Dance Dance Danseur
Jumpei Murao had an early fascination with ballet after witnessing an amazing male dancer, but his dad was a little cool to it, and after his dad's death his uncle became his principal male influence- and Uncle simply thought ballet "unmanly", steering Jumpei into martial arts instead. But it turns out Jumpei's classmate Miyako Godai is training to be a ballerina, and her mom Chizuru runs a ballet dance studio. All of this stirs up old aspirations, as Jumpei starts attending Chizuru's studio, which Miyako- and her reclusive cousin, a socially unskilled ballet prodigy named Luou Mori- also call home.
I'm usually not THIS affected by character art, but I hated the depiction of everyone here with what looked like large liquid bubbles in the bottoms of their eyes. I'm sure I've seen something like this used elsewhere in the manga/anime world, but I'm not one to play favorites- I'd hate it in THEIR stories too.
ASIDE from this, Jumpei's character design reminded me of Tatara in Welcome to the Ballroom: a little, slender guy whose eyes seem disproportionately large for his frame. Well, at least the bodies of the dancers here don't undergo weird mutations when on the dance floor as in Ballroom, so there's that- but I will have one more complaint about the character art, later.
Jumpei really isn't an easy guy to like, main protagonist or no. He senses (correctly) that Luou is a rival for Miyako's affection, and the whole thing blows up (and melts down) when Jumpei's ego runs away with him, and he, uh, ALTERS the choreography in a performance of Swan Lake, which not only infuriates Luou (who was hoping to be "scouted" for his OWN performance), but also cheats several of the younger cast out of their roles. This sort of prima donna behavior doesn't exactly win friends. (I thought of the cast of the original Star Trek, who kept complaining that William Shatner kept wanting to increase Captain Kirk's lines at the expense of their own.) Of course it also doesn't sit well with the tendency in Japan to respect fidelity to the source material, but while it earns him a very public scornful rebuke from ballet purist Ayako Oikawa, the director of a famous ballet school, she inexplicably turns around and lets him participate in a kind of ballet "summer school" at her studio. Yes, yes, I know that Jumpei's problem is not lack of talent, but lack of discipline; but Jumpei has as much trouble staying within performance parameters as Captain Kirk had staying true to the Prime Directive. (Which makes two Star Trek references I've worked into a review of a ballet show.)
Luou has his own problems. He's well aware of his own genius- which was honed through actual physical abuse. He had a HORRIBLE childhood, which precluded anything like normal socialization, so he quickly becomes the target of bullying when he shows up at Jumpei's school- bullying which Jumpei stands by and lets happen. Yes, Luou's a rival, and yes, Luou has a very dismissive attitude about Jumpei, but standing by and letting an acquaintance that you knew to be an already psychologically damaged individual suffer public humiliation didn't sit right with me, and Jumpei's belated attempt at an act of contrition didn't clean the slate where I was concerned- really, it arguably made things even MORE awkward. I felt most sorry for Miyako, who's basically torn between an extroverted egoist (Jumpei) and an introverted egoist (Luou). That's the sort of thing that could put bubbles in anyone's eyes.
(To be fair, Luou DOES have one person he wants to impress, and that person is much more compliant about that sort of thing now- if also a bit confused. Luou's final performance in the show was obviously intended to be poignant, but given the circumstances, it's really more like pathetic and pointless.)
Oh, and there's my other complaint about the character art- specifically about the depiction of Ayako Oikawa. Ayako looks like the result of a manga drawing exercise where the artist is given the assignment, "Draw someone who's supercilious", and after the artist checks the dictionary, and finds that the word means "A haughty person, disdainful of others", the artist then produces the spitting image of Ayako: her eyes closed (because you're not worthy of her gaze); her lips curled up in a smug smirk of superiority. The problem with pasting a personality on a character's face is that you lose the possibility of giving them some emotional development later (e.g., my complaint about Gamou in Nagatoro), but it's fine here, I suppose, since I would not have cared to continue watching the story of most of the characters here- certainly not Ayako (OR Jumpei). (I WAS mildly curious about Luou's fate, since, given how he was through most of the show, I couldn't see him ever relating socially to other human beings without some long-term professional therapy.)
The show opens and ends with exuberant pop tunes- I confess I liked the ending one quite a lot.
Jumpei, by the way, wanted to attend BOTH Chizuru's AND Ayako's ballet schools, but because of bad blood between them, or their different styles, or whatnot, the heads of the respective schools insisted he had to choose either one or the other. Maybe he should have stayed with martial arts, where mixing it up is OK (MMA).
The Rec is the dancing show where you always cared about the characters no mater HOW weird they sometimes looked.
May you always succeed (with no more than a few tries), May your dancing feet let you soar to the skies, And may you NEVER have bubbles in your eyes. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: Physical abuse of a child is depicted. We'll go PG-13.
Version(s) Viewed: Crunchyroll video stream
Review Status: Full (11/11)
Dance Dance Danseur © 2022 George Asakura, Shogakukan/ Project Dance Dance Danseur
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