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.
In Episode Seven, we see the old woman at the dojo giving Peco a tough training regimen; at this point, he has to be able to get up a long flight of stairs in a minute or less. After a number of tries, he finally does it. After this, she takes Peco to the National Training Center for table tennis; her son Michio Tamura is the coach. Peco begins practicing and training there, and as the episode progresses, the coach makes changes to Peco’s playing style and he starts improving.
Kazama and his grandfather visit Smile at his school and make a pitch for Smile to come play table tennis for Kaio. When it’s asked if Coach Koizumi knows about this, Smile finds out that Koizumi had agreed to it. Smile, along with the audience, also learn that Koizumi had been Kazama’s grandfather’s hero when he was younger. Smile ends up turning Kaio down. Smile becomes so upset that he tries to run away, but ends up having no way to go anywhere. When he returns to the school, he finds the coach waiting for him.
Later, Smile and Koizumi spend some time together, and Smile learns about Koizumi in his younger years. Not only that, it’s also revealed that Koizumi and Kazama’s grandfather were friends back then and how Koizumi ended up being beaten in an important match when he didn’t play hard against an opponent when he was injured but still played. After this, Smile seems to have a different attitude toward his team.
This episode finally gives the audience a little more background on Smile, and it turns out I was pretty close in guessing it. We learn that his parents divorced when he was little; his dad isn’t around, and mom appears to work odd hours. After getting confirmation on his background, it really is no wonder why Smile developed such a “robotic” personality.
We also learn a bit about Kazama and his family, and a lot of this exposition is revealed when Kazama’s cousin, Yurie, is talking with her father.
Peco has also shown a bit of character growth in this episode. Not only does he start improving on his table tennis, he’s also gotten his hair cut the back it had been before he had given up on table tennis.
While I like the story that’s being told here, the pacing just feels a little off the series. In a lot of respects, it feels like the story is being rushed along in order to reach a specific endpoint rather than letting the story take a little more of a natural pace. I’m really hoping that the conclusion of the series will be satisfying enough to make this awkward pacing worth it.
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