When Mako hits him and runs off crying, it’s at the perfect point in the conversation. My favorite part of the scene, though, came immediately afterward.

When Shizuku sees her teary-eyed competitor flee the scene and asks what all the fuss is about, it comes out that Tatara thinks there’s a chance that Mako will surpass her. At this point, I fully expected the older girl to berate Gaju for mistreating his totemo kawaii imouto~ and run off to make sure Mako was okay, at which point we’d get a scene where the girls talk about how boys are stupid. Instead, Shizuku walks right up to Tatara, gives him an icy stare, says, “Don’t underestimate me,” snaps his bowtie, and walks away. I think I’m in love. After receiving precisely zero speaking lines in last week’s script, Shizuku was due for her moment in the spotlight, and she certainly got it here. Part of me hopes that she still checked on Mako after she was through being a badass, but the version of the argument that we got was the best possible way the scene could have played out.

The story wraps with the introduction of Marisa Hyodo, mother of Tatara’s destined rival. Before she was revealed as a guest judge for the semifinals of the Tenpei Cup, we got a car scene between Marisa and Kiyoharu, who don’t seem to be the closest of parent-child duos. As we might expect from a superstar of the dance world, she works constantly and doesn’t see much of her son, but what’s worse is that she rationalizes her absence by declaring him the type who “likes being alone.” Ballroom is full of parents and authority figures who are less supportive than they ought to be, although I suppose it wouldn’t be anime if it weren’t. When the Hyodos appear at the very end of the episode, Sengoku looks like a kid who’s been caught with his hand in the proverbial cookie jar – does he have an agreement with Marisa not to train anyone except her son, or is there some history between them that we don’t know about? Guess we’ll find out next week.

Posted on 14 August 2017 with categories: Ballroom e Youkoso, Finished Series: Sports

Several weeks ago, I wrote about my desire for the show to continually check in with Shizuku’s character – not just to put her on screen, but to show us how she’s thinking and feeling, now that her previous partner is sidelined and her new one clearly wants to be partners in more than one sense. In the fourteen days since the last episode, I developed the expectation that I wouldn’t be wild about this new installment unless Shizuku was a major part of it. And while she did make an appearance, both in the present day and in a flashback, she didn’t have a single line of dialogue, plus she was subjected to some heavy objectification on Gaju’s end. Why, then, was I so happy with Ballroom this week? I’m going to assume that if you’re reading this review, you’ve already seen the episode, so we’re skipping any sort of plot summary and moving straight to my favorite scene, which came near the end of our 22 minutes.

When Tatara comes home from a grueling practice session with Mako, he’s greeted by two things: popped blisters on his feet, and the sound of his father’s drunken phone conversation. The lights are off, and as he passes by his dad, Tatara hears him say, “He’s such a hopeless kid.” Let’s stop right there for a second and consider how dark this scene is. The blisters are, to Tatara, a symbol of his inadequacy, since he thinks to himself that experienced dancers would never have such a problem. So, he’s entering his home with the thought in his head that he’s not good enough, and on the way to his room he hears the only parent in his life confirm his self-diagnosis – talk about mental damage. Until this episode, Tatara’s home life had been portrayed as a happy one, featuring bright mealtime scenes and his dad functioning as a concerned, but understanding, parent. Here we see the exact opposite, and to make things even worse (or so it seems), the person on the other end of the call is Mako.

It turns out she’s been dealing with blisters, too, and her first instinct is to apologize for her lousy dancing. Like Tatara, she lacks confidence, and they take turns apologizing and deflecting until he decides to share that his parents are divorced. The show uses this fact to explain his commitment to restoring the Hyodo/Shizuku and Gaju/Mako dance partnerships, but Mako sees that resolve as a part of his character, and starts to gush about how thoughtful he is. This was the make-or-break moment for the scene, because anime often falls into the trap of praising their heroes for being sooo thoughtful and sooo nice, as opposed to creating stories that allow them to demonstrate those qualities in an authentic way. But Ballroom leapt over this pitfall by contrasting Mako’s opinion of her new partner with his own self-perception. As she assures him that everyone at Ogasawara is watching and admiring his progress, Tatara wonders to himself whether he’s worthy of their gaze. He feels thankful that anyone notices him at all, and considers it a miracle that any girl would want to dance with him.

This is real shit. These are the naked thoughts of a kid from a divorced family, who doesn’t like school, considers himself to be untalented, and comes home to a father who self-medicates with alcohol. As Mako expresses her wish that he’ll keep dancing, we get a shot of Tatara’s feet – they’re the only place he can bear to look, given how foreign and inappropriate her praise must seem. But although his voice is small when he manages to find it again, he says thank you. He’s accepted guidance from coaches and challenges from rivals in the past, but now he accepts the kindness of someone who really respects him, and maybe likes him a little bit. Both kids are blushing by the end of the conversation, and it’s worth noting that Mako must have asked somebody at the dance studio for his phone number in order to make the call, so rumors about the pair may already be buzzing. I’m not totally on board the Tatara/Mako ship just yet, but I couldn’t be happier about the way they serve as anchors for each other in the harsh world of competitive dance.

There was more to the new episode than just this scene, but I’ve written enough as it is. Next week’s Ballroom will feature the Tenpei Cup, with our main couples going head-to-head, so I’ll try to integrate some of the stuff I didn’t cover this time into that post. Feels good to be back on the Ballroom bandwagon (at least for now).

