While many are getting excited about the movie adaptation of Attack on Robot (no idea what popular franchise that might be aping...), Ping Pong's very own table tennis robot is continuing down his single-minded path.
In reality, it would probably be unrealistic to compare Smile to a robot - your average mechanical man probably wouldn't treat his team-mates like dirt while he went about his business, whereas Smile views the fellow members of the table tennis club as either an irritation or a slave to his requirements. Given his complaints about the equipment, the club members and anything else that pops into his head, the question of why he's yet to join Kaio looms ever larger as it seems to offer everything that he wants and needs as he vies to constantly improve in his abilities.
All of this is really just a precursor to the wider view that this week's episode takes on those with the will and dedication to master their skills and craft, and those who just want to go with the flow - while Peco (and others like him) spend their Christmas Eve on dates, getting drunk and "living life to the full", Kazama and Smile lock themselves away to continue their endless cycle of training. In the midst of all of this is Kong, who seems to have rebuilt himself at the leader of the club he's in charge of, fitting perfectly into a role where those around him seem to appreciate him. Perhaps, however, Peco's care-free attitude is about to come to an end as circumstances force him to realise what he really wants to do with his life.
This may not have been Ping Pong at its strongest when it comes to engaging the viewer, but it still did a pretty good job of building its characters and story for the most part - Peco's "revelation" could maybe have been provided in a more unique way than the old "life flashing before his eyes" trick, but it's moved the story forward in a tantalising way that bodes well for future episodes while also giving it more scope beyond simply trying to figure out what drives Smile. Its animation is increasingly looking more bad than stylish at the moment, but as long as it's capable of relating what remains an interesting story of sporting ambition (or, on occasion, the lack thereof) then it's fine by me.