Season aired: Spring 2022
Number of episodes: 11
Watched on: Crunchyroll
Genres: Drama, Romance, Sports
Thoughts: Out of the many MAPPA anime in the last few years, Dance Dance Danseur entered the scene without fanfare. Whether it’s due to the unique eye design of the characters, its focus on ballet, or its lack of a fanbase from the manga, people in the anime community didn’t really notice the series. I am happy to have noticed it, however, as I would’ve missed out on a new anime to fall in love with.
In Dance Dance Danseur, Junpei has a passion and talent for ballet. However, after his father’s sudden death, he opted to become as “manly” as possible for the sake of his family. He cut his hair short, he invested time into martial arts, he joined sports clubs with other boys, and he discarded ballet from his life. However, his hidden passion boils once more after Miyako, the daughter of a ballet teacher, notices his ballet form and entices him to dance with her. Under her and her mother’s tutelage at the ballet school, Junpei meets the withdrawn but skilled Luou who competes with him in both ballet and love.
The show’s biggest feat is its ability to weld multiple storylines into a single cohesive plot without feeling rushed or too slow. There’s Luou’s hidden trauma from excessive bullying and an abusive grandmother that raised him, Junpei’s struggles with accepting a side of himself that he denied for so long, the boys’ tug-of-war affection for Miyako while developing their own friendship, Junpei learning the basics of ballet he forewent when he gave up ballet as a child, and other rivalries from other ballet schools. It’s a lot to fit in only 11 episodes, but Dance Dance Danseur weaves the plot points together into a beautiful basket, making every plot point happen with a purpose due to the direct actions the characters take.
Hands down, my favorite arc is regarding Junpei’s internal conflict towards masculinity. As I’ve already written an entire article breaking down exactly why it was important for Dance Dance Danseur to include that plot, it also fits into his wondrous character development throughout the series. Junpei has talent — no one denies that. However, at the same time, he is rash, selfish, and dealing with self-esteem issues that come off as aggression.
By the end of the series, Junpei is unrecognizable from the boy who stepped up with a balled fist, ready to deny his passion and throw a punch at whoever bad mouthed at him. Now, he is emotionally considerate, supportive to the people around him, and respectful, while never losing the wild side of him that appealed to Miyako and her mother, Godai-sensei. His character changed so much that I went from feeling genuine anger towards Junpei’s actions in the first episode to feeling pride by the last.
The anime also takes risky decisions in the developing relationships of the characters. Many viewers are particularly upset towards the resolution of a love triangle, but I personally find it to be the cherry on top for both Junpei and Luou’s respective arcs. Luou represents everything Junpei pushed against — he is feminine, delicate, timid at school, and a master in ballet due to years of continuous backbreaking practices. Junpei, on the other hand, is everything that Luou hates in people: aggressive, social, loud, and clumsy due to his lack of ballet basics.
The immediate contrast of their characters set up Junpei and Luou for the shounen rivalry anime is famous for, but I personally prefer watching them change from being antagonistic to caring for one another. The two still compete with each other, yes, but it’s without question that the two end up caring for each other more by the end of the series. Junpei doesn’t hesitate to step in to physically and mentally defend Luou when other boys intimidate him, and in return, Luou often snaps back at other people’s mean comments when they point out that Junpei lacks an understanding of the fundamentals.
It’s a classic technician vs performer trope, but instead of the two locked in competition with one winning over the other (where the performer usually wins), the two teach each other what they each lack. Junpei as the “performer” steps towards learning balance and control while Luou as the “technician” learns to be free and selfish. Luou’s conclusion is especially satisfying for me as Luou is a victim of physical and emotional abuse. I applaud any story that wholeheartedly tells victims to find freedom outside their abuse while showing a whole crowd of characters emotionally supporting them.
I must note that there is one particular episode that could be triggering to viewers. This anime features one of the most realistic depictions of bullying I’ve ever seen — showing exactly how it starts, how it escalates, and how it can end up. Its commitment to that realism is commendable, but at the same time, I had a hard time watching through the whole episode. Many commentators have also noted that they were forced to pause at certain scenes or even skip it due to the brutal depiction of bullying.
Regarding the actual ballet, I am not the correct person to make any specific notes about it. I have no knowledge of ballet nor have I ever participated in any dance classes growing up. Though, what I can readily observe is the character design’s commitment to the physique of ballet dancers — their height, long necks, flexibility, and muscles. The arm and leg movements look beautiful, the characters’ facial expressions are expressive, and their costumes and makeup shine. Unfortunately, this series would’ve benefited from depicting a full scene of the show’s final performance instead of constantly cutting it to the audience’s reactions. The entire point of this performance is to wow the spectators, not show us how they’re reacting.
However, perhaps my lack of understanding towards ballet is why the series resonated with me. I don’t need or expect the ballet to be accurate to the moves or performances. I was invested in the journey of the characters, their developing relationships, and their own growth into adults who pursue an artistic passion.
Ballet in Dance Dance Danseur is a tool used to accurately display the harmful effects of toxic masculinity on boys, push the characters towards each other, and develop their personalities through their changing styles. There is just something so poetic when a dance rooted in history and tradition is used as a medium for change and growth towards the future.
Plot: 9 (Multiplier 3.5)
Characters: 8 (Multiplier 3.5)
Voice acting: 7
FINAL SCORE: 81.5