Ping Pong The Animation is an exceptional show. This is less of a sports anime and more of a powerful emotions series. It's a beautifully crafted coming of age story and one that certainly doesn't come along often. In a word, it's unconventional. Nothing about Ping Pong feels ordinary so love it or hate it, it's hard to not recognize its artistic merit.
The story is a simple one and it chronicles the lives of two boys and their experiences with table tennis. We're introduced to Makoto Tsukimoto, aptly nicknamed "Smile", and his boastful best friend Yutaka Hoshino, or "Peco". These two are polar opposites
and we follow them through their high school ping pong careers. Their story is told in just 11 episodes and it's nothing short of pacing perfection. Everything meshes wonderfully from start to finish and each episode provides just the right amount of information without overwhelming or confusing the viewer. Ping Pong is great at giving you important plot points piece by piece and this makes it an incredibly engaging experience. Each episode is satisfying and this makes it very tempting to marathon.
This is where things start to get shaky for the average anime viewer. The art style is simple and misshapen. There are no enormous and colorful eyes. The lines are crude and uneven so things like ping pong balls aren't perfect circles. It'd be no exaggeration to say this is some of the most unorthodox art in the industry today, but by no means is it bad. It may be out of the comfort zone, but it's fitting for what the show is trying to do and it has an inexplicable charm to it. The animation is quite weak at times and things just look sloppy. This actually works to the show's advantage by providing a unique style of its own. The art and animation stay consistent the whole way through. If this bothers you, get out while you still can.
It's hard to believe a show about ping pong has music as good as this. The sound sets the mood perfectly. From simple melodic tunes while training to the adrenaline pumping opening song, Ping Pong knows just the right track to play at every given moment. A handful of tracks feel a bit out of place, but as a whole, it feels like watching one long movie. Additionally, the music is very good at distorting one's perception of time. There are times where it goes completely silent to emphasize the strain on a character. You may even associate certain songs with certain characters and this is a very good thing because it means you're connecting with them.
Where Ping Pong really shines is its characters. The amount of development in such a short time is staggering. The interactions between characters are astoundingly genuine; every conversation feels natural. There's meaningful growth in even the most unlikely people and this is a breath of fresh air from shows where nothing seems to change.
I don't want to go into too much detail regarding individuals, but the rivalries between characters are beautifully illustrated. Their personalities bounce off of each other in a frighteningly realistic way. The harsh reality of athletics is painted not only on their faces, but also on their words. A lot of conversations later on are poignant and almost poetic. It's tragic at times and these interactions do a great job of maintaining the morbid realism that made the early episodes special.
Ping Pong is not a light watch. This is something that can be enjoyed by anyone who wants a good story. You don't have to like or even understand table tennis, it's first and foremost a tale about growing up. It's undoubtedly a memorable experience and something very much worth your time if you keep an open mind.
It's a rarity nowadays to find many series or studios willing to take risks. Much of the anime industry has taken to fan-service oriented pandering and it's left me craving for something new. Something that can blow me away with it's creativity and unorthodox presentation. Utilizing its unconventional style, fantastic character development, symbolism, and occasional moments of witty dry humor, Ping Pong The Animation is that something.
When I first started this series I had low expectations. How could a series about ping pong be any good? It seemed like the flop of the season. Fortunately, I have never been so wrong. Despite its appearances of
being a simplistic show about playing table tennis, Ping Pong had a surprising amount of depth. Like any other sports anime, the series focuses on pushing the story forward by using the game as it's major plot device. However, unlike many other sports anime, Ping Pong takes a more believable, realistic style. There is no feeling of unrealistic, over-the-top antics like you might see in Prince of Tennis, nor is there an unbeatable Gary Stu like you'd see in One Outs. Ping Pong is simple, yet complicated. Messy, yet also clean. Realistic, yet unbelievable, all at the same time.
Another thing the series does well is keeping the audience interested in the strategies, style, and skill that ping pong requires as a sport without seeming boring or tedious. In this series the games themselves also aren't simply just games. Each game portrays something akin to a soliloquy or inner monologue for at least one character. It props the characters up and pours color into their black and white hand-drawn cutouts. If you can feel the inner turmoil, anguish, happiness, and sadness just by watching two people hit a ball back and forth across a net on a small table, then you know you've watched something special.
Of the few reasons people may dislike this series, the art and animation style will likely be the one. Ping Pong has a sort of rotoscope, flip-book type of style. At times it looks like a sketch or unfinished work, but it works so well for this series in particular. It's strange, but also charmingly unique. The games of table tennis seem so fluid and realistic that it sometimes feels like I might be watching people playing the game live right in front of me. It feels like a perfect match.
Ping Pong delivers on the sound criteria just like any other. The beginning of the series didn't feel quite complete since it was missing its real opening, but the timing and placement of each sound felt spot on. It's easy to tell that the attention to detail is there. The opening will get you hyped for the episode and the ending will simmer you down. They compliment each other very well. The soundtrack, overall, is great.
The two main characters of the series are Tsukimoto, "Smile" Makoto and Hoshino, "Peco" Yutaka. Despite being polar opposites, these two characters mesh together other with ease. Smile takes the role of the passive, quiet, and soft-spoken character, versus Peco, the energetic, loud, and cocky personality. They act as yin and yang in the series. While the main story is about these two, their friendship, rivalry, and camaraderie, it also takes the time to give the supporting characters their turn in the spotlight. All characters, whether it be the main or supporting, are dynamic and, as the series progresses, grow based on their experiences. Characters who come to realize their faults, and begin to instigate change to better themselves, are a rare occurrence in anime, yet Ping Pong is no stranger to utilizing the unordinary and implementing it with finesse.
Although Ping Pong The Animation may be a more serious, somber sports series, it's easily a worthwhile watch for any audience. It's a shame that Ping Pong didn't quite get the attention it deserves. Despite being one of the most under-appreciated series from the Spring '14 season, it was truly a diamond in the rough. If you give it a bit of your time and a little polish I guarantee that it'll shine for you as it did for me.
"Chant these words three times in your mind!"
"Hero kenzan!" "Hero kenzan!" "Hero kenzan!"
"Do that, and I'll come to you!"
From time to time, a show will be despised by some for the unorthodox and uncommon mediums of presentation and execution. I hold the notion that Ping Pong The Animation truly uses its unorthodox way with great triumph and success.
Ping Pong The Animation is set in a local Japanese town and portrays the lives of two young boys in the local table-tennis club. Having an innate talent for the sport, Makoto Tsukimoto, nicknamed Smile, and his close friend Yukata Hoshino, nicknamed Peco, are depicted
as two ordinary Japanese males with hidden latent potential in the sport they play derived from their distinct and individual traits and personality. Both these characters have their own unique play style differing from another and is manifested clearly throughout the course of the show, whether they be panels popping up on the screen in sync with the sounds of the ping pong balls colliding with the table or the motion of their movements in matches.
Both Smile and Peco have their own memorable characteristics and qualities. Smile is shown invariably depressed and has no interest in the sport itself whether it be for competitive of leisure play. Instead, his raison d'être for being in the club is to merely kill time in his depicted pathetic life. Be it the monologues of Smile to the stoic and emotionless quality of his, he is still shown as a likable character with genuine qualities. Despite hiding away his emotions, it is made evident towards the audience that he does in reality portray a sense of morality and his own set of beliefs and attitudes especially during and after the match against Wenge Kong, an extremely skilled foreign table-tennis player from China recently abandoned by his home team in China. Nicknamed China himself, Kong is another unique member of the cast in Ping Pong The Animation as it gives a national sense of diversity towards our main Japanese cast. Not only this, but we are also able to have an insight of players from foreign countries besides Japan as well as their individual used play styles and capabilities. Despite coming from China, the country where table tennis plays a fundamental role as one of the country's highly-acclaimed sports, Kong is not displayed as the archetype of overpowered-ness. Instead he is more or less portrayed as a tragic hero, as he comes to learn that there are many other great and exceptional players throughout the world and this adds on to his development as a character. Peco dreams to be a champion in the sport and is portrayed as an arrogant and talented player, as well as the epitome of liveliness as he is constantly engaged and is energetic in the sport he loves. He is almost portrayed as the antithesis foil of Smile as unlike Smile, Peco has a true passion towards table-tennis and tries his best. Other supporting characters worthy of mention would be the coach who constantly supports and drives Smile to play to his best knowing that he has a growing innate and hidden talent for table-tennis and will not realise it until he conquers some of his prime weaknesses, holding back against opponents and hindering the definition of true sportsmanship.Not only do these characters amaze me, but so do the support characters. Obaba, or the Tamura Lady is Peco's sensei from the table-tennis hall. As Peco repents and changes as a person who wants to regain his dream of becoming a ping-pong champion, both of them develop their relationships too and more memorably by the line of "love ya" till the point even Peco says it to Kazuma, also known as Dragon.
Dragon, or Kazama is a well-known champion and paradigm of hard work and strength throughout the show. Represented by the mythical specie Dragon, Kazama portrays strong intellect and hard work with extreme effort devoted into table-tennis. Despite all of this has contributed into his overall power and making him stand as number one, he does not understand one thing about table-tennis. That one thing is having fun or just enjoyment in general, and because of this, he does not have the potential Peco has to become everything he wants to or can be.
Akuma is another great side character who has underwent extreme change. After always tailing behind Peco in their childhood table-tennis life, Akuma finally regains more of what he wanted to be when he played against Peco. He acts as a symbol for hard work, while Peco at first is a symbol of talent, until Peco also attains hard work and having fun in the latter half of the anime as he understands that they are necessary components for success. KAs the anime progresses, all the characters, Smile, Peco, Kong, Kazama, and Akuma undergo heavy amounts of character development and mature as human beings, changing the way they act as well as their mindsets and just shows how much ping-pong as a sport can bring to anyone.
Now regarding the art and animation, this is where critics place there hands on. Arguably having low budget visuals, many don't know that the manga's art is similar in its own essence and that the adaptation is attempting to be faithful to its source material. Taking this into consideration, the visuals can be seen as amazingly stunning and captivating to say the least. I think that this artwork is what brings the best execution from the show itself and using other high-budget and more modern and common forms of artwork would not bring out the same excellent effects this unique art offers. Backgrounds are detailed and facial expressions are clear most of the time. Specific camera angles and pop-up frames are used to their best extent during matches and the pop-up frames in sync with the music and the bounces of the balls all amalgamate to show synergy in its execution. This realistic approach from the art is what truly makes Ping Pong The Animation such a great success thus far. Getting used to the artwork is in fact not difficult at all, a few episodes and I'm almost entirely sure one can get used to it and understand its intrinsic beauty.
The sound in the show is the paradigm of excellence. The opening song itself sets the stage for the incoming episode and circulates adrenaline around the viewer's body, wanting the music to last forever. The ending song closes each episode well, and leaves the watchers ready for the incoming previews as well as setting the scene by showing visuals of the town itself. The ost is phenomenal, it utilizes the rock genre to its pinnacle especially during the matches. Likewise, the ost also manages to regularly captivate the audience by matching with the animation during the games. Regarding the voice acting, a worthy mention is definitely Kong, or more known as China. The foreign voice actor is an aspect that also contributes into making China such a remarkable character as not only is it realistic, but not many anime you see nowadays utilize voice acting to the point where foreign voice actors are hired for the job. As the story progresses Peco's voice becomes a great voice to just hear into your ears. His enthusiasm and motivation and even his raison d'être is shown by his vehement voice actor and I am well sure that Peco and Smile's persona would be different without the utilisation of the same voice actors. Smile's voice does not change as the story progresses, but his tone does as he changes as a person.
Ping Pong The Animation is definitely worth the watch as I enjoyed every minute of the show. The show utilizes innovative and unorthodox mediums and amalgamates the visuals, the sound, the story, as well as characters to their zenith. Give yourself the opportunity to engross yourself into the successful show Ping Pong The Animation is of today.
There's nothing to lose and regret for watching it, but by not watching it, you lose the experience to touch upon this intriguing and exquisite show.
Ping Pong The Animation has taught me many prominent values in life. Hard work....talent....and having fun.....these three constituents are all important ingredients that some people will always have more than others and no one can become the best player out there in the world with merely heavy amounts of hard work but having no fun at all. If you want to do well in something, you have to enjoy it. Don't envy those who significantly have more talent and power in them, strive for that power yourself by hard work and effort. But most importantly, remember to have fun and enjoy the time you spend in the sport.
