It’s time for Fujita and Mako to leave it all on the dance floor if they want to have any hope of taking down Gaju and Shizuku.
How Was It?
Fujita and Mako’s battle with Gaju and Shizuku goes on, and neither side is showing any sign of backing down from the incredible challenge before them. Fujita has thrown down the gauntlet using everything he’s learned in his mere months of dancing, and no one seems to be more affected by this than Gaju, who has a fire lit underneath him as he considers his reasons for dancing. Similarly, Shizuku is also unwilling to back down after seeing Fujita’s passionate dancing and begins to utilize the full extent of her skill. With such talented and fierce opponents, all Fujita can do is try to keep up as he tries to figure out a way to best them.
How Was It?
Welcome to the Ballroom’s previous volume followed Fujita’s first experience of competing on the dance floor with a high level of detail and intensity, and this entire experience reaches a crescendo in this volume as the competition concludes. The story ramps up in an intense way now that the preliminary focus of explaining to Fujita and us as readers how a dance competition works is over, and this allows the story to come through in a powerful way as the two duos compete with their dance. It’s an incredible competition, and I was continually surprised, especially after the intensity of the previous volume, at the way that the drama continued to escalate in a way that meant I couldn’t stop turning the pages.
One of ways by which this volume helps to really sell the stakes of this competition is the focus that it gives early on to Gaju and Shizuku. The first part of the competition was rightfully centred on Fujita, and the focus here turns now to showing the effect that he has on his competition as they give their all to beat him. Gaju’s backstory is explored first and is skillfully interwoven into his dance scenes to help explicate his feelings in a visceral way. Gaju was previously portrayed as a bit of a hot-head without a whole lot of depth previously, and seeing his process of becoming attuned to dance was interesting both in terms of humanizing him as well as in contrasting well with the continuing journey we’ve seen Fujita undergo. Shizuku similarly gets the focus in another chapter, and we start to really see her personality brought out as she asserts herself to try to beat Fujita to prove herself as a dancer relative to her former partner, Hyodo. Ultimately, we get a powerful portrait of Gaju and Shizuku as two intensely focused yet human dancers who are desperately driven to win the competition, and this was great in building upon the already highly-pitched emotional stakes at hand.
Fujita’s story continues to develop her as the competition reaches its climax, and we continue to see his development as a dancer pick up speed as he begins to strategize some sort of way to beat Gaju and Shizuku. One of the things that stood out to me here is the way that Fujita begins to realize his limitations in a strong way as things wear on – his stamina is exhausted quickly, and this has a detrimental effect on his ability to compete well. This helped to keep things realistic to his level of advancement, and it was interesting to see him adapt to this strongly. More than anything, it continues to be gratifying to see Fujita conclude that dancing is simply fun for him, and we see his thrill at competing grow over the course of the volume even as the table begin to tilt against him. We’ve already seen him mature so much over the course of this series, and the conclusion of competition puts that maturity at the forefront in spurring him onwards to pursue his dance.
This volume is gorgeous and is probably one of the best drawn volumes of manga I’ve read. The art continues to rise to the occasion in portraying the fluidity of the dance routines while imbuing them with an incredible intensity. This comes through most powerfully once again in the facial expressions of the dancers as they run the gamut of emotions over the course of the competition, and this is particularly true in Fujita’s case as he continues to discover the thrill of dancing. I mentioned in my review of the previous volume that the “battle-manga” aspects of this series are readily apparent, and this volume takes that to an even stronger level by weaving the emotional stories of these characters into their dancing as they compete. The conclusion of this volume is wonderful in wrapping up the entire arc in a way that is true to these characters while also giving them all a strong personal direction in continuing their journey into dance.
To get to the point: yes, you need to read this volume for the way that it creates an intense emotional and physical battle for these characters to partake in as the competition wraps up. This brings out the best in all of these characters, and the story is tightly crafted in concluding this initial story arc for the series in an emotionally resonant and fulfilling manner. For Fujita, this is likely best seen as the end of the beginning of his story, and I can’t wait to see how his new motivation is harnessed as the series continues. Buy it as soon as you can!
Welcome to the Ballroom Vol. 4 was translated by Karen McGuillicudy and published by Kodansha Comics USA on April 18th, 2017. Created by Tomo Takeuchi, the series runs in Kodansha’s Monthly Shonen Magazine.
Date of Publication: April 18th, 2017
Author: Tomo Takeuchi
Translator: Karen McGuillicudy
Editor: Paul Starr
Publisher: Kodansha Comics USA