Ping Pong the Animation: Episode 3 – “Staking Your Life on Table Tennis Is Revolting”

Ping Pong the Animation focuses on two high school ping pong players: Makoto Tsukimoto (aka Smile) and Yutaka Hoshino (aka Peco). Peco starts out being overly confident in his abilities and constantly skipping practice until he’s dealt a crushing defeat by a Chinese player named Kong Wenge during the first episode. Smile, meanwhile, is an aloof and rather gloomy guy; however, he has a raw talent for ping pong.

At the beginning of Episode Three, Smile goes to Koizumi’s home to see if he’s all right. He runs into Koizumi’s wife, who tells him that all he did was overwork his muscles during his match with Smile. After Smile learns that Koizumi is all right, he says he doesn’t need to see him. An awkward exchange takes place here, and there was something done with the animation that I really thought helped to accentuate the awkwardness and distance that Smile has toward people; even though they were standing side-by-side, some of the scene was done in a way where it was a split screen with Smile on one side and Koizumi’s wife on the other. I thought this worked to great effect.

However, the majority of the episode focuses on the high school championship for the Kanagawa Qualifiers. We see Kong demolish a couple of his competitors, and a guy named Kazama from a school wanting to recruit Smile tries to talking to him. When Smile goes up against his first competitor, he’s easily able to beat the competition.

The main focus of the championship is on the match between Smile and Kong. At first, it looks like Kong’s going to dominate, but Smile is able to turn things around. However, when it seems like Smile’s winning is a foregone conclusion, something happens to change this…

I think I’ve finally become accustomed to the animation style of Ping Pong the Animation, because I wasn’t nearly as bothered by it than I had been the previous two weeks. Now that the animation has become less of a distraction, I’m better able to focus on the actual story.

However, I think there’s still some awkward pacing for the storytelling. The series is just establishing the characters, and episode three suddenly throws us into the first championship. I honestly thought we would’ve had one or two more episodes before reaching this point. And in some respects, it felt like the episode was rushing through the championship rounds in order to get to the Smile and Kong matchup.

Another thing I found jarring is how quickly Peco seemed to recover from being defeated by Kong. Peco had spent all of Episode Two moping and claiming that he was quitting ping pong, and then within the first couple of scenes of Episode Three, Peco is back to being his cocky and overconfident self as he’s playing against someone at the dojo. There was nothing to indicate that there had been more than one day that has passed since the end of Episode Two, so this sudden turnaround just felt a little awkward.

Even with the issues I had with Episode Three, I have to give some credit to Ping Pong the Animation: At least it’s not a “typical sports anime”! I’ll keep going with this show and see what else it may do to avoid falling into various sports anime tropes.

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