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Welcome to the Ballroom Part 1 UK Blu-Ray Anime Review

10 min read
The comparisons to Yuri On Ice will be abundant, yet it is definitely its own thing and can be better or worse because of it…

The comparisons to Yuri On Ice will be abundant, yet it is definitely its own thing and can be better or worse because of it…

What They Say:

From Production I.G comes this stunning animated adaptation of the surprise hit shonen manga Welcome to the Ballroom.
Middle school student Tatara Fujita is a young man living a directionless existence – desperate to change and find a true calling to pursue though he is, there s simply nothing in his life to provide the spark that he needs to ignite his passions.
All of this changes one day when Tatara spots a fellow student entering the door of the Ogasawara Dance Studio. Saved from bullies by a cool, calm and collected stranger, the next thing Tatara knows he s dragged into the studio for an impromptu trial and is transfixed by a whole new world – a world of supreme confidence borne from an upright posture… of almost inhuman body movements and gyrations… of talented dancers shouting out to the world to look at them.
There s no doubting Tatara s determination to look good on the dance floor, but does he have what it takes to make a name for himself in the cut-throat realm of professional ballroom dancing? With professional and personal rivalries to deal with, and a cornucopia of new demands both mental and physical providing plenty of new challenges, it s going to take more than sheer will to reach the heights of the competitive ballroom scene. As he makes friends and mentors along the way, Tatara soon learns that it takes far more than two to tango.
Contains episodes 1-12 on Blu-Ray in Japanese with English subtitles.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio is only in one choice – a Japanese track in stereo (no English dub) yet I had no need to adjust the sound quality which actually made me think it was a 5.1 track at first. The audio combines the sounds needed for animals as well of course so there is a range of foley and effects which sync in well with the video and subtitles making it an unproblematic release as far as I checked. Disappointed there is no dual audio track of course (especially as the very popular Yuri On Ice got one) but this shouldn’t happen your enjoyment of the show, especially with how fantastic the music is in this show (not surprisingly considering the ballroom theme)….

Video:
The video is set in full screen format via NTSC transfer to PAL format with the show combining animation and colour in avery unique way as there is clearly CGI art combined with drawing and does bring some unique looking style (you may comment about the tall necks or the line markings about…now) – however with a lot of the dance sequences, the extravagant attire, it also can be quite the spectacle so it is a bit of a mish-mash but otherwise with no real problems with the subtitles, the sound synching, no pause lag or in general, it is still an enjoyable release.

Packaging:

There was no packing for this test release however the Blu-Ray Special Edition version of this will get collector’s packaging.

Menu:
On each of the discs, the menu is the same –clips from the show with some catchy music in the background– like most Blu-Rays it has popup menus during the show – on the main menu, however it is basic yet unique as your selection is on a white bar with the selections being Play All, Set Up and Heats (a.k.a. episode selection). Very basic but eye catching due to the music/scenes spectacle.

Extras:
There are no extras on the Blu-Ray however if you order the special edition there will be a 24 page booklet, some artcards and a poster.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Welcome To The Ballroom (Bōrurūmu e Yōkoso) is an anime based on an ongoing manga since 2011 (anime airing in 2017) and definitely seems to be a following the leader with how popular Yuri On Ice was – although Ballroom came first manga wise and the two are actually very soundly different. First of all it is ice skating vs. ballroom dancing and whilst I loved Yuri On Ice, there was definitely a demographic of it due to the heavy shounen-ai and canon coupling that became. Ballroom definitely goes more for the traditional sense with just hints of attraction from all genders to all genders – which is ironic because YoI had a lot of the dancing/skating throughout the character development whilst Ballroom has some dancing but seems to focus more on the characters as well…which may make it seem a bit weaker than YoI in that regard, but at the same time definitely has its merits.

We are introduced to our lead Tatara, a young man in high school who appears to have no particular interests, hobbies or even goals for the future. Whilst not unenthuastic, he just is very wishy-washy and doesn’t want to get himself involved with anything – even when he is bullied at the start, he blames himself for not having any money on him. However, the bullies and Tatara get a heavy dose of testosterone with the arrival outside of a dance studio, a man named Sengoku. He drives away the bullies and then convinces (read: pushes into it) Tatara to have a look at his dance studio. He is obviously unsure what to do but catches his classmate, the beautiful Shizuku there as a dancer at the studio. At first she is wary of him (thinking he is just there to perv on the girls there) but Tatara whilst is nervous around her, has some surprises in store…

First of all, Sengoku is a legendary dancer with multiple championships worldwide so having him be a teacher is something of a surprise (though comic moments with fees and whatnot do give Tatara a few sweatdrops) – second, he doesn’t at first see Tatara as someone worth his time…at least at first. His stamina seems to be surprisingly good (able to do a practice move pretty much all night) and whilst he hasn’t got mastery of the basics, he seems to be really good at duplicating other people moves despite not having the physical strength to perform some of them – this making him in more pain and more tired than a more pro dancer like Sengoku, Shizuku and her dance partner, the incredibly talented but almost permanently bored dancer Hyodo. At first, Hyodo doesn’t care about Tatara and probably doesn’t understand why he is even bothering. However, when Sengoku takes Tatara to a competition where Shizuku and Hyodo are competing, Hyodo whilst impressive still seems negative as he seems to be a league above even his partner. So when he gets injured for a moment, the shock is when Tatara replaces him briefly before the judges notice and he’s able to replicate the moves despite his not as high stamina, it seems to make him want to dance more passionately despite his injury. Long story short, he goes to recover from said injury and the stunt is noticed causing a 6 month suspension for the two as a pair…