I recently reviewed something and gave it praise for the narrative it was able to achieve in 13 episodes. I can’t help but share that sentiment in regards to what Ping Pong is able to accomplish with its 11 episodes. A transformation story from angsty adolescence to enlightened and matured adults, Ping Pong goes well and truly beyond the generic confines of the sports genre illustrating a beautiful narrative of complex emotional growth and maturation, truly cementing its place as a modern classic.
It wouldn’t be a stretch to call Masaaki Yuasa a genius. Those who have been exposed to his past works will understand
that his left wing approach goes completely against the grain and standard expectations of animation by today's standard. Combined with the fact that his works are highly intelligent, often profound and filled with a philosophical depth Yuasa earns his place at the pinnacle of the industry. And here he is again. After Mind Game. After Tatami Galaxy. Yuasa has returned bellowing from above, telling us once again that life is simply worth living. That despite anything that happens in one's life, there is always a reason to push on. That in and of itself, is what Ping Pong is truly about. Living. Living life to its fullest, enjoying every twist and turn it brings.
“We’re alive, that’s why we’re happy!”
Understanding that, its no surprise that the characters, above all else, make Ping Pong truly special. They are the driving force of the series. Genuine, believable and one way or another it is likely for their emotions and struggles to resonate with the viewer. These character’s are not perfect, they are flawed, burdened and they struggle. The hero of the story - Peco - is so full of hot air and arrogance at the beginning that once he is brutally beaten by someone worlds ahead of him, and by someone he once thought was beneath him, he falters and loses hope almost giving up on the sport he has loved his entire life. Yet it is his inevitable acceptance and reinvention of himself that results in not only his transformation to maturity, but also the transformations of those he meets along the way.
Similarly, Kong Wenge finds himself in a comparable position, being ostracized from the national Chinese team, he finds himself in egotistical ignorance like Peco, thinking he is above everyone else. It is only through his acceptance after playing with Peco that Kong evolves and is truly able to succeed. Kazama sacrifices everything in an attempt to maintain his family and club’s status. Ping Pong is simply a means to an end for Kazama. Through his match with Peco, he finally learns to let go of his burdens, to play for himself, no longer seeing the sport as a mandatory duty. Through exposure to the hero Kazama also transforms not only being able to enjoy the sport for what it is, but also his life. Yet no transformation is more rewarding or majestic than Smile’s. Peco finally breaks Smile’s robot shell in their final match and for the first time since he was a child, he smiles.
Its understandable that the art deters individuals. By no means will everyone like it, it is far from mainstream but there is reason for everything that is drawn and animated. I am certainly bias when it comes to Yuasa’s art, it reminds me of older series, back when things were largely hand drawn, they felt genuine. Now everything seems cold and straight and lacking any warmth or sincerity. And for the majority that’s probably fine. That bias aside, I believe Yuasa’s eccentric art compliments the series brilliantly. The genuine art resonates with the genuine characters and their plethora of emotions and complications. A wide range of cinematography techniques and symbolism are used to emphasize the deeper aspects of the series. What makes Yuasa’s art truly special is they way he is able to use this symbolism to highlight certain aspects, such as the armor breaking away as Smile is playing against Peco in the finale, this signifies both visually and metaphorically that he truly has transformed. The artistic style is truly limitless in what it is able to illustrate, which is why I truly believe Yuasa’s art to not only be aesthetically beautiful, but also carry depth.
Just like the art, Ushio’s OST is equally synergistic to the series. The score has a wide range of sounds and tracks that have a wide variety of applications for all emotional ranges and actions. Just like the art, there are many tracks on the OST that go beyond an enjoyable listening experience, which is to be expected when it comes to any high quality score. The “Hero Theme” is not only a phenomenal composition, but the use of it really exhumes raw emotion, it is engaging to listen to and it harmonizes well with what is transpiring. Smile’s “Monster” theme really reiterates the robotic personality he has. Ultimately, the OST has a brilliant atmosphere that only strengthens the series. Not only this but both the sound effects and editing are done phenomenally, nothing sounds out of place.
Ping Pong reaches a standard very few anime will ever reach. Driven by flawless characterization, a beautiful story of growth, maturation and life itself is expertly illustrated. It is a series that certainly breaks the mould, avoiding the restrictions and cliches that run rampant through both the genre and animation in general. It is a story that’s message and characters are likely to resonate with the viewer, something only true art can accomplish. Ping Pong is Masaaki Yuasa at his best. Ping Pong is true art.
Oh yeah, Ping Pong: The Animation.
I know I'll get reports and dislikes for this one,
but please bear with me, since this is my oppinion.
The story of Ping Pong is probably one of the poorest executed versions of 'Cliche-Sports-Story Mk I'. There isn't even much I could spoil. What do you expect of the most cliched sportsstory?
Take a while and imagine. I'll give you a hint its the same principle used in next to every shounen, as well as probably every sports anime.
I don't have much of a problem with such a storyline in itself, but if the story is like that, you'd need some
other points to make up for it. And I simply couldn't find anything to make up for it. There is no comedy, no fanservice, no action scenes or anything else which made up for the classical storyline.
The original manga is actually from 1995 while the anime aired 2014. Still, at that time anime like Detective Conan or Dragonball also aired. Why would I be ever pleased with that art? In a way this style is really unique. Yes, I definitely haven't seen something like this before.
The background arts -> boring
The character designs -> ugly
The animations -> simply pathetic
If you want an idea of what I mean by ugly character desings, just click one of the pictures above in the characters section. Most of the characters look like they didn't want to spend more time then necessary on the characters. The characters are merely some rough outlines, with some strokes as facial expressions. This can't obviously be enough.
As for why the animation is simply pathetic: I noticed it rather early in one of the table tennis games. The ball nearly went to the ground, but they got it back on the table. In a straight line. From UNDER the table. One of the greatest physic fails of all time.
Sure, this might be intentionally by the drawers. Or it might just as well be a crude mistake.
I personally prefer realistic and fluent movements.
For reference also a reason why the background arts are boring: In the first episodes, the main characters gym is presented. Fair enough. In the later episodes, the rivaling school has the exact same gym. Well with everything which was green in the main heroes gym being purple...
Summed up, the rather low quality of the anime completely distracted me from everything else.
It took several hours for me to get used to it, and by that time the anime was already half over.
The voice acting was basically mediocre. The only voice I even remember is Wengs. I'm personally a fan of using original languages with foreigner characters. And well, Weng, or his seiyu, pulled that one off pretty good. Next, the BGM: unmemorable.
And I mean unmemorable. I watched one of the episodes again, just caring for BGM. And theres next to none to begin with. This one might be for style reasons, making the actually existing ones more important, but those that actually exist are just mediocre tracks sadly.
As for how they are mediocre. They sound generic and could be used in every anime. They don't connect to what the anime wanted to present, or at least thats what it feels like for me.
Last, we have the opening and ending, which both were, to be honest, absolute forgettable as well. Just as the BGM, if there wasn't the video, I would never even imagine that this would be Ping Pongs Opening/Ending, which is really sad.
And once again Kong Weng is the guy who saves up some points.
Both his background, as well as his character was well fleshed out and, to top it off, realistic.
I really disliked both main characters, because both only have one or two memorable traits.
Their backgrounds get described every once in a while in some talkes other characters have, and to be honest, those backgrounds are, just as the story, used a hundred times, again.
This is one of the mainreasons I didn't enjoy Ping Pong at all. Everything seems just like we've all seen it before, with nothing which elevates it out of the masses.
The character development, especially Smiles, came off rather forced.
Pecos on the other hand, was the classic shounen development. Its a reasonable one, but once again an abused one.
At least the side characters are, compared to other anime, acceptable.
They have some traits that make them enjoyable, backstories that might make them interesting or developments, which make them more vived. But, here as well, these are the classical ideas, used just another time.
I only laughed once in the whole anime. And thats because of a scene where the arts nearly killed me. I personally hated this stuff, but since its a Top 100 I wanted to give it a shot and also have it completed.
In my opinion one of the poorest anime I've seen so far, and I'm at 100 days of watching anime.
Maybe you're better off trying it for yourself, because I absolutely disliked it and can't possibly recommend it. Maybe you'll come to like something, I absolutely didn't.
If you're interested in sports anime however, just go with Kuroko no Basket. If you're interested in good character development, go with one of KEYs works, either Clannad, Little Busters!, or Angel Beats.
"He's got to have a hole in his defense! He's reading me—he's predicting my moves. Show me your weak point! I just can't afford to end here!" Think these lines are from the latest battle shounen? Wrong: they're from none other than Ping Pong: The Animation! If the theme of table tennis doesn't pique your interest, looking at the show's creators certainly should. Masaaki Yuasa, known for making great creative anime, teams up with Taiyou Matsumoto, a mangaka with similar experimental tendencies: the harmless fun-filled game of table tennis suddenly got a whole lot more interesting.
The very first minutes of the show seek to impress:
large shots of the protagonists' table tennis hall, full of life and 2.7-gram balls hitting the table and players doing racket moves. Each chop, smash and drive is animated with shocking accuracy and from the best angles. All of this on watercolor backgrounds with resplendent palettes. Think the show's misshapen character designs do not fit the subject matter? Well, quite the opposite! The ill-proportioned art style not only allows characters to be easily animated from the tilted angles that make this series so full of life, they also explain why racket moves can be animated so accurately. With proportions and shadows being no object, Yuasa's hand moves the characters with real dynamism and diversity.
The series progresses with various table tennis matches, art and animation carrying the visual impact while spot-on writing keeps each match and point varied and suspenseful. But not late in the series does it become clear that Ping Pong is not just about sports—it's also a powerful coming-of-age story with very engaging characters.
Ping Pong opens with Smile, an apathetic player who sees table tennis as simply a way to pass time. His polar opposite, Peco, is an energetic, eccentric boy aiming to play in the Olympics and Smile's best friend since childhood. The anime spotlights a series of high school tournaments where Japan's best players gather. Kong, an accomplished player from China, has set to conquer Japan to make up for his rejection from his home country's team. Kazama, a member of the renowned Kaio Academy, is on an invincible streak. The stakes are high for those with a reputation, but both Smile and Peco are just starting to make a name for themselves.
For an 11-episode run, the series juggles many characters effortlessly. While Smile and Peco are predominant, plenty of time is allowed to others like Kong, Kazama, even the coaches as we explore their desires, ambitions and conflicts related to table tennis. For example, with Kazuma we are faced with the monotony of being the best, the hard work it requires and its consequences on private life. Kong offers the heartwarming story of how an elite player from China gradually comes to respect little Japan. Peco, introduced with lines such as "hard work is for chumps with no talent", learns to believe otherwise throughout the series.
Smile, Peco, Kong, Sakuma, Kazuma... each of them come to rethink the way they approach table tennis and their reason for playing. All in different ways, the characters find the approach to table tennis that brings them the most joy and peace. The spectrum of table tennis covered is huge—through older characters we even gain insight into the money-minded aspect of the sport. As an 11-episode coming-of-age story, Ping Pong is surprisingly complete and cathartic.
What's even greater about Ping Pong is how expressive its screenplay and dialogue is. For example, in a setting where top performance is imperative, smoking is tacitly rejected: there's a scene where a character lights up a smoke, communicating his desire to stop playing competitively. Another character takes his cigarette off his mouth, and though they say nothing of it, it furthers that other character's will to make him play again.
Consider the insert song segment in episode 6: this scene has no spoken line, yet it is one of the most meaningful. Kong opens the sequence singing the insert song at a karaoke with his team—showing us his development from spiting Japan to opening up to Japanese players and learning their language—and the scene continues with various shots of the other characters' occupation on Christmas Eve. Smile's part is poignant: unsurprising for a character shown to enjoy solitude, he is all alone at home, contemplating the Christmas cake his coach gifted him. But from Smile's lonely gaze and the candles he paid the effort to light we can tell that the boy does cherish what little warmth others give him. We begin to empathize with the character. Not present in the source material, this karaoke insert demonstrates Yuasa's amazing directing skills in combining spot-on soundtrack, perfect pacing and compelling shots.
Helping Ping Pong transition between matches and character introspection is a diverse and excellent soundtrack. Pounding drums set the tone in pre-game sequences to stir up anticipation, and the next moment whimsical keyboard keys accompany Smile's scattered thoughts and memories. The show has a song for every moment and emotion, each used exceptionally and making for a complete audiovisual experience.
