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The MANGA.TOKYO staff had its share of summer. Now, all we wish is for the hot and humid weather to go away and give its place to the red and cool autumn.
The TV anime series Welcome to the Ballroom premiered on MBS on Saturday 8 July. Prior to its broadcast, a preview screening of Episodes 1 and 2 was held at Marunouchi Piccadilly in Tokyo. The main cast also held a special talk after the screening! This report will give you all the juiciest bits from the event.
The opening theme song, ‘10% roll, 10% romance’, by Unison Square Garden began to stream at 6 p.m. Shimba Tsuchiya (Tatara Fujiya), Ayane Sakura (Shizuku Hanaoka), Nobuhiko Okamoto (Kiyoharu Hyodo) and Kentaro Tomita (Gaju Akagi) appeared on stage. The event began with each cast member introducing themselves and their characters.
Tsuchiya described Tatara as ‘a regular junior high school kid.’ Sakura and Okamoto immediately pointed out, ‘he’s not regular at all.’ Their remarks made young Tsuchiya panic and the audience chuckled at his innocent reaction. Tomita’s character Gaju doesn’t appear in the first two episodes, so Tomita repeatedly stressed, ‘please believe me when I say that Gaju is a really hot-blooded character,’ which made the audience laugh.
After the introduction of the characters, the screening began. The lights of the venue faded and everyone’s eyes were on the screen. They were drawn into the anime for an entire 45 minutes until the ending theme song ‘Maybe the Next Waltz’ was played. The audience hardly had time to breath as the story developed so quickly. We saw Tatara’s chance encounter with competitive dancing and how he found his joy in it in Episode 1. The second episode showed us the appearance of Kiyoharu and his enormous dancing talent. The second episode contained many funny Tatara scenes which the audience enjoyed.
After the screening, the cast members reappeared on stage as the venue was filled with applause for the screening of the anime. They talked about their impressions during the recordings and their thoughts on dancing.
Okamoto broke the ice by talking about Tsuchiya’s dedication. Although it isn’t uncommon for voice actors to wear glasses or costumes to reflect their characters when recording or doing interviews, Tsuchiya went all-out and dressed like Tatara for every single session. He wore not only a school uniform, but also a tailcoat with a hand-made competitor’s number.
In relation to the costumes, he also revealed that Sakura tried on the ballroom dancing gown that was prepared at the recording studio as reference material.
Tomita talked about his dedication regarding the regional dialects. His character, Gaju Akagi, speaks in Joshu dialect (a dialect from Gunma Prefecture), therefore he asked someone who’s from Gunma to check his accent at the studio. He even visited Gunma to hear the natural Joshu dialect in action. He said that although he would try his best to make conversation with people, they would always reply to him in standard Japanese. Eventually, he was able to hear the dialect during a group chat in a bar. This revelation was appreciated by the audience and the cast members. He demonstrated his lines in Joshu dialect and the audience and other cast members erupted into applause.
We learned more of Tsuchiya and Sakura’s dedication to the anime as they revealed that they went to a competitive dancing tournament and watched the competitors from the front row. They told us that the dancers came in front of them and made turns over and over again. Tsuchiya said that since they were sitting so close, he felt their costumes on his cheek many times. He continued, ‘I was truly able to experience these dancers who truly wanted to entertain the spectators.’
The topic of the talk shifted ballroom dance and the fact that Tsuchiya and Tomita are learning to dance in the anime’s special video program ‘Ballroom Dance Lesson‘. Despite the fact that both of them are beginners at ballroom dancing, they are said to be fast learners and their progress surprised the teachers and staff members. Tomita said, ‘Shimba’s progress is really amazing. His posture, especially how he stretches his back, is beautiful.’ Encouraged by his words, Tsuchiya demonstrated his hold position on stage. The audience gave him a big hand. They also gave one to Okamoto who pulled Shimba’s t-shirt back so that we could all see his beautiful position.
In the final part of the show, the cast members spoke of their thoughts on the anime. Tomita said, ‘As a cast member, I’d be glad if this anime could introduce ballroom dancing, which I myself didn’t know much about before, to many people.’ Sakura and Okamoto revealed that they both felt a certain freshness in being able to play characters different to their usual typecasting. Sakura added, ‘I feel a mysterious connection to the anime because my cousin was a competitive dancer and sempai of the original manga artist, Tomo Takeuchi. Every second I spent on the anime is precious to me.’ Okamoto said that the best thing about the anime is that ‘there is a good balance between the scenes depicting Tatara’s progress and the scenes telling the charms of the other characters. Don’t forget to watch the 3rd episode and the others thereafter.’
Furthermore, Tsuchiya said enthusiastically, ‘I feel I’m still inexperienced as a voice actor every day. Tatara, who was also an inexperienced dancer at first, is making fast progress in the anime. I’ll do my best in expressing his development with my voice acting.’ The event wrapped up with his passionate comment.