「背番号13」 (Sebangou 13)
I’m very pleased with the development of Ballroom e Youkoso. I feel that way for a bunch of reasons, but primary among them is simply that it’s continually getting better. Obviously over the course of 18 episodes you can’t have a perfect record of every ep being better than the last one, but the trend here is unmistakable – this series gets deeper, more complex, and darker And in time, it tackles a lot of things head-on that you earlier found yourself wishing it would. I know the mangaka has had serious health issues and there’s some concern about when we might see more of the anime, but it’d be a real shame if it comes to a halt after this season, because one senses that things are just going to keep getting more interesting.
I still don’t like Chinatsu, if I’m honest. I don’t hate her or anything, but in general she’s not an agreeable person in my view – she defaults to anger and is rather self-obsessed. But she’s proof that you don’t have to like a character for them to work in a story, and to be an effective vehicle for moving that story forward. Frankly I think Shizuku and Mako were both better partners for Tatara, and he was a better person when he was partnered with them. But Chinatsu might just be the partner Tatara needed to force him to leave behind parts of himself that are holding him back.
This A-class competition certainly starts out better for the Tatara-Chinatsu team than the last one did, though there are still warning signs of trouble ahead. Tatara and Chinatsu are getting by in the early rounds thanks to their technical ability, but they’re still competing with each other as much as dancing with each other. To some extent this is each of their fault, though the most obvious cause of friction is that Chinatsu has a mindset that’s simply incompatible with success in this sport – even if it may be perfectly admirable in everyday life. Chinatsu is a leader in her own head, which is all well and good – but in a dance team, there can only be one leader.
Is this an irresistible force proverbially meeting the immovable object? Well, no – it’s really worse than that, because Tatara-kun isn’t nearly immovable enough. In order for this pair to mesh as a team I think they have to go through the even more painful (and where they’re at is painful enough) phase of flat-out butting heads – because that will mean that Tatara has finally had enough and decided to assert himself. That moment when the pair of them each come up with a different tempo when they were playing out Hyodou’s test in their heads comes to mind here, because it’s telling in a symbolic as well as literal sense.
Do I think Tatara is a “coward”, as Chi-chan tells him after he admits he hasn’t told his family he’s dancing? No, I don’t – but maybe it isn’t the worst thing if he does. It’s surprisingly the encounter with Mine-san (Hoshino Takanori) – who turns out to be a really nice guy despite his fierce looks – that hammers home the point. He hasn’t told his family that he’s dancing with Akira – though pretty much everyone’s families have ended up at the event, much to their universal dismay. The one exception is Tatara, but he does have his dance family there – Hyodou. Shizuki and the Akagi siblings have come to cheer him on.
It probably isn’t a stretch to say that Tatara-kun expressing his emotions through his dance, as Hyodou says, is the key to his evolution as a dancer. I hope this means his family is looped into the story more, but I think it also means he finally has to say “enough” with Chinatsu – enough with being kicked when he pauses, enough of being badgered into dancing at her tempo rather than his own, enough of being nothing more than the frame. The moment when that happens will be when the irresistible force that is Chinatsu meets the immovable object, and its probably going to be spectacularly ugly. But it’s also the moment when this story can really move on to the next level, and I think it’s coming very soon.