Welcome to the Ballroom Vol. 5 - Manga Review

Although Fujita is more determined than ever to become a better dancer now that the Tenpei Cup is over, he’s got a major problem…

The Lowdown

Despite losing at the Tenpei Cup with Mako, Tatara Fujita is desperate to improve his dance skills after being challenged by Shizuku to stand on the same floor as her in a competition in the next year. Three months quickly pass – Fujita is about to start high school and is practicing as well as he can, but Sengoku nowhere to be found after he makes up with his partner and returns to the competitive circuit. However, Fujita's got a big problem: he’s got no one to dance with now that the Akagi siblings are back together. Fujita’s daunting quest to find a partner begins, and his prospects don’t look too good especially after a strange girl exclaims that his interest in dance is lame.

How Was It?

Welcome to the Ballroom Vol. 5 begins a new arc for the series after the initial arc concluded with the end of the Tenpei Cup, and I loved the way that this volume begins to methodically show Fujita focusing on the “how” of achieving his newly-solidified dream of becoming a strong competitive dancer. This is set out nicely in the first chapter which wraps up Fujita’s time in middle-school with Shizuku as they practice together for a final time. Fujita gets a strong guiding goal here – to stand on the same competitive dance floor as Shiuzku once again as she heads off to a higher competitive stage with Hyodo – and we see the impact of this challenge quite charmingly in terms of focusing Fujita’s efforts in a linear fashion. It also provides a cute little capstone to Fujita and Shizuku’s interactions so far in acknowledging the bit of tension between them while putting this in the context of their larger overall goals. If anything, this first chapter is a strong epilogue of sorts to the events of the series so far that made me incredibly excited to see where Fujita’s journey will take him next.

The new arc begins nicely after a time-skip of three months bringing us to Fujita’s first day of high-school. Naturally, the day doesn’t go quite as smoothly after Fujita reveals to his class that his hobby is ballroom dance, prompting a snide remark from the pretty girl sitting in front of him. The theme of this chapter ends up being one of new beginnings and new faces in a number of ways, and after discovering that Gaju is an upperclassman of his now the two head to watch Sengoku in his first competition in a while. This was interesting in a number of ways – Sengoku was previously presented as a prickly but skilled mentor held at a bit of a distance from us as readers, and it ends up being awesome seeing him, just as Fujita does, with a full appreciation of his abilities as he nonchalantly puts on a clinic during the competition.

Sengoku’s performance ends up being the artistic highlight of this volume, but the best part was the way that we see Fujita see himself in relation to Sengoku in a new and more mature light as the two end up taking the subway together after the performance in a powerful scene emphasizing Fujita’s conviction continuing to solidify meaningfully. This volume also continues the theme of “new beginnings” for the series with the introduction of multiple new major characters – the first of which is Sengoku’s longtime dance partner, Chizuru Hongo. She’s a wonderful addition to the cast because of her hilarious affection for Fujita as her partner’s cute little student, but more than that, she’s just a badass in general who makes an excellent foil for Sengoku as the two give Fujita a continuing kick in the butt to find a partner.

The second half of the volume turns primarily to Fujita’s big problem of trying to find a partner to practice now that he is the odd one out with Mako is back with Gaju and Shizuku with Hyodo. One thing I noticed was that this volume did a good job teaching us in describing the stakes of finding a partner fairly plainly in noting the process by which this is usually done as well as the general formality and importance of having a dedicated partner in pursuing competitive dance. Naturally, Fujita has little idea of where to start with this exercise. The result is that he merely attends the studio hoping something will work itself out, but he gets followed to the studio by a girl who is a big fan of Sengoku and Hongo after bumping into her at the competition. This ends up being quite interesting – this girl, Chinatsu Hiyama, begins bickering with Fujita immediately after telling him that dancing is lame, but it was charming to see these two bounce off of each other from the outset as Fujita continues to try to figure out what he is going to do to find a partner. Meanwhile, Fujita’s floundering in this department is contrasted with the competitive return of his peers to the dance floor in a short but stylish and aggressive dance scene that provides a stark contrast to his predicament. This brought a strong focus to the largely transitory nature of this volume, and I enjoyed the way this ramped up as we get hints that Fujita might be closer to finding a partner than he expects.

Final Thoughts

Welcome to the Ballroom Vol. 5 strongly transitions the series from the end of Fujita’s first real competition to the beginnings of his new high-school life as he seeks to establish himself for real as a partner. The new characters rock in general – Chizuru is an awesome addition to the cast to balance out Sengoku, and Chinatsu’s mix of bitter hesitation towards dance despite her underlying enthusiasm was interesting to see mix in with Fujita’s struggles to find a partner. I’m definitely onboard with this new segment of the series which looks to progressively continue Fujita’s journey to becoming a competitive dancer, and if you’re wrapped up in the Fujita’s story so far you’ll definitely love this volume in beginning this new arc.


Welcome to the Ballroom 5
By Tomo Takeuchi

Welcome to the Ballroom Vol. 5 was translated by Karen McGuillicudy and published by Kodansha Comics USA on May 23rd, 2017. Created by Tomo Takeuchi, the series runs in Kodansha’s Monthly Shonen Magazine.

Verdict:

A

Date of Publication: May 23rd, 2017

Author: Tomo Takeuchi

Translator: Karen McGuillicudy

Editor: Paul Starr

Publisher: Kodansha Comics USA



Matt

Matt is a broke law student by day, broke law student by night, and one of the co-founders of Taykobon in his dwindling spare time. Although his favourite series tend to be shonen adventure series, he also has a soft spot for slice-of-life shojo romances. He enjoys following the manga industry, and is a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Toronto Blue Jays in other nonexistent spare time. 

Favourite series: Bakuman

Favourite author: Io Sakisaka