Posted on 3 August 2017 with categories: Ballroom e Youkoso, Finished Series: Sports

Ballroom aired a double feature last week, so this review is either a few days late or a few days early, depending on how you look at it. Either way, there won’t be a new episode this coming Saturday, with the next one scheduled to appear on August 12th. Personally, I welcome the break as an opportunity to reset my expectations for the show, which seem to have been too high. This series isn’t a mold-breaker of any kind, but rather a traditional shounen anime with non-traditional subject material. “Partner” was likewise a straightforward episode, but it did manage to properly introduce two very different characters, and adjust the motivations driving several of our main players. Not a bad way to wrap things up before a two-week break, all things considered.

With Hyodo occupying the role of brooding genius, the show was missing a more hot-blooded rival character – that is, until now. Enter Gaju Akagi, whose brash personality and loud mouth are perfectly complimented by his ginger mullet. It’s a bit ironic that he insults Tatara’s bedhead just minutes after barreling into the episode, given his own disastrous hairdo. Maybe he lets it grow so long in the back because he’s ashamed of his giraffe neck? Jokes aside, though, Gaju’s dancing is nothing to laugh at, and he supports his claim to become Shizuku’s new partner with some fancy Latin footwork. The last of those three cuts looked rotoscoped to my eyes, but it was also super smooth and a little sexy, which is a tone that has eluded the series until now. I wouldn’t mind if I.G. fell back on this method from time to time in the future.

Gaju’s younger sister Mako can only watch from the sidelines as her partner tries to leave her behind, which is more than a little sad. She’s the meek, sensitive type, which is also a template that Ballroom hadn’t busted out until this week. Tatara is charmed by her shyness the same way he was by Shizuku’s strength, but is unable to sync with her during their first dance (if you could even call it that). Mako’s willingness to be led pays off later in the episode, though, when Tatara activates Prodigy Mode and instinctively guides her where she wants to go, providing some confidence in their future teamwork. Mako will have to exhibit much more improvement if she wants to reach her new goal, though: surpassing Shizuku and convincing Gaju to rejoin her as one of Japan’s best amateur Latin duos.

Also on board with this plan are Tatara and Sengoku, the latter of whom sets up the second meeting between the two shy kids. This might be the first time that Sengoku is actually cooperating with his new student, rather than manipulating or making fun of him, and it’s only made possible by their mutual dislike of Gaju. At the root of that dislike is the shared belief that Gaju is “stealing” Shizuku from Hyodo, but the reality is that Shizuku chose to switch partners of her own will. She claims not to care about Hyodo anymore, but regardless of whether that declaration holds any water, he’s banned from JDSF competitions for six months, so why not let the girl find a new lead? Even if her decision is meant to anger Sengoku, who she rightly calls out for being untrusting, she ought to be allowed to compete for the next half year, rather than being punished for other people’s mistakes. The episode closes on a shot of Shizuku looking pensively into the wall-length mirror at Ogasawara, perhaps wondering whether she’s made the right decision, so the show had better follow up with her character soon – the further she gets from being considered a prize to be won, the better.

Posted on 30 July 2017 with categories: Ballroom e Youkoso, Finished Series: Sports

If you’d asked me a month ago for my top picks of the season, Ballroom e Youkoso would have been one of them. If you’d asked me two weeks ago to rank the new summer series, this show would have been right beneath Made in Abyss at the top of the heap. If you’d asked me seven days ago whether Ballroom was going to bounce back from its first subpar episode, I’d have wagered it would… but it didn’t. We’re only four weeks into a planned 24-episode run, so this level of pessimism must seem premature to many of you. Part of me knows that it is. The other, much larger part of me is too disappointed to care, so I’m going full nitpick mode for the next 500 words, with the promise that I’ll resume standard coverage next time.

Let’s start with how annoying Sengoku was in this episode, and more broadly, the depths of stupidity to which anime character writing can descend. Hyodo, Sengoku’s star pupil, has been concealing a knee injury that his teacher fears will worsen without rest. His solution is to take advantage of Hyodo’s absence and use Tatara as a substitute, which will disqualify Hyodo, thus preventing him from dancing and compounding his injury. (Let us overlook the fact that he could have simply convinced Shizuku to withdraw, as a later manga chapter will point out.) He then proceeds to blame Tatara, who he roped into this ridiculous plan, for lighting a fire under Hyodo’s ass, claiming that it will be his fault if his rival should bust his leg on the floor. The show hangs a lampshade on how dumb this is by having the background characters accuse Sengoku of being unreasonable, but the show forgets their objections as quickly as it raised them. The kicker is that Mr. Coach of the Year thinks to himself, “I guess it was worth butting in,” when he sees Hyodo dance the tango like a man possessed, and later laughs about the length of his ban from competitive DanceSport.

You might claim that Sengoku is just a dick, but think about the fact that the author delayed the disqualification just long enough for Hyodo to land himself in the hospital, or that Tatara continues to blame himself for Hyodo’s injury and DQ, even though it’s obvious to anyone with an ounce of brain power that neither of those things are his fault. This series is pushing square-shaped story beats through circular holes, and whenever the peanut gallery shows up to remind you that what’s happening doesn’t make a lot of sense, they get swept under the rug. Some of the same problems are present in the manga, but seeing them presented at a static pace and with no adjustments is a real disadvantage for viewers of the TV version.

