Jumpei Isn’t Yet a Likable Protagonist

The following contains spoilers for Dance Dance Danseur Episode 4, “I Can Do Ballet Now,” which is streaming now crispy roll.

Murao Jumpei finally seals the deal and agrees to take part in a production of Swan Lake in Dance dance danseur, and it’s a relief to see him jettison societal expectations and finally show the world his love of ballet in Episode 4. With the topic of toxic masculinity seemingly settled for now, however, a core problem with the anime becomes clear: does Jumpei have what it takes to carry the show as the main actor? Jumpei may have the skills, but a sports anime protagonist needs far more than mere skills, and Jumpei may lack liking and the ability to keep the audience on his side.

It’s not uncommon for anime sports protagonists to have incredible or even ridiculous abilities that allow them to succeed. A popular example would be Hinata Shoyo from Haikyu!!, who is able to jump fantastically high and use this lone ability to lead his team to victory. However, Hinata only gains the ability to jump high and has to learn everything else from scratch, with his teammates assisting him and vice versa. Jumpei, on the other hand, has been given everything except ideal size, which gives him a natural advantage.

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As explained by Jumpei’s trainer, he has a long neck, small head and foot structure that makes his physique perfect for ballet without even having to exert himself, and the fact that he’s been into martial arts for years is another godsend . She saw him and immediately pictured him as one of the best ballet dancers in the world, no matter how unlikely that is a pipe dream.

However, the audience may not cheer for Jumpei in the same way. Although he never actively participated in bullying Mori Ruou, his fellow dancer who recently started attending high school, he was apathetic at best and at times angry at Ruou for allowing himself to be bullied. He credits Ruou with giving him the final push to officially join the ballet but is still digging into the role of the prince Swan Lake from him and is unaware of how angry this is for the other boy, even as Ruou tries to confront him, laughing it off as “choreography” between the prince and the evil wizard.

Jumpei is also unaware of the discomfort he causes Godai Miyako during their meeting pas de deux, as well as often being incredibly rude or just plain dismissive of his instructor, who has given Jumpei their studio for free and stays up extra hours to allow Jumpei to get into whatever practice he wants. Everything seems to be going its way without Jumpei really earning it even if he starts doing the work as now he can’t invest time that will make the difference between him and Ruou and Miyako.

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Jumpei might have had more chances as a protagonist if he hadn’t been set so firmly against Ruou from the start. In Haikyu!!, there is no one else on the team fighting for the title of tallest jumper. However, Ruou wants to be the prince, and despite having a cold personality, he becomes a lot more likable when the audience sees him being relentlessly bullied by Jumpei’s friends, and then even more so when it is revealed that he has been physically abused by his Grandmother as a young boy who hit him during ballet class and twisted his body.

It’s hard to want Ruou to be relegated to the wizard role while Jumpei takes center stage, and his anger feels reasonable and his attitude understandable. Despite having a pop idol mother, Ruou has lived a very loveless, lonely existence. His world is very limited – just a simple ballet studio – and yet he loses his place in it when Jumpei shows up, making the fact that Jumpei was born with a small head and a long neck seem incredibly unfair in many ways.

There’s certainly still hope for Jumpei, and Episode 4 doesn’t necessarily reflect how he’ll carry on as the series’ protagonist. The best Jumpei can do right now is build relationships with Ruou and Miyako – relationships without prejudice or expectations. In order for Jumpei to become the princely character he is supposed to transform into, he needs to improve as a person and as a dancer, and the best way to do that is with the support of others. The first ballet performance Jumpei was fascinated by was a male solo dancer, but his studio is his team and they all need each other to get by Swan Lake recital.

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