How would you rate episode 13 of Welcome to the Ballroom ? One of my chief complaints about the first half of Welcome to...

How would you rate episode 13 of
Welcome to the Ballroom ?

One of my chief complaints about the first half of Welcome to the Ballroom was that the show did not seem to actually understand the concept of a dance partnership. Despite his flaws as a lead, Tatara was never backled by his ladies (which felt like a glaring issue when he danced with Shizuku), and he was so focused on himself that he didn’t appear to give any real thought to what his partner was going through. All of that is about to change, however, now that Sengoku’s partner Hongo is on the scene.

Now that Gaju is back with Mako and Shizuku and Hyodo are also re-partnered, Tatara is without a lady, which is a real problem since he wants to enter competitions. Unfortunately for him, the only available girl appears to be his classmate Chinatsu, who doesn’t even want to admit that she has a background in dance. She’s very coy about the whole thing, not so much blowing hot and cold where their not-quite-friendship is concerned, but rather seeming conflicted within herself over how much she wants to share – and whether she even wants dance to be part of her new high school life. Although it hasn’t been said, it feels as if Chinatsu made the opposite decision from Tatara upon entering a new stage in her life; she’s going to throw away her ties to dance. We don’t know what happened (at this point I suspect she was the lead in a two-girl pair), but we do know that she’s clearly struggling with herself, and poor Tatara is taking the brunt of it as she geeks out about Hongo one second and berates him for talking to her the next.

On the plus side, this makes Chinatsu much less of a passive character than Mako or Shizuku. On the other, she’s difficult to get behind as a partner for Tatara because she is so abrasive. It’s an interesting change in the series’ gender dynamics, of course, because Tatara now finds himself in the position that the girls were in during the previous part of the show; he’s following Chinatsu in both dance and the force of her stronger personality, and it turns out that he’s not too keen on this feeling. More importantly, he’s beginning to realize that there’s a lot more to being a good lead than just pulling the other dancer through a series of moves – a real partnership requires both people to be on equal terms. He came closer to this with Mako because she had been so cowed by her brother that Tatara’s inexperience read as kindness to her. While Tatara was being kind toward Mako, he didn’t fully understand her position yet either.

That’s certainly going to change if the two Chi-chans have their way. Hongo, who was emotionally invested in Tatara before meeting him because he’s her partner’s student, is ready to fill the gaps in his education, and Chinatsu’s egotistical enough that she’s not going to let him get away with anything below what she considers right. There’s a good chance that she has a lot more experience than him and might have been the lead in a pair before, which certainly gives her the edge. The interesting thing going forward will be to see how Tatara handles this, because right now he’s both stunned at how little he actually knows while simultaneously being annoyed with his new partner.

How you feel about Chinatsu may very well color your impression of this new story arc. She’s certainly stronger than Mako or Shizuku, but she’s also carrying a lot of tsundere baggage and risks conforming to the stereotype that a “strong woman” can’t be a nice one. Hongo is looking much more promising, and while I’m not thrilled with all the casual violence, it’s nice to see her keep Sengoku in check, and she does balance the punches with what appears to be genuine concern for Tatara. In any event, with the continued use of actual ballroom music and more focus on the dancing, as well as a move toward a healthier view of partnerships, Welcome to the Ballroom seems to be on the right track at last.

Rating: B

Welcome to the Ballroom is currently streaming on Amazon’s Anime Strike.