Manga Adaptation by MAPPA
Streaming on Crunchyroll
After discovering an unexpected passion for ballet as a child, Junpei, now a middle-school student, has forsaken his childhood dream to follow in his deceased father’s footsteps as a more ‘manly’ stunt coordinator. However, his perceptive classmate Miyako, a ballet dancer herself, recognizes Junpei’s talent and is determined to have him perform in an upcoming recital.
Artemis’ verdict: The Right Moves
What’s the opposite of the law of diminishing returns? Whatever it is, that’s what I personally got out of this premiere. It started off feeling kinda just okay (mostly because at first, I had been hoping for a series with a slightly older main character rather than one still in middle school), but I quickly became more invested as the episode delivered more nuance than I was expecting from that. Junpei’s struggle over balancing a genuine and instinctive passion for ballet with fairly stereotypical gender norms and loads of peer pressure came across as wonderfully natural to me, and while not immediately a wholly likable character, the potential for his gradual development – not just as a dancer but as a person comfortable in his own skin – is really strong. The flashback scene between Junpei and his now-deceased father felt especially poignant, hitting all the right notes without being too on-the-nose.
Not all is perfect here. I could definitely have done without the obsession that Junpei has with believing that Miyako is super into him (this element is played for comedy, complete with an implied panty shot, but in reality is off-putting and cringy), and I can’t say that I love the character designs either. The present-day ones are more or less fine, but the childhood flashback ones have eyes that are just so big and so shiny that the characters look borderline possessed to me.
However, overall, I was pleased with what this episode put on the table and am eager to see what else it can deliver, particularly if the show ends up covering several years of Junpei’s burgeoning dance career rather than only the first few weeks or months of it.
Jel’s verdict: Worth a Spin
As I was watching this episode, I couldn’t help but think of all the people championing last season’s My Dress Up Darling for challenging gender norms and toxic masculinity, which I did not think it deserved. Dance Dance Danseur is proof you can get that without having to put up with a trashy show! In fact, this episode handles those topics in a much more natural, compelling way. Jumpei’s desire to be “manly” and “cool” is certainly exaggerated for the screen, but it still felt similar to some of my experiences growing up. It takes time to de-progam your brain and accept that it’s OK to be who you are, and I’m glad the author seems to be acknowledging this.
That said, Jumpei also seems to be a meatheaded idiot determined to ganbare his way to the top, and I’m guessing that’s what this series will really be about. If Dance Dance Danseur just ends up being an elegant version of a generic sports anime, which I fear it might, then I can’t see myself sticking with it. We’ll have to wait and see.