Fujita enters his first competition determined to beat cocky Gaju Akagi and prove that he and his partner are worthy of standing on the dancefloor.
Did you know? Welcome to the Ballroom is getting an anime adaption this summer from the staff behind Haikyu!! and Miss Hokusai!
The challenge is on – Fujita has challenged brash dancer Gaju Akagi, telling him that he will beat him in the Tenpei Cup competition with Gaju’s sister, Mako, as his partner. Fujita’s been dancing for a number of months now, but it isn’t going to be easy – Gaju is paired up with Fujita’s classmate and fellow dancer, Shizuku Hanaoka, and he means to win to steal her away from her partner, Kiyoharu Hyodo. Fujita and Mako are lacking confidence, but the dancefloor demands a smile as the two thrust themselves into Fujita’s first real competition.
How Was It?
Welcome to the Ballroom’s previous volume gave us an introduction to Fujita’s time on the dance floor, but his time on the competition circuit begins for real in this volume as he steps out onto the dance floor with his partner Mako to enter the battle on his own terms. I use the word “battle” intentionally here – make no mistake, this is a battle-manga through and through because of the way that the sheer intensity of competitive dance is shown in the context of these dancers fighting to shine on the ballroom floor. I enjoyed the continual back and forth between Fujita and his partner Mako against Gaju and Shizuku both on and off the dance floor because of this continual escalation of their dance as each pair alternates in throwing down the gauntlet. We get a strong sense of an all-out struggle as each pair enters the dancefloor, and this lends itself to some particularly dramatic moments such as an jarring collision between the two. There are also plenty of stare-downs between the two leaders, and this imbues each of their dances with a directed competitiveness that gets across the intensity of the each movement well.
Although the dance portrayed all-throughout this volume is with an emphasis on the utter intensity of the affair, one of the most compelling things about the way Fujita’s story is told is that none of the other emotions that accompany his first real foray into competition are short-sold. We see Fujita’s pre-competition nervousness emphasized in a scene where he looks outside himself to see that his partner, along with the other dancers entering to competition, are going through the same thing, and we also see him learn from his competitors in a meaningful scene that sees him really grasp the respect that everyone competing has for dance as worthwhile pursuit. This is balanced out well on the other side of the emotional spectrum as we once again see Fujita’s pure happiness at the act of dance and leading his partner. More than anything, this volumes gets across that despite the suffocating intensity, dancing and simply competing are a joy to Fujita, and it’s a pleasure to share in his triumphs in this volume.
Fujita’s arc in this volume is utterly compelling for the emotional experience noted above, but also for the way that his progression as a dancer in the context of the competition is cleanly and thoughtfully laid out. Over the course of this volume, we see him adapt various strategies such as incorporating parts of his mentor Sengoku’s routine into his own with varying effects. We also get an interesting crash-course in competitive dancing alongside Fujita as the competition continues, and Takeuchi-sensei does a good job making sure we never feel lost as to what is happening while also avoiding a deluge of information. The result is a wonderfully believable one – we see Fujita butt up against the difficulties that come along with an actual competition such as bumping into competitors, learning about the order of the dances, as well as dealing with his lack of stamina as the competition wears on, and this gives all the events here a realistic feel that is appropriate to his status as a beginner.
I have high praise for the way that Takeuchi-sensei orchestrates the competition as an intense emotional battle that informs us as readers about ballroom dancing while chronicling the highs and lows of Fujita’s first real competition, but her art is perhaps the backbone of this experience. The art has been refined significantly in this volume compared to earlier in the series without losing any of its impact – characters are drawn with more consistency, and the panels depicting dance are noticeably less cluttered. We still see the incredible whirls and impactful steps that are part of these dancers’ routines, and this really pays homage to the ferocity of the emotions evoked in these competitors while allowing us to track a scene more easily. Additionally, Takeuchi-sensei’s penchant for beautifully depicting the toned figures of all of the dancers really shines in this volume as we see the muscles and contours of these competitors drawn quite artfully. There’s a real elegance that has begun to come through in the art, and this allows the intensity of the dance shown to leap out.
Welcome to the Ballroom Vol. 3 sees this series taking a leap forward bringing all the elements that make this series stand out to bear in the context of a full-blown competition. Battle-manga in the ballroom is the result, and it was really a thrill to watch Fujita, Gaju and their respective partners duke it out in such an artful way as we learn more about competitive dance along with Fujita. The art is also fantastic in this volume and a real step up from previous volumes in depicting the sheer physicality and fluidity of the dancers, and after seeing Fujita’s meaningful emotional development play out in this context I absolutely can’t wait to read more.
Welcome to the Ballroom Vol. 3 was translated by Karen McGuillicudy and published by Kodansha Comics USA on March 7th, 2017. Created by Tomo Takeuchi, the series runs in Kodansha’s Monthly Shonen Magazine.
Date of Publication: March 7th, 2017
Author: Tomo Takeuchi
Translator: Karen McGuillicudy
Editor: Paul Starr
Publisher: Kodansha Comics USA