Even injured, Peco is determined to fight with all his strength against the indomitable Kazama. Things start to look down for The Hero, but some inspiration from Smile brings him back into the game.
Each episode I’m amazed at how much Ping Pong is able to do with its relatively simple concept. It manages to flesh out its characters through the simple act of playing a game the way light novels and their overblown prose could only wish to accomplish. This has been a grand journey of growth for Peco. In the beginning of the match, it seems like it’s just going to be another repeat of his failure against Kong. In fact, I was predicting from the start that Peco would lose so that Smile would be set up to fight the closest thing to a villain this show has. What I forgot was that thinking in those terms just isn’t in the spirit of what Ping Pong is trying to accomplish. Smile isn’t here to fight Kazama, he’s here to see the Hero, and boy did we get him.
The upswing of this episode, as Peco remembers why he used to play so hard, is some of the most engrossing television I’ve watched in a long time. Peco has always had the power to beat Kazama, the only thing that has been stopping him was his mindset. His energy lights up the screen as the quirky and catchy Hero’s Song starts to play behind him. Here we see the culmination of Kazama’s arc as he is overwhelmed by Peco’s second wind. What they forgot was something they both knew from the beginning, that ping pong is fun. The ultimate satisfaction of playing a game is to have fun doing it, regardless if you win.
The art took a bit of a hit this week, but it does at least keep it to the boring scenes, focusing much of the detail on great parts like the Hero coming to Kazama and the ping pong match itself. It’s hard to ignore, but the art style of this show does lend to dropping quality much better than more traditional ones. I’m still pretty confident that they’ll be able to pull out all the stops for our finale.
Speaking of, as long as Ping Pong takes to the schedule of a typical noitaminA show, the final match between our protagonists will be the finale. It’s an early place to end the show considering this isn’t even the Nationals, but that suits this show perfectly. In the end, it was never about who was the best in the world. It was about our characters growing through the medium of Ping Pong. In this, the ultimate evolution in relationship is the one between Peco and Smile. In the beginning, Smile was lead by Peco. Even though he was better, he let on the appearance that he wasn’t so that relationship would remain stable. Now, Smile has come into his own, and he is ready to show himself as an equal to Peco. Note that due to the rules of this tournament, the winner of this match is almost totally inconsequential. The only drive is the desire for these two to prove themselves to each other on common ground.