…so enter a new conflict. The one thing I was a bit meh on was the fact that Shizuku is quite a solemn character and not very interesting mainly because she is so good but also doesn’t seem to care what goes around her. On the other hand, the next pair that become mains help her out as well as being great rivals themselves. We have a brother and sister duo in Gaju and Mako Akagi appearing at the dance studio, and Gaju has a HUGE crush on Shizuku to comical levels. Obviously, Tatara is a bit unnerved by it, and makes a bet with Tatara in an upcoming competition that if he and Shizuku do better than him and his sister Mako, then Shizuku becomes his permanent partner. At first, I didn’t like this as felt that the women were being bet on and with Shizuku apparently not caring I was definitely a bit um…

…fortunately Mako makes up for it. The classic nervous shy girl, she’s despite this a very good dancer and a very pretty girl much to Tatara’s embarrassment, but because the two are nervous in different ways, it actually makes their dynamic much more interesting. The two have a far more likeable team up as Tatara is still a beginner whilst Mako is an excellent dancer, but is in the shadow of her more talented brother, who basically treats her as an obstacle for getting together with Shizuku. So the plan is for Tatara knowing he is not as good as Gaju to instead show how good Mako can be so that she can win that way.

As you can guess there are hardship, especially when it gets to the Tenpei Cup as Tatara is clearly still a novice, but his skill with duplication means that Sengoku has given them some tricks to help out, and indeed, whilst his skills are still average, he makes up for it with able to display dynamic moves. This does showcase his not quite dancer strength as he sweats a lot and his stamina takes a beating, but the crowd is definitely eating up how Mako is demonstrating how good she is, which even distracts Gaju at one point. Even when Tatara seems exhausted, Hyodo appears to help him out as the plan begins to form how to win the bet…

The one big thing is how the term ‘flower in a frame’ is mentioned – with Tatara being the frame to enhance the flower that is Mako. The way he does it showcases that whilst he has a way to go in skill, he definitely knows how to make the best of what he can especially with a partner like Mako. We get a flashback to Gaju and Mako’s childhood with Mako wanting to dance, and like a lot of people I suspect, Gaju thinking it’s too girly for him…but once he starts to realise the actual physical strength of it is comparable to any footballer or basketball player, he becomes dedicated and skilled at it. He actually loses focus seeing how a novice lead like Tatara can bring the best out of his sister whilst he always focused on himself and his lust for Shizuku, and makes a change in character for him and in the best way. It leads to the conclusion of the cup where whilst Gaju and Shizuku win the main event, Tatara and Mako still actually win the bet…I won’t say how, but it was done very cleverly.

The final episode kind of sets up for a new arc as well – as Tatara is now in high school, Shizuku is in another school and it seems like Mako and Gaju are back to being dance partners. At first, Tatara seems exposed as he proudly exclaims that he has something he works hard for in dancing which of course, gets the attention of a few people, noticeably a girl in front of him who called him lame. Hilariously though, Gaju is his sempai at the school so he’s protected for his interests. Gaju takes him to watch Sengoku perform for the first time at the Tokyo Dance Grand Prix, being the first time they’ve seen each other in a while, but interestingly at the end of the episode, the girl who insulted him is ALSO there and their eyes meet….hmm, I think we may have a new partner…

Welcome To The Ballroom is something separate from a show like Yuri On Ice, both in style, characters and even dancing. Ballroom is a very physical sport and as demonstrated throughout the series is far harder than many other sports and physical activity you can think of. The art design and music is magnificent and gorgeous to look at (though I will admit some of the CGI effects with the sweat and ‘giraffe necks’ do make it stand out in a less pleasant way) and the development of Tatara is something of a journey – and a more realistic one. I enjoy the journeys of rookies like Ash from Pokemon and Misaki from Angelic Layer where they do well from the start, but at the same time a more realistic look is pleasant to see and you can see him scrap all the way and develop more from a non interested slightly perverted person to somehow who embraces the hobby and wants to go full throttle with it.

The dancing itself is well focused (albeit I do feel there should have been more, that said I do appreciate the Mako/Tatara focus) and the quick shine from Shizuku to Mako was appreciated, albeit it seems like this new girl will be Tatara’s new partner if the 2nd opening is a spoiler…I did feel that the betting for the girls with Shizuku’s lack of reaction was going to make me hate her, but seeing her as casual friends now at least helps her – I just really liked how the tame personalities of Mako and Tatara made them quite likeable as a dance couple – maybe now Gaju seems to have opened up he’ll get more focus as now he is far more enjoyable.

It is not perfect, but it has a ton of potential and for what I’ve seen, I’m really enjoying it. Let’s see how the new dance partner goes and what Tatara goes into it, and enjoy being welcomed.

In Summary:
Welcome To The Ballroom is a different take to the dancing genre that Yuri On Ice popularized, but taking a different form of dancing, equal parts service for guys and girls, combined with mostly awesome art and music, and a likeable and well developed lead, combined with a fun mentor character (Sengoku is an adult child in a professional dancers’ body), interesting rivals and some good set up for the future, means whilst there are nooks and crannies there, it’s certainly more than enough for entertainment value and looking forward to the next waltz, tango and foxtrot that the next set brings us.

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: N/A

Released By: Anime Ltd
Release Date: June 24th, 2019
MSRP: £55.59
Running Time: 300 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1:78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Playstation 4, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.

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