Ping Pong The Animation - Reviews

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PinkyI's avatar
Jun 27, 2014

So why is Ping Pong such a special anime? It is a blast not only for the senses, but for the mind as well. As it was directed by Masaaki Yuasa, the man behind Kaiba and Tatami Galaxy it is no wonder. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

What is Ping Pong? Well my friend it is a show about Ping Pong, the only thing more boring than regular tennis. But Pinky-sama why is it a good anime if it focuses on something as boring? Well, simply because it does not focus on the sport, but rather because it focuses on the characters. Basically the same thing that makes Neon Genesis Evangelion the best mecha, use the mecha (or the sport in this case) only as a part of the form, not as the sole point of the show.

So what exactly does make the characters so special? Well there are quite a few and each one has a story behind himself. Why did he/she start playing ping-pong? What does he still do it? Does he see himself as a professional sports player in the future? Is he willing to bet everything on it? Does he have the talent? But these aren't just randomly thrown in questions and themes that are here only to cheat you into thinking it is smart. They are all worked around extensively, in fact I was suprised at how coherent they were considering how it is only eleven episodes long. It also had a very fast pace so you could see how each character was growing and what he becomes at the end. 

Peco is for example a very talented player that is very lazy and doesn't train a lot, but talent alone doesn't get you very far. He had to learn how to deal with hard work and training, consider if he even wants to play ping pong in the long run professionally. And every character goes through phases of thinking about his life and how he wants to live it.

The animation was outstanding. As you already know who directed it it is no wonder. The style itself is very different from the standard anime norm which alone makes it a bit more fun, but that alone doesn't mean much. What is important is using animatiion as a medium different to all other mediums. And that it did, it used visual symbolism, odd angles and cut out fights to make people playing a sport actually interesting. You might say that the "action" works better than in most actual action shows.

The sound was equaly pleasing. Using sounds to make the visual metaphores more vivid or simply the opening and the ending. The voice acting was also on a high level as they actually bothered to bring in a person who speaks Chinese to voice a Chinese character. That gave him a lingual background and made him distinct from the rest of the crowd.

Overall Ping Pong is quality wise the best non-sequel we've had in years, basically since Tatami Galaxy.

7/10 story
9/10 animation
8/10 sound
8/10 characters
8/10 overall
Caterlyn's avatar
Sep 18, 2014

The premise of Ping Pong: The Animation is to provide an insight into the lives of a group of young Ping Pong players who play at the highest level of competition for their age group. The show’s protagonist, Tsukimoto, who bears the nickname Smile due to his unfriendly and joyless disposition is reluctantly put through a harsh training regime by an old veteran of the sport; Butterfly Jo. Charming, well-paced and clichéd in all the right ways (see classic reluctant relationship between mentor and pupil) whilst still feeling original and packed full of well-developed and relatable characters, Ping Pong offers a very rewarding journey to its viewers.

Although there are various battle sequences which are beautifully stylistic and engaging in themselves, Ping Pong is nonetheless first and foremost a coming-of-age drama. Although each of the main characters we are introduced to are somewhat unhealthily obsessed with Ping Pong, the sport itself is a transferable plot device. Whether it is Ping Pong or any other sport or shared interest between the characters, the purpose of Ping Pong in the narrative is to highlight each of their own personal struggles and conflicts of interest between them. Matches give way to elaborate abstract visual poems played out to a soundtrack of each of the players’ competing soliloquies and associated musical themes, such as Smile’s recurring Hero theme song

Alongside the naturalistic dialogue and engaging character arcs, Ping Pong also exhibits a distinctive art style and at times segmented comic book style editing much like that seen in FLCL, only less manic in its pacing. The rough-edged, back to basics art style may be somewhat jarring to anime fans who have become accustomed to certain generic conventions in animation but it is not without its charm and it feels highly appropriate for this series and the realist, grounded tone it adopts in its story-telling. The unconventional animation and varied soundtrack; which seamlessly oscillates between electronic, rock and orchestral depending on characters and setting, are always in keeping with the tone of the show at any given moment.

Each of the show’s main characters have chosen Ping Pong as their form of release and self-expression. During a game, a character’s style of play can communicate the character’s personality and state of mind to the audience. Playing as a chopper suits Smile down to the ground. His style of play revolves around giving up the initiative to the opponent and responding to rather than instigating attacks. This chosen style of play may be considered symbolic of Smile’s approach to life, in which he is carried along by others, finding himself pushed into a competitive approach to Ping Pong he never truly desired for himself. He plays Ping Pong for the fun of it and is initially devoid of all fighting spirit, making it hard to imagine him performing an aggressive drive or pressing himself close to the table or attempting to psyche out an opponent. Smile is completely artless and without charm, which is what makes him ‘wonderful’ in the eyes of some and a refreshingly downbeat protagonist for viewers of the show.

Peco is Smile’s closest friend and also his complete opposite; as both a person and an athlete. Peco is joyful and flamboyant in his play. He is an attacking player and loves to win almost as much as he hates to lose. Peco and Smile’s matches against each other paint an accurate portrait of their friendship. Peco leads as is natural for him, and Smile follows as is his nature. However the irrepressible rise in Smile’s talent doesn’t go unnoticed for long. As such, one of the major themes of Ping Pong is the changing dynamic in Peco and Smile’s relationship as both of them grow up and how they reconcile a potential challenge to the established status quo between them.

