I usually write these Quick Thoughts once I have finished watching an anime. So far Ping Pong The Animation is on its 9th episode of it’s 11 episode run. But since I’ve seen the film, I know what is going to happen and already have an unwavering opinion of the show.
Penny Arcade had a large impact on my life. Whenever they mention a game, I would play it. When they released a book I would’ve already pre-ordered it. Nowadays Penny Arcade is synonymous with Ping Pong and that had also lead me to the sport and to the 2002 manga adapted movie Ping Pong.
It’s clear that Penny Arcade was also influenced by the film as it can be seen in the Penny Arcade: The Series hanging on Kiko Villasenor’s wall. After reading up about the movie and spurred on by it’s vague connection to Street Fighter, I gave it a watch and was very disappointed.
Then came the Animation which looks really REALLY ugly. It has that uncanny valley realism to it like King of the Hill, another show that I was turned off by due to the art style. But like King of the hill, once I gave it a shot and watched a few episodes I was enthralled. I wish I didn’t judge things at face value as I’m sure I’m missing out on well written and paced shows like Ping Pong and King of the Hill. They are exceptionally good and ten times better than shows of more aesthetic presentation.
I’m not a huge fan of the sports anime genre after being burnt on two of them; Prince of Tennis seemed like a shoujo show with pretty boys doing pretty tennis and Moshidora whilst having a pretty lead, was dreadfully boring. Ping Pong the Animation is different in the regards that it’s entertaining and captivating because of the characters. In sports fiction the underling theme is usually; underdog works hard and achieves unrealistic goals. Ping Pong the Animation shuts down this trope and states firmly; those without talent won’t be as good as those with.
I love this brutal realism as a theme running through the show. Each Ping Pong player has their own goals and reasons why they play; Smile is bored, China wants to go back home and Akuma, probably the best character (and most fugly too) has no talent yet wants to prove that he can still play with the best of them. The matches (like in the movie) are the highlight of the show. Not only do you see some great animation but also a glimpse into each player’s personality, and their past making their ambitions more understandable.
There is more I’d like to talk about regarding the fantastic direction that makes it look like a dynamic manga and the complexity of each character, but this quick thoughts has gone long enough. I encourage people, even if they are turned off by the art style to give the first few episodes a watch at least. I found the movie painfully slow and dreary. It needed more time to develop the characters which the anime does nicely.