「俺だって、もっと上手くなりてぇんだよっ！」 (Ore Datte, Motto Umaku Naritēn da yo!)
“I Wanna Get Better, Too!”
Wow-I feel like I just returned from a long journey- there’s so much to unpack in this episode.
Do ends really justify the means? Obviously, no. Luou’s grandmother wanted to raise an exceptionally graceful dancer, so she forced him through physically and emotionally brutal training to reach that end. Did she get a graceful dancer-yes. Will he actually do something with his dancing-who knows-Oikawa certainly thinks not. I feel like it’s unfair, though, to just write Luou off like that. I side with Junpei in rooting for Luou to come to terms with his past, embrace his Japanese roots, and make something of his ballet.
Luou and Junpei in a way are in the same boat. Junpei had a mixed relationship with ballet, rejecting it for the longest time because of internalized sexism while also struggling with a love for it. Luou also rejects ballet for the hurtful past connected to it while also struggling with a passion for the art. I love that despite the differences between the boys, they share many things in common.
For Luou, his stubbornness is more than a matter of not wanting to dance. There is so much trauma and love mixed together, grey like the snowstorm that so beautifully set the solemn tone. He is scarred by being abandoned by his mother, while watching her from the public eye set out on a newer, quote on quote “happier” family without him. That part where Misaki cruelly brought up Luou’s stepbrother was painful. Yet, part of him deep down still wants her affection, repeating the Russian phrase his mother told him would help whenever he misses her.
He hates the ballet that ruined his childhood, torturing his young body under his grandmother’s unflinching strictness, searing the emotional trauma into his mind. Yet, he loves ballet. As Oikawa noted, Luou’s wounds are ones that are not easily healed. I am worried for Luou after that cliff-hanger-it doesn’t bode well. The missing postcard, hints (best case scenario) a confrontation with his grandmother, especially with the dance class opening up old wounds. That could either give him closure and healing or plunge him into a worse state of mind.
It all makes sense now why Chizuru forces Luou to learn in Japan, with his hostilities to Japanese ballet stemming from his grandmother’s prejudice. Of course Chizuru in her tough love would want Luou to form his own opinions of dance based on his experiences, not the toxic sludge learned second hand by his grandmother. What caught my attention was Chizuru’s comment about how a bad reputation can ruin a ballet career. Was she talking about herself, Luou’s mother, or a bit of both?
Honestly, I was on edge with Junpei’s decision about the SS scholarship. I was worried he would grab onto the reputation rather than staying true to his dream. Oikawa has renown that Chizuru’s studio lacks (I wonder if that goes back to the bad reputation Chizuru was talking about). It makes sense that he would be drawn to the scholarship. But is a reputation enough to accomplish your dreams? Oikawa doesn’t necessarily have his best interests at heart like Chizuru does. She’s only in it for her goal of bettering Japanese ballet and her own prestige. It makes sense of why she was so harsh on the boys’ improv ballet if she is fighting against what she perceives as mediocre ballet. But, to sign away your dreams for the purpose of becoming a star-talk about gaining the world and losing your soul.
I think Junpei has the wrong idea about the benefits of going to a harsher ballet studio. Sure, strictness will help your ballet form in some sense, but it can crush your soul-look at Luou and what it did to him. I would hate to see Junpei’s warm, passionate spirit get crushed by Oikawa. Junpei ignoring Oikawa’s instructions and insisting he could do both studios was clearly him being naively optimistic. From the moment he started attending summer class at Oikawa, he was heading towards a fork in the road.
Oikawa would have railroaded his future, determining it by her dream, not Junpei’s. Chizuru actually cares for Junpei and supports his dream, which makes all the difference. Junpei handled the whole situation reasonably well. He tried to talk it out, then made a decision on his own. With how most teenagers thing with their heart more than their head, I’d say his decision is probably more due to a sense of loyalty to Chizuru and passion for Miyako than a serious consideration of the repurcussions of staying with Oikawa. Regardless, I’m glad he decided to stay with Godai’s studio.
Something is bothering me-does Oikawa really intend to have Junpei as her star or is this some sort of stab stemming from bad blood between them? The students commented that Oikawa is harsh on the students she is interested in, but she has pretty much left Junpei alone. Speaking of harshness-the scene where Oikawa comments that Yamato is more like Shige Lake than Swan Lake is a reference to the Shige Lakestars basketball team that hails from Shige, Japan (the same place where the famous Lake Biwa is located, hence Yamato’s response about Lake Biwa).
On some level, I can feel for Misaki, working so hard on something, only to have it taken out of your grasp by someone who hasn’t been working at it as long as you. But, I feel even more so for Junpei- finally getting to do what he loves and discovering he has a talent in it, only to run up against angry gatekeepers. It was also below the belt for Misaki to emotionally target Luou and Junpei to get them out of the way. Yeah it sucks that your chance at ballet is slipping through your fingers, but that doesn’t justify manipulating someone else. The symbolism of setting Junpei’s raw response to Misaki’s finger pointing in the dressing room was powerful-physically and emotionally undressing at once.