Fujita Tatara is an introverted teen with no clear idea in his head about what he wants to do with his future. But his lack of ambition changes dramatically when he spots his attractive classmate Shizuku entering a nearby dance studio. After being saved from a run-in with some local bullies by the studios dance instructor Kaname Sengoku, through much miscommunication, Fujita winds up getting roped into a trial dance lesson and soon discovers that the art of ballroom dancing may be what was missing from his mundane life. With a severe lack of talent and his coach and peers skeptical of his future in the sport, Fujita aims to go all out and prove his worth in the world of competitive ballroom dancing.
Boy, what a surprise this show was. Every season has at least one or two shows that are hyped up to ridiculous levels, and Welcome to the Ballroom is definitely that show of this season. Going by the premise of the show, I didn’t really buy into the hype. I’m not the biggest fan of Sports Anime, and outside of my exposure to reality TV about teenagers living in the world of competitive dance (thanks girlfriend!) I have very little knowledge or passion for the art of dance beyond “hey, that choreography is kinda nice.”
Yet, Welcome to the Ballroom’s first episode was a pleasant surprise and I found myself completely invested in the premiere from start to finish. I didn’t want the episode to end. I wanted more. I still want more. It was so good that I genuinely can’t wait for the next episode.
It’s the kind of story that falls in line with my preferences perfectly. An introverted teen with no motivation or plans for his future winds up connecting with the sport of competitive dance through sheer coincidence and decides he wants to dedicate his future to becoming a professional competitor in the sport. But of course, he has no previous experience and suffers from a severe lack of natural talent, so the only thing he has going for him is the high level of dedication he has towards achieving his goal.
And, in all honesty, that’s the core of Welcome to the Ballroom’s appeal. It’s the standard Shounen template of watching the underdog work their hardest to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds. However, in a way that’s similar to My Hero Academia from the previous season, Wellcome to the Ballroom executes the formula in the best way possible. We’re given a first hand look into Fujita’s realisation that dance is what he wants to do and the hard work he puts into becoming a professional is clearly going to be the primary the focus of the series. His passion feels very real and it’s already clear that the road he’s taking is going to be a very difficult one with plenty of failures and hardships along the way, and that’s some exciting stuff.
While we’re on the subject of Fujita, he’s a pretty great protagonist so far. The fact that he’s an average person with no previous experience or talent puts him in a more relatable position than someone overflowing with natural talent and ability. I see a lot of myself in Fujita because he’s just a normal guy. He isn’t special, he’s just ridiculously dedicated and as a result I instantly find myself rooting for him. I want to see him succeed because I respect his dedication. And it’s only the first episode!
The rest of the cast are pretty great too. Be it the overly enthusiastic and manly dance instructor, Sengoku or Fujita’s classmate, the professional dancer and obvious best girl Shizuku, everyone is memorable and brimming with personality. It’s an incredibly colourful and varied cast of characters, who already have excellent chemistry with one another, and I’m looking forward to seeing how they all interact in the studio and on the professional dance floor. I’m sure the latter in particular will be where the character interactions and relationships truly shine.
Visually, Welcome to the Ballroom is also outstanding. There was a time, many years ago, where I considered Production I.G to be among the best studios in the industry when it came to visual quality. Recently though, I’ve not been as impressed as I once was, and many of their shows have been outclassed by the works of others.
That being said, Welcome to the Ballroom reminds me of the days when I.G were at the top of their game. This series is one of the finest looking things I’ve seen from this season. The sheer amount of detail in every scene is breathtaking and the character designs are incredibly striking, with each of them having an incredibly noteworthy and memorable appearance. And that animation is just brilliant. I’m not sure if I.G will be able to maintain this level of quality, but some of these scenes are easily cinema quality. I can’t wait to see how the professional dancing scenes will turn out.
One particular aspect of this episode that really grabbed me however, was that of Fujita’s posture. Throughout the first half of the episode, he’s incredibly slouched, and almost listless in his appearance. But after he attends his trial dance class, he’s immediately forced to fix his posture by Sengoku, who snaps his back into a straight position, and his entire appearance changes to that of someone who appears far more energetic, ambitious and confident. This minor change in position changes the entire appearance of his character and the tone of the episode as a whole, and served as a major turning point for Fujita’s character arc. It’s the most minor of details, but I really liked it, and it’s what bumped my impression rating for the series from a 4 up to a 5. It was just a great little moment.
The soundtrack is also phenomenal, especially that opening theme. Damn, that opening theme is great. I’ve been constantly playing it in my head for the last day. I love it.
There are some shows that, from the beginning, make it very clear that they’re striving to become the next big hit or grand masterpiece in the medium. From it’s first episode, Welcome to the Ballroom feels like one of those shows, and I honestly believe that it has the potential to be what it’s trying to be. Everything about this show, from the emotionally driven narrative, to the colourful cast of characters, all the way to the insanely good production, is masterfully executed.
It’s early days, so like any show there’s a chance this could derail further down the line, but as it currently stands, this is by far the best premiere episode I’ve seen from the season so far.
…And it’s a Sports show. About dancing.
What the heck is happening?
What are your First Impressions for Welcome to the Ballroom?