As Tatara makes it to the final round with Mako, things are only going to get more heated when the dancers pull out all their best moves. Who is gonna win this? Is it good?
Writer/Artist: Tomo Takeuchi
Translated by: Karen McGillicuddy
Lettering by: Kodansha Comics
Tatara is more determined than ever to win and to break Gaju and Shizuku up so she can return to her true partner when he’s all healed up and Gaju’s sister, Mako, can prove to them that she herself is a great dancer as well. She really wowed the crowd and her brother during the Waltz, but will that be enough? The final round is getting more intense by the second and someone, or maybe two, is going to learn a very harsh lesson.
In this volume, we bring a close to the Tenpi Cup arc and the first competition that Tatara officially got involved in. With all said and done, I really loved this storyline and the fourth volume brought everything together in a very satisfying, bittersweet, but fulfilling manner. There was character development for all the dancers, we learned more about the different types of dancing and what’s required for each routine, and we got the final result, which actually caught me off guard (though in hindsight, what happens is probably realistic). It was a really packed, tightly-paced and well-written volume that just had me glued to the story. In fact, I had to go back and re-read some chapters to make sure I got and understood everything.
It’s quite interesting to me reflecting on this entire arc as a whole. Having read many sports series or series with a focus on competition, the first real game or event is always kind of simple and just about easing the audience into the world and its concepts. This is where the lead’s talents are revealed, setting the stage for the rest of the series, where things really get cooking. In contrast, this arc felt a lot more dramatic, epic, and there was a lot of emotion in all of the characters and their actions. Even though the stakes aren’t really all that huge in the grand scheme of things, Takeuchi crafted such an engaging tale that had so much power that it felt as if we were in the final story arc for the series. It’s a really well-crafted tale that only loses a few points because two characters completely vanished in the final chapter. Seriously, outside of a silent panel or two, Kiyoharu and Marisa Hyodo are just not there despite being very important to the arc and a lot of the driving motivation for Shizuku. It’s a decision that’s baffling to me.
That’s right everyone! Raise the ROOF!
But as for the characters themselves, it’s hard to discuss them in detail without giving much away or, in the case of this book, just flat out saying what happens would ruin the well-crafted buildup and development that the creator has done here. As such, I’ll keep it simple by saying that the main four characters for this arc–Tatara, Gaju, Shizuku, and Mako–have all really developed so well over this and the last volume that by the end, it leaves you eager to see where they go next in their careers. Tatara feels like he is on his way to becoming a dancer just as good as anyone else with how much emotion and thought he puts into his moves, even when he struggles due to a lack of experience. The flashback and ending for Gaju and Mako is very well earned and out of every character, Mako’s possibilities excite me the most. Shizuku is still blooming and coming into her own here–even as great of a dancer as she is, it may have unintended consequences for her. The final moment with her, after everything she experienced and what was said to her, is so emotionally charged and her reaction is so human. It feels like something really big has happened and her future is bound to change.
Takeuchi’s artwork is still as gorgeous and beautiful as ever. One thing I felt while reading the book though was that the art seemed a bit improved or stronger than usual when it came to depicting pure emotion. Not just during the dancing, but all the time. You can feel the tension, heart, and passion in these characters in how the panels are angled, the looks on everyone’s face, and the amount of detail put into the scenes. Combining that with the charge and intensity of the dancing, you have a drama rollercoaster in pure art all the way through from the beginning to end in a very good way. The characters are still drawn exceptionally well, along with good layouts, and an incredible eye for detail within the art itself. The only slight smidgen of an issue I have is the dancing, which didn’t feel as beautiful or as gorgeous as the previous volumes. It still looks good here, but outside of the final dance with Tatara and Mako, I didn’t feel the passion or find any moments that really stood out as much as before. Not the end of the world, but just a tad disappointing.
Welcome to the Ballroom Vol. 4 brings the first tournament arc to a close in a powerful way that’s set to change several of the characters and their stories from here on out. It was a fantastic time with great turns, wonderful character development, and sharp artwork. Where the series goes from here leaves me excited and eager for more, so here’s to next time.