Jun 19, 2014
Volunteer (All reviews)
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.