This Week: Ping Pong The Animation, The World is Still Beautiful, Rowdy Sumo Wrestler Matsutaro!!, and Kanojo ga Flag wo Oraretara.
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Ping Pong The Animation [Episode three]
We have completed a full year of the Anime Vacuum Character circuit.
– Monogatari Series Second Season carried the humorous Roomba torch for a bit.
– Miss Monochrome gave a big supporting role to Ru-chan the Roomba (and I liked Ru-chan quite a bit).
– Space Dandy gave space vacuum computer QT a main speaking role.
– Attention was firmly placed on the Koizumi’s own Roomba this episode.
Maybe I should just make a list of anime vacuum cleaner characters and/or Roomba ownership.
We now return you to the Ping Pong high school championship qualifiers, already in progress.
Something I feel is very difficult with sports narratives in media is the idea that a competition, by necessity, is more than one story. If there are multiple players, there are multiple narratives to convey. And that is hard to navigate. Ping Pong has the advantage of conveying a sport with a relative fewer number of participants. Even there though, there is still always the other person across the net.
As a result, I felt it was a great touch to work in folks like the more chilled out senior from another school who figured he was pretty much at the end of his sporting career and if he should head out to the sea instead. Or the guy cheered on and encouraged with a pep talk by a girl they liked prior to their crushing defeat. A tournament has a lot of little stories that make up the big event narrative, many of which will not be our leads.
Trying to portray those various stakeholders without compromising momentum I think is important to livening up the big picture. The feelings of those who play, from many perspectives. Same with having the Kong v Tsukimoto match conveyed through so many multiframe shots and the various viewpoints of spectators talking over it. To get the broad scope of the event from the small moments of granularity which make it up, from folks talking about footing and stamina to someone thinking a player is cute.
I would perhaps go as far to say as these moments would be akin to the events of lead characters of entirely different series. I mean, sure, everyone is always the lead of their own story, of course. But I could definitely see a sports manga or anime use the exact same scenes and narrative as primary plot events in and of themselves.
Now I’m just imagining a sports manga that has several different full production series lines following a singular tournament event from different character perspectives. Maybe even go so far as to have different teams on them, so they would have their own art styles and better diversify the viewpoints and narratives, and contrast how they were handled or seen in a different part of the line. That would be quite something, though certainly expensive to keep up with and maintain.
I really liked the implications from Wenge’s eventual victory pose as well in our showcase match, split up as it was between cheering body and wincing eyes.
That there was the grander out and out triumph pose for all to see in the audience, while at the same time he has been compromised on one level or another internally. Either through blowing too much stamina in the match with Smile to defeat him, or perhaps another pain. That of perhaps actually having won through Smile potentially lessening his play near the end, so as to allow Wenge to advance forward in the competition due to the personal stakes he has and what victory would mean for his prospects to return to his homeland. That he was perhaps advancing only through mercy, not through having played to his greatest potential and become victorious through that alone. And how that may bug him going forwards, either in this competition or otherwise.
I can not imagine the “A person can’t bounce back after being crushed in front of so many people” statement made by Tsukimoto during an initial Kong match will bite him. It was a close game with many points scored on each side. But we are three episodes down out of eleven total, so however they do choose to go about either his self improvement arc or one of him increasing his ferocity of applied talent that he may hold back should not bog the series down, so he can face down Kong again in competition.
The World is Still Beautiful (Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii) [Episode four]
I am starting to think that the warmest character episode of this series may well turn out to be that first one.
There has just been this increasing lack of subtly between character interactions as time as elapsed, which is even more driven home this time. The fashion designer being kind of ridiculous and obsessive over their artistic work, to the point of telling the princess to lose weight in a tone deaf manner, I can wave off as going for humor, sure. But Princess Nike sneaking into the temple dressed as a servant, only to immediately blow her cover by removing her hood, and the borderline cackling Evil Priesthood Leader is… a bit much. The Grand Booming Orchestral Music almost drowning them out hurts even more. And then she breaks down crying because she might not get to stay with the Sun King just feels weird. They have not established too much of an on screen rapport for that kind of emotional rollercoaster at this stage.
Then we get a surprise bucktoothed orphan. Which I feel is exactly the sort of thing I want to see the series deal in, but… not quite like this. They exist more as an arm to tell us how awesome the King is, and that he said the flowers at the orphanage reminded him of Nike. They are an extension to tell us development for a different character entirely, without needing to show him doing said actions, rather than more realized individuals who happen to also have this touching story to share. Given how short and rushed said orphanage visit is between everything else does not help alloy this concern either.
The show pulling the “foreign ethnic group” card as a means of having the priesthood cancel the enagement does not sit with me well.
Yeah, everyone knows the charges are trumped up on a technicality just to be a pain for a larger political game. But, I feel that is something a series called The World Is Still Beautiful could delve into the mechanics of once it raises the spectre of it. How these cultures, social backgrounds, ancestral histories, and identities have developed. Where they differ, or what they share in. How this can play into the idea of nationality or what it would be to lead or love. There is a host of really swell topics they could have played with in there for world building, and still keep the romance story or humor trappings as they try to share and debate.
