Jumpei and Luou’s experiences at ballet camp continue, but with a new attitude in place, both might get more out of it than they initially imagined. Jumpei is newly humbled by his conversation with the pianist in last week’s episode and this week we see he’s become somewhat of a project for his current instructor thanks to his new ability to actually accept criticism and build on it. He’s not shooting to the front of the class, skill-wise, but he can only go up from here.
This catches the attention of his three classmates. We met these boys last week but they didn’t really make an impression until this episode. They all come from different backgrounds and have varying physiques that may not be considered “ideal” for ballet but they’re all competitive and enthusiastic about the dance form in their own right. Kotobuki Himenokōji comes from a wealthy family and seems sensitive to praise. I’ll admit, when Jumpei befriended him in this episode it felt a little calculated on his part. Kotobuki is a swell enough kid and he’s generous with his time and resources, taking both Jumpei and Luou to see the ballet version of Romeo and Juliet put on by Oikawa’s company. It wasn’t until I watched this episode that I remembered I also went and saw this ballet one year and, like in the anime, someone got really emotional during the climax, going as far to yell at the stage that Juliet wasn’t actually dead.
The other two boys are the athletic Yamato Takura who hails from a rural area (and has the accent to prove it) and Misaki Yasuda, who has a slender figure and a generally suspicious air about him. The boys get into a disagreement over Jumpei’s motivations for being in the camp; They want a coveted spot in the SS-tier class while Jumpei is only hoping to restore his teacher’s reputation. They decide to settle the disagreement in a pirouette-off which shows to reaffirm how far Jumpei has gone to master the basics, even if it’s not impressive to the more experienced dancers. In the end, only Miyako is able to acknowledge his progress since she’s the only one in the room who truly knows Jumpei’s starting point.
A quick aside that Miyako has been sidelined quite a bit in the most recent episodes. I didn’t know she was also attending a summer course at Oikawa’s school or that her mother would even be supportive of such a thing given the current between issues Ayako Oikawa and the Godai school. I thought this was a boys-only program but in hindsight, it’d be an awful big building for just boys. Anyway, at the series halfway point here I’m craving a bit more acknowledgment of Miyako’s own skills and to see some of the animation flourishes dedicated to her performances, even if it’s simply dancing alongside Jumpei.
As much as I appreciated seeing Jumpei’s own growth, the biggest moment in this episode comes toward the end. The pirouette competition was enough to forge some new bonds between the boys in class and that includes Luou. It was heartwarming to see him stretch and practice with his peers and even let his guard down enough to have a water fight. Luou is a boy who is incredibly traumatized and Dance Dance Dancer is able to remind viewers of that even when we aren’t getting allusions to his mother’s celebrity scandals or his grandmother’s physical abuse. It’s in his body language. When the other boys confront them before the pirouette contest, Luou gets a little mouthy and disparages Yamato’s footwork. When Yamato raises his voice slightly, Luou immediately puts his arms up to protect himself, keeping them there even when they continue talking. It accurately reinforces that this is a kid who had the snot beat out of him in anger for 10 years and it’s had a profound effect on him. That’s why it’s so satisfying to see him loosen up with a group of kids his own age.
But I don’t trust Misaki. That boy is shady and he’s holding onto his newfound knowledge about Luou’s home life for when it will best suit him.
On a technical level, this is mostly a great-looking episode. There are a few face shots that looked a little off and there are no big dance numbers to really ‘wow’ us this time. There’s a cut during the Romeo and Juliet performance that is very fluid and the boys’ own pirouettes are also done very well, especially Luou. The team are also thought putting into even the small details. If you watch the scene where all the boys are balancing on one foot on several wooden posts, there’s a moment when the conversation is overlaid on an extended shot of their feet. You can tell which dancers have better balance control, with only two feet beginning to shake under exertion. It’s a subtle way to reinforce their individual skill levels.
I also want to point out that series creator George Asakura is watching the anime adaptation and commented on this episode on Twitter. She wrote Luou’s pirouettes (which included multiple quad spins) were performed by Tokyo Ballet Principal dancer Yasuomi Akimoto. It’s a good fit given that Akimoto’s experience matches closely to Luou’s own ballet dreams. Jumpei’s multiple singles were performed by Tokyo Ballet solist Shuntaro Ifuku. He’s on Instagram if you want to give him a follow and check out his techniques. You can see him and Miyako’s dancer in motion-capture gear for the Swan Lake performance, too.
Dance Dance Dancer is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.