It's amazing what Ping Pong accomplishes in its short 11-episode run. It chronicles the heartfelt physical and emotional journeys of multiple characters and delivers a conclusion brimming with heart yet grounded in reality. All of it conducted in an exciting, creative fashion in the perfect marriage of both Taiyou Matsumoto and Masaaki Yuasa's talent. The harmless, fun-filled game of table tennis did get a whole lot more interesting.
I remember a few years back, when I was discussing anime with someone in a year above mine at my school, that the discussion had turned to what we believed was the worst anime of all time. We discussed the usual that everybody brings up. Mars of Destruction, Boku no Pico as well as the then recently released second season of Tokyo Ghoul. As we kept discussing this topic, the other person, let's call him, "Light Novel Trash Lover" (as he kept telling me Infinite Stratos and SAO were the best anime ever made and he even came to school cosplaying Kirito a couple of
times, complete with the dual swords and everything; how the hell he was let in was beyond me) then brought up Ping Pong: The Animation as being one of the worst anime ever. Struck with both surprise and curiosity I asked him his reasons why, for, at the time, I had only seen three episodes and had really liked what I had seen. Light Novel Trash Lover then told me that, "Ping Pong is the worst anime of all time because the animation and art style is terrible!". And this little story sums up why I believe Ping Pong The Animation is so overlooked within the anime community, which is a shame too, since many are missing out on perhaps one of the greatest sports anime of all time, and one of the best in this past decade of anime. Of course, disliking an anime's art style is not inherently bad, but dismissing the entire show as being bad, based on the art style seems pretty silly.
Regardless of such, Ping Pong, The Animation has recently become one of my favourite anime ever! It's a show less concerned about the sport, and more so a character study of its cast, filled to the brim with interesting and clever allegorical writing and symbolism, from one of the most critically acclaimed and respected directors working today, Masaaki Yusa! So let's grab our ping-pong bats, taste some of our blood (as it tastes like iron, y'know) and allow me to explain why I believe this show to be a masterpiece!
"The hero comes. The hero comes. The hero comes. Chant these words in your mind, and I'll surely come to you..."
Reciting these lines in his mind, one of our protagonists, nicknamed Smile, fights on in each and every one of his ping-pong matches, along with his friend, nicknamed Peco. Both boys have grown up together, bonding ever more closely over their shared passion for ping pong and, after growing older and reaching high school, both begin to play in tournament matches. The show sees them both grow, not only in their ping-pong abilities and skills but also more so as people as well, as they influence the players who go against them, who, in turn, also have their own mental hang-ups.
Ping Pong's narrative, if anything, will not surprise you with any grand plot twists, and is, at its most fundamental level, a standard sports narrative. However, what makes the show shine so much is its well-developed cast of characters, symbolism and amazing directing. Another thing that helps to make Ping Pong so much fun to watch from an entertainment perspective alone is how well paced the entire show actually is. The narrative is always pushing forward in some way, introducing new plot threads and mental dilemmas for its characters while also wrapping up several older ones at the same time, keeping the anime fresh and interesting. Another thing that makes this otherwise standard story so great is the how attached we become to both Peco and Smile as characters, generating intrigue from the audience, and many of the ping pong matches are exciting to watch since the narrative does a good job at creating narrative stakes and tension. The best example of this is the match between Weng and Kazama, where, if Weng loses this match, he will not be able to return to his home country of China, which makes the proceeding absolute beatdown of his character in the match all the more emotionally gripping. The entire show is just very tightly written, with visual symbolism and motifs as well as well developed themes and ideas, used in many cases in order to convey more about the characters and what they're feeling without the use of dialogue to masterful effect, which I will be getting more into in a moment.
The crux of the show is certainly the relationship between Peco and Smile, and how each one of them develops throughout the course of the show. What's particularly interesting about their relationship is the juxtaposition of their personalities. Peco is rather upbeat, cocky and is highly motivated to become the best in ping pong while Smile is much quieter and is referred to as being a robot with no emotions by his peers and the people who go against him in matches. In fact, his name, Smile, was given due to him rarely smiling (which we later learn was actually given to him by Peco after seeing how much Peco enjoyed playing ping pong as a kid).
Smile's character is all about learning how to enjoy the game of Ping Pong once again and break away from the robotic play style and mould he has been using for many years. The reason as to how Smile achieves this is through Peco's involvement in his life. Thus Peco is Smile's hero; the salvation he needs to enjoy the sport he holds so dearly once again, which results in some fantastic cathartic pay off at the end of the series. The motif of the hero, as well as the idea of flight, is a consistent theme in the show and is used often to convey how characters are feeling too, with the depiction of a hero with wings being the representation of Peco. During the final match between Peco and Smile, as Smile begins to break free from his robotic play style, we see an image of a bird flying freely through the sky, representative of Smile's newly gained freedom.
Peco's energetic play style and massive love for ping pong end up being the salvation of other players too, in particular, to Kazama, who had devoted his entire life to a strict training regime in order to win at ping pong and to further his career. However, his constant winning also leaves him isolated and secluded, as he frequently finds comfort in hiding in bathrooms before playing a game. In the penultimate episode of the show, we see visual imagery of the hero, in other words, Peco, extend a hand to Kazama, before taking it back and smiling at him. Kazama then grows wings himself, and flies after the hero, looking down at the bathroom he used to hide in signalling that his character has indeed grown, and he is now able to enjoy ping pong once again, reflected in his changed attitude in the game he is playing.
More evidence that Peco is indeed Smile's hero comes from the line "Iron tastes like blood" which I referenced a little earlier in this review. The idea is that iron and blood are two juxtaposing elements, both representative of the contrast in personalities between the two characters. Blood is something that is alive, something that is moving, representing life, thereby linking into the idea that Peco is a hero and plays ping pong because he loves it, while the iron, which is associated as being cold and metallic is representative of Smile's character and play style. The idea that Peco tells Smile that "Iron tastes like blood" could be seen that Peco is trying to make Smile see that he is more human than Smile, and everyone else, believes. Another piece of symbolism used to contrast their characters are the use of the star and the moon, both typically found on each respective person's item of clothing or on their ping-pong bats. The star is used to represent Peco, always full of life and shining brilliantly, illuminating everyone around him, fitting into the hero motif, while the moon is used to represent Smile, an object that has two sides to it: the dark side and the light side, representing the change that is going to take place in his character.
Some clever visual imagery is used in regards to Peco's character when he throws his bat into a river, which has the star symbol on it, signifying that Peco's light and ambition is now no more. And there are plenty of these visual motifs in this show, all of which are used to showcase or add onto characterisation, making for some of the most interesting characters I've seen before in any show, most of which are rather relatable which drives the emotional weight of the characters even more. Each theme and motif in ping pong is integrated into the narrative in order for us to learn more about the characters. Take, for example, the motif of the butterfly in regards to Smile's coach, Koizumi, or the theme hard work being crushed under natural talent in the case of Sakuma in his match against Smile.
Ping Pong also has one of my all-time favourite soundtracks with each track fitting the theme and personality of a character perfectly. The opening is damn great and never fails to get me pumped up while, at the same time, sprinkling in some lyrics relating to the motif of flying in the show. Peco's theme is fast paced, frantic and fun, mirroring his character and the motif of a hero, and is used to fantastic effect during his match with Kazama. In contrast, Kazama's theme is foreboding and powerful, representing Kazama's strength, which is used amazingly during his match with Weng, that I briefly touched upon before.
I'd also like to use this match as an example of how great and imaginative the animation can be at times too. As previously mentioned, this match has a lot of narrative stakes since it is the final chance for Weng to get back into China after being kicked off the Chinese team, so as an audience, we sympathise more so with him, and want him to succeed. However, what follows, is an utterly hopeless beat down, and the entire match feels helpless. Just as much as Weng is feeling desperate, so do we an audience member, and the anime conveys this feeling of helplessness with fantastic visuals of Kazama towering over Weng, signifying their difference in skills and talent, as the ping pong table itself stretches out, emphasising this idea. Not only that but every time Kazama hits the ball, a streak of purple lighting is used to convey the power and lighting fast reflexes Kazama retains. In addition, we also see him depicted as being a giant, again, referencing his raw strength, but also the colour used is important as well: purple. In Ping Pong, the colour purple is used to represent those respected in the world of ping pong, as both teachers of Peco and Smile frequently wear shirts with some shade of purple and the highly influential academy Kazama attends is also largely purple.
Taking this idea of purple, and applying it to this situation, makes for an interesting idea when we see Kazama transform into a giant purple dragon. Dragons are typically associated with Chinese culture, the place where Weng is trying to get back to, and having Kazama transform into a dragon is symbolic of his team who turned their back on them and the idea that he will never reach them ever again. The use of the purple signifies that they're respected in the world of ping pong, and the lack of any purple on Weng represents the idea that he will never get there again.
The entire show is loaded with this much visual imagery and creative metaphors and is so insanely dense that it would be impossible to talk about it all, which is what makes the show so insanely well crafted and interesting to watch for anyone who loves creative animation. The animation as a whole is incredibly fluid and, at times, rather bouncy and energetic. I also love the art style too, albeit, if it can sometimes look jarring or wonky at times; it was never enough to pull me out of the overall experience, however.
When it comes down to it, Ping Pong is a hard series to summarise and talk about because of how dense and how well constructed everything is. I could go on forever about what I personally think the show is trying to say and what each element represents, but I believe part of the fun of this show is trying to piece and make sense of everything for yourself, and if there is anything of what I said, you think is misinterpreted or just flat out wrong, please feel free to tell me. After all, all the analysis is just from my mind. Ping Pong The Animation is a marvel. A great example of what can be accomplished in animation and a true testament that a simple idea can become a wonderful show. Its characters are very well developed and the allegorical meaning behind what each represents are interesting, the music is fantastic, and overall, this is one of the best experiences I've had with a show ever. With that all said and done, thank you for taking the time to read my review, and I'll leave you with my favourite quote from the show:
An anime about sports? An anime about ping pong? I would have never thought to ever give a show like this a try, while I do like the occasional play of table tennis in my freetime and during sports at school the idea of watching others playing it in the animated form was somewhat dull but interesting. Having heard from other sources that it is actually quite good and among the best series of this season I decided to check Ping Pong: The Animation out.
Today it has ended and now I'm sitting here at midnight writing this review because continuing Ping Pong after a long
break I took from it after episode 2 might have been the best decision I made regarding anime in a long time.
Storywise Ping Pong: The Animation centers around the teenager nicknamed "Smile" and others at the Tamura Table Tennis club. It is a sports anime after all and there is -quite fortunately though - nothing happening which could be considered that much out of the ordinary with like super powers you have seen in other sports series.
The series could be called a Coming-of-Age story. It focuses a lot on the relationships between the players, trainers and others and how their passion of table tennis affects them and others around them. And important part to make this work and catch the audiences sympathy are well done characters. And well done characters is something Ping Pong certainly has. The cast ranges from your more introverted main character to his chaotic childhood friend, to the arrogant yet talented but not flawless foreign antagonist, to the caring coach with a moving backstory and lots of other side characters from different schools, teams and nations wanting to make big.
But this cannot happen without sacrificies and this is also something this show does well. Table tennis is serious business over there and it portrays it very well. I am not an expert when it comes to foreign tablet tennis but from what I have seen in Ping Pong: The Animation they catched the mood quite well and every anticipated battle felt as exciting and tense as an upcoming showdown in an action series. The atmosphere is really intense and puts shows like Sword Art Online to shame, but not only when it comes to the action.
Most of this is achieved by the brilliant cinematography which uses an unique and definetly different art style than other shows ever did before. It is kind of hard to get into at first but the drawing style really grows onto you and actually fits the shows theme of being about a rather unusual sport, very well.
In terms of accoustic accompaniment Ping Pong: The Animation offers everything from chilly background tunes to incentive electronic beats to make the rhythm chime and get you into the right mood. Also the voice actors did an immensily great job on expressing how the characters are feeling. Nothing really to complain about in terms of audiovisual arrangement either.
Nevertheless one of the best parts are the characters. They are portrayed quite life-like as you could expect people to be participating in competitive sports. Every character feels real as you cheer and root for them to achieve their goal they have set in their lives and struggle with the possibility of defeat and others being better than them. They really undergo a well described development which seems believable and makes you care about them. The interactions between each other comes of as genuine and really natural. As their different personalities and egos clash you can really feel the tenseness. The creators did a fantastic job there.
