This Week: Ping Pong The Animation, The World is Still Beautiful, Rowdy Sumo Wrestler Matsutaro!!, and Kanojo ga Flag wo Oraretara.
This week of currently airing anime is brought to you by a building alarm having gone completely haywire when I was writing this.
Good thing this is text based and not a speech, as my ears were ringing something awful :-p
Ping Pong The Animation [Episode two]
“A shining example of the young supporting our aging society!”
Man, Coach can be harsh.
I mean, completely intelligently well planned so as to prove a point and get the desired results. Mixed in there with all the chatter this episode about him being the devoted husband type and making a boxed lunch for Smile though, that line comes across much more stinging as a move to get under the skin for viewers as well. Which I think is an excellent touch, to perhaps bridge that gap a bit and get us invested in why these events are happening. We only have eleven episodes to work with total, so time is going to be of the essence, and everything related to Mr. Koizumi this week I found was extremely effective at not just realizing his own character but delivering results.
It would be tragic if Smile reached his It Is Time To Spread My Wings phase at the end of the series. “Ping pong and English vocab are both just ways to kill time until I die” can only carry a character so far.
Going along with this, Peco getting to pull the supporting and shoulder to lean on role for Smile this week is swell to see after their reversed positions in our first forray.
Peco still feels like Peco, saying more hotshot lines and making the most of their shore trip with snacks and the like. But it is not so much about what he is saying specifically so much as it is being there, to bring his friend out there because he know Smile needs it. And so when he does slip in a line about how he thinks Koizumi’s coaching has been right or to come to practice tomorrow, it does feel that extra bit genuine. He is not turning Smile’s situation into a more oppressive set of We Need To Cheer You Up theatrics.
Because he knows that would not work, and it is not what is called for here. Peco just needs to be himself, where while he may be visibly enjoying himself more down at the beach but he knows it helps to clear Smile’s head. Because they’re friends.
Even if it does mean Peco sometimes makes the whole team run laps because he skipped practice and Smile gets harassed by the upperclassmen for it.
The World is Still Beautiful (Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii) [Episode three]
I am at a bit of a loss for what I really want out of this as a television series versus a film.
I like the visual old European trappings, a lighthearted tone to balance more serious political or personal moments with comedic instances should keep things snappy, and the rain summoning song with associated magic and representative mysticism is a nice idea to implement.
Yet I feel like I get tripped up here and there in small ways that are hard to explain. That the characters have a good surge of a personal moment only to swerve into exaggerated reaction territory afterward rather than having a more solid comedic setup and delivery in a separate scene. But I have enjoyed other shows that did this same character approach, so I’m not sure what the disconnect or choppiness is I’m feeling here. It might be a tempo thing I can’t place my finger on? Is it perhaps a little too eager to pop out The Big Funny Part after the serious bit, in turn seeming a bit more mechanical? I really don’t know.
That the rain song, which had a good rollout last episode, is pretty much rattled off again in the following episode here with the same tune kind of bugs me as well. Different lyrics, sure. But given that they tie these to a larger grand musical accompaniment for viewers at home, I think the actual instrumentation and rhythm therein becomes the more important part to alter. It has the potential risk of making these moments, which should show Nike growing and accomplishing something for her feelings, blur together over the long haul. That could be a sad occurrence, as I feel these should be showpiece sequences for folks reflect on and revisit. Things to remember the series with. Macross figured out how to do it, so it is not like there is not a history of this sort of thing working out spectacularly well if one executes on it right.
Or perhaps this is an agency thing.
Maybe this is what has been kind of gnawing at me. We do have Niel The Butler show up this episode in surprise Make Out / Have Sex With The King Already capacities, after all.
Which is, well, that is one of those things that arguably fits within a more medieval setting given real life analogues, I guess, sure. Though at the same time, there is the whole potential for this to be just as much if not more Taming Of The Woman as it is Opening Up The Man. To say nothing of course of the whole Nike As Dead Mom Replacement Analogue angle. Which would all be a shame, as I do like Nike as a character.
I am less interested in Nike being brought out for shoving things in the face of the snarking royal court, and more her trying to get beyond the castle walls and see this country she is supposed to perhaps come to rule over. Which she has emphasized as important to her. It’d be nice if she and the Sun King were able to have, say, travels together during a royal inspection, pilgrimage event, or the like. I feel that would help immensely, in giving them character moments while emphasizing on what should be a stronger thematic point about, well, the “world” part of the title.
