Tag Archives: sports

Ping Pong: The Animation

Type: It’s like mini-Tennis

Synopsis: How come Mini-Golf doesn’t get the same respect? Is it because it’s a little goofy? Are we SO afraid to be silly that we can’t endorse something built on fun? Because no one, in the history of Earth, has ever enjoyed Ping Pong. Even the boys in this anime don’t seem to enjoy it. Well, Peco does. Everyone else treats it more like a job, obsession, or personal mission statement. God, Ping Pong sucks. The game, not the anime, which is actually pretty great.

Pros: The big hook for this anime is that it was directed by Masaaki Yuasa, the director behind stuff like Kick-Heart, The Tatami-Galaxy, that one episode of Adventure Time, and 2018’s Devilman Crybaby. The guy’s know for having a unique style to say the least. And that’s the best way to describe this anime. It’s not groundbreaking or revolutionary, but it is unique. There is not other anime out there like it, and that’s surprising given that it follows the sports anime cliches pretty closely. But since it’s based on a Manga, that’s not surprising. The story follows Peco and Smile, two friends on the school’s ping pong team. The arrogant Peco is beaten one day by the new imported ace from a rival school. Humiliated, Peco quits the team for a while, leading his coach to focus on Smile, a talented but reserved person. The story follows their and their rivals’s growth as individuals, using Ping Pong as an analogy for life, like any other sports anime. Peco learns the value of humility and hard work. Smile learns to accept vulnerability and desire. And other players learn other things, like accepting your limits, being part of a team, or learning that fun and drive aren’t segregated concepts. The story’s not complicated, because it focuses on the character’s inner turmoil and conflict, and uses the “dramatic showdowns” to further along the character’s emotional arc.

The animation is the other hook this anime has. It uses a sort of rougher sketch style that accentuates the character’s movements and stances to enforce exaggerated realism. No one really moves or looks perfect. In fact, sometimes characters move and stand oddly. Which is exactly how people move and stand in real life! Everyone in this anime looks different, moves differently, and I cannot tell you how much I appreciate that. For example, Peco moves loosely, while Smile is stiff and a bit uncomfortable. But amazing, both of these character’s postures change to reflect their growth at the end of the series. Seriously, you can compare how each character stands to check how the events of the story affected them. Despite looking obviously drawn, this anime may also be the most realistic looking anime I’ve ever seen. (P.s. A great example of this is the killer opening). I honestly thought this was made in 2017, it’s that good looking.  It looks weird enough to scream ANIME, but is well made enough to say Anime. In fact, this is one of the few anime I’d recommend you introduce to any of your non-anime friends or family members.

Cons: I know I talked a lot about stances, but for real. This anime does stances right. Speaking of stance, one draw back about this anime is that there are a lot of still frames where characters just stand around and talk. Or a lot of jump cuts to static action scenes. Classic cost cutting measure. Another thing, I’m aware that I made fund of Ping Pong at the start, but I actually didn’t mind it in this show. The exploration of Ping Pong was entertaining. My personal research (the internet), revealed the Ping Pong is actually pretty ping overseas, particularly East Asia, Europe, and Africa. Not being from there (USA #1!), I don’t really get it, but I liked it nonetheless. I fact, this anime made me realize something: I don’t really hate sports anime. Every sports anime I’ve watched for this site has been enjoyable. I think I only hate The Prince of Tennis. Yeah..Screw you Prince of Tennis!

Watch it: Literally the most fun you’ll have with Table Tennis (5/5)

MVP: Dragon

I’m really glad he mellowed out in the end.

Best Episode: “Yes, My Coach” (the real turning point, though honestly almost any of the episodes could be watch by themselves and be marveled at. It’s that good.)

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Yuri on Ice

Type: Yeah, I know.

Synopsis: What can I say, a man has needs. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Pros: This anime is actually the story about a figure skater staging a comeback back into the international competitive male figure skating scene. That’s about it. Yep. Nothing else…expect for it’s status as watershed anime that proved that same-sex male relationships can be part of a commercially popular anime. I mean, Revolutionary Girl Utena and Free!, but Utena was about lesbians, and Free didn’t really have any romance in it. Not so with Yuri on Ice! The main relationship is between Yuri, a struggling figure skater, and Victor, the current world champ who takes an interest in him. Victor plays the goofy flirt while Yuri plays the sensitive shy one. They have a fun dynamic that can turn surprisingly emotional at times. Their in a relationship in all but name (they even trade rings for crying out loud!). In fact, the relationship transitions from idolization to emotional support fairly organically. Outside of that, the show has pretty good humor. The various skaters that are introduced get defined pretty well, especially for a 12 episode series. The sport aspect means you get to see different figure skating routines every few episodes. And as a guy that’s never been interested in figure skating in his life, I found the routines fun to watch. I really liked the one’s that used non-orchestral music. (p.s. I liked the opening song. I’ve heard it before and thought it was an actual rock song)

Cons: Here’s the thing about sports shows, it needs to have sports in it. Meaning that a large chunk of the show will take place during the game/meet/fight, etc. But anyone’s who’s ever seen a sports anime know that it’s more interesting to see the characters train and interact before competing against each other. I did say that I like the routines I saw during the show, and I meant it. The animation used for them was extremely impressive and fluid, and everyone on the animation side should be proud of themselves. That being said, the show tends to repeat routines, especially for Yuri and Yurio. And the show also jumps very quickly between competitions, only giving 1-2 episodes between them, so a lot of the show takes place in a skating rink during game day. So what you have is an anime that spends the first 6 half establishing Yuri’s hometown friends and personal motivations, then rushes the last half with competition after competition that all start to blur with each other. I mean, I didn’t even know that this show technically covers a whole year until I reread that episode descriptions for this review! (p.s.s. I also wish that Yuri and Victor’s relationship wouldn’t have a hint of ambiguity to it. The show’s 99% there, and it would be hard to argue that they’re not gay, but that extra 1% of honesty would have been nice).

Watch it?: One of the IT shows of 2016 (4/5)

MVP: Victor Nikiforov

He loves his boyfriend, job, and dog. I respect that.

Best Episode: Ep.3 “I Am Eros, and Eros is Me?! Face-Off! Hot Springs on Ice” (you can actually see that transformation from cutlet bowl to world class athlete)

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