Overall Ping Pong: The Animation is a great show. While it may not be appealing to anyone I can highly recommend it to anyone having the slightest affiliation with table tennis. If you have not this show might not be for you but also if you are just in for something different than you may be welcome here as well since this is a story which can be enjoyed regardless whether you like ping pong or not. It's more about the characters than the actual sport.
It is a sweet Coming-of-Age story about young people trying to find their meaning in life and after this a sports anime. Whether it will be the first place at the championships, social interaction or just to take part to find out in the end they aren't even made for table tennis. It's an emotional and unconventional ride and for me personally the best anime of this season.
Ping Pong won the all exciting adventure this spring season of anime was and became anime of the season. Spring 2014 winner, woohoo.
Ping Pong is an anime about life which centers around Ping Pong. The first challenge we viewers face is ironically the faces itself. Everyone looks the same, it is a pain to remember all the characters when they don't have different colored hairs nor any bishonen tropes on their character design. Our main characters are pretty easy. The other one is called smile, he never smiles, but he has glasses (not to be confused with megane). He is the most troubled character
since he doesn't give a shit about anything or anyone. Especially not about Ping Pong, baaka. The other main character is the opposite of this guy, but isn't as recognizable since he doesn't have glasses or other visible.. details. The opposite of smile who never smiles but he (not smile) actually smiles. Simple.
There are bunch of other characters too. Some of them are bald, some bold. Some have different colored skin and some speak chinese for life, so it is not impossible challenge to tell them apart. These guys ofc love Ping Pong and want to play that shit till the end of the world and whatnot. Except smile because he just isn't like all the other fucks, okay. The side characters go through the melancholy of being a ping pong player and a teenager by having worries about love and ping pong. Definitely a quality series with many realistic characters who all have much more in them than your typical... anime side character. Definitely a quality series with many interesting people who love ping pong. And smile who just doesn't give a fuck.
The art of this series follows the art of the manga. The original artist didn't have the most stable hand in the seven kingdoms, but he managed to get the ink on the paper. The art is terribad and awful, but I like it. For once it is not the rest of the series that can be described with those words. The director is not the same sexy guy who directed Death Note, but almost equally sexy guy, the guy who directed Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei, I mean. He is doing pretty good job on splitting the image in 3 during every single fucking Ping Pong scene/any other scene. Some say he likes his anime in 3, some say he has 3 eyes. One is sure, this man is a legend, did he try too much or not with Ping Pong. Although he did.
When it comes to enjoyment, I don't usually enjoy anime because it sucks. But this one was pretty okay. I could even recommend it to adults who have it working, or maybe even youngsters too if they have it working.
To dismiss, or to even think of Ping Pong: The Animation as another sports anime would be a gross error of judgement. Ping Pong: The Animation is not about sports. It is not about Ping Pong. Not really. It is a profoundly human story; a look at the lives, passions, and motivations of characters that sound and act so real that you can’t help think of them as real flesh and blood, people with feelings, emotions and souls of their own.
No. Ping Pong is not about sports, or THE sport, or the ‘athletes’. It is not about winning or losing. It is against the very
concept of competition, the ruthless system that creates winners at the cost of losers. It is a critique of the mindset that glorifies success and distorts life, and things as pure as, say, art, music, and sports (such as Ping Pong), turning these things into a means to achieving selfish desires such as money, power, glory, and honor. When a thing such as ping pong which is meant to direct human passion and creative impulses of man and to allow him to enjoy life by doing things for the sake of the thing itself is distorted or perverted to cater to more selfish desires there arises a need for a savior, a hero, someone to save not just Ping Pong but the true meaning of being alive, of indulging in the pure innocent joy of living, enjoying life and just having fun.
Ping Pong: The Animation is about its characters; it is a coming of age story that explores, among other things, the theme of friendship, and the influence of the past on the present, how our decisions and efforts in the present affect the future and the natural process of constant growth and experience that every single person goes through.
Ping Pong does not has a story or plot in the sense that you can just lay down or explain to someone. It is all about the characters, what they go through, and what they become as a result of their experiences.
It explores its complex of themes through brilliant character sketches, an empathetic narrative, an emotionally profound characterization, a stylish, somewhat surreal art style, and a brilliant direction style that employs a split screen technique to mimic the panels of a manga with occasional bursts of an audio-visual style dubbed as ‘magical realism’.
Ping Pong’s main protagonists, if such a thematically nuanced story can have protagonists, are two high-school students and childhood friends,Tsukimoto ‘smile’ and Hoshino ‘Peco’. Smile is a reserved no-nonsense stoic, and ‘peco’ is his complete opposite, a non-serious, sprightly loud -mouth. They both possess a natural talent for Table Tennis (or Ping Pong), go to the same table tennis club, and are the best players of their High School Table Tennis team.
But their untapped talent is not without strings attached; ‘Smiles’ lack of ambition and lack of will to win coupled with his gentle personality prevents him from ‘winning’ against most opponents. ‘Peco’, on the other hand, feels that winning is everything and thinks himself indestructible until he meets a Chinese Student, Weng Kong, who utterly defeats him, prompting him to stop practicing. Another defeat during a tournament leaves him devastated and he abandons the game altogether.
The anime’s many characters include Coach Koizumi, who recognizes smile’s talent and vows to train him and make him better, and Wenge Kong, a Chinese student who, after being kicked from his Home team in China, travels to Japan to prove himself against the best that Nippon has to offer and redeem his place back home. The anime as an interesting motley of main, side, and minor characters; a whole list of intriguing characters with their own stories, and even the minor ones have been well fleshed out, including a character who after his defeat by Smile early on leaves on a journey to discover himself, only to find that table tennis has always been the passion of his life.
Going into a detail of all the characters and their roles would be a waste. All I can say is that each character feels painfully and veritably human, is very well developed, and the process of growth that each of them goes through in the story is fascinating to say the least. The painstaking detail with which their characters are crafted, their body language, mannerisms, dialogues, and brilliant voice-acting, makes them feel alive like in a way fictional characters rarely feel so.
This anime is about the journey all these characters go through, a process that cannot be easily described and has to be experienced by the viewers themselves to be understood and appreciated.
Ping Pong’s art comprises of breathtaking, detailed backgrounds, and minimalist character designs; a combination that allows for great flexibility of expression and creative freedom. Think of Kaiba, Tatami Galaxy, and Tekkon Kinkreet blended together; a combination of the talented Yuasa Masaaki and the unsung auteur of manga Taiyou Matsumoto. The animation is very fluid, stylish, and surreal at times. The jaw-dropping details of the environment, and the complexity of character expression is quite impressive. The art/animation is very different, but not (in my opinion) an acquired taste.
A notable aspect of the show relating to animation, sound and overall direction is the frequent bursts of ‘magical realism’ expressed through images which bring out the emotions and motivations of the characters during action sequences in a comic and fantastical way. For example, Kong Wenge’s desire to return to China is symbolized by a commercial plane in various sequences, Tsukimoto ‘smile’ desire to be saved by a hero manifesting during his early childhood experience of being bullied in school is personified by a hero figure, and so on.These sequences perfectly blend with the overall style of the anime and enhance the experience.
PP:TA showcases a near flawless VA performance, and the right kind of music used (sparingly) at the right time. Background tracks vary from soothing and laid back piano, use of synths and psychedelic tunes, to upbeat and energetic themes, perfectly timed and fitting, setting up the mood appropriate for the scenes. In short, the anime does everything ‘just right’ in this department.
Directed and spearheaded by Yuasa Masaaki (Cat Soup, Tatami Galaxy, Kaiba, Mind Games), and adapted from a manga by Taiyou Matsumoto (Tekkon Kinkreet), Ping Pong: The Animation contains elements reminiscent of previous works by the two makers, such as the theme of friendship, adolescence, empathetic characterization and art of Tekkon Kinkreet, and the wacky, energetic, visceral oddness of Yuasa Masaaki’s previous works.
Ping Pong has an extremely well written and intelligent script, with some of the best dialogue writing I've come across yet. Yuasa Masaaki’s effortless direction with its ‘panel animation’ approach brings alive the pages of the manga in a way no other director could have accomplished. Each episode flows naturally into the next, and the quality almost never falters.
Ping Pong: The Animation is truly a gem, a near-flawless masterpiece that is destined to become a cult classic one day. Or maybe it already is.
Ping Pong The Animation, originally created by Matsumoto Taiyou, is more than what one would call unique, even more so if you just look at sports Anime.
The story of Ping Pong The Animation is unexpectedly complex while simple at the same time. It's not a light-hearted watch but nor is it deep enough to drown. The story follows multiple characters, highlighting Peco and Smile, while developing them all in amazing ways. There is always something to look forward to, whether there's a cliffhanger or not. Ping Pong The Animation feels like such a smooth watch; there are no bumps along the way. Doubts were had
by many people before it started airing, but those were all cleared in the first episode. Not once did the story break down. It was solid throughout it's duration and left us on an incredibly strong ending. Unfortunately, it's an ending that leaves you begging for more even though there is no more that can be done. It leaves a somewhat small void.
The art and animation is the highlight of this Anime for me. If I had to point at one show with the nicest look, it would be this. No less would be expected Masaaki Yuasa. The Anime strives and succeeds in looking like its source material, and does a grand job in doing so. Ping Pong wouldn't be the same without the unique style it has. This style I mention isn't restricted just to art, but to every single part of the Anime. Some parts look absolutely outstanding, especially in flashbacks or when the Anime is tackling the psychology of a character. The opening and ending look magnificent and really do capture the essence of what is Ping Pong.
The sound in Ping Pong doesn't fall short compared to its other strong points. The sound a ball being hit, the sound of movement on mats, the music featured; it's all amazingly well done. The OST is one of the most surprising things in this Anime. It manages to strengthen every scene. A good OST for a sports Anime is one that gets your blood pumping, one that allows to you to follow what's happening even more closely with ease; that's what Ping Pong's OST does. The seiyuus do an amazing job as well, and the it's no surprise with the seiyuu being who they are. Smile's voice captures that of an emotionless robot which enhances the metaphor constantly used throughout the Anime. Peco is the opposite. He's a quirky, spirited character who's voice is also captured perfectly.
The characters in Ping Pong are phenomenal. No one is just there for the sake of being there. Most characters have their mentality explored in some way even if they only explore once. This is one of my most favourite things about Ping Pong. No one is left out in the dark. Ping Pong fleshes out the characters perfectly with flashbacks and a inner monologue here and there. It sounds like a simple thing to do, but not many series do it well. In addition, the characters feel like magnets; I'm attached to all of them. There's always one character that you're rooting for. There's always one you'll want to see more of. Each character is done justice by the time the series end.
I enjoyed this a whole lot, which is already obvious. Overall, this is an incredibly strong dent built in to the sports genre. Every single element in this Anime helps another to be something amazing. Each element is nothing without the others. The characters are accompanied greatly by the art, which is boosted up by the music, which is held up by the atmosphere. Everything comes together to create something that is a must watch for a unique, but great experience in the world of Anime.
Recommendation: If you haven't already, and you want more Anime of this level, I suggest you go and check out Tatami Galaxy, which is directed by Masaaki Yuasa.
The anime industry is plagued with generic harems and bad writing. But occasionally a series will appear that stands out. A diamond in the rough. Ping Pong is one of these series.
The story of Ping Pong is, on the surface, about ping pong. However, dig a little deeper and you will find a fantastic series about growing up. The series focuses on themes such as insecurity, anxiety and most notably, courage. These themes are explored to the fullest with seemingly insignificant scenes such as those featuring The Hero becoming increasingly relevant as the series progresses. This is not to say ping pong isn't relevant
to the story, the competitiveness of the sport plays a large part throughout the series and is sure to appeal to any spots fan. It's the kind of show that requires your full attention. Seemingly minuscule and irrelevant events are important to the overall delivery of the series. These can include the speech of background characters or even the backgrounds. The story is paced exceptionally well with the exception of the last episode which as a manga reader I felt was dragged out and features too many flashbacks. Overall, the story is solid. There are lots of interesting themes that are handled very well throughout the series and the pacing is very good.
The art of Ping Pong can be a bit off-putting, but after just one episode it will begin to grow on you. It's unique, and that's a good thing. It makes the series feel very mature (not to say the series isn't) as the art is more realistic than most modern anime. The animation is incredibly fluid. There are some shots of Ping Pong bats that look absolutely fantastic . There are a few scenes with noticeable budget drops, however, and these become increasingly common as the series progresses. Overall, very good animation and art.
