Smile is holding out for a hero, but will Peco's injured knee to hold up to provide it? Even without his injury, facing off and defeating the ping pong monster that is Kazama.
Then again, Hoshino has never been the type to be easily flustered even in the face of a tough opponent, and even on this occasion against the toughest of the tough he's cheekily brought along a new bat and some different strategies that he's never employed before as if it's nothing. Between his opponents' words and actions, Kazama is now well and truly riled up, and with so much fire in his belly he looks set to obliterate Hoshino, roaring into a substantial lead which it seems that his opponent simply can't come up with an answer to.
Indeed, it's actually Peco's attempt to come up with an answer that is ultimately holding him back, as his easy-going and free style of play is cramped by his attempts to out-think Kazama. Ultimately he realises this, and freed of these burdens Peco suddenly begins to play the kind of unreadable, fast and energetic game of his past - a sight which brings Kazama memories of a time when he played table tennis because he enjoyed it, not out of a sense of duty or a single-minded will to win. This, coupled with Peco's impending victory as he turns the match around, is perhaps exactly what he needs to free him and give him wings - it seems that Hoshino has become a hero for more than just his long-standing friend.
I've mentioned previously how Ping Pong's unique animation style is best served when it comes down to depicting the game of table tennis itself, and that was certainly proven again in this week's penultimate episode of the series, with a fantastic vibrancy on show that did a great job of depicting the speed and power of the game at hand. Look a little deeper than the game itself and Ping Pong also continues to be a wonderful tale of sporting endeavour - what drives a person to compete and strive for the top, the demons that come from those desires and how they can be defeated. In a broad sense much of this is nothing new for a sports anime, but the way this particular series handles it is far more all-encompassing and understanding of the sporting psyche, and it's this ability to get under the skin of its characters that has made it so utterly compelling and beyond the norms of the genre.