Where the anime ought to excel is in the dancing scenes, but they’re just not cutting it for me. Ballroom is pulling the classic trick of cutting from panning stills to amazed reaction shots, and hoping that its real-life audience will feel the same sense of wonder as the faces on screen. I’m starting to see a lot of painted backgrounds that are meant to imply movement, as well – they’re not as cheap as speed lines, but they serve the same purpose. The standing ovation that Hyodo’s tango received near the middle of the episode felt utterly phony, given that more than half of it looked like posing rather than dancing, and that sucked the life from everything that happened afterward. Iwakuma’s brief appearance came off as immaterial, and what could have been a real heart-to-heart between Tatara and Hyodo ultimately felt like a convenient way to move the former boy one step closer to his goal. It now falls to the Akagi siblings (the two characters introduced just before the ED) to breathe new life into this once-charming show, or else the next five months of blogging are going to be tinged with regret.

NOTE: This week, I started referring to the show’s protagonist (Fujita Tatara) by his given name, which should become a regular practice going forward.

Posted on 23 July 2017 with categories: Ballroom e Youkoso, Finished Series: Sports

Well, there’s no going back now. Ballroom just went full sports anime, and it cut the brake lines for good measure. After the relative nuance of last week’s character introduction, the newest episode treated us to more fanservice, more contrivance, and more shounen formula than the last two combined. Sports series have really stepped up their game over the last few years, with Yuri on Ice and especially Ping Pong busting genre conventions every time they hit the airwaves, but I wasn’t expecting Ballroom to reach those heights – just equaling its sister series Haikyuu would be a fine achievement. The going is still early, but since I’m reviewing the show episodically, I don’t have a lot of praise to dole out this time.

Before we get too negative, though, let’s talk about Fujita’s family life for a bit. There’s a sweet mealtime scene between our young hero, his father, and his grandmother, who we met for the first time this week. Fujita does his best impression of a color commentator as a sumo match plays on TV, allowing his nearsighted grandma to follow along. This heartwarming scene further establishes him as a good kid, but he’s still not disclosing his new hobby to his dad, so I have to wonder when Fujita’s sneaking around will come back to bite him in the butt. Ballroom isn’t one of those series that makes its paternal figures into antagonists, but we already know that he’s concerned about his son’s upcoming high school entrance exams. When he inevitably learns that ballroom dancing is coming before Fujita’s studies, we can expect a B-plot’s worth of material from the resulting conflict.

Notably absent from the dinner table is Fujita’s mother. I’ve been on the lookout for a shrine somewhere in their home, but it appears she’s just living apart from her family. I have to wonder whether Fujita would be more comfortable revealing his passion for dance to a mother figure, but it’s hard to speculate, since all the women in this cast are already part of that world. Tamaki-san is the encouraging type, at least, which is a wonderful trait for a young novice to have in an instructor. Speaking of female characters, I took issue with the way that half of the cast was treated in this episode. This is a shounen property, so I was prepared for a certain level of sexual objectification, but at this point Banba’s role in the story is 80% boob jiggle. The more offensive instance by far, though, came when Sengoku grabbed a handful of Shizuku’s dress during a pep talk and inadvertently bared her breasts. Then they threw in a gushing nosebleed and a camera flash for good measure… I was able to get past the changing scene from last week without much trouble, but if this shit becomes a staple in Ballroom’s playbook, it’s going to put a sizeable damper on my enjoyment of the series.

Excessive fanservice isn’t the only bone I had to pick with this episode, either. The “overheard from a bathroom stall” trope was executed with about as much grace as Fujita after just one dance lesson, and it didn’t teach us anything that we couldn’t infer from the studio above his home and his rigorous practice routine. The show’s attempt to frame another competitor for Hyodo’s fall didn’t even qualify as half-hearted, plus we’ve already seen him fall down a flight of stairs at Ogasawara. And the fall itself was a complete contrivance, not only because it allowed Fujita to hit the floor way ahead of schedule, but also because it will prevent Hyodo from claiming his title. This kind of plotting reminds me of sports anime from the mid-90’s: clumsy and lacking any kind of dramatic tension. Sengoku refers to dance competitions as “battlefields” midway through the episode, but the show handled this one as though it were a mere reenactment.

Thankfully, Hyodo’s character remains fascinating, even when the events unfolding around him are not. After seeing Fujita’s excited expression on the dance floor, Hyodo angrily demands that he “give it back,” a clear reference to the passion that he himself has lost. It’s tempting to think that the two trash-talkers from the bathroom got under his skin, but it seems to me that he’s been approaching this breaking point for a while. His enthusiasm for the sport is at a low point, given his lack of challengers and disinterest in training overseas; he may not even want to compete at all, feeling only the need to live up to his reputation or please his parents. Hyodo’s expressions on the floor are often intense, but never are they happy, and that’s where Fujita has him beat. The continued strength of their rivalry will be one of the biggest measures of Ballroom’s success as it goes on – hopefully the rest of the show catches up soon.

Posted on 17 July 2017 with categories: Ballroom e Youkoso, Finished Series: Sports

After a strong start to its two cour season, Ballroom e Youkoso has managed to waltz its way past all potential stumbling blocks and deliver an even better second episode. There was a lot to love here, including a carefully introduced rival and love triangle, great voicework from Shinba Tsuchiya, and some promising animation during a late solo dance sequence. Ballroom isn’t above including anime tropes like the always-classy ‘interrupted changing scene,’ and lead character Fujita’s latent genius is a bit too evident after just two installments, but the team at Production I.G. is doing a lot more things right than wrong. Let’s break them down step by step.

