This Week: Ping Pong The Animation, The World is Still Beautiful, Rowdy Sumo Wrestler Matsutaro!!, Kanojo ga Flag wo Oraretara, and M3: The Dark Metal.
I watched a few other airing series in passing this holiday weekend so I’m not as swamped with everything I’m putting off at the end of the season!
I will throw in an extra comment only for M3: The Dark Metal though, given the lower attention that show receives around the internet.
Ping Pong The Animation [Episode seven]
I kind of want to live in a world where Poseidon’s ping pong shoe commercials would show up on my television channels. I have a lot of satellite options, but no table tennis network, let alone much directly related advertising to the sport.
As it goes then, the broad strokes of where this show will be heading are now pretty much in view: Peco is already bandaging up his leg, and Smile will be forced to make a decision in an upcoming event on whether to go full bore for the kill or let up like coach Koizumi did for his dear friend all those years ago. Meanwhile, Wenge plays against practice robot programed to act as close to Dragon as possible, which will itself also likely result in him taking on a future player-coach event entry against him as well.
That is the top level stuff at least, and while it may be predictable it would be enough to carry us home to the finale in episode eleven from here.
But this is still not really about ping pong so much as it is about the folks who are playing it, so at doing that I still think there is worthwhile material in.
The Kaio advisor asking Dragon, on their rejected walk home back from Katase High, if he was playing the table tennis he believed in. And after reflecting on the days of his past and family, the bald guy in turn responding to the inquiry of who he would select as a hero that there are none in his world view. That Smile reacts to his own coach inviting the Kaio folks over with frustration and the inner anger that causes one to just bolt and run away, while earlier Koizumi had been just outside swinging on the playground pleased as can be with his decision.
That what we do have of a sports narrative is actually incredibly knife twisty for Yurie. The guy she likes is throwing everything he has into the sport and moving up as a means of supporting his family, and while she recognizes that it is also personally painful. One can identify and understand something without needing to like it, after all, and it is the precise variety of event that is opening up opportunities for Sanada’s efforts with her.
Which as we have already covered, most members of the Kaio team would rather have him be leading them anyway over Dragon’s single minded dominance at all else efficiency. And that is at a school with such a focus on the sport too.
At the same time, I rather liked how Captain Ota over the Katase side actually had a bit more of a friendly moment with Smile compared to the more aggressive statements (both relating to Smile himself now, or to Smile regarding Peco before) of previous weeks.
That when the rest of the team was talking about Smile going haywire, he slowed down and realized with no direct dialogue that Smile was probably having a hard time too. And he managed to get those new balls Smile had mentioned (he had to hit up a going out of business sale, but still!), and they have a nice little back and forth bouncing them around in the gym alone. Which dovetails so well with Ota pitching balls in the mock ping pong baseball game that made Smile angry at the stop of the episode. He still needs to look over all his players, Smile included, regardless of how unpopular they may be getting or even bugging him. And there is a personal maturity in that.
So there is still a lot here in terms of execution, even if the plot seems apparent.
The World is Still Beautiful (Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii) [Episode seven]
…is it just me, or did the episode this week have a noticeable animation quality drop? A lot more click and drag character / object movement, less visual fidelity in the aspects that more more fully animated, and so on. Which is odd, as this is the immediate episode after a production break. Pierrot as an operation is not exactly in a Studio Trigger situation here, they are an established player well versed in long running shows and this is only episode seven of a much smaller one.
Our two fourth wall breaking rape joke buffoons from before pop back in and apparently calls for a nearly a minute of flashback material replaying their first episode bit scenes, as if we were stalling for time. Combined with all the lasso tool layer shenanigans and Adobe After Effects confetti, I can not help but think something has gone terribly wrong behind the scenes.
So Mister Bardouin Cecil Ifrikia here does make a swell point about travel being an incredibly wonderful thing, allowing one to be able to see all manner of beautiful things in the world. Which sounds like an incredibly relevant series of points to be able to make or explore regarding a series entitled, well, The World Is Still Beautiful! Hell, when the festival bit at the start of the episode got underway I was actually hoping we were going to be able to get into some of this kind of material the show seems to suggest is important. See the people, get more of an idea of the cultural aspects or their lives, the aspects that supposedly drive Princess Nike’s songs, and so on.
But we are instead railroaded through some variety of familial mistrust and background history we are not ourselves aware of, so we get outrageous reactions from Livius towards his uncle instead.
