OP: 「鳴り響く限り」 (Narihibiku Kagiri) by (YUKI)
「やるわけねーだろ、バレエなんて！」 (Yaru Wake nē Daro, Barē Nante!)
“There’s No Way I’m Doing That Ballet Thing!”
The dangerous (and marvelous) thing about a passion is that once you meet it, you can’t ever forget it no matter what you do. The same is true for Murao Junpei (Yamashita Daiki) and ballet. After his father dies and the role of “man of the house” is forced on him at a young age, Junpei feels he must give up ballet for martial arts in order to be a proper “protector” for the womenfolk. He tries as hard as he can to disguise his feet with fists, but classmate and ballet dancer Godai Miyako (Hondo Kaede) recognizes Junpei’s Jeet Kune Do jump kick for what it really is-a ballet jump. Thus, he is dragged into the world of ballet and forced to reconsider who he really is versus who he is pretending to be for the sake of society.
Some parts of this premiere hit home, having grown up watching the whole “man of the house” mindset enforced for my brothers. It was eerie how a lot of the lines thrown at Junpei were the exact same ones I’d heard. Of course, as a child, I thought nothing of it, but as an adult, I realize the ridiculousness of telling a young boy that because he was born a boy, he needs look after his older sister and mother who are actually more capable of protecting him. Needless to say, some parts were a trigger for me, but in a good way. It questions gender norms and subverts them rather than encouraging them, which is refreshing.
I love the potential for different layers to Junpei’s identity. I liked that by showing Junpei’s crush on Miyako, they didn’t put him into that box of male ballet dancer = automatically being gay. Not that I have a problem if he is gay/bi/pan, it’s just more automatically lumping someone into a stereotype that is an issue- stereotypes which this show is shattering.
The recurring theme is that your identity is not necessarily what you do, but how you express yourself. Junpei did the “manly” sport of Jeet Kune Do (a martial arts inspired by Bruce Lee- hence the Brute Lee poster), but that didn’t change the fact that he still liked ballet. It was obvious that his whole Jeet Kune Do “passion” was forced-a way to hide his true self-expression in ballet. Junpei may be fooling himself, but it sure doesn’t seem like he’s fooled his sister and mother. I’m not sure about his sister, but his mom at least is open towards him pursuing his passion, giving him the push to step outside of his father’s shadow.
Time and again as a child, the message of manliness = muscle and ballet = femininity reinforces to Junpei the broken notion that being a man or a woman is based solely on what you do-on the motions you go through, and not how you feel or how you express yourself. If Junpei had to go for a “manly” sport, it’s not surprising that he went for martial arts (and not just because of the family connection). It seems like in martial arts, as in ballet, there is an emphasis on strict motor control and acrobatic gracefulness. Granted, I’m not a martial arts aficionado, so my impression could be mistaken.
After struggling to put on a façade as a “man’s man”, training at the Godai studio makes it apparent that Junpei cannot live two separate lives. The soccer training camp and dance event happening on the same weekend means a tough decision ahead. I get the impression that soccer isn’t actually fun for him. Given how hard he is trying to fool everyone, I think the beans will spill accidentally. That soccer boy’s obsession with getting online views may be a key to this if he accidentally catches Junpei secretly practicing and posts it online. I am guessing that that soccer boy might be one of those childhood “friends” who made fun of him for ballet.
I find it interesting that they address gender stereotypes through classical ballet, which itself is gender stereotyped. I wonder if they will address that with Miyako or any other female dancers wanting traditionally male acrobatic roles over the female roles supported by the males in the pas de deux. Performing a Pas de deux from Swan Lake as opposed to Sleeping Beauty, Giselle, or any of the other classic ballets might also have some significance. The whole ballet centers around Odette who hides her true nature because of a curse. I’d say that mirrors Junpei, cursed by distorted societal expectations to take on a different form.
This show definitely has a similar feel to Ballroom e Youkoso in how the characters are treated without any weird fanservice or soppy sentimentalism while breaking stereotypes through dance. Case in point, when Junpei got a Miyako pantyshot, the camera didn’t pause for a fanservice moment, which a lot of other series would have taken full advantage of. When they flashback to Junpei’s father’s death, they didn’t milk it for a tear jerker, they left it as an explanation for Junpei’s self-denial and moved on. I have high hopes for this show going forward! I would strongly recommend Dance, Dance, Danseur if you are looking for a show that uses the fine arts to tackle gender norms and self-expression.
I loved Ballroom. Giving this a try after reading the post.
I agree, Ballroom e Youkoso was a fabulous series!
They can give the Male a bit of Muscles, because they are needed in some lifting figures even in Ballet
Miyako’s mother addressed the muscles, telling Junpei to not go training his muscles in the wrong places (for ballet). So yes, he still needs them, but those muscles won’t be Arnold Schwarzenegger level of buff.
He’s 14 – realistically, he shouldn’t have a ton of muscles. He looks like one of those middle-schoolers that got put through a pasta roller – thin as a rail and lanky.
Yes, that is very true.
Based on your write-up, I think you will enjoy this series. I am speaking as a follower of the manga (and up-t0-date with it – Chapter 201 is the latest).
There is for me the last elephant in the room to be addressed. The first was whether they would properly animate the dancing and MAPPA did well. The last elephant is whether MAPPA can keep up with the dancing animation in the first person throughout the series, considering their work problems.
I am glad to hear that the rest of the series will continue in the same vein as the premiere! The dancing animation is a very good point and also a valid concern. Hopefully they give this one good treatment all the way through, especially for a series where movement is key-but as you said, with their work history, that isn’t a guarantee.