This Week: Ping Pong The Animation, The World is Still Beautiful, Rowdy Sumo Wrestler Matsutaro!!, and Kanojo ga Flag wo Oraretara.
If my write-ups this season were a sports anime tournament, Ping Pong would have served Matsutaro hard enough to make him do one of those Tasmanian Devil spin fits. Gaworare, meanwhile, would have taken The World is Still Beautiful to the mid-day lunch buffet and the latter would be so melodramatically overcome by the power of friendship and togetherness speech they would join the other team.
Can the plucky harem show that could beat back the ping pong powerhouses?
Ping Pong The Animation [Episode five]
Well this took a tonal shift to go with the time skip.
Melancholy beach dude from the other week is wondering if he made the right choice or should actually head to the mountains, while Peco is getting heavier, a tan, and growing his hair out. Dragon wins the Youth Olympics and yet uses his first interview opportunity to throw his own team under the bus, while Smile has all but abandoned his own team given his stratospheric progress leaving them so far in the dust that everything is now scheduled around Smile alone.
We have seen the flashback where Wenge remembers leaving his mother at the train station in China before, but here it gets to play out a little differently. Which is to say, a little bit longer, and that for all of the stoicism and putting on a tough face, he had cried afterward. It goes well with the notion that his original or real goal with coming to Japan was to be able to earn back his place in his former team, but ostensibly he was actually here to train others and to raise them up. The idea of these short term personal fronts and contrasting with potentially longer lasting impacts. Perhaps he as well being able to set future ping pong players into the world.
I think it is fair to say this episode had the least amount of actual ping pong gameplay so far.
This is warranted not only after our double header from last week, but it is also in a way indicative of the game’s position for many of our characters at this point. Several of them, in their own ways, have been faced with the issue of falling behind and the sport now being beyond them. Even someone like Akuma, who has trained hard and memorized harder, to the point of being able to recall specific total running point scores with his opponents and when he last played them is found driven to the end of their personal rope. He is not even able to complete the match with Smile to a complete loss, but ejects prior.
It is a monumentally frustrating thing, to have worked so hard at something to the point of going to a dedicated school for the cause yet someone else is able to achieve far more success at the same task just because.
Smile is theoretically the good guy, a leading figure for the series for follow. But, that sort of X-factor natural talent that such characters can posses has its downsides. Here it has driven our astigmatism affected but nose to the grindstone Akuma to go around starting a fistfight with completely unrelated people in public and getting expelled from his team due to having a match with Smile in the first place.
In a way, he has been consumed by his own demons.
The World is Still Beautiful (Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii) [Episode six]
This series is wallpaper paste.
It wants to bring together a bare dramatic wall and adorn it with a more lighthearted pattern, but it just is not sticky enough to do the job. I do not find myself amused by the jokes, as they keep curling in odd and off-putting ways. We have our random childhood friend fiance character show up, and we speed right on along to her firmly feeling up Nike to make remarks on her breast size. We have the council of old dudes making giddy remarks about how they would definitely choose the little fiance girl, as a wife needs to be young and all (which thus in turn relegates Nike to spinster status).
Its shots just do not connect with me.
So I’m left with the underlying dramatic structure, which, well… little fiance girl stone cold flying off of her horse and over a cliff in shock at the realization Nike had a connection with the Sun King is pretty much where we are operating on that front. Actually, I legitimately had to restart that whole horse sequence again after it was over to figure out what the camera was up to. The staging was incredibly awkward, and would have made monumentally more sense if Luna and Nike had been just plain standing near the edge of the cliff, and then the former had her sudden shock that sent her over the edge, and then Nike running to get her.
It begs the question of why we are even using horses for their showdown scene in the first place, since they have not featured prominently for anyone prior. Given all of the dancing this episode, they could have done a cliff-slide dance off for a competitive princess balance testing challenge, and that actually would have fit far better comparatively. Luna could still fall over the edge due to a shock to the heart and everything. It would have tied the whole episode up far better with just that alteration.
The series so desires to have Big Sweeping Moments like this, or the main couple dancing under the stars, but it is such a rush to roll them out after the comedy bits. It is like the show is desperately trying to make up for lost time or something when it comes time for the drama. In turn it is reduced to cobbling together the biggest parts it has lying around without any of the finer engineering required. And these moments would work, is the thing.
