If I were to be totally honest, the last couple of episodes of Ballroom e Youkoso have not been the strongest in the series for me. There’s a fine line for shows with big casts like this one between developing the secondary characters to the point where they’re interesting and compelling, and losing momentum by shifting away from the principals. It’s not always easy to say where that line is, and some shows are better at finessing it than others – but it does strike me that the last two eps have seemed a bit out of place.
It’s not that I don’t care about Akira and her problems, but two full episodes of them at the crucial moment of the biggest competition in the series so far is probably a bit excessive. That said, she does bring a different perspective to the table than the other principals in the cast in that she’s someone who’s far more focused on the personal side of the story than the dancing side. And in Mine-san, her arc has brought yet another fresh take on the story – someone at a totally difference place in his life and career than the others. Because for Mine, dance isn’t a career at all.
Truthfully, Akira’s treatment of Mine-san doesn’t cast her character in the best light – starting with the means she chooses to try and entice him to be her partner. And her reason – basically, as a means to keep her in the same circles as Chinatsu, the one she’s actually interested in. To Akira Mine is just a means to an end, and while she did at least have the grace to feel badly about publicly scolding him, it’s plain that his feelings haven’t been of a great deal of interest to her. That’s why it was good to see him get a nice moment with his family – to bring the two halves of his life together in a way they haven’t been previously.
Ultimately this ep does find the time to loop its way back to Tatara and Chinatsu, who continue to roll on mostly unscathed (again they lose only one mark, though that’s enough to shake Tatara’s fragile confidence) despite their missteps (literal and symbolic) being played up broadly by the narrative. The issue of family is being raised often enough that I can only assume the story is going to confront Tatara’s secrecy sooner or later – everyone else’s family is quite conspicuously present and expansively kind to him (perhaps too much so for comfort in the case of Chinatsu’s father), and even his defense of “my friends are here” doesn’t hold up when one considers that they haven’t even made contact with him.
That changes with Hyoudo’s arrival. Tatara asks him for advice despite his internal monologue telling him that Hyoudo’s advice has never helped him, and he’s soon regretting it after Hyoudo unilaterally decides to “peel his shoulder blades” and do… something to his hips. Is this some kind of Shounen Jump power-up or a legitimate dance thing – or are we just talking about basic stretching? In any event it seems to involve ripping muscles away from their supporting skeletal structures, and while that may give Tatara additional flexibility, even if one discounts the alarming description, sound and imagery that accompanies it, it seems like a terrible idea to try something so radical right before a crucial competition…