I’ve recently committed to the utter ridiculousness of my viewing pleasures and have tried to follow the more interesting sports anime offerings since Tennis no Oujisama aired in 2001. Sports anime, in my very addled mind, is synonymous to romance sublimated into non-deadly physical violence, and there is nothing in the world more intoxicating for my brain than extreme doses of high school angst, camaraderie, rivalry, and, the most ridiculous trait of them all, naive optimism regarding the future,1 that usually characterizes the genre. I think its because I am at a point in my life where I know what I like and refuse to spend time on things that I don’t particularly find interesting, and woohoo would you look at that, apparently I find romanticized physical activity intellectually stimulating. Because I cannot be bothered to sweat in real life, instead I compensate by watching 2D boys compete in fantastical and utterly improbable ways while working out their internal dramatics via external activity.
Yes, absolutely delicious. This spring, we get three new shows, but only two one of them seems to be worth watching. I am not bothering with the hypochondriac soccer this season, on the grounds that none of the main characters are charming or endearing, and I absolutely detest badly executed fanservice. I already have low standards; I refuse to debase myself even further for low-quality trash. I am, however, going to bother with Ballroom Anxiety Anime and Diving Senpai Complex Anime, otherwise known as Ballroom e Youkoso and Dive!!, respectively.2
Ballroom e Youkoso
Hands down, the strongest and most interesting anime for this season is Ballroom e Youkoso. The premise is solid, the character development promising, and the art style. Lord almighty, I am in love with the way it looks because everyone just looks like they are always-already slightly crazy and loving it. It’s not sleek and clean the way the most contemporary anime are, but instead makes use of a lot of small fine lines around the eyes and the joints, so that first, there’s a very sketched-out and penciled feel to the whole anime; and second, everyone looks like they are one bad day away from a mental breakdown, which I adore and am completely support. Another thing I noticed is that the animation team carried over this very distinctively shoujo-esque kind of eyelash: luxuriously thick and decadent that for some reason, nobody else seems to be doing or has done in recent sports anime memory.
It’s a refreshing art style that I highly appreciate, and I sigh each and every time they do it well on screen (which is around every 10 seconds give or take. Joyous breathing is hard). There is also something to be said about the hyperbolic and highly stylized anatomy, which, when coupled with rare instances of ballroom choreography and the musical score (I have yet to see a scene outside of the opening where this is done but I am hopeful it will happen in the later episodes) promises to carry you away both visually and auditorily.
Character-wise, Fujita is endearing in the way that he doesn’t try to compensate for his ineptitude with a spunky over-the-top attitude (he’s determined but not annoyingly so), and his struggle to fill the void of his existence relatable instead of cloying. He’s not like any sports anime lead I have watched in recent memory, and if there are any trope-ic similarities, I think they are shallow enough to easily give way as the plot moves forward. I am also excited to explore Sengoku’s eventual character flaws and the way he projects towards any of this other dance rivals (I would stake my life that there is one waiting in the wings somewhere). The other characters are alright, no one is supremely grating, and so I have hope I might grow to love all of them equally given enough time.
All in all, Ballroom e Youkoso is an anime that promises to add to the sports genre instead of mindlessly mimic-ing the formulae of other successful predecessors. I can’t wait to see how this unfolds and how the dancing will be animated. As an ending note, there was a throw away metaphor regarding Fujita being unable to fill in Hyodo’s trousers in episode two (which is probably a riff on the idiom regarding filling shoes) which I think is sort of hilarious because it’s so corny and overdone but fine, okay, I’ll buy into this anyway. If they make the pants a repeating trope, then I will probably die from laughter. Can you imagine? Pants borrowing!
1 How do all these boys believe that hitting balls and sweating ad generally investing time in extracurriculars will save their doomed souls from corporate enslavement and crushing existential regret? Isn’t a future in sports as miraculously rare as a future in the visual and performing arts? Where is all this fantastical faith coming from?
2 I watched Episode 2 of Dive!! before finishing this review and I was so disappointed that I most likely might stop watching it altogether. The animation was bad, and there was a scene they seemed to completely rip off from Free! that I lost all enthusiasm altogether. Just because you are both pool anime does not give you the license to steal Rin’s character line. Ugh.