Kong's defeat at the hands of Hoshino have sent shock-waves reverberating through the national tournament qualifiers, but for our Chinese visitor's part he remains pretty sanguine in spite of the pain of his defeat while, of course, the tournament moves on apace.
On paper, Tsukimoto is all set to face his first real challenge of the tournament in the form of Kaio's Sanada, and as the game begins his reputation as a top player looks to be well deserved as he races into an impressive early lead against Smile that leaves him wondering where all the fuss about this supposed prodigy has come from. He finds out the answer to this soon enough though, as it seems that Tsukimoto was simply feeling out his opponent, and having completed this task he wastes no time whatsoever in dispatching Sanada in a flurry of consecutive points.
As the tournament progresses, Peco also continues to make his way through the tournament, albeit with increasingly less of a flourish as his injured knee begins to hamper him, while Kazama continues to play like a champion even if he seems decidedly preoccupied; a state of affairs not helped by an old passing acquaintance stopping by to quiz him on what exactly he plays table tennis for. It seems that there is no such confusion when it comes to answering that question for Peco, as he refuses to stand down for his semi-final match against Kazama no matter the state of his injury purely because he feels that he has to compete for Smile's sake.
Those final minutes of this week's episode really reflect what's great about Ping Pong - for all of its occasionally outlandish moments, the series really understands that it's the characters that drive it and how to use those characters to maximum effect as their emotions and sporting endeavours intertwine in some surprisingly compelling ways. Not only that, the end to this week's episode also finally gives us a reason to cheer on a character, which adds even more frisson and important to its final episode as the tournament qualifiers reach their climax.