With Peco’s willpower reignited, he begins to train in earnest once again. Meanwhile, the rest of the cast face their revelations and burdens during their own training.
Ping Pong starts to focus on the sports again this episode, mainly featuring Peco’s transformation into a dedicated ping pong player. But he’s not the only player training hard. Kong, Kazuma, and Smile are getting into the groove of things, if in their own unique ways. Still, it’s Peco’s hard work and guts that are the most important this week. It’s refreshing to see the show focus on training, if only to show that while Peco is talented, it’s his newfound work ethic that’s going to elevate him to the next level. Even better though, while this week’s episode is ostensibly a miniature training arc, it also does an excellent job of characterizing the cast. Peco’s aforementioned shift is a direct result of the rock bottom that he had hit, and it’s going to make his rise all the more satisfying. Meanwhile, Kong is still reeling from the tremendous defeat he suffered at the hands of Kazama. Interestingly, while the other characters are doing general training, Kong is practicing specifically for Kazama. Considering how aware he is that he lost to Smile despite the apparent win, you’d think he’d be preparing for all the challenges ahead. We’ll see if his singleminded preparation for Kazama backfires on him or not.
The other two characters whom’s training reflects their own mentality are Smile and Kazama. Kazama’s family troubles seem to represent a huge motivator in his desire to be the best player. It also does a good job of explaining his seeming dispassion for the sport. While ping pong is the sole factor in his life, his lack of enthusiasm for it was alluded to in this episode and in a lot of ways, it makes me almost pity him. Sure he’s successful and rich, but happy he is not. Throw in his self-imposed isolation and you have a man who might be living the least fulfilling life out of the entire cast. Conversely, Smile has what is by his standards, an emotional outburst, admitting that he too can feel excitement and depression. The resulting reconnection with both Koizumi and Ota is a small, but significant step in reforming Smile’s mental attitude. I don’t think any of us doubt Smile’s ability to play, but his mental blocks and his own personality make the path to success a difficult one.
With all the players in this story finally starting to see the light or solidify their intentions, it’ll be interesting to see where Ping Pong takes us. I know I’m looking forward to finding out.
I really enjoyed how Ping Pong could take the training episode, usually a lesson in tedium, and make it a powerful character building opportunity. Once again, this show proves that while Smile may be the focal point, he is in no way the only protagonist. He did get a pretty good part in this montage, as we see how far he’s developed his player’s mentality since taking a dive against Kong. Seeing Peco get back into the game was encouraging, especially considering how far he’d fallen after quitting the club. At almost a polar opposite, learning about Kazama’s past was incredibly depressing. What kind of family only accepts its members if they’re talented? It makes his isolation from even Yurie make sense, as it would be hard to completely forgive his family after what they did to him. Once again, Ping Pong takes an old shounen sports stereotype and still manages to make it substantial to the plot.