The episode is named after Kiyoharu Hyodo, the biggest of the three characters it introduces (the other two being Banba and Jinbo, Fujita’s friendly but underqualified dance instructors). Sengoku describes Hyodo as a “monster” who stands in complete dominance of Japan’s amateur DanceSport scene. He’s full of intensity on the floor, but totally aloof when he’s away from it, demonstrating his nonchalance throughout the episode via several cavernous yawns. Even if you think these are intentional, Hyodo is quite agreeable for a rival character in anime, especially given his young age and outrageous skill. He demonstrates a basic waltz step for his new studio-mate with only a slight protest, and keeps his cool when Fujita later interrupts his solo practice. The hitch is that Hyodo is involved in a nine-year dance partnership with Shizuku, on whom our hero has a massive crush.

When Sengoku teases that Fujita might try to steal his partner, Hyodo claims not to care. Shizuku, however, appears to care very much, blushing and pouting at his level-headed response. Thus the love triangle falls into place, with the only question mark being where Hyodo’s affections lie. Attractive and talented as Shizuku is, it’s hard to imagine that he wouldn’t be interested, but he doesn’t seem to be; even when presented with the opportunity to train overseas with her, he’s content to stay in Japan. This is clearly discouraging to Shizuku, who thinks Hyodo is “on another level” and considers herself “lucky he’s my partner.” The hero worship here made me a little wary of potential Sakura Syndrome, where a major female character acts only as a bystander or cheerleader, but the groundwork has been laid for Shizuku to undergo her own arc. Natsu from Baby Steps is a good model for how I hope her character is handled over the course of the series – always improving and competing against rivals of her own, even as she functions as a love interest for two different guys.

On the production side of things, the stills and CG dancers returned for another episode, but all was forgiven during one of the final scenes this week. During a solo practice session of Hyodo’s, the art became more sketch-like and the animation more fluid, giving a powerful, dynamic feel to his movements. Even if it only lasted for a few seconds, this willingness to break model and use a rougher style to capture a different energy is a confidence booster. I especially liked this choice given that Fujita was observing him, and needed to be inspired by what he saw to push the story forward. Speaking of Fujita, Shinba Tsuchiya is a breath of fresh air as his voice actor, imbuing the character with a nice blend of self-consciousness and enthusiasm. Tsuchiya is a newcomer to the seiyuu world, but he’s already drawing comparisons to Daiki Yamashita, who voices Deku on Boku no Hero Academia, so his future looks bright. Hopefully Ballroom’s future remains just as promising as the show starts covering multiple manga chapters per episode.

Posted on 8 July 2017 with categories: Ballroom e Youkoso, Finished Series: Sports

Much of the conversation leading up to the premiere of Ballroom e Youkoso has focused on its English distribution. Amazon, who continue to wade deeper into the anime marketplace, snapped up the series to headline their Anime Strike channel, and plenty of digital ink has been spilled about how its double paywall spells doom for the future of legal streaming. The first episode of Ballroom also had its worldwide debut on Twitch, where a live audience of thousands welcomed its delayed subtitles with KappaPride emotes, copypasta, and an obsession with the size of the characters’ necks. But let’s put all this aside for a moment and ask ourselves: did Production I.G. succeed in preserving the appeal of the manga in its journey from page to screen?

For me, the answer is “pretty much.” Ballroom is a plucky, well-paced series in manga form, and I.G. kept things rolling during the first episode, as well. They had to cut a few corners to get there, however, and one of them cost me some attachment to Fujita, our middle school protagonist. The manga presents him as a willing participant in his first group lesson, having been inspired by a professional dancer named Sengoku, who rescues him from a trio of bullies. The animated version of the story keeps Sengoku’s role the same, but omits the group lesson, and skips straight to a coerced partnership with Shizuku, his schoolmate and newfound crush. As a result, it was much harder for me to swallow the idea that Fujita wanted to go pro by the end of the episode, or that he’d lose track of time and practice the box step for what must have been twelve hours straight.

Luckily, the rest of Ballroom’s characters more than pull their weight. Sengoku initially appears to be a good-natured role model, but after witnessing Fujita’s sudden insistence on becoming a professional dancer, he seamlessly transforms into a drill sergeant with a chip on his shoulder. Similarly, Shizuku is suspicious of her temporary partner’s motives, and asks him directly whether he’s just a pervert looking for kicks. It’s only after he demonstrates some proficiency at a beginning technique that she gives him the time of day. This prickly behavior lets us know that ballroom dancing is no walk in the park, and that experienced dancers won’t take kindly to upstarts who haven’t put in the hours. Hopefully, the series will permit Fujita to struggle for as long as possible, and give us a glimpse at the mental fortitude necessary to compete even at the amateur level.

Perhaps the most worrisome thing about this premiere was the lack of any one expressive dance scene. Production I.G. has done some great work on Haikyuu!!, and given the visual similarities between that series and Ballroom, I assume that it’s being handled by the same team. My expectations were high coming into the episode, but even during the scene where Fujita gawked at a dance competition on DVD, there were low-detail models, panning stills, and even what looked like CG dancers in a couple spots. On the plus side, the character designs are strong, even if they’re not identical to the manga, and they’re expressive enough to cover for the holes in the animation department. Still, the first major burst of painstakingly-drawn dance choreography should be a treat to behold.

All in all, this was a good start to an adaptation of a manga that certainly deserved one. I’m already looking forward to the next episode, and to covering the series from week to week.

