And we’re back! After an extended weekend, I came down with a nasty cold that knocked me out for most of the week. Suffice to say, I’m disappointed I didn’t get to write about episode eight immediately because our boy Jumpei sure stepped up to the plate, didn’t he? Call me cynical, but after so many shows that prefer not write a romance in stone, I’m always impressed when a core couple confesses to one another. And it’s not even the season climax! While I remain tickled to see Jumpei and Miyako not only tell one another their feelings but also seal them with a kiss, the lead up is a little strange. Up until the two meet in the dance school lobby, I actually thought Dance Dance Dancer was setting up a love triangle or, potentially, about to lead jumpei in a completely different romantic direction.
Episode eight focuses on the boys’ class pairing up with the girls from the SS class. Due to their height, Jumpei is paired with Natsuki while it’s Luou who dances with Miyako. Natsuki is the slight yet fiery girl introduced as an audience member during Jumpei’s Swan Lake performance and she reappeared during his pirouette face-off when she clapped for him over Yamato Takura. Come to find out that she is something of a prodigy herself and is also the daughter of Oikawa, a prospect I find terrifying. Her ballet upbringing and set her on a path of ballet stardom and she’s set her sights on making sure she doesn’t screw it up. Natsuki is about as tightly wound as the bun on her head. Her face is permanently set with a determined scowl to the point that her teachers are routinely asking her to relax.
But she isn’t a stick in the mud. Dance Dance Dancer once again adds depth to a common character trope by having Natsuki eschew strict perfectionism for a wild heart. She hasn’t yet learned the lesson that Jumpei did a few weeks ago. She’s still selfishly-minded to a degree but she appreciated the interesting performance he gave during Swan Lake and there seems to be a part of her that also wants to embrace that kind of intensity. The two start “goofing off” during their training to try out a synchronized performance and it blows their respective minds. This is what I mean when I say the lead up to his confession to Miyako is strange. Most of the episode focuses on the spark between Natsuki and Jumpei and he was even planning to pursue spending more time with her until Misaki Yasuda stepped in.
Misaki’s motivations are dubious. He sells himself as the “experienced” member of the friend group and points out that familiarizing themselves with girls will make them better dancers. I’m not going to argue that point, I think it has some genuine merit to it. However, Misaki isn’t so much being a matchmaker for Jumpei as he is subtly bullying Luou. He already found out about his connection to his famous mother and there were interactions between Miyako, Jumpei, Luou, and Misaki in this episode that cemented two things: Luou is stalwartly dedicated to Miyako, and Jumpei and Miyako currently have feelings for one another. Misaki knows this when he orchestrates Jumpei and Miyako meeting up and helps set things in motion when he suggests to Jumpei that Miyako may need a little push.
That hangs a cloud over Miyako and Jumpei’s newfound relationship. We also learn that while Luou was born in America, he lived in Japan since the age of four. His inability to read and write kanji isn’t due to being overseas for years and years; it’s yet another example of the abuse perpetuated on him by his grandmother. He likely has clung onto Miyako’s childish romance for him for a long time because it was the only semblance of love in his entire life. It’s also rather obvious that Luou takes things at face value, so it never occurred to him that something Miyako said to him at age six or seven might change at 14. Misaki’s machinations, even if we accept that Jumpei and Miyako are a super cute couple and their feelings are independent of Luou, were in service of isolating him. Episode nine makes this more obvious as Misaki finally comes clean, sort of, and it’s apparent that he thought it’d weaken his competition. He has, desperately, wanted the SS class scholarship for himself so if he could only get Luou to quit, he thought he’d have it in the bag.
While I certainly feel for Luou, episode nine really made me frustrated on Jumpei’s behalf. Not only is he trying to navigate teenage drama, the adults around him are acting like assholes. This kid is fourteen and he has to make a major decision about his potential dance career and thanks to some bitter circumstances completely outside of his control involving Chizuru Godai’s past with Ayako Oikawa, his former ballet teacher has him grasping for a lifeline. He wants to make the people he cares about happy and make his next move but has zero guidance from a responsible third party and that sucks. Despite how she was originally framed, Ayako Godai’s offer to Jumpei seems like a good one. She’s offering to make him the central figure in her bid to strengthen Japanese ballet’s reputation worldwide. The teachers at her school seem strict yet fair. Sure, we can understand Godai being miffed that Jumpei took it upon himself to salvage her reputation after the Swan Lake performance but he’s a kid and she’s an adult.
Telling him he can’t have “both” schools is fine, but she sure isn’t helping him sort out what choice is best for his growth. Further, by the end of the episode it seems like Jumpei’s choices about ballet school are also being framed around his potential romantic choices which is bad. Again, not outside of what a kid or young adult might consider (I want to go to college with my girlfriend!) but on top of the title of the upcoming episode…Miyako and Jumpei’s romance may be short-lived in favor of him ultimately choosing the Oikawa school and Natsuki. I also really don’t like the framing that Miyako should just be with Luou because he needs her, so let’s hope the episode doesn’t go in that direction either.
This double review is already approaching triple-length so I’m going to hold off on diving in Luou’s developments until next week, but the kid has definitely internalized his grandmother’s abuse and abandonment by his mother. Finding out she has new kid and never came back for Luou sure is a knife in the back though.
Dance Dance Dancer is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.