It is not all bad though, as I said. I think aspects like the King having an insane schedule but he picks Nike flowers, and different members of the royal court being pretentious jerkfaces to our less prestigious princess, work well. Heck, I think the King going on about how the rain that saved his life tasted bad and the breakfast conversation with its less serious reactions about Nike being a stuck up moral absolutist and colored aura effects worked.
There is just this weird niggling sensation I have. And perhaps it will just go away as we get to know the characters more. Maybe I just had bad fish or something. But I would not be fully honest if I did not bring it up.
Rowdy Sumo Wrestler Matsutaro!! (Abarenbou Kishi!! Matsutarou) [Episode three]
“If only he’d stay knocked out.” – Hey now recap announcer, we would not have a series if that happened!
We get our first taste of sumo this week, via melding the experienced wrestler against the mad as an ox Matsutaro. Complete with digging his feet in multiple times before dashing at his opponent and Looney Tunes style twirls out of harms way. Also present are plentiful (if kind of super simple Flash animation looking) manga sound effect visuals tossed in for good measure to accentuate crowd cheers and some smacks. I always like that effect, and I think it is particularly relevant for something as physical as sumo. The low budget cheapness of the stretch effect being used on them could even turn into an advantage, if used during a more extended back and forth grappling sequence later on.
An aspect that kind of surprised me this week was how the show seems to want to chose not to define its own terms like “Makuuchi” and “Yokozuna.”
This series airs early in the morning, so one would imagine aimed more for younger audiences, and sumo on the whole has had more than a bit of a decline over the years. It makes sense when our teacher threw out “Sekitori” last week, since he was speaking to the wrestlers in a deferential and pleading manner; there’s no need to define it there, given the situational context is not appropriate for it. When the various stable heads were beating down Matsutaro’s door to recruit him though, I don’t think it would have been out of narrative place for these folks to more clearly emphasize what they had in the sumo department. Certainly, they are trying to bend and grovel towards him, so one delivering the line about how they have a Yokozuna could easily blend with how high level of a figure that is. Matsutaro could still blow them off just the same, but I think it would be more effective at delivering to the audience how large a series of opportunities he was turning down.
I do think the bidding war itself was a good process to see though. Since we are dealing in professional level sport rather than high school, it is always important to emphasize a bit on areas like this for characterization and situational opportunities. The stakes and processes are quite different, especially for something that has such a large lifestyle and living quarters component like sumo wrestling. So they are moments to take time with when the opportunity presents itself for them, just to set itself even a bit apart.
Kanojo ga Flag wo Oraretara (Gaworare) [Episode three]
You know how for the previous two episodes I mentioned this was a very efficient show?
The trend continues here, and yet this was also I feel the “slowest” episode so far. It counters with rolling together The Stoic Girl and Robot Girl archetypes into one for an additional character intro (and she even has Toast In Mouth Before Going To School features). Meanwhile, the Athletic Type / Tomboy / Childhood Friend / Traditional Garb Girl are all rolled into a single entity as well.
At minimum, someone needs to hire this series to run a moving company, because it can take a bunch of generic boxes and pack a suitcase in a jiffy.
For what is a pretty fast paced romantic comedy too-many-girls-in-the-same-house affair (at least until the eventual Darker Game Changer they keep alluding too crops up), I feel the series only needs to do two things: Move at a steady clip, and have some good jokes.
Of course, there is a ton of danger in something so seemingly simple. Go too fast, and it turns into a madcap Haiyore! Nyaruko-san type situation for instance where the viewer can feel they are barely treading water amongst the chaos. And “good jokes” is all relative, but as an example ideally more character based over We Made A Reference humor. It is a tricky minefield to navigate, especially over the long term.
For now though, it does work for me.
Parts like Kikuno having worked out how to have everyone wake up Souta at the same time in the morning, or Rin being able to get a Route Cleared flag because she was able to accept associating her idealized childhood friend with the Souta of the present. That one in particular actually was a good mechanics moment for the series to have right now too. It was far more tonally different a Route Clear than Souta saving Akane by giving her this big Prince Charming kiss to avoid death as was done in episode one. Heck, outside of Souta keeping Rin from falling down the hill and then letting go to talk, they do not even touch each other through the entire sequence. They just talk it out. It keeps things dynamic, it shows the variety it needs to keep me interested in what interactions may happen next and where they go, and so on. Quite modular stuff.
It is, well, very efficient.
Which ideally carries over whenever they can stop introducing more members of the party and the Big Shift they keep alluding to actually hits.
Hangers is a weekly series containing my passing thoughts on currently airing anime productions. Opinions, as always, are subject to change.