CHANGE USERNAME
Kaiser-Eoghan
@Mario: I enjoyed embrace of the serpent which has the same director as Birds of passage so I'll keep an eye out for it.
SuperMario
@Kaiser: I'm going to see Roma and Birds of Passage this weekend. Really excited for both
Kaiser-Eoghan
As for the she-ra thing well, as I've gotten older I probably have avoided kids stuff more.
Kaiser-Eoghan
I don't want to see tokenism being seen as acceptance when it isn't, it feels that people are putting forth the idea that something is only being/can be accepted because its being portrayed in a tokenistic way.
Kaiser-Eoghan
Its fine, obviously to have strong female characters, Ripley in Alien, Sarah Conner in Terminator, awesome....Rey in star wars....no.
Kaiser-Eoghan
I think too often shows and films, American ones today, are tokenistic or clicheed with inserting issues, merely just throwing them in or tacking them on for the sake of ticking boxes rather than any earnesty or doing anything.
Anonymous3086853
@SuperMario - I do. Yet at the same time it was a bit outside of my comfort zone, watching something like this considering that (let's be honest) msot shows are men oriented. Even the ones with great female characters. This one despite having tomboyish girls is mainly about these girls with male characters having supporting roles. I suppose that's were the uneasiness lies in my case.
Kaiser-Eoghan
@Mario: Just got done watching both earlier, his dark humour jives well with me and I liked the concept.
SuperMario
@Kaiser @Animosh: if you haven't seen World of Tomorrow plsssss check it out. I can't recommend it highly enough
SuperMario
@Vonter: Maybe it's a good things that shows for general audiences like this have queer context. Don't you think?
Anonymous3086853
Also because I'm a bit immature, this show is kinda gay. There's a lot of ship baiting moments, one same sex couple in the last episode and rainbows, pastel colors, emasculated male characters and some female crossdressing.
Anonymous3086853
The weakest aspect is that several secondary characters get lost in the shuffle. Kinda like Big Hero 6 in which the team had personalities but just didn't had the time to develop in any meaningful way. Still both the main cast and villains were good and like I say the protagonist and antagonist had strong arcs for a first season.
Anonymous3086853
So I now finished watching She Ra, and it got even better as it was building towards the season's end. Thes strongest aspect is the rivalry between Adora and Catra, the chemistry is very strong, kinda like Optimus and Megatron or Xavier and Magneto. In which both parts seem equally capable and to have mind games with the other.
Kaiser-Eoghan
Oh hey cool, rain town is done by the Penguin hhighway anime movie guy.
Kaiser-Eoghan
It looks like I haven't seen Don Hertzfedlts World of tomorrow films.
Kaiser-Eoghan
Also Prince Achmed and How Wang-Fo Was Saved.
Kaiser-Eoghan
Ah. yes, thanks animosh, I had a look at Rain town there, I like the style it was done in, it achieves the emotions its trying to convey well without needing dialogue, piano score actually helps rather than hinders.
Kaiser-Eoghan
Glassy ocean, that was another short I watched lately.
Kaiser-Eoghan
Oh inka isha is country doctor.
Kaiser-Eoghan
I know Mario has seen this style on animation, but anyone else see any oil on glass animation?
Kaiser-Eoghan
I actually prefer robot carnival to genius party but liked both.
Kaiser-Eoghan
Zepo, The Pride of Strathmoor were recent animated shorts I watched.
Kaiser-Eoghan
Recently I watched two shorts, death and the mother and pleasures of war.
Kaiser-Eoghan
I'd say any eastern european short films would be worth anyones time.
Kaiser-Eoghan
I'm not familiar with rain town or Inaka Isha .
Amagi
Kaiser: Have you seen Inaka Isha from Kafka?
Animosh
In the meanwhile, though, I'd also be very interested in recommendations! The shorts I mentioned are among my favorite animated works, so if you know anything similar, please let me know. :)
Animosh
For western animation I really like the Don Hertzfeldt shorts. And there was this short called "Rain Town" that was really impressively animated. I'm sure there were others, but my long-term memory is pretty lousy. If something else comes to mind I'll let you know.
Animosh
I'm pretty sure you're already going to be familiar with all of my favorites, but here you go: Morimoto's shorts are all fantastic (Dimension Bomb, Beyond, Noiseman Sound Insect, etc), and two others that come to mind are Cat Soup and Kigeki (or Comedy) by Nakazawa. There are also some great collections out there (like the Genius Party ones), but again, you've probably seen those already.
Kaiser-Eoghan
If anyone has any suggestions for weird short animations, I'm looking for excuses to watch some more and I'm in the mood for them.
Kaiser-Eoghan
@Masky: Mario's youtube link had cgi models of rem and ram in the video.
Masky
I'm confused when was Rem even mentioned
Kaiser-Eoghan
I only ever watched he-man and stuff related to it in passing when I was younger, Conan was more my thing back then.
Kaiser-Eoghan
For so long I'd always referred to she-ra as she-man.
AidanAK47
@Mario, What is this heresy!
....
....Rems always cute.
Anonymous3084910
Hilda is fine, though is very laidback kinda like a young reader's novel. It has its moments but its fantasy with slice-of-life coming of age.
Anonymous3084910
@SuperMario Yeah I know, She Ra is the twin sister of He Man. But strangely it seems Dreamworks may not have the right to those characters. It was a marketing idea trying to bring more girls to that universe but like most girls show from the time it had a very flat depiction of what little girls want to see.
SuperMario
Sorry Aidan, I know it's blasphemy but I have to post here. Enjoy the OP song with the twins https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v9MUjISNm0U&index=4&list=PLU56jBSlcHw8-ol9Hi4lJ0GR0tU6EOf2a