It is exhausting to an extent, because I can see plain as day that there is a show within this show I would enjoy significantly more. That it could take things and run with, while still retaining the central character relationship. And it tells me that show is there, just to snatch it away from me and think I will still chase. And I do not know about you, but I have three dogs: all of them learned very quickly when I was not actually throwing a toy for them to grab.
When the Sun King went on his grand detonation “prison and torture!” temper tantrum binge at the end of the episode (which is post a near rape scene at that), I just sighed and stared. There just is not enough narrative substance there to hurl this level of swing, and the comedy bits do not carry this show for me.
I feel this maybe goes at least a bit back to the main couple of the series just not really getting much of a, well, focus on them being a couple? I still generally process them as independent characters who are just sort of around each other rather than ones in a give and take reciprocal romantic relationship.
Rowdy Sumo Wrestler Matsutaro!! (Abarenbou Kishi!! Matsutarou) [Episode eight]
“Don’t think about anything” forming the basis of Matsutarou’s pep talk to Tanaka covers a lot.
I was hoping after the last episode we were either going to have some off screen time advancement and rank rising, or otherwise be able to now more into some more forward sumo wrestling matches. Here we are still seemingly at the same event as before, which does make some sense with being able to do multiple matches in the same day and we already covered all the pre-game debut jitters last week. In theory, we can maybe now give some more screen time to a bit more in the way of actual matches.
To wit then: Tanaka’s next match ends before it has event started due to, well… him farting then running out of the ring so hard he slams his head on a railing. Matsutarou then imagines his opponent as some variety of club wielding ogre from mythology, who stares back and… sees Matsutarou as a dragon, gets incredibly psyched out and whimpering, then is just pushed over.
I get the idea that Matsutarou is supposed to be super strong and all, but his matches have been incredibly poor displays of this. He does not get to so much make a convincing display so much as his opponents just sort of roll over and do not fight back, resulting in simple one hit knockdowns. Which are two very different kinds of feelings as a viewer, despite being very similar in effect. For a sumo series, portrayal of the sport itself just has not been all that engaging.
Otherwise we have Matsutarou and Tanaka wandering around town with nothing to do, playing baseball games with kids, eat sandwiches, and sit around throwing a raging party back at the stable while everyone else is at an appreciation dinner for the head of their club because he has been suffering from stress recently.
Which is understandable. This is a pretty simple show, and yet I too am often not really sure what it is up to, what it wants to be or achieve, and why Toei enlisted it for their lineup.
Kanojo ga Flag wo Oraretara (Gaworare) [Episode eight]
After last week, this show had two primary options: It could double down on the serious turns behind how the world works revealed previously, or could swerve to lighthearted shenanigans to kill time until a future episode event drop now that we have the whole cast to stew in for a bit.
Or we could take a third option: attempt to balance summer vacations and hot springs with massive mounds of roast beef and The Terminator fighting maids trained in martial arts and automatic weapons, while adding a new girl to the cast with her own vocal tick.
It is the most dangerous option, since then you need to stick the landing and make all those parts fit together and make sense for the flow of the show. This entire ordeal would be primed to bury most teams, since you are aiming at setting off an interconnected series of fireworks timers.
It actually makes this episode a bit harder to write about as an individual entity; what am I supposed to do, explain all the jokes? That’s no fun.
The series of character gags were swell though, such as Ruri arriving out of the sky and into the dirt like a full blown meteor in the prologue, sunglasses and all. It fits within the realm of something I would expect would be within Ruri’s capabilities, while not being anything we had seen from her previously. Really, anything this episode involving Ruri felt top notch in terms of timing, Nendoroid form factor actions and crawling on Nanami’s head and all.
Going back to the hot springs part I mentioned: as one of the most cliched things in the harem book going way back to the first ones, a barely two minute bit sounds about right. It needed to bring it in given the nature of this event flag show as a cliche blizzard, but was able to frame it largely around a character level interaction between Souta and Rin and then move on without too explosive an incident. It did not feel overwrought or even too terribly unnatural in delivery, given the series we are in. Embarrassed characters, sure, but nothing more than that.
As a side note, the sister narrative thematics (Souta’s missing real one, Kikuno, Kurumiko) continue to work themselves in.
This time both via one of Nanami’s other princess sisters showing up and Nendoroid Ruri proclaiming the new European assassination model as being like her little sister. Maybe that will amount to something, either directly relating to the missing sister or familial notions of a harem as a whole, maybe that is me looking into things too much. But it seems pretty noticeable otherwise.