The OST of Ping Pong is excellent. Every track fits its purpose well. The OST makes the matches feel very tense and overall very interesting. The OP is very fitting with the lyrics reflecting some of the major themes of the series and the genre fitting the tone of the series as a whole. My personal favourite is the ED, which I feel is excellent. It suits the atmosphere of the series and leaves you wanting more. The voice actors are fitting, particularly Katayama Fukujurou (Peco) and Uchiyama Kouki (Smile). I felt their performances were very good. My praise also goes to Yousei Bun (Wenge Kong) for his performance in Chinese, it's rare not to see anime butcher foreign languages and it was nice of the studio to hire an actual Chinese voice actor for the role.
The characters in Ping Pong are the best part, in my opinion. They are developed extremely well. I feel Peco's development was handled brilliantly and gives the viewer and in-depth look into his mind and ideologies alongside his emotions. This is not to say other characters are done badly, Smile, Sakuma, Kong and Kazama all receive incredible growth throughout the series and are for the most part likeable. The transition between Kong's initial arrogance and later his kindness was done beautifully. There is not a single pointless character, they all exist for a reason. Even the seemingly insignificant speech of the background characters is important. There's not a single undeveloped character and for this reason, I believe the characters are the best part of Ping Pong.
Ping Pong is a very enjoyable series. Every episode leaves you wanting more. The series makes you feel a range of emotions from pity to happiness. It was a very fun series to watch.
Ping Pong is an excellent series, a must-see for all anime fans. The themes, the characters, the music; everything is brilliant. I believe the anime to be better than the manga, and by choosing the manga you would be missing out. The series does require the full attention of the viewer however, and for this reason it's not the easiest to marathon because there's a lot to take in. Otherwise though, it's one of the best series of 2014 at the time of writing.
Note: This is my first really serious review, so any feedback is appreciated!
Where do I even begin. I've asked myself that question about that show time and time again. I guess the best place to start, as always, is the beginning. Be warned, there are slight spoilers although I try not to. It's hard gushing about a show I love so much now without talking about ALL of it.
I saw this show on the Spring anime list. I thought, "I like ping pong, that's pretty funny, I wonder what the show will be about." I had not read the manga, I did not know any
of the backstory. Looking back at it now, I much preferred it that way.
The first episode was good. Not incredible, but good enough for me to say "Hey, maybe this can go somewhere." As I continued to watch, every week, I thought, "No way, this just can't get any better. There's absolutely no way this show could be any more awesome." And then, just like that, it was over. It was 11 weeks but it felt like a flash.
What caught me initially, what really hooked me and continued to play a strong role throughout the whole show (and what I'll be focusing on in the review, for good reason), were the characters. Oh man, the characters. Smile, Peco, Kazama, Butterfly Jo, the mountains guy, Akuma, Wenge... all of them were amazing in their own way. This wasn't a show about ping pong so much as it was a show about who they were.
Seeing all these characters grow and learn was a wonderful experience. First, there was Wenge who lost and got knocked off his high horse. That was something, but even more so was when he got back up and set his mind to bettering himself with the support of his new team.
Second, seeing Kazama go from the "big bully" to learning about why he did what he did. He wasn't just a gigantic a**hole who crushed people because it was fun. He had a REASON. His backstory showed how much pressure was on him to win. And, towards the end, he remembered how to have fun. That was a pleasure to see.
Third, and more of a minor thing, is seeing Akuma freed from his chains. His thought process was so single minded that he seemed to have forgot that there was more to life than just ping pong. It seems like a strange thing to say when so much of the show revolves around it, but he found happiness without a wooden paddle.
Fourth, learning about the character's backstories was handled exceptionally. Bits and pieces were sprinkled throughout the show, never overwhelming the viewer with one character at a time. And they were put in where they were needed most.
There was a unique reason for each of these characters to play. They had their flaws, their strengths, their friends, and their foes. There were "main" characters in Peco and Smile, but after seeing Wenge and Kazama and even Akuma develop as I talked about, they felt like just as big parts of the story as Smile and Peco.
But don't get me wrong, the culmination of the story was all Smile and Peco. The show did an incredible job of showing why they're such good friends. It's not because Peco talks a lot and Smile doesn't. It's because Smile was always pushing Peco from the shadows, rooting for his success because he liked seeing his friend happy. And Peco supported Smile by being there for him whenever he was needed. He was the "Hero" in Smile's life.
Smile seemed like he was a robot. The joke from the beginning of the show was that he never smiled. Why was this? Why would a kid who seemed to be well off enough never smile? Why did he never go all out against his opponents when he was young? Those questions were presented and answered in a satisfying way.
Peco was also on a high horse. He didn't handle getting knocked down as well as Wenge, but the support from the old lady and Smile (although extremely indirectly) let him get back up again. Would he have done the same thing without his friends help? Who knows. The thing is, he had those friends to push him.
Among those interactions, the psychological aspect of the show was incredibly strong as well. Questions like "Why do we play ping pong?", "Who do we play for?", "Is it about having fun or being the best?" caused me to think throughout the entire season and those questions were reflected individually with each character.
Kazama played because he NEEDED to be the best. He had no alternative.
Akuma played to become like Kazama. He wanted to be that good.
Wenge played because it was his escape. He wanted to go back home.
Smile played because he liked seeing Peco succeed.
Peco played... because it was fun.
On to the art. Some people might have turned away from this show because of the artstyle. I'm incredibly sad at this realization because a show's art style doesn't determine how good it is (see: Legend of the Galactic Heroes or Aku no Hana). It's a shame so many people are so ingrained in how anime is "supposed" to look that they can't see the beauty of a different style.
And this show managed to be beautiful. The art direction, the color changes, the subtle and drastic shifts in tone showed what good directing can do. An art style doesn't have to be the prettiest in the world to be the best. There are other ways art can take shape.
Continuing on, the way the art was used throughout the story was truly unique. Giving the characters their own "avatars" in a way, the animators were able to create scenes that added immense value and emotion to some of the scenes where the characters are simply playing ping pong. Dragons, planes, heroes, robots... if someone heard this show out of context, they might think it was an action show.
The soundtrack was always top notch as well. The opening? Fantastic. An amazing visual and auditory sensation combined into one powerful opening song with lyrics that reinforced the idea of having fun. It was always changing too. From episode to episode, it matched the mood and the tone, even if it seemed silly at times.
Story was a bit lower than the others because honestly the story was in the characters. At a base level, it can be described as "Ping pong players try to compete for the world championships" but to leave it at that would be doing a huge disservice to the show. The characters made the story.
I can't express how much I enjoyed this show. After I let it sink in I'll know a bit better, but I'm pretty sure it's my favorite of all time now. Every week I was dumbfounded at how a show about ping pong could be so overwhelmingly awesome. The answer is that it wasn't just about ping pong. It was about the characters as well.
What I'm going to take away from this show is that ping pong, as well as all sports, is about having fun. If you focus on winning all the time, you're going to feel hollow and empty inside even if you DO win. And sometimes, we all need a reminder that having fun is the most important thing.
Even with all its slight flaws I give Ping Pong the Animation a 10/10. The rating says 10 is a masterpiece and I could not agree more with that. If I ever find out how to write to the author of this manga/the studio that made this show I'm going to express my enjoyment and my thanks. They did something utterly amazing.
Ping Pong, you were truly a show that was enjoyable above all others.
It's one of those series that is either going to get over-the-top praise or disdain from it's watchers, for me it was simple disappointment.
-Well like most sports anime the story is not too heavy. However Ping Pong's biggest problem is that the story and how it plays out has been done before, several times in fact. You can see the ending from the start and every "twist" isn't all that surprising once you get to the end. I was not entertained when it came to the story and it's presentation.
NOTE: I do not take away points for it being a
sports anime and having a sports-themed story. I take away points for unoriginal and poor presentation.
-I'd say the art is mediocre. Not because "it's not HD so it sucks" but because funimation purposefully made the anime this way, but still re-used animation within the first few episodes. I actually like this type of animation if it's done right, but way too many times in this series is it not. Funimation clearly had the budget for this anime, but chose to make several scenes look out of place and terrible because they didn't know what they were doing or didn't care.
NOTE: The art style fits well with the theme.
-It's there and not much else. Nothing outside of your generic background music and nothing you'll even remember in T-minus 5 minutes.(already forgot).
-Now the characters in this show are pretty well done. I'd like to say they are "deep" but they really weren't. Only Hoshino and Tsukimoto really stood out, as everyone else became X, Y, or Z stereotype. That being said, Hoshino and Tsukimoto were deep in accordance to the story but not as characters themselves. "One track mind" would describe the entire youth of this cast. However there interactions are at least midly entertaining.
I can't say I enjoyed my time watching this series more than the general mediocre anime. It's not exactly entertaining per episode, I've seen the entire story/characters done before in other series(ala prince of tennis), and to be honest the ending/starting episodes were the only parts I think were worth the watch.
Ping Pong the Animation is a series that presents a rather mediocre product to an already saturated genre. The art style differentiates it, but does not make it shine.
I'd recommend it to people who have not watched other sports series.
Note: this is all my opinion, but I stand by that opinion 100%.
This review was made to make people fully understand this show, which often makes people confused, not because it is hard to understand, but because the show tries to push in 11 episodes as much motives as it takes and the full meaning is not as visible as it is needed to understand it while watching it for the first time.
If you didn't like Ping Pong the Animation or didn't really understand what was going on in there i encourage you to read this review.
Ping Pong the Animation is an exceptional show, unorthodox in every aspect, at first glance
a normal sport show, but turns out to be something more, a strong emotions feel trip about different people struggling with life and finding their definition of happiness. The Ping Pong as a game itself is not really important for the plot, you can swap it with anything you want, even life itself, the game is only an excuse to portray characters motives, represent their state of mind, because Ping Pong the Animation isn’t really much of a sports show, there are no cool techniques, the matches are excitatory and artistic, which is job of an eccentric art and unparalelled animation made by Yuasa Masaaki, who is often praised for his work and the soundtrack which perfectly fits the atmosphere and propel the more tense scenes and make some of them truly epic. The stars of this show are: Tsukimoto, Peco, Kong Wenge, Kazama and Sakuma. What makes this show stand out is the fact, that every character starts with a big lack, something that either limits them or makes them unhappy. In the middle of the show something happens to them that turns their point of view upside down and and eventually every one of them positively changes. Everyone wins in this
Kong Wenge is a Chinese player who got kicked out of the national China team and decides to transfer to Japan to make himself a name there which might allow him to go back to his team. He was cocksure and full of himself, disgusted by the way everyone plays and ensured that no one is on his level and no one even deserves to stand on the same table with him. He wanted to return to his homeland so badly, but he knew he's stuck in here. The theme with a plane flying away symbolises moving back to China, every time when he looked up at a flying plane he yearned for homeland and playing for his old team, but he knew he's not able to do so. In the first tournament he barely lost to Tsukimoto, he won only because of Tsukimoto's mercy for him, but eventually got skunked by Kazama later on. That was his biggest lesson of humility in his life. He lost twice to people whom he didn't respect. Now he is forced to reckon with the fact that Japan may now be his home. After the tournament his trainer tolds him that honestly his life only starts and he just have gotten on start line, it doesn't matter if he fails at Table Tennis. He gets offered a job of training a team. Kong turns to be a wonderful trainer, he's sharing useful advices with his students and is encouraging them to train. Even after defeat he's not giving up on playing Ping Pong and still trains to get better. In the second tournament when he played Peco and still lost, the "plane" flied away, but he doesn't care anymore. He's not willing to go back to China, because Japan is now his home, he found something that holds him here and it was his team for which he was a Leader and inspiration. If you cannot reach something you want, then look up to the things you have already got and seek for good things in them. At the end of the show we see that his will to continue training even after constant defeats paid out - he moved out to Europe and started playing on Olympic level.