SuperMario
I'll probably check out Hilda. Heard a lot of hypes about that show
SuperMario
@Vonter: I've heard of She-Ra, she's the female counterpart (well, sister) of He-Man (the most powerful man in the universe and the secret identity of Prince Adam). Sounds silly but I'm not even kidding
Vonter
All in all, despite not being a big thing, I think is an enjoyable recommendation. My only nitpick is that it maybe too light hearted for some kinda like above My Little Pony but below something Voltron. Also despite being less childish than the original is still kinda of girly with lots of pastel colors although it balances it a bit having girls being more tomboyish in different degrees.
Vonter
Like with Voltron it amuses me seeing anime tropes being played through western lens. Since I'm a bit hesitant to say that could this count as a harem series despite not being male gaze moments? Also having the most sensible hotspring episode I've seen.
Vonter
In this one this She Ra has pathos. A bit like Korra there's doubt in her role and also a complicated relationship with her rival. I do like the role reversal in the knight's tale this clearly is, in that most roles that would be played by men are played by women in this story. Matriarchy, displacement of both femminine beauty but also empowerment.
Vonter
So I've watched some of the new She Ra from Netflix. So far I'm in, it's not deep but it's quite charismatic. I do like there's more pathos in regards to these characters which pretty much were confined to their archetype to an extreme like the original Power Rangers.
Kaiser-Eoghan
It manages to make watching something like running engaging, when I'd otherwise probably not watch the sport. Also, last week the show ended up popping into my head when I was sitting around doing pretty much nothing and made me think "Ok fuck it, not sitting around doing nothing, going to go out for a run around the block"
Lenlo
I also agree, characters losing in sports is important. They can't start at the top, it makes the series lose meaning
Lenlo
I quite enjoyed Kaze Fui this week. I think your correct that the one who got the reality check was Kurahara, who thought he was the only one able to actually make it. I also thing that he has a competitive streak a mile wide, and might be a little afraid of failure. Doesnt think the team can make it, so why bother
Kaiser-Eoghan
Think I wasn't i the mood for honda-san this week even though I laughed.
Kaiser-Eoghan
Y'know I like it when sports series actually show the characters you know...actually lose.
Anonymous3083989
Huh, interesting in this episode of Kaze ga that it's Kakeru who got a reality check during the track meet since he was beaten by two other runners. I think we're due for an episode soon where he has to confront his past demons instead of fleeing from them.
Anonymous3083626
@Kaiser-Eoghan - Aging in fiction, I think has more to do with the story than the characters. I mean the jokes about Ash Ketchum, Detective Conan, Archie. The Flinstones tried to make different stories by aging Pebbles and Bam Bam. Or Batman having two Robins graduating into their own heroes. But in the end dynamics change, hence why most cartoons don't age the characters.
Kaiser-Eoghan
Which is why when aging does occur in anime/manga, such as in vinland saga or nanoha for example, its appreciated.
Kaiser-Eoghan
And of course, animated characters often don't age much.
Kaiser-Eoghan
I can remember enjoying the simpsons movie back when I watched it, but thinking about it it really was just an extended episode. Really the show peaked with the who shot Mr Burns episode. Catching bits of recent episodes and seeing them use modern stuff while they never age seems weird too.
Amagi
I do think series are allowed to move forward though, I am kinda interested in the Pkmn movie for example. But certain shows should just end, Simpsons for example was a parody of the 90s, it just can't work in a more modern setting IMO.
Amagi
I stopped with the Simpsons when Maude was killed/died, it was just a step in the wrong direction they should have never done and it killed the series for me. I disliked it before already though, I think I noticed the series getting worse since season..9? Or 10, not sure anymore.
Amagi
Anime for Dorohedoro announced.
Kaiser-Eoghan
Therefore ruining the fanservice fun for everybody.
Kaiser-Eoghan
My favourite beach episodes are ones where it rains and they end up not being able to go.
Kaiser-Eoghan
After that it was just the film for me.
Kaiser-Eoghan
Actually, regarding the simpsons, the episode I stopped on was sometime in the early 2000s, Homer was stuck on some island resort or something.
Kaiser-Eoghan
I suppose it was just as much a case of falling out of watching/playing too and then there being so many episodes/games catchup was impossible. I probably should read the manga someday.
Anonymous3081957
@Kaiser-Eoghan -Kinda like Sponge Bob, Power Rangers or The Simpsons, I can't blame those who move forward, It's imposible for a show to go that long without losing steam. I did check the Sun and Moon first season and while I think the personality and energy is better it doesn't exactly push the concept forward. Still somehow Pokemon is still a phenomenon.
Kaiser-Eoghan
@Vonter: Very strange hearing a Pikachu talk with Ryan Reynolds voice. But my days of pokemon are behind me.
KyokoHyuga
?????
KyokoHyuga
who likes pokemon here
SuperMario
@Amagi: I think the person who made the sub for Maquia did a pretty neat job. Not perfect but the translation flows well
Vonter
We've seen realistic Pokémon fanart, but how does a movie looks when it attempts it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q8CKgQFo5U8
Amagi
How are the subs for Maquia? I only heard anons complain about it.
Kaiser-Eoghan
*dealing with
Kaiser-Eoghan
Though you should really torrent it.
Kaiser-Eoghan
