I’m not sure of how close to spoiler I’ve written here, so discretion is advised. Also, pardon the English.
At its core “Ping Pong the Animation” tells the story of a relationship between Hoshino Yutaka (Peco) and Tsukimoto Makoto (Smile). Yet the story didn’t fell into the usual shonen trope of boy’s doing fiery things with other boys (which sometimes mistranslated as something else), some may disagree with this. So perhaps I can say the story did indeed plays the usual fiery stuff of shonen although it overcomes itself and becomes something else. Masking the core of the relationship the story also presents the tale of a hero.
Among the spring entry I’ve invested my time into this is the only one that I managed to finish and in the end enjoy it. As I said earlier, the story becomes something else. It has become exceptional enough to hold me back in my seat until the last moment. Right from the surface, the visual style may already strikes as unusual. Yet it’s only the surface as its simply translates the original works, a manga authored by Matsumoto Taiyo. In the hand of Masaki Yuasa the peculiarity of its visual style becomes something else. It may be hard for the casual eyes because it is something else. I won’t go as far as saying it is a work of art or a breakthrough for the media but as a televised serial to be aired in the same season of, let’s say, “Mekakucity Actors” that goes with the usual SHAFT-esque visual style, the pecualiarity turns into a beautiful ugliness as the usual SHAFT aesthetics becomes another farce. This is the guy that works on “Yojohan Shinwa Taikei”, another anime with unusual visual that earns itself a Japanese Media Arts Festival awards.
The narrative is a bit tricky if it were to be seen with two protagonists. Much of the first half of the series seems to be more dedicated in developing Smile’s character while the second half shifts the spotlight towards Peco. In the end and final episode the story wraps their relationship neatly and as justly, although Smile’s resolution seems a bit more bitter for some people (like myself, but I kinda like it one way or another). A quick synopsis:
The story opens with Peco as a cocky but aspiring young boy aiming for olympic gold medal and Smile as his awkward companion with a talent. As the story goes Peco hit the wall and the spotlight turns into Smile which then slowly acknowledges his talent and has his talent flourished until he becomes the monster in opposite of the hero he once yearns for. It takes a hero to bring down the robot monster Smile has become, once again the spotlight turns to Peco as he finds his redemption. Once again he finds his passion and talent for table tennis.
What is a narrative without compelling characters? As we’ve already cover the surface of Peco and Smile earlier let’s shift towards the side characters. In the same fashion of any sport-themed story there’s bound to be a rival, an opponents from different classes. Here we’re presented with Kazama”Dragon” Ryuichi the star-player, Sakuma “Demon” Manabu the old friend–and rival, also Kong Wenge the Chinese player. Each with their own personalities and background stories. In between the development of Smile and Peco every side characters also got their own moments and, the buzzwords, character development. As the same case with Smile, not everyone is happy but the story still wraps neatly for each characters.
The beauty of its narrative comes down to the main characters development. The shift of focus is tricky but kinda works, we are presented with the cool, stern, skilled, but lacking motivation Smile in the beginning. While we saw Peco getting crushed of its aspiration of becoming the gold medalist. Bit by bit as Smile’s development becomes stuck there goes the beauty of telling two stories of two characters in intertwining narratives. Not to mention the hero and robot parable ran through the subtexts and imagery. What seems to be a single story about a talented young players with his cocky friends turns out to be the story of friendship between two talented players all along.
As this review reached its 500th words, I won’t say much about other technical things. Though I’d say the music kinda works well in the scene, it helps maintain the atmosphere during the match though I can’t really say when the atmosphere is a bit on the down side. Both the opening theme (“Tada Hitori” by Bakudan Johnny) and the ending song (“Bokura ni Tsuite” both versions by Merengue) matches perfectly with the tone of the serial. Also the opening and ending sequence are simply beautiful, the opening sequence for first three episodes are a bit spoiler-ish though.
To wrap it up:
The Good: Striking visuals and compelling narratives that transcends itself to be something more than a spirited tale of youngsters doing sports (that apparently played in a small table).
The Bad: The striking visual itself, it may be hard and unusual. Any other aspects also seems to be in the okay-zone for me.
The ‘other’: There’s a lot of sequential scene in which the screen turns into split-screen which is awesome sometimes but seems kinda lazy and tedious in other occasions.
Perhaps one should try to table tennis after watching this.
To be fair, I should try mention some other serial I’ve invested my time into.
“Isshukan Friends” — Kinda like the atmosphere and the premise is interesting (really, for me). But the drama tends to get too heavy some times, which kinda bothers me. Still stuck at 4th episodes.
“Mekakucity Actors” — I’m a bit hyped by the promotionals early on, some friends recommended it (a lot). But as I mentioned earlier in the review the end product seems a bit farcey (the fabulous pose! the neck-snapping! the backdrop! I’m fed up with all that). The value isn’t that bad althought it may be a bit low by SHAFT standard but still okay. I enjoyed the casts–and the songs–but I guess I should invest myself more into the original material and the fandom before I can really enjoy it. To be honest I dropped it at 2nd episode although I’ve stole a glimpse whenever my friend plays the latter episodes, and I’ve seen the finale which is kinda good.
“Mahoka Koko no Rettosei” — This is the Tranformers-tier serial if we’re speaking of summer blockbuster I guess. Adapted from an already hit material by a seasoned studio it bounds to be….an anime, another anime. Truth to be told I may not really enjoyed it as it solely plays by the usual Light Novel tropes aimed towards teenagers and up. There’s hype which seems fine. I don’t really mind the Ta-stu-ya thing as I already distanced myself from the characters. I’m more interested in the universe the author is crafting. Also I would not, and never, mind Hayami Saori’s angelic voice as Miyuki, yes this is 110% preference and my obsessions towards her voice. Still stuck at 3rd episode if I’m not mistaken, might catch it up for Misao mostly.
“Sidonia no Kishi” — A bit disappointed as I’m comparing the CGI with Sanzigen’s “Aoki Hagane no Arpeggio” standard. The CGI are sluggish and the model isn’t intersting enough. The universe is kinda interesting with its dystopian feel. Only checked the pilot, haven’t had the urge to pick it up. Oh, I’ve heard Netflix picked it.
A bit curious with “Selector Infected WIXOSS” as I tried the pilot late in mid season. Tried “Captain Earth” but I guess mecha is still a bit too much for me. Also checked “Maho Shojo Taisen” and “Inugami-san to Nekoyama-san” for the short-anime, kinda intrigued by the former but the latter is a bit off. As the other I didn’t mention it means I haven’t checked it, there’s hype for “No Game No Life” or “Haikyuu” but not interested in whatsoever.
In the end it turns out to be a whole season overview. Sigh.