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.
After Smile purposely loses to Kong, Koizumi slaps him and scolds him for dicking around without caring if he wins. Koizumi is later approached by the woman who runs the ping pong dojo, and she asks if Smile is giving him flashbacks to himself over 50 years ago. They later talk about how things have changed with the sport since they were in their prime.
The first quarterfinal match is between Peco and Akuma from Kaio. The two of them know each other from when they were learning the spot as kids at the dojo, and we see through flashbacks that Akuma was jealous of Peco and all the awards he won when they were kids. Akuma surprises Peco during their matches, and as it goes on, Peco’s plays become more and more sloppy. Peco ultimately loses.
We also get to see the match between Kong and Kazama from Kaio. Their plays are very intense, especially Kazama’s. The animation style is very distinctive here, as Kazama gets bigger and causes Kong to shrink down and cower. Both the pacing and the animation are very intense during their match, and Kazama ends up winning.
Near the end of the episode, we see Kazama talking with Smile and trying to convince him to come play for Kaio. As Kazama talks, he starts listing off a whole bunch of things to play up how seriously Kaio takes the game; as Kazama’s speech went on, I found myself expecting Smile to simply brush him off after he finished. However, what Smile does is to wish Kazama luck in the championships.
This episode provides the audience with flashbacks that show us Peco and Smile as kids at the dojo, and these flashbacks featured Akuma. This really helped me to better understand why Akuma hates Peco so much. And after Kong is defeated, we get to see some backstory for him as well.
At the end of the episode, we see Peco sitting on the steps and crying over his defeat. Peco is definitely a character that thinks so highly of his ability that he’s unable to handle it when he loses. I hope he doesn’t spend Episode Five moaning about quitting ping pong again, though.
Now that the quarterfinals are already over, I’m interested in seeing where the series is going to progress to from here. With Kong being defeated, will he be written out of the series? And since neither Smile nor Peco advanced to the championships, where will their story go? And will Kazama continue trying to get Smile to come play for Kaio? With the way Episode Four ended, the story could go almost anywhere.
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