There is 1080p stream on kiss anime, if you hate deal with the ads on that site the 4up stream on anilinkz has the best quality of the available links
Lenlo
Where did you see Maquia online? I still need to watch it. PM it to me on discord maybe? Pretty please? <3
SuperMario
One fact that not many people know is that Penguin Highway is penned by Tomihiko Morimi. It indeed has many Morimi's signature inputs
SuperMario
This year, I'm doing well with catching up anime films (kudos for Australian's Madman who always license these titles very quickly). So far, I've watched Mirai, Maquia, Penguin Highway, Let Me Eat Your Pancreas and My Hero Academia the Movie
SuperMario
So I watched two anime movies this last week, Penguin Highway in theatre and Maquia online. Both of them are pretty solid in general, especially Penguin that has magical realism elements and some great chemistry. Whereas Mari Okada's writting still rubs me in the wrong way sometimes
Lenlo
D: He did, back in August actually apparently
Kaiser-Eoghan
@Lenlo: I heard Dino's voice actor died.
Kaiser-Eoghan
If we all took Goblin slayers attitude to trolls, then we would more easily ignore the trolls =P
Kaiser-Eoghan
Big twist in the golden kamuy manga.
Animosh
@SuperMario: remember that in the voice drama Rikka mentioned talking to Yuuta in their classroom during the ball game. Pretty sure it's about that.
SuperMario
@Animosh: i just watched the episode and noticed the lyrics as well. "The Promise" seems vague at the moment. Could be between Yuuta and whoever fits but I agree the "save someone from boredom" is about Akane
Animosh
You learn something every day. ;) Honestly though, I actually skipped the opening, so I hadn't even noticed that it had been translated until others pointed it out. And most of the time the lyrics are just cheesy one-liners, so I usually don't pay much attention to them either. But once in a while there's some nice hints hidden in there...
Kaiser-Eoghan
Y'know I never really ever paid attention to the lyrics in anime openings, I'd never thought to.
Animosh
The Gridman OP has been translated for the first time, and there's some pretty interesting reveals in there: it mentions a "promise" made in a classroom (so now we know how Yuuta and Rikka bonded in the past - glad it wasn't a simple confession), and talks of "rescuing" someone (presumably Akane) from boredom. So I guess she'll join the good guys eventually?
Lenlo
1200 words. I need to stop writing so much.
Kaiser-Eoghan
I haven't seen last weeks episode of Irozuku or this weeks =< I'm waiting now for a bit to see if the series paysoff.
Animosh
Goddamn those magic segments in Irozuku were stunning! It's a shame its humdrum drama can't live up to its visual beauty, but I'll take it.
Kaiser-Eoghan
I think Ash's design is based a bit on River phoneix.
Kaiser-Eoghan
Sorry Eiji but your Ash is in another castle.
Kaiser-Eoghan
@CoolerAnon: I was about to say that. Kidnapping gets used alot in shojo.
Anonymous3072040
Yeah Ash is basically Princess Peach
Kaiser-Eoghan
@Anon: I share your concerns, I don't know what studio is doing it. Some people want it to be mappa, some don't want it to be polygon pictures to adapt it. Its and long and violent manga, with some very funny at times dark humour, it could end up rushed and/or censored.
Anonymous3072021
As much as I love Dorohedoro I'm unsure if I should be happy or worried at it getting an adaptation, it isn't exactly the kind of story I imagine being easy to adapt well.
Lenlo
Yeah, I am touching on that in my writeup as we speak. The compressed story is causing Ash to be captured every other week.
Animosh
I agree Banana Fish was great this week though! My only gripe is that I'm getting sick and tired of seeing Ash get kidnapped again and again. He just escaped a couple of episodes ago! And he's just a lot more fun to watch when he's out there doing stuff.
Animosh
In a way the fights actually feel more realistic to me than those in Banana Fish. Sure, they're fantastical, bizarre even, but its battle system has a clear internal logic, and generally no power is infallible (each has its limitations). In Banana Fish the fights are rather poorly thought out by comparison. Their purpose is more to make Ash look cool than to give him realistic hurdles to overcome.
Animosh
@Kaiser: what sets Jojo apart from other battle shounen for me is how ridiculously creative its fights can get. Part 2 already shows some signs of this, but the introduction of the Stand system in Part 3 pushes it to another level, and in Part 4 the fights are consistently awesome. There are no simple beam struggles here: every fight is a battle of wits, between people with wildly different powers
Niel
Vinland Saga anime, and Now Dorohedoro just got announced. i'm really liking this trend.
Lenlo
Lots to writeup on Banana Fish this week.
Lenlo
Just finished it, I really like Blanca.
Lenlo
Because Jackie Chan and his stunt crew are some of the best in the world. There is a reason he has to insure his guys from his own pocket. No agency will take them
Kaiser-Eoghan
I have no idea how the hell Jackie Chan is still alive.
Kaiser-Eoghan
Action works best for me when I really feel that theres danger involved. Thats why when some actors do their own stunts, you can fear for the actors life, and also the character.
Kaiser-Eoghan
And thats why I'm a big fan of all that Chinese martial arts stuff from the 60s and 70s, that really expertly crafted chereography.
Lenlo
As for action, I like good choreography more than any super powers. Its why Cowboy Bebop, Seirei no Moribito, Sword of the Stranger and some Naruto fights are fantastic.
Lenlo
Im about to watch this weeks episode, so this chat makes me hopeful. I agree Ash and Eiji are the backbone of the series, and yeah me and Kaiser both agreed that the Gang war aspect was pretty weak, though I thought the finish with Arthur wasnt half bad
Kaiser-Eoghan
And I think Banana fish has a great grit to it for this reason.
