Ping Pong The Animation – Searching for a Hero

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Right out of the gate, this anime art and animation style has separated viewers into two camps; those who hate it, and those who put up with it. It goes without saying that the ones who hate it will not watch the show – but, if you’re someone in the second camp, looking for a reason to invest your time into Ping Pong the Animation, I’ll try my best to highlight how gosh darn good this show is.One thing that is important to note though, is that Ping Pong the Animation is not just about sports. It’s not of the shonen genre, for starters, and while there are some really intense battles, that’s not the focus of the anime. The anime deals with heavy topics. Like how talent can be a double edged sword, or – about growing up and finding yourself. Sounds clichéd, I know, but the show holds nothing back.

This anime is definitely worth your time, and if you’re worth your salt as an anime fan who’s open to try new things – then you cannot, should not glance over this show.

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The plot is split unevenly between several of the main characters. The show flits between the perspectives of four characters: Kazama, the champion. Smile, the antisocial schoolboy. Peco, the resident genius. And Wen Ge, the professional player.

The sport of ping pong is very important to these characters. What differs between them, is how ping pong has shaped the lives of each individual, and their differing attitudes towards it. This is an important plot point, as we’re able to see how this sport has affected them, both positively and negatively. I really enjoyed this aspect of the anime because it develops the characters; makes their struggles real. The viewers won’t give a damn if you just toss out a bunch of exposition, what matters is that one should be able to connect with them.

The story hit me hard at several points. It takes one or two episodes to pick up steam, but once it does: prepare for the ride of your life. The pacing is good, and the plot, while somewhat predictable at times, puts a new spin on the usual coming of age stories we’ve seen so many of. Enjoy the ride while it lasts. No pressure.

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Character development is another thing this anime has going for it. All four stories are interesting in their own right, but the show does a good job of intertwining them. Think of them as four separate threads which joins together at a certain point.

Personally, I loved Smile and Peco’s story the most. It can be equally heart-warming and heart-breaking, watching these flawed yet lovable boys stumble through the first to eleventh episode. I also did like the other two’s stories, but I could relate most to Peco and Smile. Young and bursting with life, yet having no sense of direction and just…wandering. It won’t be weird to finish watching an episode, turn off your computer, and just sit there for several moments – thinking about your own life.

Kazama and Wen ge’s stories on the other hand, are of a different sort. They are both similar, in which they’re professional players of Ping Pong, with the pressure to perform and snatch all the glory for themselves. Anyone who has been in these kinds of positions would be able to relate to them very well, I would think. Their stories also have more intensity to them compared to Peco’s and Smile’s because they have something to gain and everything to lose.

The secondary characters are developed extremely well. They’re not treated as plot devices to move the story along, the anime giving you tiny glimpses, snippets into their own lives and their respective troubles. They grow with the main characters instead of just staying the same old stereotype they started out as. How the directors managed to do this within 11 episodes, where some big budget series trip up, is beyond me. I’m not complaining, but seriously.

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The animation and art style for this show is very interesting. It goes as far as to animate those ugly emotions you’ve felt, jealousy at someone who was better than you in something, apathy, and many more, are painted in a realistically grim light. The show is spectacular at conveying emotions through its scenes; and the art style actually works with it rather than against it.

It runs the point home that an anime doesn’t always need to look good to be good, and having a unique animation style will do wonders to separate a show from the masses.

How many series have you watched, whose animation style remains fresh in your mind till this very day? For all the hubbub we as viewers make about good animation, we usually forget that ‘good’ does not mean ‘pretty’. If an anime is pretty but is shit, it’s still shit. Thankfully, this logic goes both ways. A good anime with a compelling story and great characters doesn’t always need stellar animation to capture the viewer’s attention and interest.

In the end, Ping Pong the Animation was amazing. I wished I watched it sooner. This anime has definitely earned its spot in my favourites list. There’s no doubt that I’ll come back to rewatch this gem of a show in the near future.

9/10

 Superb storytelling and character progression

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