The hero appears.
The hero appears
The hero appears!
Ping Pong the Animation is a series that follows a group of high school ping pong players over several years as they evolve both as players and people. As this happens so too do their motivations and that is something that it has in common with many of the best sports series, the sport is mostly there as a means of conflict and cause for character growth and progression. Don’t worry, you’ll see plenty of matches played, Ping Pong is a series that never forgets it’s goal.
No character leaves the series the same as they entered it. Each faces their own trials and emerges from them for either the better or worse.
The series features it’s own distinctive artstyle which can be jarring at first but does a wonderful job of giving it it’s own identity.
The major players: (heh)
Makoto Tsukimoto (Smile)
Smile is one of Katase High School’s students. Quiet and usually reserved, he ended up with the nickname due to his reluctance to smile often. Although widely recognised as being a very skilled player, he often finds himself lacking the motivation and drive to win and generally is happy to take a back seat to his long time friend…
Yutaka Hoshino (Peco)
Very much the reverse of Smile, Peco is brash, carefree and flashy. Talented and having grown up playing the sport as a child, Peco is the star player of Katase High’s team and tends to overwhelm most of the opponents he crosses paths with. Then happily rubs their face in it. His talent is such that he has a habit of skipping practice and coasting.
He introduced Smile to the sport when they were younger.
Wenge Kong (China)
Kong, as his nickname suggests, hails from China. Highly skilled technically, Kong supported his family as a child through his play, winning tournaments and serving as a member of the Chinese national team. However at the start of the series he finds himself expelled from the national team in disgrace and travels to Japan in a condition of self exile until such a time as he reaps sufficient achievements to redeem himself and return to his homeland to rejoin the team.
His attitude is of arrogance and general dismissiveness of the level of play in what he considers to be a backwater of the ping pong world, along with rage at the circumstances that led him there.
He does not speak Japanese initially, having arrived from China with a coach who translates for him and plays for Sugito High School.
Ryuichi Kazama (Dragon)
Possessing both power and skill, Kazama is the star player of the most successful team in Japan, Kaio Academy.
He shoulders the burden of being the strongest high school player in the nation, the school’s expectations of him and those of his father, who previously won the National Championships as a student and went on to play professionally before moving into business. In order to do so he pushes himself harder than anyone else, trains harder than anyone else and closes himself off the to the rest of the world in order to winning at all costs, pursuing his goal to stand as the foremost player of his age group.
Kazama’s reknown is such that he becomes a target; Kong feels that by beating him he will win enough prestige to return to his homeland.
Manabu Sakuma (Demon)
Sakuma grew up learning table tennis with Smile and Peco but lacked the talent that they each possessed. Sakuma attempts to fill the gap with pure hard work and determination, training constantly and as a result now plays for Kaio Academy with Kazama.
As a result of his continuous losses to Smile and Peco his feelings towards them are tinged with bitterness and he yearns to beat them and prove to himself that talent alone does not determine fate.
Why should I check this series out?
As I’ve outlined above, this series is allll about the characters. As with many other sports series, it’s a tale of friendships, rivalries and characters who vie against each other. But the degree of development that the cast undergoes in the space of eleven short episodes is greater than any other series I have followed.
It features a unique style it brings from the manga it was adapted from, whose author studied in France for a time. It might seem off putting initially, but stick with it as it uses it to give a special tone and flavour to the series that gives it it’s own stamp.
The soundtrack is also fantastic, with many memorable tracks used to great effect.
Plus is very short, clocking in at less than a dozen episodes and only a couple of volumes for the manga.
Should I Read Or Watch This?
Both are short, but the quality of the series is high enough and the soundtrack brings enough to the table that I would recommend watching it.
Neither the subbed or dubbed version stand out enough from each other to really recommend either heavily, though in a cool note Kong speaks in Chinese in the English version initially.
And where can I watch this?
One of the reasons I did this sports series first, it is available to watch for free on either Funimation’s website or Crunchyroll. Unfortunately it’s not available in my region on Crunchyroll, so I can’t tell if they have the dubbed version, but Funimation’s website definitely does.