By Tomo Takeuchi | Published by Kodansha Comics
In the immortal words of Sir Paul McCartney:
Ballroom dancing made a man of me
One, two, three, four
I just plain adore your
Ballroom dancing, seen it on TV
I got what I got from ballroom dancing
Feckless Tatara Fujita isn’t especially good at anything, and doesn’t know what he wants to do after middle school. One day, as bullies are hitting him up for cash, he is saved by Kaname Sengoku, who mistakes Fujita’s perusal of a poster advertising a part-time job for interest in an adjacent dance studio ad. Fujita is summarily whisked away to the studio, where he learns that one of his classmates, seemingly studious Shizuku Hanaoka, is not only a student there but one of the top amateurs in the sport.
For, indeed, this is a sports manga. Once Fujita sees a recording of Sengoku in action, he vows to change. To him, dancing is (not yet anyway) about personal expression but about self-improvement. He wants to gain poise and self-confidence, and once he decides that’s what he’s going to do, he works very hard. This isn’t one of those manga where the protagonist has some great talent, for even after weeks of lessons, he’s still not great, but there’s a glimmer of something about him that intrigues Sengoku. When he and Fujita later attent a tournament that Hanaoka is competing in, Sengoku taps Fujita to fill in when her long-time partner mysteriously disappears.
Although I don’t often comment on the art in manga, I found Welcome to the Ballroom to be quite interesting in that department. It almost seems a bit shoujo at times, with the lovely way the dancing is depicted, but then it must remind you that it’s shounen by throwing in a panty shot. I also found it refreshing that the cute love interest doesn’t stay on the sidelines or manage the team—she’s very talented and focused, with dreams of her own. (Lamentably, her ambitious plans to study abroad are later revealed to be for the benefit of her partner.)
I’m excited by the prospect of the world championship qualifying tournament that’s coming soon, though I hope we see it in more detail than the introductory glimpses we’ve had thus far. Alas, there are not thirty-plus volumes of this to look forward to either, since the series is on hiatus after eight volumes in Japan. Nevertheless, I do recommend it and look forward to more!
Welcome to the Ballroom is up to eight volumes in Japan, where it is presently on hiatus. Kodansha will release the second volume later this month.