But what I end up seeing here is what looks like a high school stage crew desperately pulling a frazzled all nighter after screwing around for too long, so nails are sticking from everywhere and big gobs of wallpaper paste are oozing and dripping about. And I was on those crews back when I was in high school, so I’m more than familiar with the differences of what our final products would be between when we would actually take our time on the seems and constructions details versus emergency schlepping.
That this episode both started and ended with the same rain song as always, as if to make up for the occasions we did not have it playing, does nothing to alleviate my concerns of what could have been a such a good character trait reduced to a bit part fishing for “feels” and killing air time.
“Have you heard her song? “Yeah, I hate it.”
We are rapidly getting to the point of self parody, sadly.
Rowdy Sumo Wrestler Matsutaro!! (Abarenbou Kishi!! Matsutarou) [Episode six]
We have skipped ahead a few weeks in-universe, which is enough time for Matsutaro’s face to heal but not so much for his character to exactly mellow out. Which sounds about right for a guy like him.
This is easily the most frivolous or slice of life episode so far, depending on one’s viewpoint regarding the series.
The dynamic between younger and senior members of a stable is a critical one in real life sumo, as they are responsible for tending to many of the needs of those above them. The exchange, of course, is that senior sumo wrestlers perform well in their actual matches so as to bring the stable fame, winnings, funding, etc. So much of the entire system depends on this, as things such as the dorms and the like are able to be provided for the benefit of the whole group this way. And the younger will in time become the more professional grade fighters, as their service to the group evolves from the chores of helping to provide meals and scrubbing backs to having the lifeblood of their stable in their hands when needing to perform in the ring at ever higher levels.
Matsutaro, of course, does not quite get this. But it is not like he is supposed to either, thickheaded as he still is. But he does like the ordering around aspect, making demands of the sick Tanaka as he does to pick up books and take back moves in a game of shoji. But, he does make Tanaka cry as well, and that plus him setting out futons for the others who went to take care of the senior wrestlers did get to Matsutaro enough to have him talk the man down and take over the futon job. So there is some progress in there for him, somewhere.
Otherwise we have a night in with some ghost stories and secret snack stashes… which quickly escalated into trying to pull a ghost prank on the seniors when they basically would have taken said snacks. Complete with the eternally classical White Sheet Over One’s Head approach to going “boo!” It is hard to really hate such a gag, though the lack of both ending credits and next episode previews is still throwing me off. The episodes just sort of… stop. Which is kind of disorienting, as a series like this could use some buffer transition material to lead us out on.
Kanojo ga Flag wo Oraretara (Gaworare) [Episode six]
We had a date episode last week, so it seems more than appropriate we have moved on to the school field trip episode side of things.
Given, we in fact have two dueling trips, with the class split between a beach and mountain one, and our leading man assigned to be on both excursions due to backroom paperwork dealings. Which results in… mostly everyone pleasantly recognizing that Souta spending half of the trip which each side of the group is more than okay by them because that way the rest of Quest Hall is equal and nobody is left out.
Dagnabit people, you are all so agreeable!
Given the trip switcheroo that allows for the two school groups to swap locations for a day, this does mean this episode is basically a beach one. Yet, I can not say this round felt like pure fluff. Sure, there are shots of the cast in swimsuits (Akane and the sea cucumber is easily the most blatant), but it is not like there is only cheesecake on hand. As Souta is unable to get himself into the water much due to his past seafaring trauma, this is also a whole lot him sitting around and getting to know Kurumiko. Complete with plot point flags and needing to navigate a decision tree when one knows every obvious option is the wrong one.
That she lost her parents in the same boat accident and already knew who Souta was due to the prior news coverage is a nice little character facet to be able to deal in. Likewise, if we take his commitment to Kurumiko here to be her big brother, and the already existing arrangement with Kikuno where she acts as Souta’s big sister, that is something of a familial vector that has some potential play going forwards in the narrative as Souta’s actual sister seems lost to all other memories and records.
I mean, his real sister is perhaps the Number Zero girl in the big black cape speaking before a congress of People Who Know How The World Actually Works in the prologue this episode. Given how the familial loss and sister aspect keeps creeping up, it seems as good a use as any for such a shadowy figure. But the how and why of that remains to be seen.
Ruri made a remark regarding making an attempt for higher ratings this week, so I hope that works out for them. We are on the back end of the series now, everyone in the opening has been introduced, so we are primed for things Get Real regarding this whole role-playing game class system, as it were. Which it looks like is just what will begin to happen next week given the preview, so they are not wasting any time.
Hangers is a weekly series containing my passing thoughts on currently airing anime productions. Opinions, as always, are subject to change.