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Episode 1 | Episode 2 | Episode 3 | Episode 4 | Episode 5 | Episode 6 | Episode 7
When I heard Inoue Atsuko was doing animation on episode 7 of Welcome to the Ballroom, I stopped what I was doing and immediately started watching the episode. For those who may not be familiar her work, Atsuko is an industry veteran who had a hand in some of the most amazing cuts from my all-time favorite show, Yu Yu Hakusho among others.
Gravity is a constant force in Atsuko’s drawings, no matter how wild or fantastic the movement in her shots may be. She features a masterful depiction of weight, and from that a realistic portrayal of movement. Although the example here may be a fight scene, but the basis of all action animation is sense of weight, no matter if it’s a punch or a sashay. If it does not hold physical weight on screen then so too is the emotional weight diminished. This level of realism creates a very relatable and borderline tangible connection of senses that allows us to feel through sight alone. This is an important aspect for all animation, but one centered around dance especially.
Given this, it is my belief that the remarkable dance scenes in this episode are the work of Atsuko. In the cut above the weight is carried in the legs of Tatara and Mako as they glide across the dance-floor. Going back to the cut from Yu Yu Hakusho, the opening animation of a slouching Yusuke glides in much the same way with the emphasis of the weight in the knees. Moments like this are only possible with a very grounded feeling.
A later cut in the episode features Gaju and Shizuku locked in a heated tango. Smears accentuate the sharp motion as the two whip around each other in a circular dance pattern. The movement between frames is given space to breathe. And while each step may not seem clear, there is an organization to the chaos. Looking at the staff credits, I do see that director Yoshimi Itazu partook in the 2nd key animation this episode, so perhaps he had a hand in this particular dance scene, especially given what we’ve seen from him in prior episodes.
It would be easy to overlook the secondary animation in such a flurry of quick steps. Gaju’s coat tails further accentuate just how snappy he is dancing as they struggle to keep up. The circular dance pattern previously alluded to is completely telegraphed by Shizuku’s dress, the left over energy from her movements forcing the dress to twirl and wrap around her. Even though all of these actions may not seem so readily apparent as they do on paper, it’s the combined properties of the animation as a whole that culminates into such a remarkable display.
Dancing was not the only thing that held weight this episode, however. I found myself captured by the expressions used this episode, and how clearly they crystallized the respective emotion in the moment. All those ‘extra lines’ that have been complained about really shine here. Every line etches their demeanor in stone, bringing a visual validity to resolve on display. Each emotion truly feels compelling, heightened by the vocal performances that goes through them. Determination. Contempt. Surprise. Hurt. It’s all out on display in Welcome to the Ballroom. Yet another strong episode in the series worthy of praise.