First Impressions: Ping Pong


Yuasa brings the heat.

Ping Pong is one of my most anticipated shows this season. It has an all-star cast, both of voice actors and animators, backed up by a talented auteur in the industry, Masaki Yuasa. However, you can have all the skilled staff in the world, but if the show itself isn't compelling, people won't stick around. How does Ping Pong hold up? I'll tell you, friends.

Don't worry, it's freaking great.

Seriously. This is a great opening episode. We're introduced to our two main characters, Smile and Peco. Smile is the stoic, silent type. He takes care of business but doesn't do much beyond that. Peco, on the other hand, is quick-acting, boisterous, and confident. His considerable skills at ping pong (yes, what a surprise, this is a sports anime!) put him at the top of his club, but he often skips class and shrugs other duties. Smile ends up having to reign him in as best he can. The two are opposites, but they've been friends forever and aren't stopping now.

Things get interesting when Wenge, a Chinese transfer student at a rival high school, encounters the two. In a delightfully awesome scene, Wenge (standing on the school roof) listens to the sounds of Smile and Peco playing ping pong, learning their playstyle via audio clues. He finds that Smile is actually the more talented player, holding back against Peco. Obviously, the arrogant Wenge challenges Smile to a match, but Peco takes him up instead. He fails miserably against Wenge's considerable skills, of course! But it's a great initial setup -- and we're introduced to all the important players quickly.

The script was great, pacing the various character introductions, letting us get to know each one before jumping to the next. It also never stays too still, making sure we understand each plot point but never overstaying its welcome. There are some great lines from both Smile and Peco. I also loved that they had Wenge speaking fluent Mandarin the entire time -- something that probably wouldn't have happened in most other shows. It's a great touch!

I'm sure some people will complain about the art, but to me it's one of the strongest elements of the show. The heavy lineart and rough edges give the characters a certain weight and humanity, and the background art evokes a "lived-in" feel. Add in some excellent animation and you've got a distinctive Yuasa look that helps Ping Pong stand out from every other show airing this season. I love it, and I hope people who're turned off by it initially will give it a chance.

All in all, it's a great start. I'm interested in how every turns out, especially since we still have some main characters to introduce. This is definitely going to be one of the standouts this season. Hopefully Yuasa and crew can keep up the free-flowing style and fluid art throughout the rest of the show -- and keep that script going, too! I'm looking forward to more of Smile and Peco.

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Ben Huber
Ben HuberContributor   gamer profile

I'm the managing editor of Japanator by day, and a roving freelance graphic designer by night! /  more + disclosures



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