Unless we are just going down the This Show Is Trying To Sound Smarter Than It Actually Is route. And we are not going to do anything with that topic. In which case, it needed a different charge.
Given all of the Shut Up And Let Me Protect You and No I Will Undergo This Invasive Ritual So As To Protect You this episode, I should probably dig in so I stop raising my hand excitedly when I think it maybe might have a moment of conceptual cogency.
Rowdy Sumo Wrestler Matsutaro!! (Abarenbou Kishi!! Matsutarou) [Episode four]
I do find it quite interesting that our leading lug imagines himself with such a distinctly different / large nose within the confines of his own dream fantasies.
The hair being more of a larger pompadour works as an idea of having the time and resources to style it as such. It goes along with the imagination of him also having attracted his dream girl. So that checks out fine. But that bigger, pointier nose gets my attention. We tend to associate that with the likes of Pinocchio after all, so one can wonder how much of Matsutaro’s subconscious may even be aware that he is potentially greatly deluding himself. Perhaps the same with how much one may want to read into his “the sun is too bright in this seat” line after getting the reality check dump from another elder member of the sumo stable on the train. It can be taken as just how thickheaded an ox he is, sure. But it is nice as a little screenwriting detail in what is not a very complex series of events.
Reiko may be a fun character, which does seem sort of odd to say these several episodes in. But we have not exactly seen to much of her outside of Matsutaro’s fantasy world. Things like her speaking up louder in the restaurant so everyone picks up that they have a budding sumo wrestler on their hands does show she understands he likely needed that boost to provide direction. Giving that sort of moment to really push him ahead. Hard to back down from taking up the endeavor when the girl you like says the sport is so awesome and a whole bar is raising their drinks to cheer for your competitive success.
This is also all laced with the more restrictive 1970’s series backdrop and a very Isn’t Sumo So Wonderful Because It Is Such A Manly World kind of speech from the closest thing we have to a female lead though. Which can have some chauvinist implications. But the original manga itself is also from the same era.
So I suppose that is a question of how much I can fault it for faithfully adapting its own source material.
Kanojo ga Flag wo Oraretara (Gaworare) [Episode four]
As a harem series, I do not hold this show to a very strict narrative standard. Which is to say, I am looking more for individual character actions and how they play out as crunchy or snappy bits.
Quest Hall winning the MVP Award and saving their dorm despite Souta and Nanami falling down in the final sports festival event does not really matter to me if it comes off as expected and with little weight. I mean, of course they were going to win, or the show ceases to function. So I prioritize other things instead.
I appreciated how, when Akane shows up riding a white horse and its crazy imposing purple aura, Souta is offered a ride. And, being a harem series lead, he turns her down. Which in turn results in every other girl shoving him onto the horse anyway, because it would make Akane happy and Souta needs to not be a lame mopey or completely milquetoast harem lead. And it is not like Akane is the “main” girl either, as that would be Nanami. It is just a nice little character moment, where we know they all like Souta to varying degrees but not letting that get in the way of doing a nice thing for someone else in the group.
Likewise, the entire long conversation between Souta and Ruri essentially starts off with her going into lots of technical and verbose language for what amounts to You Feel Like Shit, You Are Making Everyone Else Feel Like Shit, Stop Feeling Like Shit Or The Group Will Break. And the private conversation they have in the greenhouse afterward, which starts to get into the whole bigger picture involving the tabletop roleplaying game classes, the nature of the world, and all that, is not shattered or interrupted with zany What Were You Two Off Doing Together shenanigans. The scene can touch on these concerns, and those of Souta worrying about his death flag, and just more naturally conclude. Then transition into something else revolving around the sports festival. On a mechanics level, it moves things along without inducing groaning mid-scene pacing that breaks the moment. It also continues to support the notion of friendship or trust the various girls have. That no, most of them do not need to worry about Souta maybe sneaking off and doing things with someone.
The characters by and large like each other. They are not, at this stage, generally trying to backstab and sabotage each of their efforts. The series can have good character moments where they try to support one another, without devolving into unfunny bickering. This is where Ayumu Watanabe’s background from Doreamon and such comes into play, I feel. I think one reaches a professional skillset point where they can make modular character interactions or small moments manage to survive and register with the viewer more regardless of what one does to the narrative structure and scene progression. Because if they can not do that consistently through thick and thin, well, I would think they would have been ejected from that particular long running franchise rather quickly.
So I can enjoy those positive moments between friends quite a bit.
[As a fun aside, I finally realized Rin is Nanako Saeki. So I am always glad to see that while I loved The Flowers of Evil, that series bombing as hard as it did is not sabotaging careers.]
Hangers is a weekly series containing my passing thoughts on currently airing anime productions. Opinions, as always, are subject to change.