This Week: Ping Pong The Animation, The World is Still Beautiful, Rowdy Sumo Wrestler Matsutaro!!, and Kanojo ga Flag wo Oraretara.
Is it too late to make a May Day joke, as the schedule of these posts makes this the first one of its kind this month?
Well, we are almost halfway through the season, so the picture on how much of an emergency tailspin these productions may be in or not is getting ever clearer.
Ping Pong The Animation [Episode four]
We get two matches this week? Will wonders never cease?
I am not entirely sure why, but even with the tighter episode count I suppose I was not more consciously realizing we are now more than a third of the way done with this show. So, yeah, it actually probably really needed to do that. I may have been at least slightly accustomed to the Gundam Build Fighters school of weekly tournament progression of one fight a week if we get one from the last two seasons. Actually, for that matter, again, it’s not like I’m any kind of ping pong expert. But, I kind of really liked how during Gundam Build Fighters over the last two seasons I was able to catch various performance bits in the competitions based on what I knew from outside Gundam information (and which certain characters were themselves versed in areas as well). I hope to be able to at least do a little of that in these posts as well though.
I really latched on to the scene where Peco and Demon do the standard exchange and check of each other’s equipment and get to have a bit of small talk over their tech.
That examination for what is coating each side of the racket is a very table tennis thing, something that one does not have an equivalent in a lot of other sports. The entire idea behind the different colored sides on top of this is so the opponent always knows what the other may be up to in regards to hit delivery and how to handle their return for the volley, based on what they know is coating each side and the grip style of the user.
As a result, this all makes Peco’s defeat even harder.
He clearly recognized that Demon’s combinations were odd enough to remark on them. The selections of things like long pips out also jive with the notion that Demon could not keep up with Peco as a kid, which he gives a spiel on prior to the game to Peco directly about how painful it was just to watch him all the time. His racket and delivery was all designed to slow the game down immensely, which in turn provides more time to track and react to the opponent and seize opportunities from that. And that is not anything crazy advanced, as I mentioned the first week I’ve only been recently reading about ping pong in my own time recently.
Peco then did not just lose, or even get headstrong and suffer defeat. But hotshot stubborn to the point where he actively dismissed processing information he was explicitly provided with.
Which is why I feel he gets this exchange scene over the other matches so far, or even the Kong v Dragon one after, to put such feature focus on the interpersonal tech trade examination. Kong loses his match through more of a straight up powerhouse domination by his opponent, but not out of willful ignorance and unwillingness to adapt until it was too late.
I figure that sort of thing is always such a tricky line to walk for a television sports production – I mean one is basically giving an extended, repeated, denial play sequence. Even right down to us getting the reused high flying return volley animation a few times over.
It falls into that territory where it is a perfectly legitimate play-style in the actual sport, but it may not be engaging for the audience at home in fictional form if handled poorly. Especially for a sport with such an individual focus, so it is different than, say, parking a bus as one would in football / soccer, which still provides lots of people moving around even when little is happening. Taking the opportunity then to heighten that individual focus with the character backgrounds Peco and Demon shared, to show that history and their tech exchange, and then transition that into what amounts to longer shots of the ball flying through the air or brushing against the pips when we know Peco well enough now that he is a very direct smasher. He wants this game over and done with, and while getting smashed by Kong in the first episode is one thing, Demon is a guy Peco used to be able to run circles around.
Having him in this capacity effectively force Peco into this state of frustration still stayed a good character moment at all levels, regardless of if one tries to follow along with ping pong tech knowledge. Not only has his ability not advanced enough to stand a chance against Kong prior, but here Demon slowing the game down is almost literally him coming up from behind after all these years and catching up. Peco can not run anymore.
As a related sports thing, I also wanted to focus more on Peco this week fearing I would give too much attention to Kong again. His competition colors are pretty much the same as Wolverhampton Wanderers F.C., the actual football / soccer team I primarily support, so there is always that concern I may be inclined to associate the two too much. And hey, they each have quite a history of relegation to boot.
But Wolves are going up this year, so maybe Kong will too.
The World is Still Beautiful (Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii) [Episode five]
It is never really a good sign when I opt out of playing a current episode for several days in a row. Especially if those days are weekends, and I had the time.
Everything about this show is just getting to feel like a great big sigh. The fight scenes and confrontations this episode are shot in that bland cinematography style where it is mostly close-ups of shouting, and the characters are barely in the same shot as each other if at all. In turn, there is little weight to their situation.
The unsecured and last place left alone in the priesthood’s underground assassination maze? The waterway. When trying to catch and kill a rain princess. Sirs unmasked as conspirators leaves no impact, since we have not really met these folks in prior character capacities. The Sun King and Nike are having grand “If you disappear I don’t know what I’d do” statements before fields glistening in morning sunrises when they barely have had time for chemistry between each other. It is episode five and we have drug out the rain song into what I was most concerned over, that it would just be reduced to a forced bit. For all the lip service on how rare and individualized each of its deliveries are supposed to be, the series has been using the same song for three of these episode finales now.
And that in and of itself is not terrible. Forgettable or average maybe, disappointing sure, but not a death sentence alone.
But then we have things like the forced comedy of the great council elders having their passionate discussion on how big the breasts of the princess should be. Or Nike getting to punch out one of the people who plotted her assassination, but the scene is handled with a camera zoomed out so they are the size of ants. And surrounded by wacky comedy stars. And narrated by the old dudes who had such a groan inducing discussion over her chest size.
