Ping Pong the Animation is an anime based on a manga by Taiyo Matsumoto. The series is produced by Tatsunoko Productions, and is directed by Masaaki Yuasa. FUNimation Entertainment holds the North American streaming rights for Ping Pong the Animation.
The series focuses on two boys who participate in their school’s ping pong club: Makoto Tsukimoto (aka Smile) and Yutaka Hoshino (aka Peco). They’re both first-years who are good enough players that they caused a couple of members to lose their spots as regulars, which has caused some friction in the club. It doesn’t help that Peco has a tendency to skip practice in order to play against people at the tennis table dojo in front of the Odakyu station in order to bet against them. Smile, meanwhile, doesn’t live up to his nickname and is basically rather aloof to most other people. Even though they may have opposite personalities, Peco and Smile are best friends.
One day, Peco gets the idea to skip out on practice in order to check out Kong Wenge, a Chinese ping pong player who has been recruited to play with Tsujido High’s team. He convinces Smile to go along with him. When they get there, there’s no one in the gym, so the two of them start playing against each other while they wait for Kong to get back. Kong and his interpreter are on the roof, and they hear the two of them playing.
When Kong goes back inside, he challenges Smile to a game; however, Peco insists to play with them. Kong is able to beat Peco rather easily, which upsets Peco because he’d been considered an impressive player until this point.
A character that really stood out to me is the advisor for Peco and Smile’s club. For most of the scenes that he appeared in, he seemed to be rather clueless about things. In the first scene we see him in, he wasn’t even aware that Smile was in the club. The advisor is constantly asking the team captain questions about things that he really should’ve known if he was truly paying attention to the club. Is this advisor not truly a fan of ping pong, and is only there because someone begged him to be there in order for the club to continue?
There’s an interesting start to the story here, although it was a little hard to keep my interest as much as I would like due to the animation. To me, it feels like the director is trying to capture the look of 1970s and/or 1980s cel-based anime, but is using the technology of today to try to capture that look. Unfortunately, I don’t think it really works all that well; there were some shots that I just thought looked kind of ugly, which distracted me from enjoying the story as much as I might have otherwise. It probably also didn’t help that the pacing of the episode felt a bit uneven at times. I’m hoping that the pacing issue is due to the fact that this is the first episode of a series and that it’s trying to establish the characters and the world that they inhabit.
Ping Pong the Animation isn’t a bad series, but it’s not entirely impressing me off the bat as much as I had hoped. I hope that as I watch more episodes that I’ll get used to the animation style and start enjoying what I’m watching. Like I said, it’s not a bad series, but for me, it’s off to a little bit of a rocky start.
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