Welcome to the Ballroom, Vol. 1

By Tomo Takeuchi. Released in Japan as “Ballroom e Youkoso” by Kodansha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Monthly Shonen Magazine. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics. Translated by Karen McGillicuddy.

For years, the received wisdom of the internet was that sports manga did not sell well in North America. Like most received wisdom, that wasn’t quite accurate. Price of Tennis, Eyeshield 21, and Whistle! all had fairly lengthy runs here. But recently, it would appear that the received wisdom is actually beginning to genuinely die, as we’re seeing more and more shonen sports-style manga come out and do fairly well for themselves. And it helps to show off one basic factor of the Japanese sports manga, which is that it does not actually matter what the sport is. Take a hero with no purpose in life, show him a competition that is amazing and features people showing off awesome bodies and equally awesome speed lines, and then have him train and train and train until everyone realizes that he’s got amazing potential. In the case of Welcome to the Ballroom, that sport happens to be ballroom dancing competitions, but that does not change its essential sports manga-ness.


Our hero is Fujita, and he does in fact remind me a lot of Sena from Eyeshield 21, and not just because of the hair. He’s got his teachers upset because he can’t figure out what to do with his life, he gets harassed by the local neighborhood bullies, and his nights at home are just him an his dad (for once, the mom seems to be divorced rather than dead as in most manga). But then he’s basically kidnapped by Sengoku, who is looking for new recruits for his dance studio, which also happens to feature a pretty girl from Fujita’s school who does ballroom dancing. After initially being totally overwhelmed with self-doubt and self-hatred, Fujita watches a DVD of a dancing competition secretly put in his bag, and falls in love with the way they move. He may lack common sense (his first training session literally lasts ALL NIGHT as he forgets what time it is), but he has an innate sense of movement that is struggling to get beyond his beginner’s body.

Moving on to the review proper, this is a very good start. Fujita is a very believable teenage boy, filled with insecurities and jealousies but a good kid at heart. The heroine, Hanaoka, has dreams of her own that she’s worried about, and so far does not seem to be there simply for the hero to fall in love with, although that does happen to a degree. (It helps that, unlike most sports manga, the women are an innate part of the sport.) And his first rival, Kiyoharu, is way beyond both of them in terms of talent, but I suspect that pushing himself too hard has already gotten to him, and it’s what leads to the first cliffhanger. As with most shonen manga, the way you know it’s really good is that you want to read the next volume immediately. That’s how I feel about Welcome to the Ballroom.

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  1. Hmmm the art looks nice. Thanks for the recommendation, I’ll check it out!

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