Thursday, 1 May 2014

Ping Pong the Animation - Episode 4

Somehow, Smile has managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in his match against Wong, and it seems that nobody is too happy about it - Tsukimoto himself is ambivalent about the whole thing, but his coach is incandescent with rage and even Kong himself feels certain that his opponent simply gave up and let him win.

Regardless of his motivations, the tournament continues apace, and next up it's Peco's turn to show what he's capable of, as he's matched against an old friend in the form of Manabu Sakuma.  Although Sakuma's memories of Peco are of an unrepentant and consistent champion who was always the source of some jealousy, he's determined to prove that times have changed and that the boot is now on the other foot.  Although Peco storms into an early lead, Sakuma quickly gets into his own rhythm, frustrating his opponent's energetic, attacking play with cautious, defensive returns that persist until Peco has almost literally run and smashed his way into the ground, leaving him a sitting duck to be picked off at leisure - something which Sakuma duly does, like the Chelsea of table tennis players.

All of this is merely the starter for the tournament's main course, and the appearance of Kaio's superstar Kazuma - a man built like a brick outhouse yet who manages to float like a butterfly as well as stinging like a... dragon.  On the receiving end of his ferocious abilities is Kong, who does his best but ultimately finds himself utterly outclassed and out of the tournament, and possibly out of a career in table tennis to boot.  From here, it's Kaio who dominates the tournament, sporting all of the eventual qualifiers as well as the winner in (who else) Kazuma.  The reason for their dominance becomes clear as Kazuma tries to persuade Tsukimoto to join them with a pitch for the incredibly facilities at their disposal - exactly the kind of thing that was never likely to tempt him anyway.

While the last couple of episodes of Ping Pong have been very enjoyable visually, this week's instalment did occasionally threaten to tip into trying a little too hard to be representative of the on-going action, pushing it beyond the bounds of being surreal towards the absurd.  This was, however, mixed by some superbly dynamic shots and moments that felt far more satisfying, and the show's story as a whole continues to be a compelling one on both a character-centric level and in terms of its higher level depiction of sporting endeavour.  You certainly won't see any other shows like this during the spring, and that alone continues to add ensure that Ping Pong stands out - thankfully, it has more going for it than simply its unique presentation and nature, and this continues to shine through in its own subtle way.

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