Ping Pong the Animation

Ping Pong the Animation

Ping Pong the Animation anime series cover art
Ping Pong the Animation

Series Overview

Ping Pong the Animation (ピンポン THE ANIMATION) is both a sports anime and one of the best anime series I’ve watched. Just earlier this month, in my review of Iwa Kakeru!, I was complaining that I always seemed to watch sports anime that are okay at best. Well, that run has come to an end now that I’ve seen Ping Pong.

Along with being a sports anime, Ping Pong is a psychological drama. And for me, this is really where the anime shines. Yes, it’s about ping pong. But more than that, it’s about how various characters from different backgrounds view and develop around the sport they love.

Also, this series was directed by Masaaki Yuasa, so from the start, there was a pretty high chance of it being good. He’s directed things like Samurai Champloo, The Tatami Galaxy, Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!, Devilman: Crybaby, and more. The only anime I’ve seen by him that I didn’t think was at least above average was Japan Sinks: 2020. But my issue with that series was the plot, not his directing.

Basically, what I’m trying to say by all of this is that Ping Pong is one of the best anime I’ve seen in terms of being able to tell a character-driven story. There’s a loose plot, but the vast majority of the series is pushed forward via the development of the characters, which I’ll go into in more detail later on.

Now, before going any further in this review, I should probably address the biggest thing stopping people from watching Ping Pong: The art style. Yes, Ping Pong looks “ugly.” Get over it. You’ll be used to the art style by the time you finish the first episode. And, the art style adds expressiveness.

Main Characters

Every named character in Ping Pong is complex and goes through development. But in this section, I’m only going to cover the basics of the five main characters. And then in the next section, we’ll go over character development.

Makoto “Smile” Tsukimoto is the protagonist of the series. He’s exceptionally good at Ping Pong, but he lacks the motivation required to become one of the greats. He’s called Smile because he never smiles, and his paddle has a crescent moon on the handle because tsuki (月) is Japanese for moon.

Yutaka “Peco” Hoshino is Smile’s best friend and is the one who got Smile into ping pong in the first place. He’s a pretty good player and hopes to one day win at the Olympics. He’s called Peco because he snacks a lot. Peko peko (ぺこぺこ) refers to the sound of an empty stomach. Also, his paddle has a star on the handle because hoshi (星) is Japanese for star.

Yutaka "Peco" Hoshino from the anime series Ping Pong the Animation
Yutaka “Peco” Hoshino

Wenge “China” Kong is a Chinese player who was sent to play in Japan after being dropped from the Chinese national team. His nickname is pretty self-explanatory. I think of the five main characters, China may have the best development.

Ryuuichi “Dragon” Kazama is the top high school ping pong player in the country. The school he attends is basically a military boot camp, but for ping pong. It’s also run by his grandfather. His nickname comes from ryū (竜) being the Japanese word for dragon.

The final of the five main characters is Manabu “Demon” Sakuma. Demon grew up playing ping pong in the same hall as Smile and Peco. He went on to join the Kaio Academy team — of which Dragon is the captain. He’s called Demon because akuma (悪魔) is Japanese for demon.

Character Development

This section of the review is going to contain spoilers. You can skip down to the conclusion to avoid them.

What I really like about the character development in Ping Pong is that we have all of these very different characters who develop over the course of the series due to a shared love of their sport. For example, China and Smile really have nothing in common, but the catalyst for their development is the same.

Smile and Demon are somewhat opposites of each other. Smile originally doesn’t care about being good at ping pong despite having enormous natural talent. And Demon originally wants to be great at ping pong despite having physical limitations in the form of his poor eyesight.

Eventually, Smile wants to prove how good of a player he actually is and begins to take the sport seriously. Meanwhile, Demon begins to understand that he’ll never be as good as he wants to be. His hard work can only take him so far — and so he leaves ping pong behind despite his love for it.

Dragon vs. China from the anime series Ping Pong the Animation
Dragon vs. China

China and Dragon are similar in a lot of ways. But their development is still different. Both are originally among the best players and this distinction is what defines them. For China, he viewed himself as above everyone else. And for Dragon, he continued to push himself to be the best even after he stopped having fun.

Dragon eventually learns to enjoy the sport again — which despite sounding cheesy, was actually a great scene at the end of the series. As for China, I really enjoyed how he mellowed out and turned into a role model and teacher for his teammates.

Peco is a good character, but he probably has my least favorite development. At first, he thinks he’s good. Then, he gets beaten and gives up on his dream. And finally, he trains hard and proves that he really can be one of the best. His story is more akin to a traditional underdog story.

And the final character I want to mention here is a supporting character named Egami, voiced by one of my favorite voice actors, Kenjirou Tsuda. I think a lot of people can identify with Egami because he quits ping pong after being defeated, travels the world in search of where he belongs, and ends up deciding that he loves ping pong and that it’s where he belonged all along.

Conclusion

Ping Pong the Animation is a series that everyone I know who’s watched it loves. Because of this, I knew it was going to be a good anime. However, I wasn’t expecting it to be as good as it is. Overall, Ping Pong is a 10/10 for me. If you like character-driven stories, or if you’re part of a competitive community, I think you’ll really like this series.

I don’t have too much to say about them, but I did enjoy the OP and ED as well. They both have good songs and visuals. I’d put the OP above the ED, though.

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Finally, I’d like to thank Roman for supporting DoubleSama.com at the Heika tier this month and for recommending I watch Ping Pong the Animation. To learn more about how you too can become a supporter of this blog, check out Patreon.com/DoubleSama.

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