From storming to victory in the qualifying round of the high school table tennis championship, as this week's Ping Pong begins we fast forward to find Kazama boasting the title of Olympic youth champion - an impressive feat, but one that seems to interest him far less than the wider state of Kaio school on the global stage.
In short, Kazama thinks that they're nowhere near good enough (and their inability to match his victory in the team competition), and furthermore he believes he knows the solution - Tsukimoto. Cue an impassioned televised interview where he implores that Smile join Kaio as the only sensible way to progress as a player.
In the meantime, both Smile and Peco have undergone very different paths since their defeat at that qualifying tournament - the latter has let girls, cigarettes and snacks occupy his time (which has given him an impressive tan, at least), while Tsukimoto is now training every waking hour while his coach seeks to pit him against the best players that he can find, all of whom he dispatches mercilessly. If Kazama is concerned about his team, Tsukimoto views his comrades as no more than an irritation who are below his majesty - a feeling also afforded the visiting Sakuma, who sneaks out of training at Kaio to pit himself about Smile only to be thrashed completely.
It's that match against Sakuma which proves to be this week's standout moment - from shying away from destroying Kong's dreams previously, we get to see first-hand the sea change in Tsukimoto's attitude from one of someone who doesn't want to offend or upset anybody to somebody whose only function is to win, over and over. Couple that with some very interesting elements which are building in terms of both character and story, and Ping Pong feels like its coming to the boil nicely - its visuals are still a Marmite element of the show (that work for me more often than they don't), but its take on the world of young table tennis players is both engaging and amusing in just the right doses.