Ping Pong the Animation
Directed by: Masaaki Yuasa
“Ping Pong is no sports anime, but a story about characters.”
A line that starts nearly every Ping Pong review, and it is complete horse post-chew grass. This show is everything a sports anime aims to be. Though often derided, the sports genre has always been firmly about friendship, overcoming obstacles, and reaching your potential. The Shounen Show for people who are “meh” on the whole swords and laser beam thing.
The difference maker for Ping Pong is the use of characters through sport. Focusing on their goals and ambitions in a unique way, to match the equally unique art style.
A Sports Story
Ping Pong is what I consider to be the best story about sports ever made. Obviously Raging Bull, Rocky, and other great series will always have a place, but Ping Pong manages to make something that perfectly encapsulates what sport is *really* about.
Skipping training montages, practice sessions, entire portions of tournaments. No four episode game of Basketball here, you’ll be lucky to get 3 minutes! The action of the series is only used to centralize these characters into grand moments of multiple realizations and moments. Never trying to force a message into what is happening, using it instead to allow the characters a moment to truly express themselves as athletes, and show you their own life and style.
A Story of Villains
What separates Ping Pong from its sporty brethren, lies within the unique approach to story structure. Most would expect us to meet our “good guy” lead character, plucky and hopeful to be the best. Instead the series follows our antagonist, the villain, pushing forward to destroy all comers. Along with some fantastic side characters that are given ample time to expand and grow within the story.
Smile is a quiet boy who avoids too much effort, and finds most things to be a pain.
He tries to live life quietly, and plays ping pong with his friend. He shows some natural talent at Ping Pong though, and soon the team Coach begins to push him.
A villain is born, transforming from ordinary boy, into a Robot meant to destroy.
Unless a hero can come, he will destroy everything around him.
Demon is our minor villain. Never the best, and always working in service to others.
He fights constantly against mediocrity. Born with weak eyes and no talent for the sport, he fights the only way he knows how.
He sometimes gets a victory, striving to reach the top of villainy,
but never gets the recognition he craves.
China In the very first episode, recognizes a fellow villain.
Sent to Japan due to “mistakes”, he is a man angry at the world. Since this is a series about villains, watch as he takes the story over.
Being the middle henchman is never easy, and he finds a lot of trouble on the way.
Luckily, he has a bit of heart.
Dragon enters soon after, here to overtake China as chief villain. He is a monster with unstoppable power who has lost what it was to be good,
seeking only power and those able to follow his villainy.
Relentlessly, the monster destroys any that come, knowing that his fall will end in doom.
Until finally he faces the hero.
A Hero Appears, A Hero Appears, A Hero Appears
With so many villains running about town, surely we need a hero? Never fear, for we know that he is out there somewhere.
Peco is Smile’s long time friend, is lost and lacks any real drive. Kong destroying him and losing to his rival,
leaves Peco struggling. He begins to question everything,
and eventually gives in.
Allowing the villains to run free, only the Robot destroying the Demon
brings him back to reality, and Peco wants to try again!
Putting on his best Rocky Montage,
Peco returns to the sport he loves. The Hero Returns, and we watch as he takes to the sky. Redeeming himself against his first challenge,
proving that he is the hero,
and coming face to face with the boss villain.
The hero we all hoped for is here.
Hero and Villain, often seen as rivals, tread that thin line between enemy and friend. So when the Hero and the Robot face off, both skins are shed and we return to Peco playing his friend Smile.
So meet our dynamic group of characters:
As they go through the journey of Heroes, Villains, and Table Tennis.
In the end, it leaves us with the true message that lies in all competition. We’re alive. That’s why we’re happy.