REVIEW: ‘Dance Dance Danseur’ Season 1—Visual Poetry But Lacking Narrative

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Dance Dance Danseur Season 1

Content Warning: Dance Dance Danseur Season 1 contains an episode that deals with child abuse and emotional abuse

Dance Dance Danseur Season 1 is a seinen anime produced by MAPPA. When Jumpei Murao was young, he saw a ballet performance that moved him, and he wished to become a dancer. But when his father passed away, he set it aside to pursue endeavors he believed his father would be more approving of. However, he has never been able to forget ballet. And all it may take to get him to return to the art is a small push.

Like the motion of a ballet dancer, Dance Dance Danseur Season 1 is filled with ups and downs. While at its best, it captivates and delivers moments focused on the grace of the art and the passion of those who perform it, at its worst, it stumbles through the critical moments of Murao’s life surrounding his pursuit of ballet. Unfortunately, this imbalanced delivery hurts the show in its most vital scenes, making it a frustrating struggle when you most expect to be swept up by the emotions of these moments.

Like every other aspect of life, Murao’s pursuit of ballet does not happen in a vacuum. Rather, it is informed not only by his desires but by the interests and actions of those around him. It is how these critical interactions with others and the conclusions that Murao takes away from these experiences that cause Dance Dance Danseur Season 1 to struggle so hard. The most significant example is how he handles his friendship with the ballet-dancing cousins Miyako and Luou.

Miyako is the person who gives Murao his push back into the world of ballet. As a sweet-natured and pretty girl who dances herself, Murao’s early motivations are almost as much built upon the young woman’s approval as his internal desire to dance. When Miyako brings Murao to her mother’s dance studio to train, Murao comes into contact with Luou. Luou is highly trained in ballet but has little life experience with anything else. Formerly raised by his grandmother, Luou’s self-esteem and belief in himself are badly compromised due to his grandmother’s often harsh treatment.

How the trio comes to interact with each other forms much of the story’s emotional core. While there are moments of brilliance, Dance Dance Danseur Season 1 throws it all away for an ending that completely destroys all the work the narrative puts into the trio, thanks to one deplorable decision. I have rarely raged so hard about a narrative choice.

While this was the biggest frustration, it isn’t the only one. During the season’s 11 episodes, the show takes on issues like bullying, how much what others think should matter to us, and why one should pursue art. Yet, with rare exceptions, it fails to deliver a satisfying conclusion almost every time.

While these story arcs frequently fail, Dance Dance Danseur Season 1’s exploration of ballet itself soars magnificently. Despite having no interest in the art form myself, the sequences where the art is explored never failed to wow me. This will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with MAPPA’s previous works. The studio puts out some of the most gorgeous animations today, and this series only enhances its already well-earned reputation.

When all is said and done, Dance Dance Danseur Season 1 is a mixed bag of beauty and frustration. While the portrayal of ballet is sublime, and many of the moment-to-moment scenes are well done, the series’ inability to properly handle its emotional story arcs leaves me with far more to dislike than its best moments deserve.

Dance Dance Danseur Season 1 is streaming now on Crunchyroll.


Dance Dance Danseur Season 1
  • 6.5/10
    Rating - 6.5/10
6.5/10

TL;DR

Dance Dance Danseur Season 1 is a mixed bag of beauty and frustration. While the portrayal of ballet is sublime, and many of the moment-to-moment scenes are well done, the series’ inability to properly handle its emotional story arcs leaves me with far more to dislike than its best moments deserve.