Hoshino Yutaka, alias Peco is a truly gifted player, he even could outplay older players as a child, he was always in the spotlight, but his constants victories and his natural capabilities made him really full of himself and eventually got slothful and lazy. Instead of training and developing his skills he was eating candies and snacks. When he played Kong Wenge in the first episode he got totally skunked, he haven't even scored one point. He never experienced that big defeat before. He celebrated his defeat with tears and despair and eventually he got even more lazy, which made him completely unprepared for the competition ahead of him. In the first tournament he noticed that Smile had almost won with Kong Wenge - the player that he lost to without scoring any point. It was a great shock, because he was always thinking that he is better than Smile. In the same tournament he played Sakuma, who was always worse than him up to this moment, but over time he overcame the difference in skill between them with hard work and dedication to sport and it ended up in lose for Peco. Sakuma laughed down at him telling that he should give up on the sport, because he is no longer good. Constant defeats and his descention in skill made him lost his confidence and eventually ended up on decision to give up on Table Tennis. Peco started eating even more snacks, got fat, adust and started smoking. He got into a relationship that didn't really work out, the girl broke up with him just because he didn't bring up her Christmas Gift. Later on when Peco visits his old Ping Pong club where he mets Sakuma. He tells Peco that he need to go back to Ping Pong, because he loves that sport more than anyone else. Peco after seeing photo featuring him and Tsukimoto holding a trophy, gets reminded of his love for the sport and goals of becoming the greatest and ultimately decides to go back to Table Tennis. He determines to start from the very beginning, trains very hard and develops his skills even further which results in winning the second tournament. Peco is the hero of Ping Pong, and he represents all that the show values and believes in. He does not fear defeat - because he plays for his earnest love of the game, and his earnest love of those he plays with. While playing Kazama and Smile whom are content to remain safe in their own cages, Peco lifts them up with his belief, and they lift him higher in turn. I know and im sure you know too some people who got that kind of passion for their lifes.
Sakuma, alias "Devil" is a childhood friend of Peco and Smile. He's got no talent for Table Tennis, because of an eye astigmatism that doesn't allow him to achieve the same response time as other players, which is essential in Table Tennis. Always envious to Peco for his great Ping Pong capabilities, for that he was always in the center of attention unlike him and got so many trophies for winning. He decided to work hard to overcome the obstacle that he met while playng on a higher level and eventually found a place in prestigious Kaio sport club which resulted in winning with Peco. After the first tournament he challenged Smile for a game. It was shocking experience for him since he didn't know that Tsukimoto might become that good. He totally lost, defeat at Smile’s hands forces him to realize that sometimes you just don’t have the aptitude to achieve your dreams, even thought he was a little relieved with that fact. That was the turning point for his life, because he no longer was limited by desire to win. In the second tournament he seems to be happy and in the end of the show it is said that he started a family. If you have no talent in something you shouldn't cry about that, just find something else that you are good in and move on, or focus on something else, life doesn't end on Ping Pong.
Then there is this dude, who played Tsukimoto in the first tournament. After he lost, he decided that Table Tennis is not for him and he decided to travel around the world and find his place on Earth. He tried on the beach, on the mountains, on the desert, but every time he felt that this is not what he was looking for. After a year he ended up on the second tournament in Japan. Tears filled his eyes when he realized that it was Ping Pong all along that he loved, but he have given up too easily on it, just because of one defeat. Witnessing the match between Peco and Smile, he rejuvenated his love for Ping Pong and eventually found his way to the Olympic stage (at the end of the show he is sitting on the stands with Japan national team shirt on).
"Defeat is death", "The truth lies in victory" - those are the slogans of Kaio, sport club obviously aiming to be the greatest that is never fully pleased with their athletes performance. Sport hall opened 24/7 available for training, trainers from around the world, in-depth analyses of training, highest quality sports equipment available to players for free, the usage of modern medicine to keep athletes bodies in perfect condition. Those are only the few of opportunities that Kaio is providing for their players. The only condition is - if you're not playing well enough, you're getting kicked out. They are even getting cut bald to not let hair distract players while playing. Kaio is a factory of robots playing Table Tennis for the victory. Kazama Ryuuichi is magnificently talented player which is the best player of Kaio sport club and their biggest trump card. He has been taught that the only route to success is victory, believes that the failings of others are definable and surpassable as lack of effort. Not only does he not rely on the strength of others, but he also doesn’t lend others his strength. The amount of stress he used to experience, because of his responsibility everyone are trying to bestow overwhelms him. Ping Pong has become a cage for Kazama - he used to close in the toilet and stand alone in his stall, staring silently down at his purple ping pong shoes before any bigger competitive, because of the fear. While he was playing with Peco in the second tournament he could see him "flying". Though walls of his bathroom are closed, the ceiling is open. Kazama can still look, can still reach, can still dream. The match between Peco and Kazama ends not in dour dramatics, but in laughter, in a shared love of the sport. Kazama's play defined fear, but Peco manages to break through to him and show him through competition and love that there is joy in these exchanges. At the end of the show he's telling that he got kicked out of the professional team, but as the time passed he learned to overcome failures gracefully. He's not afraid anymore, either victory or defeat, he will be able to face it boldly.
Makoto Tsukimoto, a friend of Peco that was introduced to Table Tennis by him, called "Smile", because of his lack in expressing any emotions often insulted by his classmated. When he started playing Ping Pong - he was smiling like a madman. Peco gave a lesson to everyone that tried to insult him and pulled him out of a "cage" he was sitting in, because of that Peco has become his role model and "hero", he wanted to be just like him. At the start of the show Tsukimoto wasn't smiling at all. It was because he didn't feel any motivation for playing Table Tennis. It was because Peco was playing bad and behaved pathetic. Smile after years proved to be horribly good player, his overwhelming power becomes evident. He was subconsciously letting Peco him win to not hurt feelings of his "hero", which later on trainer Koizumi noticed. He even gets scouted by Kazama from Kaio, but it was Koizumi who awakened his potential. He starts training under his wings, not because he wanted to, but because he just wanted to win, he truly started behaving like a robot. Even though he got the power to crush every player he faced he couldn't help with loneliness he constantly felt, he spent Christmas Eve alone, even training Table Tennis with Koizumi would be better. Tsukimoto was told since he was very young that he's a "robot", that he is emotionless and incapable of feeling. However, Peco still remembers why Smile is called by that nickname, smiling is an emotion too, Tsukimoto have to feel that human emotion - Smile - again and remind to himself why he started playing. After Peco won with Kazama, he knew that his "hero" is back and he don't need to hold back anymore - it was always Peco’s joyfulness that made Table Tennis so wonderful for him. While playing with Peco he slowly came to realize why he is playing the game. It is because "Blood tastes like Iron", it is the taste of blood in your mouth after a big effort that make it truly worth experiencing (We are alive song). At the end Smile throwns the racket in the air and shows that it no longer have any hold on him, he have to find happiness by his own way now. He can toss the racket free without regrets, because he now knows who he wants to be - a teacher.
The scene on the train when Smile says “the one after next” is relevant to just about everything the show discusses. Smile waits for his hero to make it to him at the finals - the match after Peco’s “awakening” vs Kazama. Kong fights to make it to his next match - to find a home for him and his mother. The whole show is really about what comes after what you are doing now. Ping Pong the Animation doesn't show it's characters falling, because of their patheticism, but because they need to fail. Every one of their defeats made them stronger. Failure in Table Tennis is not the end of the world. Making it to the next match is much less difficult when you are passionate about what you are doing. Peco’s love for ping pong is exactly what allows him to get to his next match, because there is always something else waiting for you. The whole point of the show is to not seek for victory. Victory will not give you timeless satisfaction, only seeking seek true passion and joy from what you're doing just like Peco will provide it to you.
THIS IS THE GREATEST...................................DISAPPOINTMENT!!!!!!
This show is ass and not the good kind.
I am going to compare it to Van Gogh's 1888 "The Night Café" throughout this review. When anyone looks at "The Night Café", they see a subpar painting. They are standing there confused as to why everyone is proclaiming this to be a fine piece. You need to know that the light green bar is representative of the green fairy. You need to know that the clock is just past twelve so it isn't tactful to be drinking during either time. You have to know that the warm walls with the white tables will
cause the tables to seemingly walk away from the walls if heavily intoxicated. Then you must be aware that the yellow room in the back is inviting and is everything that isn't the room you are currently in. I can go on about this piece for about ten minutes and I feel like I am pretending to be every zealot who loves "Ping Pong The Animation".
Just like "The Night Café", people go out of their way to polish a turd. People make it sound like it is the only "coming of age tale" when there are indeed tons of them. "Coming of age" may as well be it's own genre. They recycle the exact same scenes when showing character development. Let's watch Peco get slapped again. Let's see if Ping Pong Man becomes anything significant. I have played sports and I was good at some and not so good in others. Big deal! I personally lived the best part of this anime with little to no effort. I like abstract representational art. I appreciate the use of symbolism and scale to convey points. This show borderline took the piss with it's art. No one could have actually been touched by the guy on the beach. He was wandering around like an emo kid and it kept reoccurring without anyone caring about him.
The art-style is awful. I understand wanting to stay true to the source material, but alterations would have been seriously advised. Let's take something everyone loves; Steins;Gate. The art in the anime was similar to the VN, but someone with common sense realized that it would be a feat to keep that style up for an entire anime. They took some polish off and kept the same feeling. This is an adaption done correctly. I have seen cars hit by trains that had smoother lines than what this animation has given us. People fail to realize failure when they love something and overlooking flaws is a virtue. The quality of an abstract non-representational piece of "art" done by a 5 year old that has been given three colors will be of the same caliber.
I want to touch on the music quickly. There is one good song called "Dragon" and it goes "Hoo-Ha PING PONG" and then repeats. There is also one song that is so bad they didn't even put it on the OST. Listen for the humming song in the show if you want to go into an audio induced coma.
The show was not enjoyable and I cannot believe that this is rated so highly. This show demonstrates how strong the troll community is by jokingly rating this show a 10. Most people that love this show have an average of less than 6 because they are the wannabe anime critics/hardasses and they all need a joke like "Cory in the House" to keep in their own circle.
Ping Pong the Animation (PPtA) must be one of the most crushingly beautiful works I’ve ever encountered, no matter the medium. According to the vague memory of my first watch of it, it felt like watching sports car going at full speed from start to finish. As fuel for the ride served the show's outstanding qualities across several fields, most importantly its natural character-relations and resonant thematic depth. Almost like love at first sight, it engraved itself into one of my favourite works of all time, accomplishing that in one mere session of binge-watching. Unfortunately enough, due to the speed of my initial watch and
the natural process of forgetting calmer episodes/moments in favour of its absolute highlights, uncertainty on how to tackle the show arose, and with that feeling I decided to skip it entirely. So, after three years of my initial completion, I decided to take a glimpse at it again with an eventual re-watch, unsure on how it’d hold up for me personally. But surprisingly, there was no sign of deterioration. At all. The heart of Ping Pong doesn’t solely lie in its climaxes of the story, which come off as insanely hype and powerful, it lies in the complete package, containing a variety of small details. Additionally, the amazing audio-visual vibrancy, fitting a story like Ping Pong’s perfectly, and its prominently versatile, “real” character interactions round the show off successfully. While tiny, tiny moments and situations feel a bit rough around the edges, there never was a sign of a faltering engine compared to my first experience with it by any means.
In contrast to most series inhabiting some kind of sports as their setting, Ping Pong chooses to do things quite differently. Differently in terms of focus, specifically on what the camera lens tends to focus on. Deviating from the overwhelming majority of sports anime, the competition itself doesn't get thrown in the spotlight, the mere “actors” surrounding the very competition, however, do receive it. The mutual influence they and their mindsets exercise on each other, the rocky hills they cross mentally and conclusion reached by their experiences are the stars of the show. Roughly a dozen characters are gradually getting developed, continually influencing how the story will turn out in a mere duration of eleven episodes. Sharing similar necessities and fears caused by the need to perform while simultaneously getting fleshed out, the way they bounce off each other is a marvel in particular. Despite the similar problems they face, their conclusions tend to be different and manifest themselves in success or failure at the table and/or in life. Only focusing on the athletic success would be a complete disservice to PPtA and all of its characters, as it highlights the individual in the ongoing battle between talent and hard work itself.
Success under pressure doesn’t necessarily amount to a saturated mindset or personal life and same goes for the other way around. Each character learns, makes the decisions for themselves and opts for their own and unique future, which will define them in the eventual flow of life. Similar to other coming-of-age titles in general, the cast finds itself in several situations which need development in order for them to efficiently tackle the many tasks life sets for them, along with their initial motivation to play the sport they love. However, much in contrast to the plethora of anime with an eerily similair set-up, PPtA strictly refuses to let the possible universality and perspicacity a "last year in high school" could possibly offer for oneself go down the drain. It aims to create something bigger as a result, granting you the absolute big picture about each character by the time it ends.