Kaiser-Eoghan
I'm even more thankful to Banana fish too for that it keeps the action within the bounds of out of fantasy.
Kaiser-Eoghan
I've always been kind of a guns and swords and kungfu gut.
Kaiser-Eoghan
Black lagoons great example of anime action I can get behind.
Kaiser-Eoghan
I always found weapon combat and fist/kicking combat more raw and real,tangible than beamspam.
Anonymous3070972
But yeah if you're not a fan supernatural power fantasy action shounens, then maybe not your cup of tea, and that's totally cool
Anonymous3070972
Oh also if I'm recommending a fight from part 4, I'd say check out Highway Star
Anonymous3070972
Kira is a pretty cool villain though; he's always underpowered compared to the main heroes, but manages to somehow get out of the situation with luck or smarts; if nothing else, I'd recommend watching some Youtube clips
Anonymous3070972
*Turn off. lol.
Kaiser-Eoghan
Its more than, even when I was younger supernatural power fantasy action shounen never appealed to me.
Anonymous3070972
Admittedly JoJo always has bad with exposition though, and always will be just due to the style, so that can definitely be a turn on for some people
Anonymous3070972
If you like slice of life with hijinks and a murder mystery combined with cool battles, you'll like part 4
Anonymous3070972
Yeah I can see why you might not like part 1 & 2, they were made in the 80s; I'd recommend part 4 and part 5 (ongoing rn) tbh, I feel like those are better for a modern viewing experience
Anonymous3070972
I used to think that BF's greatest strength was the plot; know I realize it's really about Ash & Eiji's connection first and foremost: as good as the plot can be, Ash & Eiji's relationship is absolutely the backbone.
Kaiser-Eoghan
@Anon: Also that scene where Ash is thinking to himself, looking over Eiji.
Kaiser-Eoghan
Nah, I pretty much gave up on jojo midway through part 2.
Anonymous3070771
Also, anybody notice Blanca's VA is Kira (from Diamond is Unbreakable)? What a wonderful duwang!
Kaiser-Eoghan
@Niello: The producer guy Miyano is voicing, much like the show is irritating because the show has this "look at me look at me" feel to it, it just comes off as desperate to me and this is just going by the one episode I watched and hated.
Anonymous3070771
What's that damn piano song that plays when Ash and Eiji are talking about Japan. It's too good. For some reason, it's really magical
Kaiser-Eoghan
@Anon: I was the one who said that.
@Niello: You don't need to see steins; gate zero, myself and lenlo discussed it to death as it was airing, its all over the place. I like the original too but after a while of the first half being fun, I just wanted it to start.
Anonymous3070771
Phew, great episode of BF; whoever said the gang war stuff was the weakest point was right. this stuff is getting fantastic again.
Niello
Also I agree, Zombieland first episode was amazing, second episode is still rather great, and then the other episodes have just been meh.
Niello
In Zombieland it doesn't help that the character he's voicing with that tone is an asshole, which isn't a good combination because it's making him more annoying by the episode.
Niello
Steins;Gate is pretty good, but I don't think I like it nearly as much as most people do (I gave it a 7/10). I also haven't bothered with Steins;Gate 0. And although I didn't mind Myano in Steins;Gate, I didn't particularly like his voice there either.
Kaiser-Eoghan
I love the sombreness of Blanca's character. Poor Ash, so broken in this episode.
AidanAK47
Yeah after episode 2 it's been a downgrade. Zombieland is still alright to watch but it really has become what it parodied.
Vonter
Zombieland sadly has winded down. I mean it was expected but still I was hoping some more creative attempts to use in the typical genre. It'll have been better if they had waken up more slowly in order to flesh the archetypes a bit more. It still has charismatic moments though.
Lenlo
Really Niello? See, I like it because it's the voice we never got in Steins;Gate 0. Its Okabe's Kyouma voice, and I have a nostalgic love for it
Masky
Wasn't gyary isekai another one that existed?
Niello
I hate Miyano voice in Zombieland Saga and find him annoying tbh.
Kaiser-Eoghan
I am getting sick of self aware humour though. I see this show as something that was fun to make (such as Miyano seems to be feeling based on performances) but not fun for me to watch and that kind of extends to the manager who while I agree would be the best part of the show, I stopped finding funny after the joke was done.
Lenlo
For me, the main selling point of Zombieland Saga was always Miyano. I love this mans crazy voice.

And in regards to Isekai, discounting this most recent one, SAO actually is pretty good this season so far. Kirito is still bland, but its taking things a lot slower and actually building the world. Its taking its time with 52 episodes
Kaiser-Eoghan
By the sound of it, if some who liked the first episodes don't care for the ones beyond those two episode, then I'm glad I stopped watching.
Kaiser-Eoghan
I did flick through episode 2 but the rap battle thing was particularly awful.
Kaiser-Eoghan
@Anon: I couldn't stand the humour and have up on the show after the first half of episode 1.
Anonymous3065780
What Zombieland does have that Ore doesn't is better animation and Miyano hamming it up. But that's all it has going for it at the moment.
Anonymous3065780
You have a few "ha ha look at this" moments scattered here and there like how Ore episode 5 was basically one big middle finger to the nature of anime production, or Zombieland's Tae Yamada. But the parody value from the first two episodes is all but gone.
Kaiser-Eoghan
@Anon: Its in part my own fault , I jumped the gun in the first half of episode one then all goodwill I had for it died after the first couple of minutes.
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