M3: The Dark Metal (M3: Sono Kuroki Hagane) [Episodes one – through – six]
I had seen less than positive things mentioned by those who gave this series a test run before, and the longer it has gone on the more I became fascinated with the severe drop off rate this show has had. Here is a link to the Reddit held episode discussion threads, which have gone off a cliff in terms of activity. Mainly folks either asking if the show managed to improve any or the people who are actively watching it attempt to parse out and explain what happened. And not in a “Oh, this is so rich in thematic elements” sort of way relating to meanings and interpretations.
We are talking about top level explanation when viewers are trying to figure out what occurred on screen from Point A to Point B.
This show is all of the worst dry as all hell “I am a teenager trying to write my own Really Dark Super Deep robot anime” lessons one could take from Evangelion when looking to make their 2014 mecha show. Which is absolutely shocking given the creative staff.
Kawamori put little distinct work into the machines. To my eyes at least, the primary Reaper / Argent looks like a slapdash amalgam of basic ideas of “edgy”, and that is about it. The cockpit scenes get far and away more screen time, and the camera does not know what to look at when the robot is on screen. To the point where I really had to search for a good freeze frame shot of the actual mecha to show above.
Okada gives little life to the overall Lightless Realm and crystal metal Admonitions monsters scenario, where everyone has the most cliched levels of one note character archetype driven personalities. The maniacal laughing scientist with a quirky lollipop is so obviously Up To Something and Main Character-Kun is so unassumingly generic I can not remember learning anything about his personality other than ramming his I Have Brother Issues history bit via repeated flashbacks. But that still is not itself a personality. Characters ask themselves lots of generic “Why are we here?” type questions in that particular way that do not resemble normal conversation flow but are to instead go This Show Asked Questions, Thus It Is Deep without doing any actual work.
And it is such a rush to tell you all this, it is a constant audio visual tonal barrage of No Really Though, Stuff Is Going To Go Down Sometime, Look Look, You Won’t Even Guess But This Is Gonna Have Big Dark Twists Because Dark Robot Shows.
Sato meanwhile is giving a master class in bland passionless direction, with awkward basic scene blocking with little visually dynamic happening as characters stand in front of backgrounds that look like they came off a cheap visual novel from half a decade ago. Which look even worse with the bland CGI robots and crystal metal enemy sludge beasts over them.
It is entirely possible that both the most well animated and best directed scene in these six episodes so far involves the following gif that Geekorner-Geekulture posted weeks ago of the busty nerd girl getting beaten with balls in her breasts.
I am not even trying to be quippy internet funny or anything here either.
That is a legitimate contender for being the most camera and animation effort put into this mecha series up to this point.
And that is, well, awful.
I do not exactly like writing “busty nerd girl getting beaten with balls in her breasts” and using that as what may be the high water mark of Sato’s directorial attention here. Certainly, creative camera use is nearly forgotten as a tool for large stretches of the program the rest of the time otherwise, and here I’m not sure if that is more directly the director’s fault, core issues with Okada’s screenplay, or what. This isn’t even a more fanservice oriented series at that, where maybe one could give it extra rope due to intended audience demographics. Everything in this production, top to bottom, just feels like it is mostly sleepwalking through motions. Until it wants to throw things at one of the girls.
I am also fairly certain that for things like CGI helicopters, Satelight is very likely just reusing CGI helicopter modeling work they had done in Macross Zero, which at this point is more than a decade old. But I haven’t sat down to do the side by side comparison.
I really would have liked it had the show turned around somewhere and went all “Nope, those first few episodes were awful, but then it picked up!” I mean, that is always the hope anyway, especially given some of the production folks involved. Then I could show up and talk about how awesome it got instead!
Heck, I’d like to be able to even go full bore and tear into the actual plot more, as looking back on my comment I realize I don’t really delve into it much. It’s all just so… murky and lost though. Even after marathoning six episodes a few days ago, I can barely even remember the name of anyone in this show.
So yeah, with six episodes down, anyone who decided to drop it made an A+ decision.
This is bad in that “I have sat through a quarter of the scheduled run, and I still do not understand basic facts about this world and the characters in it” kind of way.
It would not surprise me if all the budget was blown just hiring the creative team, while simultaneously not providing them enough to make them give a damn outside of an easy payday.
Hangers is a weekly series containing my passing thoughts on currently airing anime productions. Opinions, as always, are subject to change.