The first volume of Welcome to the Ballroom started off strong, introducing us all into the rather intense and touchy-feely world of competitive dance. While perhaps moving a bit too quick for its own good, the series started off very strong and hooked me in. Let’s check out the second volume. Is it good?
Writer/Artist: Tomo Takeuchi
Translator: Karen McGillicuddy
Hyodo is missing and the next round of the Mikasanomiya Cup is about to begin. With no other choice, Sengoku shoves Tatara onto the stage with Shizuka in order to salvage things in the meantime; there’s a problem, however — Tatara has only been shadowdancing by himself for a few months now, never dancing for real and especially not in front of a large crowd. How does a guy who only knows one type of dance going to compete? Then after all of that, two new characters enter the scene, one who has his eyes on Shizuka.
The second volume of Welcome to the Ballroom still has the series very much in the realm of setup, but for very good reasons. The story focuses on the events of the Mikasanomiya Cup and the fallout after Tatara takes Hyodo’s place for one round. While the events of the dance competition do spark some interesting character development for several characters, the story really changes pace and expectations in the second half with the introduction of Gaju and Mako Akagi, a brother and sister dancing team. From there, character roles are changed, Tatara reaches new heights and his character develops in a big way, all while solid goals are set. While the story of the first volume was about getting us into the world of dance, the story and focus here is about setting up the path this series will be heading towards and with all of these sudden, exciting shifts and changes, I’m more than curious to see what the creator has in store for the series.
Within about 200 pages, Tomo Takeuchi packs in more characterization, growth, and development than I see in almost five volumes worth of content for other series. Tatara, a guy who has never been really noticed or given praise for almost anything in life, so shy and withdrawn, has begun opening up and unleashing a raw talent and confidence that he didn’t know he had. Hyodo was a character extremely good at dancing and willing to sacrifice his leg to keep going, but also didn’t have a passion for it due to a lack of challenge — seeing Tatara take his place, however, reawakened and gave him a new drive and goal. Shizuka opened up about how she feels about Hyodo and her decisions ultimately make sense, given what we’ve seen and learn. Both Gaju and Mako made strong impressions, Gaju being incredibly pushy and forward to get what he wants and Mako going from a shy girl to a pretty confident dancer once she finds the right partner. Everyone here feels so human and real, not to mention well-developed and thought out in their wants and goals. I’ve read a lot of sports series, but this is easily one of the best I’ve seen in with having such a well-defined cast and so quickly too.
The writing on the book continues to improve and sharpen over time, continuing to make this an enjoyable, engaging title. The characterization is well done, the main cast of characters are really fleshed out like mentioned. Some of the supporting cast are far less developed and mostly there for jokes, but they are plenty likeable and fun to watch as they interact with each other. The dialogue is fine and there are some nice exchanges between the characters, like Tatara talking to Mako on the phone at the end of the book. The pacing is still very quick with the story just zipping along from plot point to plot point without much time to rest. However, unlike a manga like Fire Force, the pacing works well due to the creator’s storytelling abilities and knowing just how much time should be spent on each individual scene or moment. It is overall a very tightly and carefully written story, more than a lot of other series out there and frankly, it really makes this manga shine.
But the true star of the book has to be the artwork, which has improved a bit alongside the writing. To start with, at this point, there were no obviously poor or awkward layouts that made it difficult to follow along with, like at the beginning of the story. The characters are drawn decently and the art does a terrific job capturing the emotion (good and bad) everyone experiences throughout the book. The dancing looks incredible and so bombastic at times, especially with the large amount of detail put into it; motion isn’t captured particularly well outside of showing speed lines, but it looks so energetic, thrilling, graceful, and powerful that it’s difficult not to get sucked in. The best image that sums up the art of dance and how much these characters love it is the third page from the end as two characters dance together. It’s a simple snapshot and there’s not as much detail as many of the other dancing sequences, but the shot of them dancing and having such happy expressions says so much about what this series is.
Is It Good?
Welcome to the Ballroom Vol. 2 is highly enjoyable dive into the world of competitive dance with fantastic, well-written characters. This is easily becoming one of the best, unconventional sports series I’ve seen out there and features one of the better cast of characters in almost ANY recent new sports series in general. If you like dance or series about competition, especially ones drawn exceptionally well, this is a manga you’re not going to want to miss out on.