The future is brighter than ever for Tatara as he may have discovered someone who he can be partners with. However, the road is difficult as she proves to be more challenging and frustrating to work with than he expected.
Much like the fifth volume, the sixth outing for Welcome to the Ballroom is a slower and more reflective volume. The story’s main focus is Tatara finally teaming up with Chinatsu and forming their own couple team, but also experience the troubles that come from it. Chinatsu is pretty much the complete opposite of every partner Tatara has had, much more forceful and domineering, wanting to take the lead. This makes for some interesting internal conflicts for our lead to deal with, some of which he never even knew he had. There’s not much in the way of excitement or dancing this time around, outside of the chaos of trying to get ranked, but the conflicts and challenges felt stronger. They felt more personal and dependent on Tatara’s own personal growth as a character and as a dancer, as he tries to become a better lead and find his own way of doing things. I like this overall and it gives the story a more clearly defined plot and makes the character more proactive instead of being flung around a bit.
The thing that stuck out to me a lot is how this volume really flipped our perceptions of Tatara and his dancing capabilities. Yeah, we knew he wasn’t the greatest, but he was easily capable of adapting to what was thrown at him and was quick to learn things, showing that he could be great. However, the real turn is that he is a great follower, but a terrible leader. It’s flatly explained to him that and that he needs to really show his own skills, since he’s really just living in the shadow of his partners and isn’t making himself look good. He views a partnership as exactly what it sounds like, two people working equally well together, when it’s apparently not. It’s about the lead, the guy himself in the team and his own ability, not the partner’s.
I’m not personally familiar with dancesport or dancing in general, but the explanation presented in the book is honestly pretty sexist and demeaning when it says only the guy matters and is the true competitor. As such, Tatara has to “tame” Chinatsu and have her submit to him in order to win or for her to even be recognized on any level. That’s even how the book says it, which really raises an eyebrow with me. With that in mind, going back to our lead’s growth, the revelation really shocks him and doesn’t really seem to sit well with him at all, which fits well with his character and contrasts against every other male lead. He sees his partners as equals and treats them well, while the other guys barely seem to acknowledge their partners’ skills until it is spelt out to them. How he’ll grow from the news is anyone’s guess at this point, even though he seems to be going along with the idea of having to “tame this wild horse.” I do hope his development has him try to create his own style of dance that shows how both he and his partner are equal, because the other route will be awkward as shit.
Then we have Chinatsu, who’s the only other character in the volume outside of Akira, her former dance partner, to get some focus. This volume finally gets into her past, showing that she was indeed a dancer and she had given up on it. She used to be an all-girl pair with Akira, but had to give it up when she aged out of the Juniors rank and all-girl teams weren’t allowed on more professional levels. However, she’s never done anything but dance as the lead and has always had a difficult time following, especially when potential guy partners are dismissive of her and just want her to obey them. You really do understand where she’s coming from and why she wanted to initially give up dancing with no one respecting or treating her right when it came to a partnership. She’s very relatable in that regard and I’m very curious to see how she and Tatara will come together to work on being a team.
The artwork in Welcome to the Ballroom continues to shine greatly here. The usual parts that are good are still good here, with well drawn characters, the pure emotion being expressed and shown in the scenes, and the well constructed layouts. Though for this volume, I would like to specifically bring up and highlight the excellent dancing, which there was a tiny bit more of than the last volume. In particular, I would like to say the art did wonderful in highlighting how different and difficult the dancing was between Tatara and Chinatsu. It did feel like the two were struggling the entire time due to their conflicting views and how janky and forced their movements were. The previous volumes, for how good the art was at showing the dancing, it never really felt like everyone was at different skill levels or were performing badly. Here, it felt much more obvious that there are flaws in the movements, making the conflict feel more believable.
Welcome to the Ballroom Vol. 6 is a solid volume that continues to build up Tatara, showing that he still has a lot to learn and what we’ve been seeing him doing has been almost completely wrong. With the addition of Chinatsu, who is quickly emerging as the new female lead for the series, I’m liking the new direction of the manga. The problems were that most of the supporting cast kind of fell into the background, the plot was moving slowly, and the rather sexist language used was more than a bit awkward to say the least. Still, it’s a good book and I’m curious what’ll happen now.