It’s almost Christmas, and we get a glimpse at how each character spends the time.
Due to the overall quality of the show and how much we find ourselves talking about it in the Weekly Roundup, we’ve decided to give Ping Pong its own weekly coverage!
Ping Pong is a truly special anime that continues to go above and beyond its simple sports anime premise. This episode was exclusively character focused, providing a window into the lives and mentalities of the characters that inhabit it. What I love about Ping Pong is that it never feels the need to spoonfeed you its character drama and development, instead using the subtleties of the animation and visuals to lead you along. It gives you so much insight into the characters, moreso than expository dialogue ever could. Kong is adjusting well to his time in Japan and is becoming a genuinely involved coach. As a result, he’s meshing well with his newfound teammates and spends his Christmas having a good time with them. And after last week’s tearjerker of a backstory, you can just tell how happy he is to see his mother.
Conversely though, it seems like the pervading theme of this episode was “Everyone is miserable and will die alone at this rate” for all the other characters. The image of Smile sitting alone in a dark room with a cake is a powerful reminder that Smile’s talents and newfound drive do not mean the man is in any better shape mentally. He’s still isolated and cold. Kazama seems to illustrate the same idea, but it is an isolation of his own choosing, forgoing the opportunity to socialize in favor of his single minded determination.
However, the big highlight of this episode, is the brief return of Azuma and his rousing speech to get Peco back in the game. Peco has been in quite a rut the past few episodes, a prime example of his inability to accept defeat. I was pretty annoyed by Azuma’s complacent acceptance of his supposed lack of talent, but his ability to convince Peco to get back in the game was gratifying. It’s a shame this show keeps trying to push the “talent trumps hard work” message constantly. As long as my body still bleeds and these bones don’t break, I will never accept it.
With Peco’s resolve reignited, I look forward to seeing if his newfound desire to win will be the hard work to Smile’s talent. If so, I think Ping Pong may yet have a chance to redeem its underlying message.
Ping Pong just keeps getting better and better. I don’t think I’ve seen such a heartfelt character driven episode in anime in a long time. Even bit characters like Katase’s coach get a little light shone on them as we see how they all spend their Christmas Eves. By far the most moving portion was Kong’s visit from his mother. It really goes to show just how carefully they’ve crafted this character that we can see how moved he is to have his mom, and how his team has started to become a new family, celebrating together.
I don’t think this show is quite as hard on the talent over hard work message as Gee thinks. Clearly we see in Peco a character who has potential, but because of his refusal to act on it, finds himself lagging behind. All the talent in the world would not make Peco a world-class player if he doesn’t put in the effort to improve upon his talent. We see that message proven to extremes with Smile and Kazama. In showing Smile’s Christmas Eve, we finally are given a reason as to why Smile is so distant. It would also seem to explain why he has been able to lose himself so completely into Ping Pong, as he has nothing at home to look forward to. With Kazama, we see someone so driven that he is ignoring the opportunities he already has. While it’s a little weird considering they’re cousins, there is clearly a connection beyond that which both of them want. However, Kazama’s singleminded pursuit of victory is preventing him from seeing it.
Peco’s wake up call was a bit dramatic, but we’ve learned throughout the show that that is just the kind of person Peco is. He’s brash and selfish, and the only way he can move forward is to get the message hammered into him. I don’t think Sakuma is wrong in accepting what he did. If it helps him realize what he truly wants to do, then I think he’s better for it. It’ll be interesting to see how Peco can climb back to the level of Smile when he’d let himself stagnate for so long. Either way, Ping Pong continues to be one of my most anticipated shows of the season.