"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.