Ping Pong – 08

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In case anyone forgets, Ping Pong steps up to remind us that yes, this is in fact a sports anime.

If there’s a drawback to populating a series mostly with interesting and likeable people – especially a sports series – it’s that it can be an avalanche of mixed emotions.  I’ll take it, don’t get me wrong – this kind of character development is more precious than gold to me (and twice as rare).  But it does make it a painful experience to watch Ping Pong sometimes, and this episode was definitely one of those times.

Poor Kong Wenge.  He’s always on the outside looking in as far as screen time, and he can’t seem to buy a break at the table either.  I liked China even when he wasn’t making it easy to like him, and each subsequent appearance has made him more and more sympathetic.  What a fascinating character he is, and I don’t think it can be denied that he’s grown more as a person than anyone else in the cast.  But he hasn’t grown more as a player (and perhaps that’s not coincidental) and he seems destined to be forever stymied in his attempts to redeem himself and be allowed to return home.

I wasn’t too thrilled when I saw Peco and China had drawn each other in the second round of the Inter-highs (yes, it’s been a year) because these were the two guys I was pretty much rooting for going in (which in itself is testament to the remarkable rehabilitation of Peco’s character).  And even as unconventional as Ping Pong is, there was no chance Peco was going to lose this match.  You had to figure he and Smile were going to meet up sooner or later, but I was hoping Wenge would be allowed to stick around until the semi-finals and earn his trip to the national championships.  C’est la vie.

It’s for such events as this that the term “luck of the draw” is perfectly suited, and it’s really Peco who drew the short straw here – not only did he draw Wenge in the second round, but also Dragon in the semi-finals.  On the other side Smile has it relatively easy, with only Kazama’s #2 at Kaio standing in his way until he reaches the finals.  And it’s Smile who’s the talk of the tournament, the rumored challenger to Dragon’s throne – not only is no one talking about Peco, but he wasn’t even going to be entered in the tournament until Obaba told Butterfly Jo to do so.

There’s also some shenanigans on the part of Poseidon here – they’ve placed mats throughout the arena, apparently without notifying anyone, and conveniently set up trucks outside selling the shoes Dragon was advertising on TV.  Whether to give Kaio an unfair advantage or just flog shoes it’s a cheap trick – and judging by the fact that Kazama himself isn’t wearing the mat shoes it definitely seems like the latter.  The first round goes as expected (Kong finishes off a Kaio bottom feeder easily) but the best part is watching Kong and his teammates interact afterwards – he’s become a real hero to these guys, and actually seems invested in seeing them do well.

Koizumi doesn’t even bother to watch Smile’s second-round match (he does get a start when a slightly pouty Smile tells him (“I lost”) afterwards, but instead focuses on Peco and China.  And indeed, that’s where most everyone’s eyes are turned, including a Kaio team somewhat startled to see this new Peco who suddenly looks like a real threat.  Smile, too, is pleased to see his old friend back – “Welcome back, Hero” is perhaps the most telling line of the episode, full of heartfelt joy with just a drop or two of sarcasm.  It’s clear these two are destined to meet – with apologies to Dragon, I don’t see even he getting in the way of that fated meeting.

There’s some pretty geeky stuff in here about Peco’s backhand – how he grips the paddle strangely and it’s “almost like a second forehand”, and how “a bluff works best on the best players”, but I’m not enough of a table tennis person to appreciate the nuance.  I do know that Peco is displaying adaptation skills that have Obaba and her son pretty amazed, but also that sometime big is likely coming with the knee – it turns out Obaba herself had to retire because of a knee injury.  I find myself hoping it doesn’t come down to a poetic repeat of the Koizumi-Kazuma scenario from all those years earlier, with Smile’s new ruthless persona matched up against his old one – it certainly fits neatly, but that feels like pretty low-hanging dramatic fruit for a series as daring and original as Ping Pong.

Ping Pong  - 08 -8 Ping Pong  - 08 -9 Ping Pong  - 08 -10
Ping Pong  - 08 -11 Ping Pong  - 08 -12 Ping Pong  - 08 -13
Ping Pong  - 08 -15 Ping Pong  - 08 -16 Ping Pong  - 08 -17
Ping Pong  - 08 -19 Ping Pong  - 08 -20 Ping Pong  - 08 -21
Ping Pong  - 08 -22 Ping Pong  - 08 -23 Ping Pong  - 08 -24
Ping Pong  - 08 -25 Ping Pong  - 08 -26 Ping Pong  - 08 -27
Ping Pong  - 08 -28 Ping Pong  - 08 -29 Ping Pong  - 08 -30
Ping Pong  - 08 -32 Ping Pong  - 08 -33 Ping Pong  - 08 -34
Ping Pong  - 08 -35 Ping Pong  - 08 -36 Ping Pong  - 08 -37
Ping Pong  - 08 -38 Ping Pong  - 08 -39 Ping Pong  - 08 -40


  1. F

    Such a great ep!

    This series just continues to deliver….

    For some reason, though, I thought it was going to be Dragon facing off against Smile in the finals and being defeated, bringing about some serious inner reflection for him, and then Peco defeating Smile later on in the finale of the series.

    Well, we will see.

  2. d

    Had a feeling Peco was the hero that Smile kept bringing up in his memories, nice of them to reveal it earlier on instead of dragging it up until their eventual showdown.

  3. t

    ping pong has entered its final phase.
    although already now it might seem a bit obvious and predictable because Smile and Peco are destined to play each other at the final, still ping pong is able to send you the right vibe. be it kong vs Peco, Smile's joking over Koizumi and the whole tournament feelings are much better than the first one a few eps ago.
    sure, nothing is 100% certain. by that I mean Peco and Dragon game at the semi-final. it is still can be that Dragon will be the winner and face Smile in the final match.
    so..all is connected now with the characters and the course of events from past till present, and it really has been quite a ride after 8 eps. one might wonder why episode #8 (and probably #9 too) are important if the outcome is probably predictable?well. first of all as Enzo mentioned in the beginning – it is still a sports series and in sports, everything can happen. how many times underdogs have beaten the favorable competitors? it happens all the time. more than that, I think it's important to show the progress of competition. be it Smile's given victory, Peco as the surprising rising star, Dragon (and his #2) as seeded but still afraid of the upcoming matches versus Smile (or Peco) and even Kong. I mean..this tournament is a unique part of characterization and their complexity, showing their development and the road they have been through. we can see it especially via kong who is not only a participant, but also a trainer of students. he has changed a lot hasn't he?saying "maybe if you have some hidden talent", giving a ray of hope for his students and joking with them. that's in contrast to what others would probably say. and we had that case with Peco and the others students since Koizumi only recognized Smile (that is probably because Smile style and approach was somewhat similar to him as implied in previous eps).
    all this will come to final match. but it's not only a match of Peco vs Smile. it also about that "talent" and "hero" and "butterfly" and other symbolism that were put into this show. what will the conclusion be in the end?we'll have to wait and see. but the current ride is preparing the ground for the finale which isn't just a mere ping pong game.

  4. N

    Oh, poor Wenge. But he did seem to take losing much better this time around. His face after the final strike had an "I did my best, so I have no regrets" feel to it.

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