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.
The beginning of Episode Six sees Smile doing well in competitions, and he begins taking the game and his practice more seriously. Unfortunately, he goes too much in the other direction and starts acting high and mighty and looking down on his teammates.
Kong makes appearances in this episode. First, we see him training the team that he was brought to Japan to help. On Christmas Eve, Kong’s mother arrives for a visit, and she ends up bringing the table tennis team together to help prepare food for a Christmas Eve feast that they all partake in. Kong and the team also have fun with karaoke.
Smile and his coach train on Christmas Eve, and the coach says they should wrap it up early. The coach gives Smile a bag with several items to celebrate Christmas; we later see Smile celebrating by himself in the school’s gym.
Peco is out with a girl on Christmas Eve, but she leaves after seeing he doesn’t have a Christmas present for her. Peco is later seen drinking, getting drunk, and falling asleep in a boat. When he wakes up the next morning, he goes to the dojo and is surprised to see Sakuma there. Sakuma has been humbled since we last saw him, and he ends up being the one who tries to encourage Peco to go back to playing ping pong. After an unexpected event happens, Peco goes to the dojo and asks the old woman who runs it to teach him the whole sport again from the beginning.
To me, the most important parts of this episode were at the beginning and at the end. In the beginning, we see that Smile is still being the robot that people think of his as, except he’s become a robot that focuses too much on something. He swung from one extreme to the other in this episode, and it seems to be making his teammates like him even less than they did before this change in his character.
The portion of the episode that focuses on Peco is also important. During this portion, he’s given the figurative kick in the pants that he needed to motivate himself to take ping pong a lot more seriously than he had and to work at improving his skills from relearning the sport from the ground up. I was also surprised to see just how humbled Sakuma had become, because I wouldn’t have expected that out of him. He really needed to be humbled, though, so I’m glad to see that he has.
For the Christmas Eve portion of the episode, the most important part of that was seeing Kong starting to build a bond and relationship with the Japanese team that he’s now playing for. His mother ultimately ended up being the catalyst for this change, so it’ll be interesting to see if this bond will continue to grow after Christmas or not.
I also found it interesting during the Christmas Eve portion that Smile was seen celebrating Christmas by himself in the gym. All I could think was that he either has no one to celebrate with, or if he does, he doesn’t want to be around them. From other things that have been said earlier in the series, it makes me think he may not have much of a relationship with his family.
With the way Episode Six ended, it looks like the stage is being set for Peco to return to ping pong, and that he’s going to be taking things more seriously this time around. It makes me wonder if the stage is being set for Smile and Peco to end up competing against each other rather than cheering each other on…
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