This series really does seem to have an agency issue with Nike. Like, a pretty structural thing where her moments are often minimized, being used for the benefit of others, or where our older and spunkier female lead is otherwise just the butt of every and all jokes. In a way where I’m actually kind of surprised they haven’t actually mocked her butt much.
I get the idea of a self insert fantasy where one gets swept away or the like, which would justify the lack of chemistry I’m feeling in favor of just trotting out a love story highlight reel of scenes to just go “Wouldn’t that be nice” to. Silly romantic comedy on the whole, I get that too, to keep things light and comfortable.
But as what is ostensibly a shōjo series it seems horrified of the thought of boring young boys.
It’s a shame, really, as I was interested in the prospect of a medivial-ish romance series with a more shōjo orientation. And I still am.
I do not know much about the manga personally, so I would certainly be interested in hearing others takes on that as well. Especially as supposedly only the first episode was anime original. But, it runs in the same magazine as Skip Beat! and Kamisama Kiss, so it has that going for it in terms of what is associated around its pages.
This series kind of confuses me, odd as it sounds for something so simple.
Episode five, almost halfway through the season for some of the 10 – 13 episode Spring productions, and we get the closest thing to a sumo fight yet. We had the Looney Tunes chase around the ring with our lead still in his job interview suit prior, sure. But now we get two competitors, in the ring, with their mawashi.
Matsutarou is not performing more genuine sumo, but that is understandable for someone newer and with little prior interest in the activity.
What gets me though is, at least as far as my understanding goes, this series is slotted and aimed more at kids or younger audiences. Family, perhaps, if we were being very generous regarding folks free time.
But there has been little actual, well, sumo wrestling in this sumo show to grab and keep their attention early on. We have had narrative and the descent, stabilization, and pathway to the rise of a man, especially true this episode given Matsutarou’s convictions by the end. But it is not exactly complex or nuanced, which could come off as trite to older audiences watching while at the same time seeming boring or slow to the younger folks in the room.
Not enough narrative to be a drama on one side, not enough splashy fighting for another, and so on. It is walking a kind of rickety hedging policy. While it seems to be shifting now more to self improvement arc mode, I do kind of wonder what the ratings numbers or the like for this series actually are. What folks will still be around when it does actually move into more fighting or a tournament arc.
Matsutarou getting his face smashed in the bout this episode was nice though, expected as it was.
Kanojo ga Flag wo Oraretara (Gaworare) [Episode five]
Date episodes can be tricky for harem shows.
There are a lot of ways to go about it given the number of characters involved, and numerous ways to screw it up royally. There is a fine line between, say, endearing and oppressive kinds of personal worrying. Or a charming character moment versus a just doing a routine bit.
A lot of these characters are archetype roles, after all, so it is even easier to succumb to the sloppiest of screenwriting practices.
I thought this was pretty cute though.
It goes the (Almost) Everyone Gets A Date route, but not in the style where the lead tries going on dates with multiple girls at once and needs to keep coming up with excuses. Just a progression of individual scenes, and everyone by and large respecting each others personal space. Which is to say, no cuts to other girls scoping out the competition and peeping on each others dates, plotting ways to sabotage or going into paranoia fits. A character like Akane gets to flat out slip and say she would like it if she and Souta became a couple someday, and there are no smash camera moves to other girls reacting, just her own realization and how she actually handles the situation.
The closest thing we have to that sort of thing are the cuts to what Nanami is up to back at the dorm as she tries to convince herself she is having loads of fun by herself, but even that is used more as a transition scene while the actual dates move from one location to another. It gels with the character mechanics and progression, keeping what should be personal time, well, personal rather than more contrived. It serves double duty as a means of slowing the show down a bit after a lot of character introductions, and get the audience a bit more acquainted with the core group before we move forward.
And even the stuff that could be really dumb, like event flags on a UFO catcher teddy bear or heck an entire cafe of people sprouting flags hoping they would see Souta kiss Megumu, do not really feel overused in regards to placement and duration. This show could trot out a waterfall of event flag shtick every week if it wanted because, hey, it is in the title after all. But it keeps itself somewhat restraint, so the quirks and gimmicks still hold weight or charm.
By all accounts, one would think I would be bored as hell with Gaworare’s whole objective too, right down to Kikuno’s “I’m your big sister, but I’m not really your big sister” thing, complete with her own screwball accessory in the form of that ladle. This whole pile of checkmark character stereotypes is almost standard regulation Dead On Arrival as far as shipping should be concerned.
But dagnabit, I keep looking forward more to the harem event flag show more every week than the “actual” romance series I’m watching!
I feel the series has been very judicious in handing its flag moments out, which keeps the gag funny when used in new ways as well as helps with highlighting a key moment of a scene narrative with a visual tick. I do not feel a need to take many notes with this show, as the entire structure and delivery not only reinforces the character dynamics as I mentioned but also works as a means of assisting in committing the girls and events to memorability when used appropriately.
It is kind of insidious, when you think about it.
The director of this series was responsible for one of the Anime Mirai shorts this year, and it sounds adorable as all hell, whenever the subtitles for that actually come out.
Hangers is a weekly series containing my passing thoughts on currently airing anime productions. Opinions, as always, are subject to change.