Development is the big word here and how it is achieved might as well be PPtA’s biggest accomplishment in terms of its storytelling. As I’ve previously described, the show’s pacing does feel much like a rush, something you can’t really stop until it has eventually finished. Despite that fact, it still finds more than enough time to create something that makes it ultimately feel down to earth and undoubtedly beautiful to me. You can’t create a storm if you don't take a breather sometimes. It doesn’t matter if it’s the protagonists’ coach silently swinging away his sorrows and doubts of him not being able to foster the massive talent of his student, the roars of an airplane’s engine haunting a Chinese exchange student due to his wish of finally going back home, or the perceivable sound of trickling water coming from the bathroom next door right before the final match. All these little details come in high quantity, big hordes that fully support the prevalent conflict in the background. The care put into implementing those, making great use of visual and dialogic repetition along the way from start to finish, can only be achieved through a magnificent understanding on how to translate the Manga’s original flow to Animation, which I'd highlight as Yuasa's biggest achievement in the industry so far.
Quite in contrast to a lot of those detailed and rather subtle character moments Ping Pong has to offer, its visual imagery definitely opts for the expressionistic and vibrant path. The colour palette adapts from idyllic, calm vibes and of a small-town in Japanese autumn to bleak, awe-inspiring, adrenalin-fuelled stand-offs on the table, accompanied with a background appearing in pitch-black, where the only thing spending light is the fictional, colourful spark going off every hit on the ball.
Continuing my appraisal for Ping Pong's visuals, it appears to me that it is one of the only modern Anime that doesn't falter in the visual department because of its lack of hand-drawn Animation-sequences. The show is utilizing a fantastic comic book style of Animation, meaning that the screen is divided into many smaller pictures showing up one after another, giving off the impression of a moving comic book, staying very true to the source material.
Symbolism is another big selling-factor of Ping Pong and something a lot of people are initially thrown off by, as it houses a lot of it and doesn't hold back on (re-)using it. Rather than it being on the more cryptic side, the integral parts of it are repeated multiple times during the series, maybe walking a thin line with a lot of peoples' patience. However, to me they never feel out of place and tend to go off like emotional fireworks during the series’ climaxes, giving the series its distinctive, colourful character.
Not forgetting the tunes of it, the soundtrack of Ping Pong successfully reinforces and compliments all the different moods, situations, and climaxes presented in the story in an outstandingly great and diverse way. Be it the remix of an actual Ping Pong ball going back and forth between two participants, to imitating chants of voices in the background during a face-off filled with despair, to a plethora of other amazing, mostly electrical, tracks.
Sometimes the simplest stories are at their core the most beautiful and it goes without saying that Ping Pong the Animation is more than true to this statement for me. All the symbolism and vibrant imagery surrounding the title are merely ingenious complements to the absolute down-to-earth journey of high-schoolers finding themselves over the course of doing what they love, playing competitive Ping Pong. Their eventual confrontation with the question of “talent vs. hard work”, in which PPtA surely doesn’t opt for the usual conclusion, is nothing short of breath-taking. The whole package of emotional weight being carried by the series is not something to be taken lightly. Its at first glance relentlessly fast and yet absolutely adequate pacing and the eventual complete catharsis make it undoubtedly a piece of art, fully worthwhile from start to finish. Over the years Ping Pong managed to stay on top of my favourites by the mere, indescribable mood I was sent in after completing it and it still manages to amaze me even more as a total package, making it probably THE most defining work in Anime for my personal taste, along with Cowboy Bebop.
"The thing is, talent isn't something that only goes to those who want it."
Art (9/10), Animation (9/10)
Ping Pong, a sport that is played on a table. Who knew it could be so compelling when transformed into anime form? At first glance, this show seems like an unattractive piece of work with its oddly drawn looking characters. But that’s only the surface as the complexity of Ping Pong the Animation is more about the animation style. It’s about craftsmanship of a game that revolutionized with in an avant-garde way that is captivating, thought provoking, and mutation from unique to convincing work of art.
The show makes its entrance fairly straight forward with the competitive sport of ping pong. I am not an active
competitor of the sports myself but the show has the ability to grip your attention with its idiosyncratic style. And despite how complex the characters look at first glance, the story itself is easy to follow. We have two friends sharing a passion for the sport they love, in this case being ping pong. Makoto Tsukimoto and Yutaka Tsukimoto are fine examples of how people compete for success yet seemingly adapts to their love for a hobby. With nicknames such as Smile and Peco, they stand out fairly solid with their personas.
Besides that point, several distinctive features stands out to make this show memorable. First, we have Masaaki Yuasa, the brainchild behind the show. With his innovative craftsmanship, he compels this show into an enthusiastic style series as previously seen in animation works such as Kaiba, The Tatami Galaxy, and Mind Game. Here, we see his talents again formulated into the world of ping pong, a competitive game that tests the very wits of the competitors. Each superlative movement is carefully made to stand out distinctively to show precision. But more so, we also see motifs whether it’s comparisons to those of a robotic arm or dragon as a form of symbolism of definable nature.
The first episode shows how Peco meets a prodigy named Wenge (also nicknamed as China from the country of his origin). Coming from the ‘kingdom of ping pong’, we quickly see the gap of strength in the two as China dominates in his match with a clean finish. But behind those devilish eyes and hot-boiled temper is also a man of integrity, who strives to become the best. His complex nature is a highlight in this show that feature several sides to his testament. For one thing, he seemingly has both an inferiority and superiority complex. From the beginning, he looks down on other players for attempting to be on his “equal” such as Peco. On the other hand, he also values players such as Smile as someone that is worthy of being his adversary. And indeed, later episodes shows exactly why Smile is worthy of being called just that. Speaking of which, our main characters Smile and Peco are like columns to the building blocks of characterization. The way Ping Pong the Animation depicts their characters at a fundamental level is appreciable. For instance, Smile is portrayed with characteristics that shows him as a loner and plain man. Throughout the series, it’s shown that he is skilled in the art of ping pong and can be relatable with his realistic style of living life itself. He is honest, has a dynamic relationship with his coach, and even rivals takes him for granted. And despite often behaving in a deadpan manner, Smile can be quite likeable. His nickname also serves as an anti-thesis because he barely ever smiles with his expressionless face behind those eye glowing spectacles. On the other hand, we have Peco, a young boy of eccentricity. Unlike Smile, he is outgoing and is often on the lookout for challenges in his life whether they’d be skilled competitors like China or dealing with countless hours of excruciating training. Even though he has a lack of skill compared to other players in the beginning, one should admire his never diehard attitude through a boy of determination. Peco’s mentor, Obaba sees his honest intentions and pushes him to become what he hopes to be – a player of integrity of admirable efforts. Similarly, Jou Koziumi (nicknamed ‘Butterfly Joe’) values Smile for both his talent and someone that he sees as his younger self. This reflection in his character shows a visage that the show details in solidity through its intriguing characterization, one that is memorable from many angles. Likewise, all the main characters gets their spotlight and their journey to stardom. It’s a ride you won’t forget with their development is what should be valued.
Of course, ping pong being a competitive sport also means competition. It’s more than just hitting a ball with a racket across the table but rather as a form of art. Each movement requires a methodical play through strategic movements. Some of these are delineated with motifs and spellbinding moments thanks to Yuasa’s innovative style. The symbolism such as the ferocity of a dragon coming from Ryuuichi Kazama (also nicknamed as “Dragon”) shows this at its best during one of his matches in the tournaments. While it may seems like a wild frenzy, it also makes its point to show how intense ping pong can really be. Each competitors’ playing style define their own characteristics and brings about their persona to life. The sportsmanship is also displayed well with accuracy to tell a riotous story.
A controversial topic relates to the artistic direction of the show. One might interpret it as unfitting. Yet looking from a different angle, it should be seen as more the nature of how it is displayed. In this case, it is unorthodox but with a fitting edge towards its thought provoking story. The characters are presented as complex by nature, complex by attributes, and complex but their playing style. As such, we see this from the artwork of Ping Pong. The way the ping pong ball is hit forward and returned is captured with very fluid animation. The camera angle often focuses on each and every movement in order to illustrate the intensity of the game with hardcore precision. There’s no rush towards the art but instead serves as a purpose of the characters being figures to remember. The artwork in this case is memorable not for its avant-garde style but for the ability to bring out ping pong at its very best.
Similarly, the soundtrack is also powerhouse that is carefully crafted to fit the characters and the ping pong world. For instance, the OST is intense often configured in rhythm to match each movement with a players’ stroke. The voice actors also show their talents in their field especially for China’s character. As a foreigner and fresh face, he is able to speak both Mandarin and Japanese to solid degrees. I give praise to Yosei Bun for his performance as his debut in the voice acting industry. However, China is not the only character with memorable dialogues. Most if not all the characters’ dialogues are a testament to define how this show stands out to be complex in nature. Their dialogue holds meaning, depth, and dedicates to purpose. Likewise, Smile and Peco’s voices also reflects their personalities in a credible way. Finally, the OP & ED song are more just than catchy. They systemically define the dynamics of its artistic style with appreciable freshness.
Ping Pong the Animation is a brilliant example based off the manga of the same name that serves as a rare breed to the sports realm. While most sports series captivates on the competitions itself, this show seizes every moment to characterize its players that will be memorable for generations to come. It is mature, realistic, relatable, and compelling. The one aspect I did find somewhat vague and may seem weakly portrayed would be the rules of the actual games. But likewise, this is a story not just being about to beat the man but to be the man. As complex as the characters look, this show is easy to understand with a cunning nature. Even if you feel the final result of their achievements may seem indifferent, it’s what their journey that counts the most with the development. After all, there’s an old saying that goes “the journey is more important than the destination”. And after watching Ping Pong the Animation, I couldn’t agree more.
Heroes are the stuff of legend. They can prevent natural disasters to protect the Earth, fight giant monsters to defend a city, and even rescue people from unsightly doom. Heroes are who we call for when the going gets tough. They do what nobody else can, and that is, simply put, save. And it doesn't have to come from stopping an earthquake or beating up evil; what they do better than almost anyone else is instill hope. That, no matter what may come next, there is still a chance. And sometimes -- very rarely -- the heroes are
the ones who need saving. With this in mind, Ping Pong The Animation becomes an anime that goes down in history as one of the best.
Ping Pong stars two high school table tennis players, "Smile" and "Peco." One day, their club's coach sees latent potential in Smile, and begins to nurse him into the type of player he can assuredly be.
One of Ping Pong's greatest story elements, like the paddles the cast wield, is double-sided. It weaves in and out of the lives they live and the matches they play. That is, the characterization comes from their normal, everyday routines, but their development explodes from the battles they share. It's a constant turnover of seeing the characters adapt or react to the victory or loss they experience. It makes everyone involved incredibly dynamic and real. Watching Smile hold back due to misplaced drive, seeing Dragon dominate the playing field because of unimaginable practice, viewing Akuma as he faces reality; these few instances are tense and filled with drama. But it doesn't stop there. Because what happens afterwards is just as important: Smile becoming ruthless, Dragon remaining isolated, and Akuma correcting his path. In short, every match counts. The winners and the losers never leave the mats unscathed, and Ping Pong demonstrates this beautifully.
An interesting theme that the anime runs with early is the idea that "there is always someone better." A normal mindset looks at this adage as dealing with victory and defeat only; that being "better" is restricted to whatever topic is at hand. For Ping Pong, it elaborates beyond just winning and losing. For example, Yurie has two loves, but follows the one that brings her the comfort she desires. Koizumi is given a distinct opportunity, and leans towards the more moral path. Being better than someone isn't always about who earned the most or least points. Here, it comes from the actions -- not the numbers -- that the characters make. Kong training others or Akuma physically and mentally saving Peco make them "better" than the cold Smile or distant Dragon, despite the latter being "better" themselves.
Which links back to the introduction. Who is a hero? The word is used frequently, and is attributed to a fantastical creature with a strange gesture and elegant wings. Does it have to be some fictional entity? Like the story-telling and superiority discussed earlier, Ping Pong thinks outside of the box. A hero is the best friend, a rival, or some passing stranger. A hero is a coach or family member. A hero is one's self. That is, everyone is a hero. People have the opportunities to be the savior that somebody needs. And a lot of the time, they cannot always be capitalized on. Ping Pong shows this with Yurie and Dragon, or even Kong and his teacher. But when the hero does show up, it both figuratively and literally changes the game. He or she doesn't have to necessarily enact some elaborate plan. Whether it is training someone day and night or giving a small piece of wisdom, there is and always will be a hero in all of us.
