Welcome to the Ballroom’s gonna be an anime, and I can’t help but feel excited. At a time when lesser known sports, such as figure skating and rugby, are getting some love, I’m happy that dancesport is joining the party.
No words can explain my joy in seeing Tomo Takeuchi’s series finally swing in full motion. Not that it ever really needed to be animated to convince people that dancesport is one of the most dynamic and vibrant sports out there. Takeuchi’s manages to capture complex movement and rhythm in Welcome to the Ballroom.
First Heat: A Sweeping Rhythm
When I first picked up Welcome to the Ballroom, I expected the story to be similar to Kyoko Ariyoshi’s Swan. Given that ballroom dancing relies on grace and finesse, I thought Takeuchi would take me to a dance studio where our young hero, Tatara Fujita, falls in love with the beauty of dance. Instead, Takeuchi shows an unbridled energy sweeps my attention with his dancers’ rhythm and grace. Like Tatara, I was swept away.
My brain caught the motion of Takeuchi’s lines, and I can sense the movement of his dancers. I can feel their rhythm as though the music is seeping out of Takeuchi’s panels. For some magical reason, Takeuchi’s panels are so alive that my heart feels the excitement from such a 2D medium. It’s a surreal experience especially when I remember that I’m reading a comic.
Second Heat: Quick Step
A friend recently started reading Welcome to the Ballroom after I pitched her the series to help her tide the wait for the next Yuri on Ice film. Like YOI, Welcome to the Ballroom features a sport that challenges normative notions of masculinity. At the same time, Welcome to the Ballroom gives so much respect to dancesport and its athletes. It took a while before she caved in and her enthusiasm for the series inspired me to catch up. This time round, I couldn’t help but notice how Takeuchi captured the rhythm of the different dances in dancesport.
The early part of the series introduced readers to the waltz. Takeuchi showed grace and finesse as dresses swirled on the dance floor. He also draws this beautiful arch that makes you think less of how painful it is to maintain such a position and just remember how Mako blooms in Tatara’s arms. You could almost hear the orchestra as they glide across the ballroom. This graceful pace changes as Tatara meets the other dancers. To be honest, I felt that Takeuchi could get away by showing a dance’s form, but I am at a loss at how he continues to match the intensity and the rhythm of his dancers.
Kiyoharu’s tango fiercely flicks and leaps.
Tatara’s quick step leaps, as though he and his partner prance so gracefully across the dance floor.
And then god bless Sengoku’s hips as he twists and turns to roll for a samba beat. Seeing these dancers made me appreciate the power of lines and how they express movement. The weight of a line that flicks to a wisp illustrates a movement so rhythmic that it’s almost animated in these panels. A turn transforms into this complex movement that twists the dancer’s body. His use of three-dimensional illustrations and panels make the characters leap into momentum. As Tatara learns more dances, Takeuchi surprises me with bold new ways to make images dance in manga. I am fascinated and perplexed at how Takeuchi manages to capture these motions. Seriously, I personally feel like I don’t need to watch an anime.
Final Heat: A Bodily Experience
There is beauty in movement. While Takeuchi manages to capture it in a split second, the anime might be able to make these movements more apparent. I’m mildly worried that the anime might just be an animated version of Dancing with the Stars. I’m hoping, however, that it maintains the visual integrity of Takeuchi’s images and even take it to a new dimension of experience. Capturing rhythm and grace is not an easy task. YOI fans are keenly aware of the difficulties that arose from animating all those skate sequences. Take off the ice skates and imagine 20 people waltzing together, showing off their dancing skills. Imagine the horror of animating the other dancers.
While the series features dancesport, there is more to Welcome to the Ballroom than dancing. Tatara’s determination and the talent surrounding him weaves a beautiful narrative that celebrates dance, values healthy competition, and acknowledges perseverance. Sengoku’s blessed Latino dances are also good reasons why this series is amazing. I mean, seriously. That man. THAT BLOODY MAN.