Produced by: Pony Canyon
Studio: Production I.G
Genre(s): Comedy, Drama
Episodes: 24 episodes
Premieres: Saturday, July 8, 2017
Synopsis: A professional dancer named Sengoku rescues Tatara, an introverted third-year middle school student who is being harassed by delinquents. Tatara ends up at Sengoku’s dance studio where he meets Shizuku Hanaoka, a schoolmate he comes to secretly idolize. From this defining moment when Tatara enters the world of dance. Sengoku is a free-spirited, dynamic international dancer who recognizes Tatara’s potential and begins to coach him. Through dance, Tatara meets another schoolmate, a dance prodigy named Kiyoharu. Through these new friendships, Tatara develops a passionate desire to improve as a dancer and be accepted by his peers and rivals, which nurtures his own native talent. And through interaction with Tatara, other dance members are encouraged to take steps to overcome their own challenges and issues. – by MyAnimeList.
One of the better experiences I had at Anime Expo this weekend was attending the world premiere for the new anime series, Welcome to the Ballroom – based on the popular manga series by writer and illustrator Tomo Takeuchi and serialized in Kodansha’s Monthly Shōnen Magazine that began in December 2011. The new anime series is being produced by Pony Canyon (Attack on Titan, Fairy Tale) with animation duties being handled by famed anime studio Production I.G (Patlabor, Ghost in the Shell) and will be streaming worldwide exclusively on Amazon Video for the entire 24-episode run of the series.
To be honest, aside from the praise that I had heard Welcome to the Ballroom (or Ballroom e Yōkoso as it is known in Japan) has received from critics and fans, I knew very little about the series going into the premiere this past Sunday. But I knew from word of mouth and from the reaction my wife gave when she saw the premiere was happening at AX that day that it should be something I should watch. So, we happened upon the premiere by chance as we walked by the main show room and took our seats to watch the premiere of the series as well as catch the end of the panel at AX headed by the production staff for Welcome to the Ballroom. (We kind of missed a large part of this because of the long line that had been waiting for the premiere to begin.)
Let me tell you, I am sure glad that we had a chance to watch the premiere of the series. I absolutely loved it. The characters, the animation, the story, the music, the dance scenes that were presented in the first two episodes… it all looked bloody marvelous. It was funny and emotional and easy to get into. The main character, Tatara Fujita, is an easily relatable character that I found to be extremely likeable. His chance encounter with Kaname Sengoku, dance instructor and acclaimed ballroom dance champion, that pulls him into the world of competitive ballroom dancing is quite entertaining. Watching him accidentally enter the world only for him to fall in love with the world of competitive dance is really something. I even remarked to my wife that his reaction to enjoying ballroom dancing reminded me of how I felt when I discovered my love for creative writing.
And after meeting the other characters of the series, like the beautiful and graceful Shizuku Hanaoka, whom Tatara recognizes as a classmate (and possible love interest?) to the talented but dismissive dance prodigy Kiyoharu Hyōdō, and a few others that Tatara meets at Kaname’s dance studio, you get a real feel for each of them and how they interact with each other. Kaname in particular made me laugh several times for his rough treatment of certain characters throughout the first two episodes shown at the premiere. But I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t completely impressed by the animation for the series. Yes, the characters were engaging and likeable, but the animation style for Welcome to the Ballroom really impressed me. To be able to capture the movements and feel of ballroom dancing… I thought they did as good a job as they could to try and present that world to the viewers. (Admittedly I am a huge fan of ballroom dancing and love watching it on PBS when I get the chance.)
All in all, Welcome to the Ballroom is another new series that I will have to follow once the series begins streaming on Amazon Video Saturday, July 8th. I don’t even mind watching the first two episodes all over again for the first two weeks because I really did enjoy what was presented onscreen at the AX premiere. My wife loves it because it reminds her a lot of Yuri!!! on Ice, which I would say is a fair assessment, and not a bad comparison as we both enjoyed that series immensely as well – so that has me excited for this series. I’m glad she made me go to the premiere as sometimes I can be quite dismissive of certain anime series that aren’t in the usual genres I tend to follow, but Welcome to the Ballroom is definitely a series that I think any anime fan may want to check out at least once.