Hey everybody, welcome back to the dance drama of my dreams. Things have been a little crazy around ANN editorial; We’re in the midst of the Spring Manga Preview Guide this week, but I want to touch on this slightly more mellow episode follow-up to five’s big dance performance. We are entering a “training arc” of sorts for Jumpei and Luou as they infiltrate the boys’ ballet camp hosted by the Oikawa, the judge that dressed them down for their take on Swan Lake.
This episode also does a great job of adding nuance to the ongoing conflict between Jumpei’s enthusiasm and approach to ballet and the stalwart traditions of the form. Oikawa tells the boys that ballet is an art and their performance was not ballet. While it was full of emotion and drama that captivated the audience, it lacked technical finesse. Perhaps even more important is Jumpei’s decision to ad-lib the ending took away stage time from other dancers, specifically ones from his own studio. You could argue that his decision to indulge in his own emotions stole stage time from children and by extension, ignored their time and effort.
This is one of Jumpei’s major shortcomings and the biggest area he has for growth. He’s simply not particularly considerate of others, whether its elementary school ballerinas, Luou, Miss Godai, Miyako, or even his uncle. Jumpei is prone to flying by the seat of his pants, or maybe it’s more apt to say he doesn’t look before he leaps. That doesn’t just mean he causes problems for himself. He’s constantly causing issues for other people because he doesn’t think about how his actions reflect on or effect them. Godai looses money as parents pull their kids from her study because she won’t “fire” Jumpei. Luou misses his opportunity to win MVP and study abroad. But Jumpei has promise and his eyes began to open a little wider when he starts camp.
Through a bit of social engineering, Jumpei and Luou (who he drags there) sneak into Oikawa’s training program and are only allowed to stay because she sees that they have promise also hoping to put them in their place. Initially, my affinity for Jumpei’s artistic approach had me siding with him. The kid was joyfully performing the choreography while feeling the music. I’m not knowledgeable enough to know when he’s off tempo or out of step and I was easily taken in by his enthusiasm. But his instructor kept telling him off for being out of sync. This culminates in a conversation he has with the elderly pianist performing the class’s music and finally things start linking for Jumpei (and, by extension, me) about what he’s doing wrong. And he all circles back to his lack of consideration for others.
Yes, it’s true that Jumpei lacks proper foundational technique. Godai has been trying to drill this into him and he’s been flippant about it because in his eyes, the exhilarating feeling ballet gives him trumps anything else. That sparkle is a gift but as he talks with the pianist and watches the elite class perform in perfect synchronization, he starts to realize how out of step he’s been in what is supposed to be a group performance. Jumpei cannot reach the top by himself while running on pure, unbridled energy.
The first significant sign that Jumpei took this advice to heart is when he and Luou ride the train back home. Mustering what is honestly a significant amount humility for a middle school kid, he apologizes for his actions on the stage and contributing to Luou losing his chance to study abroad. Now, Luou does call him out that had he known, Jumpei might have still made the same decision, but just having them talk this out is a big deal. Jumpei actually allows himself to show vulnerability and gives Luou some long overdue respect for tolerating this arrogant upstart.
While not as thrilling as its predecessor, this episode deftly handles the Swan Lake fall out and gives Jumpei the space to grow and finally take his first real step as a ballet student.
Dance Dance Dancer is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.