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Sports anime? No, no, this is a sci fi, and it’s set on the Planet of the Rubber People

Tatara Fujita is an apathetic junior high student without any dreams or goals for the future. One day, he is rescued from bullies by a mysterious man on a motorcycle. The man, Kaname Sengoku, encourages Tatara to start taking ballroom dancing lessons. He is initially no more interested in ballroom dancing than he is in anything else in his life, but is encouraged to stick around by the presence of Shizuku, an attractive girl from his school.

After watching some competition videos, Tatara surprisingly finds himself feeling enthusiastic and excited towards the idea of dancing. However, he cannot afford the expensive lessons at the studio. Luckily, Sengoku manages to convince the instructor, Tamaki, to allow Tatara to pay in installments while beginning lessons immediately.

Despite having argued in Tatara’s favor, Sengoku reveals that he has little faith in the new student and thinks that Tatara will give up quickly. He sets him a brutal routine of practice steps, but, to the surprise of both Sengoku and Shizuku, Tatara sticks around and throws himself eagerly into practice. He dances through the night, to the point of giving himself blisters and breaking his shoes. As morning comes, Shizuku (eagerly) and Sengoku (grudgingly) both welcome him as a member of the studio.

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How to Recruit a New Student, by Kaname Sengoku

I’m not a big fan of sports as a genre, but I do like dancing, so I was excited to check this one out. I think that the best way of describing the first episode would be “a mix of things I really liked, and things I really didn’t”. The good parts were excellent, the bad parts were awful, so my overall opinion about the whole thing was very…mixed?

Let’s start with the good. I liked all the little touches that felt very true-to-live and small design choices that helped craft a realistic atmosphere. For example, Tatara’s feet being shown covered in ugly, painful-looking blisters after his full lesson. Dancers were shown covered in sweat. Lessons were shown to be prohibitively expensive, and Tatara had to come up with a solution to overcome this. In addition, Welcome to the Ballroom had what might be one of the most realistic-looking depictions of a modern Japanese house in anime. I swear, Tatara’s bathtub and washing machine look EXACTLY like the ones in my own house!

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I did like Tatara’s wide range of facial expressions

Speaking of Tatara, he appealed to me a lot more than I initially thought he would. I rolled my eyes when I thought we were in for another “apathetic protagonist,” but sighed in relief when he quickly became enthusiastic about dancing and joined up without any reluctance or complaining. His dedication and willingness to practice all night were pretty inspiring! I also am curious to learn more about his family life – we see his home only briefly, but he seems to be raised by a single father fulfilling the “homemaker” role, which is another uncommon thing to see in anime.

Unfortunately, these positives were balanced out by some pretty major negatives. Chief among these was the way in which the characters are drawn. I get it, ballroom dancers are lean and graceful and make dramatic motions with their limbs. That does not mean that every character has to be drawn with a giraffe-length neck and a noodly body that would make CLAMP proud. It was especially pronounced in the competition scenes and any scenes with Sengoku, who seems to be the most pasta-like of them all, but even in moments of the characters just interacting in the studio, my eye kept being drawn to their overly thin limbs and long necks. I guess this is the style that works best for the subject matter, but I personally could not get over how distracted I was by this design choice.

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what do you mean. this is EXACTLY how the human neck works. right?

Secondly, none of the secondary characters really made any kind of positive impression on me (except, as mentioned, Tatara’s briefly-seen dad). Sengoku’s personality seems weirdly inconsistent, fluctuating between supportive and encouraging Tatara and yelling at him to just give up. I think the author was going for a “cool mentor” type, but he just came across as overly aggressive and a bit of a bully to me. Tamaki, the studio instructor, seemed sweet if bland, but Shizuku also suffered from a bit of an inconsistent personality, cheering Tatara on in some scenes but accusing him of being a “perv” in others. (My least favorite scene in the entire episode, which was nearly enough to make me turn the show off right then, was the cringe-worthy dialogue in which Sengoku and Tamaki encourage Tatara to join the studio by reminding him that “he gets to touch GIRLS” while Shizuku accuses him of a perv who only wants to take lessons to get said physical contact.)

I’ll probably give this show at least one more episode but, given that it’s a sports-ish anime based on an ongoing manga and has the potential to be quite long, I don’t think I’m willing to commit to blogging it after the first episode left me with this many reservations.

Still, it had enough positive qualities to earn a decent Dio score. Out of 5:

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Sir, could you….stop doing that with your face….please…it’s terrifying…

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