Location: Anime Expo 2017
Interview Date: 7/3/2017
Welcome to the Ballroom has already had an interesting history, even before heading into production. Before I get into that, let me introduce you to our key players:
- Producer Tetsuya Kinoshita
- Director Yoshimi Itazu
- Animation Director Takahiro Chiba
I was able to sit down with this trio ahead of the premier of Welcome to the Ballroom at Anime Expo.
Anime Herald: There are not a lot of anime about ballroom dancing. How did this production come about?
Producer Tetsuya Kinoshita: It wasn’t easy. Initially we had to find a production company. It is very hard to convey the dancing live action scenes. Yuri on Ice did it for figure skating. We knew that hand drawing the ballroom dancing was going to be very difficult. However, one producer at Production I.G. (Keiko Matsushita) loved the comic. I watched a competitive dance event to get a feel for it.
Director Yoshimi Itazu: We didn’t know how to dance, so we asked dancers to make videos for us. We also went to dance competitions and learned what we could.
Anime Herald: Did you learn how to dance?
All three of them simultaneously: No.
Director Yoshimi Itazu: I took lessons once a week for six months. Maybe my posture improved. I stand a bit better now.
Anime Herald: How much has the success of Yuri!! On ICE influenced Welcome to the Ballroom?
Producer Tetsuya Kinoshita: Yuri!! On ICE’s success will help our production. It introduced a ‘Boys love’ show to a much broader public. That’s our goal for Welcome to the Ballroom as well. However, you can’t simply rely on ‘Boys love’ as your hook. You need something to mix and match with it.
Anime Herald: How close will the anime production of Welcome to the Ballroom follow to the manga?
Director Yoshimi Itazu: Very close to the manga. We’ve had to add more dance moves for the anime. In the first episode we focused on his (Tatara Fujita) first time dancing. The manga has no sound, so we had to choose all the music ourselves. Since social dancing is not that popular, we had to choose music people would recognize.
Anime Herald: As animation director, what were you focusing on?
Animation Director Takahiro Chiba: The hand and foot movements had to be very smooth and beautiful, with graceful lines.
Anime Herald: In your research for Welcome to the Ballroom…
Producer Tetsuya Kinoshita: I was surprised it was a sport. (Laughs)
Director Yoshimi Itazu: We purchased videos of the World Cups and elite competitions. We studied as much as we could.
Anime Herald: What are some of the anime or manga that inspired you?
Director Yoshimi Itazu: The work of Miyazaki.
Animation Director Takahiro Chiba: Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team
Producer Tetsuya Kinoshita: The Patlabor Movie. It came out when I was in middle school.
Anime Herald: Have you been enjoying your trip to Los Angeles?
Director Yoshimi Itazu: I recently watched La La Land. I wanted to come to LA to see the backgrounds from the movie. They were very realistic. They’re a different color than what we are used to in Japan because it is so dry here. It was nice to see them in person.
Anime Herald: What are you watching these days?
Producer Tetsuya Kinoshita: Blame! and Yowamushi Pedal.
Animation Director Takahiro Chiba: I watched Silence on the plane.
Anime Herald: What are you most looking forward to at Anime Expo?
Director Yoshimi Itazu: I’m looking forward to seeing how Japanese works are received.
I had a chance to check out the premiere of Welcome to the Ballroom. Kinoshita explained that they’d been working on the series for two years, and that they were very excited to see it on screen. Specifically, they were looking forward to watching the main character, Tatara Fujita, grow.
In watching the first two episodes, a few things struck me. They must have worked quite hard on the window mirror effect in the opening sequence. Additionally, and I’m not sure if this was an artistic decision or a budgetary one, but there is a cool faceless effect noticeable in the background in certain shots. I enjoyed it, but I have no idea if it was intentional. Finally, I feel it is important to point out that America has claimed the last eight World Ballroom Dance Championships, all won by Arunas Bizokas & Katusha Demidova.
Special thanks to Pony Canyon for setting up the interview, and to Jasmin Dose for translating.