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Ping Pong: The Animation Review

Ping Pong: The Animation, possibly the most horrifying anime of all-time....
Ping Pong: The Animation follows the story of four high school ping pong players, Peco, Smile, Ryūichi Kazama, and Kong Wenge.

Ping Pong: The Animation is a series that has been lauded by critics to be one of the best of the year, and generally, I agree with critics about which anime are good, so obviously I expected Ping Pong to impress, but does it?

The Good: Unique use of symbolism, Good opening song, Three interesting characters, Solid soundtrack,

The Bad: Historically horrible animation style, Lack of narrative cohesion, Horrendous character designs, Technical ping pong terms without explanation, Several dull characters, Often hard to look at, Reused animation, Inconsistent character models, Dull vocal performances,

Plot: 5.4/10- Ping Pong's narrative is a relatively straightforward sports narrative, and it is, unfortunately, predictable. Where it differs from the norm is that there is a ton of symbolism where each character is represented by a different symbol, and it tries to tell a character study. To a degree, the symbolism and metaphors add a unique quality to the series that is not often found in anime, although other anime have been it much better. Unfortunately, the creator goes completely overboard with the use of symbols to the point where the narrative structure and characters are left to the wayside. All too often works of fiction that are lauded for their "deep themes" and "stunning symbolism" seem to be so obsessed with said metaphors that the quality of the story suffers.
As for other issues, during the anime, a year passes, and yet there is little sense of progression until the characters actually said, "a year has passed," which is quite a ways into the time-jump. With the time progression aside, the narrative lacks cohesion. Events happen without flowing naturally. Aside from the two tournaments bookending the series, the events in-between just happen without any real structure, and it leaves the viewer both confused and bored.

Characterization: 6.2/10- Ping Pong focuses on several different characters, each of whom have a nickname, which is reflected by symbolic imagery, ranging from a robot for the character that is robotic in his actions to a dragon for the character nicknamed the dragon.
While watching the series, it felt as though the audience was presented with the beginning of the interesting character arcs and then the series skips straight to the end with the symbolism replacing the actual character development in-between. We are goaded into thinking that the character progression is “compelling” because there is symbolism, but we are instead given something with potential and are mostly left unfulfilled. 
Of the characters, only Peco, Smile, and the old teacher Koizumi have somewhat well executed character arcs, while the others are forgettable. 
One key aspect that prevents the characters from connecting with audience is that the designs of the characters lack the ability to express relatable emotion, which is further explained later.

Acting: 3.7/10- With the character models being unable to express real emotion, the brunt of the task is on the cast, and unfortunately, they fail as well. Kōki Uchiyama as Smile brings his monotone performance from his previous role as Meruem in Hunter x Hunter, and he, along with Fukujūro Katayama as Peco, are the best of the cast, although still only just above average. Shunsuke Sakuya is decent as well, and casting a Chinese actor to play the Chinese character was a great choice. As for the rest of the cast, they range from barely average to noticeably subpar. At many times throughout the series, they break any possible drama during their scenes due to their unnatural performances. 

Animation: 1.5/10- Frankly, Tatsunoko Production's style is hideous. Unique animation styles, like Gankutsuou or anything by Shaft is great, but Ping Pong's style and animation is simply lacking in quality (a lot of these gifs are among the best footage from the series). 
The character designs are some of the most horrifying things in the history of modern Japanese animation. Even if you like the style of the series, there is a lot of reused animation, and the character designs are incredibly inconsistent and constantly change the proportion. Also, as stated previously, the character designs’ inability to express emotions prevents the characters from connecting with the audience.
If you feel that animation is not an important factor in the quality of anime, hear me out. Animation is the equivalent to cinematography and direction in live-action. For example, image if you take Christopher Nolan's film Inception, which won Best Cinematography at the Oscars, and was directed by someone who does not know anything about cinematography or how to direct actors; that’s what you have with Ping Pong: The Animation. There are good elements, but it is, unfortunately, destroyed by the poor visual element and unnatural performances.

Soundtrack: 7.2/10- Kensuke Ushio's score is actually one of the high points of Ping Pong. Not all of the tracks work, but there are a few that make the Ping Pong matches more entertaining to watch.

Humor: N/A- Ping Pong occasionally has moments of humor, which do succeed, but it is mostly humorless.

Opening and Ending: 7.0/10- The opening song, "Tada Hitor," is a very good, well, at least the first several times that I listened to it. As the series dragged on, it started to annoy me at times. As for the animation of the opening, it is just as hideous as the rest of the series.

Entertainment Value: 2.4/10- Anime is something that I generally consider to be entertaining, even weaker series, and unfortunately, Ping Pong's main source of entertainment came from my internal critique while watching it, not the series itself.

Overall: 6.0/10- On paper, Ping Pong: The Animation should have been amazing. The characters had potential for compelling drama and the use of symbolism is occasionally effective. Unfortunately, due to the previously mentioned poor execution, a lack of narrative cohesion, and historically awful presentation, the series’ ideas are ultimately undermined. With that said, Ping Pong is not a bad anime by any means, just a disappointing one in my eyes.

Closing comments: If you actually find the animation not repulsive, then maybe you can enjoy this series; otherwise, keep your distance.  

Recommended for: Ping Pong enthusiasts, Those interested in the unique style and symbolism,

To read more of my anime reviews, you can click here.
Also, if you have reviewed this anime, leave a comment with a link to your review and I will post it here (providing it does not contain any explicit content).
MY EYES! MY EYES! THEY BURN!
If you want to contact us or have any questions please send an e-mail to johnstarslayer@gmail.com.
Gimpronized Zee

Gimpronized Zee

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