When Welcome to the Ballroom was first announced, most anime fans had the same reaction: how could one possibly make ballroom dancing exciting? Ironically, this is a question that would get answered by the time the series finished.
Welcome to the Ballroom knows its theme is uncommon, and it acknowledges it from the very beginning. Fujita Tatara, the main character, is at first embarrassed at the idea of wanting to join (so much that he doesn’t even tell his father).
In fact, many of the characters are reluctant to get started at first, and the series actually uses the question “Why do you dance?” at some point. “It could have been anything else.” The question is left unanswered, but we can all get an idea of what the point of picking up a hobby is.
What Is Welcome to the Ballroom?
First of all, how does Welcome to the Ballroom do as a competitive sports anime? The competition system is easy to follow, and you will probably learn a thing or two about dancing. However, it soon becomes clear that neither the score nor the actual dancing competitions are the main focus of the story. The emphasis is instead placed on the characters: how they feel about they’re dancing, whether they’re getting along with their dancing partner, etc.
Welcome to the Ballroom has a problem in that aspect, though. The most important scenes, in this case, the dancing scenes, are not as impressive or intense as they should be. They’re telling you how great the characters feel or how amazing what they did was, but you don’t actually get to see it.
This will matter more or less depending on what you like — if you’re in it for the emotional impact of the scenes, you will probably like it this way. But if you’re interested in the aesthetics of the dancing movements, you will be quite disappointed. It should be said, though, that even though Production I.G might not have excelled in the quantity of full-dancing sequences, but it does deliver in moments of pure beauty, like Mako’s “blooming” performance.
Welcome to the Ballroom: Music & Characters
The music is also one aspect that is lacking considering this is a performance sports series. With the variety of genres that they dance to (quick step, tango…), one would think that we would actually get to hear complete music pieces with their respective choreographies (something Yuri On Ice did very well). As a result, one ends up caring more about what goes on in-between dances than about the actual dancing.
Once again, most of this flaws are justified by Ballroom‘s major focus (and perhaps its best quality): its characters. Forget about all those character archetypes that you’re probably tired of seeing in these kinds of anime. Ballroom actually treats its characters like people with fleshed out personalities. Far from oversaturating its cast, the number of characters that we get is enough to allow the series to give an adequate amount of time for each one of them. This allows viewers to see everyone’s background, their personality, their wishes, and their fears.
Welcome to the Ballroom‘s Tatara
As the main character, Tatara is the one to shine the brightest in this aspect. Yes, he is cheerful, extremely passionate and stubborn, but he’s all those things in a very humble and hard-working way. He knows his place (he’s the only newbie in the cast), he respects everyone around him, and he does his best to improve himself. He’s not reckless, but he’s also not a wimp. Even though he might be nervous or afraid at times, he knows when it’s time to take a step forward. In other words, Tatara embodies what a shonen main character should be.
Tatara’s circumstances are also something viewers might be able to relate to without needing to be a dancer or an athlete of any sorts: as a newbie, Tatara gets the feeling that he’s “arrived late” and that he’s in a hurry to catch up with the others. At some point, we have all found a new passion or hobby that we wished we had started before, hence fearing that we’re not as good as we could have been, or that we might have missed out on many things.
Welcome to the Ballroom: What We Learned
That’s precisely how Ballroom answers the initial question. There’s nothing particularly exciting about dancing because dancing is not the point of the series. The point is that it’s never too late to do what you’re passionate about and that you should never should anything (age, other people’s opinions…) stop you.