One of the show’s most interesting supporting characters in Sakuma or ‘Demon’. The match between Peco and Demon reflects the inner turmoil felt by Demon. His own anxieties regards his lack of prodigious talent come to the fore during their match. Whilst Ping Pong may be a fun pastime for Peco where victory is a natural by-product, for Demon, to defeat Peco is an opportunity to prove something to himself; that he can overcome those with greater natural advantages than himself by solely relying on effort and determination. Peco accuses of Demon of being ‘cheap’ and relying on ‘lobs and blocks’. Demon’s response of ‘Table Tennis is evolving’ is reflective of his meticulous nature and obsessive personality which are in turn reflected in his chosen style of play. Demon has worked tirelessly to evolve to a point where he can challenge Peco; someone whom he admires and also envies.

Kazama and Kong, another two of the show’s supporting characters, are both shown to be motivated by family. Kazama’s obsession with victory, the restoration of his father’s honour and the prosperity of his family’s business all link themselves inextricably with his indomitable style of play. His shaven head, relentless practice regime and refusal to even visit his own mother are all products of his iron-cast will to prove himself and validate his immediate family’s position in the Kazama clan. Kong has family motivations also. He wants to pay his mother back for her support and rectify previous failures in his homeland which led to his subsequent ‘exile’ in Japan. Each of the major characters of Ping Pong encounter each other at various points as their character arcs intertwine. The changing relationships between characters magnify their personal development and the strikingly natural and realistic dialogue between the show’s major players make each of these scenes a pleasure to watch.

Smile announces to us early on in the story that ‘I just quietly do as I’m told, like a robot’. This robot conceit is carried throughout the series in the form of abstract sequences in which Smile, known for both his robotic personality and style of play, calls out for a ‘hero’. As the story of Ping Pong gradually unfolds we witness Smile learn the lesson that ‘hot blood flows through (his) body’, the same as everyone else. Smile’s love of Ping Pong allows him his opportunity for both escapism and self-expression and as the story progresses the lessons he learns from his rise in the sport help form him into the Smile we see at the end of the story.

9/10 story
10/10 animation
8/10 sound
10/10 characters
10/10 overall
ThatAnimeSnob's avatar
Oct 25, 2017

I find sport series to be boring, repetitive, and lacking tension because there is nothing to lose if you are defeated. I know the main point is constantly trying to improve yourself until you finally become the champion, but what’s the drawback while you are still trying? You are doing what you like. If you lose in a tournament, you will simply try again next year by continuing to train in what you like. And even if you win in a tournament, you are still going to compete next year because you still like doing what you do. It makes no difference.

The same thing applies to Ping Pong, a sport series everybody considers to be amazing for being very focused on the mentality of the characters, as well as having a very artistic presentation. I guess that enhances the experience of watching it, but it sure as hell doesn’t play out any differently compared to any other sport series. It looks visually unique, but I have seen so many different artstyles in anime to the point it doesn’t mean anything to me.

Kuroko no Basket looks polished but it’s otherwise pretty standard in artstyle. Did that work in favor of Ping Pong, somehow? No it didn’t, since not as many people watched Ping Pong, and if you ask them why, it’s because they don’t like the artstyle. It looks very silly. It’s a show that is supposed to be taking itself more seriously than most other sports and yet it makes the characters look like slapstick cartoons. And don’t you dare to mention how it was directed by Yuasa Masaaki, and how all his works look like that. This is a mundane setting, there is nothing supernatural about it, it should look normal for us to sympathize with its characters.

Also, the protagonist has the emotional warmth of a glacier. If he doesn’t care, why should you? Yes, that’s his character and it’s part of the theme of having to think like a machine if you want to be good at the sport. He is still making it hard to care about him in the exact same way as in any other show with an emotionless protagonist.

The Chinese rival is a better character, as he has emotions and you see how he considers himself unbeatable, while also feeling the pressure of defeat. He’s handled in a great way, but the show chickens out on the negative consequences, and thus it makes the drama of his defeat to be meaningless. Oh, no, I lost and I can’t go back home as punishment. I am forced to travel the world and be famous in dozen countries. Oh, the horror.

Same thing with Smile. He spends the whole show jumping from super positive to almost committing suicide because he’s cannot beat everyone in a harmless sport. And then he breaks his leg and still somehow manages to defeat the world champion with the power of friendship. Once again, the show chickens out on the negative consequences and ruins whatever realism it is going for.

In fighting shonen if you lose you will be killed, and perhaps the whole world will be destroyed. You can see the tension there. As much as they are trying to make it seem like Ping Pong means everything to the characters in this show, to the point they need to act like emotionless machines, when there is no actual penalty for losing, then what’s the point?

It’s a definitely very memorable for a sports anime, the kind of which come out by the dozens every year and get forgotten almost immediately. Is it superb? No, but it does the best it can with what it has, so I guess that counts for something.

5/10 story
7/10 animation
9/10 sound
7/10 characters
7/10 overall
jacabang's avatar
Aug 12, 2021

Hhhhmmm... for me I always based if the anime is watchable, I know the animation is good and unique yet I am not a big fan, it's hard to watch a slugish anime that has a lower drawing vs crayon shin chan. I know other might quite enjoy it but it's not for me so I might as well drop this anime before it burns my eye.

8/10 story
1/10 animation
8/10 sound
8/10 characters
6.3/10 overall
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ak1ndo's avatar
May 11, 2021

Ep 10 was the best in my opinion and the whole show was so good and the matches were EXCITING! the animation was great too! My fav sports anime now!

9/10 story
10/10 animation
10/10 sound
9/10 characters
10/10 overall
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