The most controversial topic when it comes to Ping Pong is in the art and animation department. And it is crucial to make a distinction between the two.
From the outset, the art is, bluntly put, ugly. It's literally rough around the edges and characters can have misshapen figures at any given time. But this is part of the allure, the "charm," that it exudes. Over time, one gets used to seeing the characters looking wonky or the backdrops lacking detail. Essentially it is the only barrier keeping the audience away. If anything, it's extremely unique -- at least, within the realm of anime.
To alleviate some of these issues, Ping Pong takes on two rather clever approaches. The first is presenting everything in a comic book style. Shots are segmented in such a way as to "show motion without motion." Many scenes are broken up into panels: just a character's head, his feet planting, then an arm being swung, etc. But it's more than just cutting down on animation; it actually ties back into the themes of the show itself. It's a story containing heroes. And so what one is getting isn't just an anime, but a moving, talking comic book.
Another of its brilliant artistic choices is similar to the previous style. Table tennis is a personal game. Like chess or wrestling, it's a one-on-one test of skill. To this end, Ping Pong loves to place its characters in two separate, large panels when they are having a conversation. It mirrors the give-and-take of the sport they all play. And this doesn't just happen during the matches; it also occurs during their daily life, demonstrating how great of an influence the game has had on the lot of them.
The character designs are nicely done, and help to exemplify what each man represents: calm, sly, fun, cool, and strong. Smile with his plain looks and glasses, Akuma with his slanted eyes, Peco and his bowl-cut, Kong with his slick hair and shades, and Dragon's stoic facial details. Each player looks, and plays, the part.
As for the actual animation, Ping Pong is all over the place. At times, it flows nicely, and at other moments, it dips dangerously low. Again, the composition of the shots helps to relieve some of the more blatant issues, giving the anime an all-around average showing in movement.
Ping Pong contains a strong cast of characters, some of the best in a long while.
Akuma is a member of the Kaio Academy table tennis club. His rough attitude and unfriendliness makes him a difficult person to approach. As a child, he looked at Peco as an inspiration, and as a teenager, the mighty Dragon. He saw these great figures before him, and his goal was set: to become the kind of player his heroes had been known to be. But he faced a harsh reality, that sometimes, despite how hard one works, it just isn't enough. A certain amount of talent is needed to make the transition from good to masterful, and Akuma learns this the hard way. But his experience allows him to flourish. Instead of wallowing in self-pity, he becomes a savior for the people he had always looked up to. And eventually he realizes that just because his life may not have gone down the initial path he walked, there is still more out there to cherish and love even when the future looks bleak.
Kong Wenge -- also known as "China" -- hails from the land of the same name as the moniker given to him. Being foreign, cocky, and good at the game depicts him as a powerful opponent for anyone to face. More so than anyone else, he had to meet expectations. Representing his home country, abandoning his mother, making his coach proud, and getting back to his former glory are all pressures exerted on him. He succumbs to them, but he takes defeat not as a final judgment, but as a means to start anew. He reconnects with his family, he adopts a nicer personality, and he starts to coach -- starts to be the hero -- for his own club. He discovers that it isn't just about pleasing others; it's also about pleasing yourself.
As the champion of the mats, Dragon is a ferocious monster when it comes to table tennis. His only goal is to win; he cares about nobody and nothing on his way to the top. Growing up, he was subject to mental abuse, that he was only worth as much as the trophies he earned. Losing his father and being essentially ostracized, he became isolated. Lonely and afraid, his only comfort came from the stalls in which he would dwell. Crushing player after player, he decides that there are no heroes, that the only person that truly matters is yourself. But in a stunning performance, he learns the truth. That there exist people who can do the impossible, who can reach the skies. That people really can fly.
Smile is so aptly named because he never smiles. As a child, he was often bullied, ridiculed for his robotic nature and the video games he played. But he always believed that a hero would save him, would reach out and take him to a place of happiness. As a teenager, Smile's robotic play-style and obvious talent made him into a fearsome juggernaut, whose rise through the ranks was unparalleled. Going from uncaring to stubborn in his determination, Smile uncharacteristically begins to play with unfettered will. However, it is all for a purpose: to repay the hero of his past.
Finally, no discussion about the anime can be had without Peco. Always looking to have fun and eating way too many sweets, he prides himself on how good of a player he has always been. But what quickly comes to light is that he is no match for everyone around him, specifically Akuma, Kong, Dragon, and Smile. He finds himself everywhere emotionally, from soaring highs to drowning lows. But in the end, it is Peco who is the ultimate hero. Because he alone influences each of the cast. To Akuma, he was the kid everyone wanted to be; to Kong, he shows that people can improve; to Dragon, he signifies that heroes do exist; and most of all, to Smile, he proves that Smile is alive, is human, that Smile's "blood tastes like iron." Peco touches the hearts and minds of these men in one way or another, giving them all the opportunity to become the type of people they always wanted to be.
The OP is quite good. With the yelling and whistling, the fast paced lyrics, and rock-n-roll instruments, it's not only very catchy but gets you quickly pumped up.
The ED takes some time to grow, but once it does, it is very powerful. It starts off soft, with the clapping and wavy, up-and-down sound effects. When the beat kicks in, it turns into both a happy and hopeful piece. And it ends like the birds in the sky: out of reach and free.
The soundtrack for the anime is amazing. "Peco" perfectly captures Peco's passion and love for the game with its flute and peppy feel. "Butterfly Joe" is sorrowful, with the violin and piano being emotionally resounding. The best track is easily "Dragon," with its choir chanting, thunder, and hard drums; it is both incredibly mysterious and strikingly powerful. Every track either fits where needed or leaves a lasting impression.
Voice acting sees above-average work for everyone involved, with each cast member bringing about a splendid performance. Special shout-outs go to Fukujurou Katayama in his first VA role as Peco, Yousei Bun as Kong for the Chinese dialogue, and Shunsuke Sakuya as Dragon.
There were so many events, and entire episodes, that were momentous to see. Kong versus Dragon of episode four, the Christmas Eve depiction of episode six, and all of episode ten were fantastic experiences that I can still picture in my mind. The development of the characters, the art direction, and the story itself; there are so many instances within the show that are memorable.
And that speaks nothing of the writing, too. Smile telling Kong, "It'll only end in defeat," Peco screaming out, "I'm fly--" only to hit the water before finishing his sentence, or Smile telling his coach that, "Heroes have no weaknesses." There are so many great lines that can be pulled out from the anime, all of which not only sound cool out of context, but have such huge connections to the themes of the show itself.
Ping Pong The Animation has it all. A heartfelt story, a unique and purposeful art style, unbelievable characters, top-notch sound-work, and more enjoyment than one will know what to do with. This anime serves as testament to the idea that ping pong isn't just a sport; it's a way of life.
Story: Great, ping pong affects both the match and the personal, with strong themes of being better and being the hero
Animation: Great, unique art style and direction, good character designs, varying animation quality
Characters: Great, Akuma, China, Dragon, Smile, and Peco are heroes to and for each other
Sound: Great, good OP, good ED, great soundtrack, good VA work
Enjoyment: Great, memorable instances and writing the whole way through
By the sixth time the characters talked about how talented and brilliant Tsukimoto is, I had to make sure I wasn’t watching a battle shounen series. At least the observers in Medabots looked anxious and worried. Ikki fought against tough enemies and had to find chinks in their armor. Here, Tsukimoto hits the ball a few times, push up his glasses and walks away. Not smiling did not add depth to the character.
There’s a brilliant story here somewhere. The story follows a cast that each has a different approach to the sport. This is an archetype that gives you so much do it never gets
old. Often, the series understands how to use it. There are about five different viewpoints here. Each is unique in its way, and each is presented as reasonable. The creators never rely on caricatures. They rely more on super-talented protagonists and an unorthodox art style that adds nothing.
Tsukimoto and Peco are both talented people who we are supposed to cheer for because they’re talented. While Peco’s lively energy is fun, it’s not enough to drive a main character. It’s barely a quirk for a supporting one. Tsukimoto is supposed to be unique with how he refuse to smile, but his character never settles on pretentious moron or angsty teenager. Both would’ve been fine, but at best the series makes him the former. It also takes his pretense seriously.
There is nothing exciting or valueable in being unenthusiastic about life. Tsukimoto walks around with an apathetic expression and doesn’t seem to like anything. His attitude towards life is the same thing that made Joy Division successful, but Joy Division didn’t just sell indifference. They explored that attitude.
People who reach such a state probably have something in the past that made them this way. They would also lead terribly dull and sad life. The idea that such a person can be so talented is far-fetched. Wouldn’t winning games require some sort of drive? People sometimes hate what they’re good at, but that’s at least an emotion. Ping Pong wants us to believe that a walking embodiment of Joy Division’s classic album is somehow a champion in table tennis.
A bullying story is tacked on at the end. It’s a predictible story that shows us that the kid was disliked, but never the horrible reality of it. Tsukimoto even gets a cheerful person to stick with him. Both of them turn out to be extremely talented in ping pong. Where’s the struggle?
Peco faces losing for the first time and gets bummed, but this is where their troubles end. They’re celebrities and heroes in the eyes of everyone, but not heroes that are uncomfortable in their position. They’re not like Kazama, who was driven to succeed to cover up his emotional troubles. Kazama is a champion who uses victories as a way to find happiness that he can’t achieve. His talent is part of his struggle.
Ping Pong also has a strange view of talent. Talent is something you either have or don’t, and no amount of practice can make up for it. It’s a fatalist view, and not a good one. It could be talent is something you’re born with, but how will you know if you’ll never try to prove it? Indifference like Tsukimoto’s rarely produces noteable people.
What’s thrilling in such stories is not to see the characters win. All the creators have to do is just write that the characters won. What’s interesting is their struggle, their view on victory and why they’re doing it. Their reaction to losing or winning is what makes things exciting. China, Sakuma and the long-haired dude all have such an arc. One uses the sport to return back home. One uses it to lift up his own low self-confidence. Another one is on an eternal search for meaning.
Their stories are far more exciting and humane than Tsukimoto’s/Peco’s. They are stories of people like us, rather than two people who found out they’re talented. It’s amazing how similar it is to cookie-cutter heroic stories. Substitute ‘talent in ping pong’ with ‘magic sword’, ‘victory’ for ‘saving the world’ and it turns out the anime isn’t so unique as it looks.
How it looks is a big discussion point, but not that exciting. The only good thing about it is how unorthodox it is. The character design is a weird take on realism that looks grotesque without bridging the gap. What especially sticks out are the lips, which look huge. The sketchiness also makes the character design inconsistent. In too many scenes, the characters look like blobs.
This is not minimalism. They look like shapes drawn in a few seconds. The roughness achieves nothing. It could be an expression of the character’s imperfection, but the story disagrees with that. Peco and Tsukimoto are heroic champions. It doesn’t achieve any type of warmth because it’s too stylized and distant. All the rough lines and emphasized lips don’t give it the elegant simplicity that saved Mushishi’s character design. Being different is great, but if it doesn’t contribute to the story it’s just a fancy cover. There’s nothing particularly unusual about it other than a sketchy look that achieves nothing.
The animation is different, and Ping Pong fares better there. The series overcomes one of anime’s main flaws – its static animation. Most anime are fairly static, with more focus on design rather than motion. While Ping Pong fails in design, it’s a total success in kinetic energy. The Ping Pong matches are stylized action scenes that rely on visual expressions, not coherency.
Animating a sports match as it looks in reality is pointless. If you want to watch a real game, you’ll watch a real one. The only reason we watch a sports story is because of what the sport means to the characters. Each match is animated with focus on its place in the character development. The matches are the same in what happens in them. They all consist of people hitting the ball. The difference between them is the meaning, and so every match is an engrossing action scene that leaves everything else in the dust. It doesn’t just set the blueprint for how to animate sport scenes but how to animate action scenes in general.
Ping Pong is not the peak of anime. It’s not even among the more unusual of its type. Despite trying to create its own rules, not enough of them serve the story and it falls back on sport prodigies. The exploration of that type doesn’t go deep enough. Still, it has a great cast of side-characters and fantastic action scenes. Its attempts at understanding its cast are admirable, and so it relies more on developed characters than emotional manipulation. It’s not a milestone, but there’s enough to enjoy here.