The horror of knowing one’s limits

Minor spoilers for the anime Welcome to the Ballroom.

Why is it that we do anything? Is it because we’re good at it? Because we want to make a living out of it? Because we enjoy it so much so that we base our lives around it?

In the case of Masami Kugimiya, a neglectful childhood spent being compared to his academically gifted elder brothers has him seeking love, affection, and validation. A chance encounter with a retired dancer sets him on the path of ballroom dancing, the young Kugimiya learning with passion and unbridled speed, eclipsing his peers who’d spent many years prior practicing their performances.

His family pays no heed to his improved mental state, further pushing Masami to give his all to his dancing. So much so that he proceeds to become a teacher at the very studio where he picked up dancing: “He knew how it felt to be unaccepted, so to him, for a child not to feel love or wanted, he personally knew how it felt and related to it.”

Over the next few years, his competition performances and his academic grades were lackluster, and with his life at home with his family weighing heavily on the young dancer’s mind, his patience became strained thin and his annoyance high at being yet again compared to others.  

At the Mikasa Cup finals, a ballroom dancing competition of renown, Masami was overwhelmed with fear during the dance. Sengoku Kaname, a prodigy in the making who Masami was constantly being compared to, unnerved Masami to the point where he threw up during a break. Not long after, his passion and attitude to dance flickered out, replaced by growing indignation and disgust for his former teacher.

It’s at this point—where all seems bleak for Masami, when his best efforts bear no fruit—that the incident happens. He’s fraught with despair, trying desperately to find an out.

And an out he does find, much like many isekai protagonists.

Dear reader, you may be wondering where I’m going with this. Why am I talking about some poor downtrodden sod who just wanted to find love in his life? To be validated and appreciated for who he was?

Masami’s story doesn’t end here. After hitting rock bottom, his journey to claw back up in pursuit of his passions is nothing to scoff at, and is what I encourage you all to watch.

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