We've been seeing changes from all of its main players in recent weeks, and now its time for those adjustments in attitude and abilities come to the fore as the qualifiers for the national table tennis singles championships roll around.
Of course, it's Kaio's team of highly trained athletes who expect to dominate over and above all else - a feeling perhaps helped by Poseidon's marketing tactic of covering the floor of the event hall in matting, leading to a rush for their shoes designed for just such a surface which they coincidentally happen to have on sale at the tournament. Then again, even the man fronting the commercials for these shoes, Kazuma, sees no need to actually wear them on the court, as he remains as hard to read as ever.
Of course, there's also plenty of interest in Tsukimoto's place in the tournament, which he justifies by breezing through his opening rounds while barely breaking a sweat. His second round match is overshadowed however, as Hoshino and Kong come face-to-face once again in a match-up which leaves the latter expecting another easy ride before quickly being faced with no shortage of evidence as to how much Peco has changed since they last met. Having lost the first game, Kong clearly needs to pull something out of the bag, and aims for what seems to be his opponents one clear weakness... only to find that it was a bluff. With an emphatic victory, Hoshino is clearly now the great player that he always threatened to be, his skills bolstered by a mix of hard work, and learning and refining new techniques. Is it enough to best Kazama or Tsukimoto, however?
Fascinating series though its been throughout, Ping Pong seems to work best (and particularly in visual terms) when it comes to the actual table tennis itself - while some sports series feel the need to comment on every moment or emotion via some kind of inner monologue or outward exposition, Ping Pong knows when to let what's happening on-screen do the talking, whether it's directly or via some kind of metaphorical imagery. It's this ability which marks the series out from the pack, especially when paired with the waxing and waning of the stars of its cast as the hallmarks of the tale of sporting endeavour which the show encompasses in such an entertaining way.