Image source: Anime PONY CANYON on YouTube

Sports anime has a way of quickly bringing us into the fold of the sport it’s presenting us. Welcome to the Ballroom does this in the first episode.

Tatara Fujita is a student at Tamamura Junior High School who doesn’t have any hobbies and doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life. One day, he comes across the Odawara Dance Studio. After a free lesson and watching a DVD of a professional ballroom dance competition Tatara decides he, too, wants to become a professional ballroom dancer.

Arguably the two most popular sports in Japan are soccer and baseball. Many anime series have used these sports to drive their story. However, every once in a while, we’ll see a sports anime series take on one of the less popular sports. Slam Dunk did it the 1990s with basketball and Yuri!!! On ICE! put men’s figure skating the forefront in 2016. Now we have a wonderful opportunity to be taken into the world of competitive ballroom dance with Welcome to the Ballroom. And after one episode, it’s hard to not want to start dancing yourself.

The reason why the series makes us want to dance is that it shows us the best parts of competitive ballroom dance through charismatic personalities and letting us experience it the same way as Tatara. True, the first episode doesn’t give us much in terms of seeing the characters dance, but the spirit of competition is seen in one scene, when Tatara is watching the DVD the dance instructor Tamaki Tsuburaya snuck into his bookbag.

We see a professional level ballroom dance completion and while the entrants are all regal, it’s the idea they all exude a “look at me” aura that captures Tatara and our attention. What makes this interesting is how, in order to create such an aura, the characters have to be exceptionally charismatic.

Image source: TVアニメ「ボールルームへようこそ」 on Twitter

The charisma doesn’t necessarily only come through their personality but also in how they carry themselves. For instance, Tatara’s mentor Kaname Sengoku has a bit ego about him—and not one of overt pride. Rather, it’s in how the judges and spectators should look at him when he’s on the dance floor. While it’s not overly stated, Kaname equates that aura to how a dancer carries themselves. Thus, the “first” lesson to Tatara is how a good posture alters how others perceive you. It’s a very small scene, yet we see the awe on Tatara’s face when he see’s himself standing tall in a mirror because it’s as if he’s seeing someone else. From this, we can understand one change in posture can change the very essence of dance.

Image source: TVアニメ「ボールルームへようこそ」 on Twitter

Whereas charisma shows us why Tatara becomes enamored with ballroom dance, by placing us in a similar situation as him, we become engrossed in ballroom dance as well. Simply put, as many of us aren’t in the world of ballroom dance, we get to learn all about the sport with the same awe and curiosity as Tatara. This is no easy task because ballroom dance has to be presented to us in such a way that’s exciting and worth our time to investigate on our own.

This is done when Tatara is practicing the box step. At first, it’s shown to us as simple. Yet, it’s broken down so that we understand it functions as a type of physical conditioning as well as the process to make it look elegant. So, while anyone can do a “simple” box step, there’s more to doing it elegantly.

This is where the episode shines. We need to see there’s a deeper world of ballroom dance in the first episode to make us want to learn more. Consider the 1990s classic Slam Dunk. The series opens with one really impressive feat: a slam-dunk. Welcome to the Ballroom doesn’t give us a grand ballroom dance step, but instead shows us how much goes into one basic step. From there, we, as well as Tatara, want to learn what other steps or poses go into making ballroom dance enthralling. Thus, for the audience, the first episode of the series is just like the free lesson Tatara received—it’s our first step down the rabbit hole of ballroom dance.

Image source: TVアニメ「ボールルームへようこそ」 on Twitter

The eventual goal of a handful of sports anime is for the viewers to have a better appreciation of the sport presented to them. So, if the series can’t capture our attention in the early episodes it becomes increasingly difficult as the story progresses. Welcome to the Ballroom allows us to see the intricacies of ballroom dance in just one episode, but without giving too much away quickly. As such, it makes us want to learn more about the sport and we’ll get to do that vicariously through Tatara.

Welcome to the Ballroom is streaming on Amazon Anime Strike.

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