This Week: Ping Pong The Animation, The World is Still Beautiful, and Kanojo ga Flag wo Oraretara.
Our sumo show is still down for the count this week, as I am assuming our lead character there is either still on or recovering from some massive World Cup partying bender.
Probably a little of both, to be fair.
Ping Pong The Animation [Episode eleven ; END]
“I’ll be damned — I like this sport.”
For how little screen time Egami has had, popping in and out for a little bit scene here and there since the tournament he was eliminated from, I do feel I fundamentally get him as a person and what he was trying to figure out with his life. And that is a nice thing to be able to wrap up not just from the miniplot he had, but as character writing. I mean, hell, I stopped watching anime entirely for about six years wandering around the world in my own way before coming back and doing whatever this comment nonsense I do now, so even from that perspective I can relate.
Going beyond that, very little of our final match really shows any of the direct game between Peco and Smile, which I feel is appropriate. A few minutes total, spread out between the far more substantial childhood flashbacks, the sideline reflections, and even a frontloaded few minutes of just milling about. Microphone checks, text messages, tea or coffee selections at the refreshments area. That we have some groups of folks heading home because the grand finals of the competition are irrelevant to them, which I feel is such a valid viewpoint to show.
This is “just” a regional high school qualifier for a national tournament, after all. We can have those gaps of emptiness in the stands because this really is not the most “important” thing in the world for many, it just happens to be the endgame for what we are looking at. We saw very little of the Kaio coach, but there is still the expression that he worries about Akuma, because there is the sentiment of caring for their path in life as a person beyond the sport.
And of course, we get to see the old timers together as friends again, where at least for a short while it was as if things were as they always had been. It is another case where, sure it was expected so as to be able to tie up those threads mentioned previously of the tournament from all those years ago. But, that does not detract anything from the sequence in execution, and the combination of awkwardness, embarrassment, and jovialness it has.
And it dovetails well into the whole cast being as they were in their younger days as well, and then into the further future in their more adult lives. The game itself, as has been said in so many conversations surrounding this show that even those who like it may be sick of it, was always secondary. So we only see the result of our tournament in a passing photograph. There is no grand match point action scene for Peco specifically, because in the end everyone won in their own ways that they will need to carry forwards from here for the rest of their lives, no matter the prominence, lackthereof, or transitions from ping pong specifically.
And that is what is most important, for all of them, as in the end we too did worry for each in our own ways.
The World is Still Beautiful (Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii) [Episode eleven]
Can we just cut out the middle, say, 6-7 episodes of this program and graft on some connective tissue that would get to tighten the show up, cover the bases it did, and manage to progress us to here?
I feel the show wants that, as structurally we have saved basically anything resembling progression of actual character writing rather than hollow scene motions in the leading relationship of Nike and Livius until this arc. I suppose one could say the moments we see of them now being quite a bit more comfortable together or open would be “payoff,” though to me it has come off more as emphasizing just how long the show was spinning its wheels and how much excess material it could have trimmed. There is a good romantic comedy or lighthearted romantic drama or what have you in here somewhere. Now that it seeks to breathe in big gulps of air after popping its head above the week-in-week-out swampwater I almost feel bad for it. The show would have fared a lot better with like an OVA series format.
And even with the strides the series has sought to make and the cards it wants to play, some elements still kind of misfire. Livius being able to meet and speak privately with Nike’s mother should be a good moment, on paper, either for dramatic for comedy purposes. One could go in either direction with it to great effect. Yet their conversation serves as yet another fleeting minor chat about how Nike controls a great power that would be dangerous in the wrong hands and could be used for ill… which is disarmed by Livius just saying that his nation is so big and powerful that nobody would ever get her but him. Which seems like not the best of answers to give in this situation. I would think he would want to play up other aspects in an attempt to prove a kind of point for his feelings for her and such being in a manner where he would care more for Nike as a person than as a kind of weapon.
And yet Might Makes Right somehow resolves the issue immediately enough for them to drop the matter with all the effort of a damp towel. And forgoing the series of issues of that aside, it is just such a lost opportunity for character moments for both of them, especially as we never have seen much of Nike’s mother before.
Likewise, the later scene of Livius being over a cliff for a bit held by Kitora holds virtually no weight. We are too late in the game for this kind of show for there to be any risk of this later character doing anything substantial in this scene, especially nothing in the way of bodily harm. So this is a moment that fills a mechanical gear need for them to have a chat and “resolve” something. Which would be fine, structurally. But arguably, this is what we should have had instead of grandma being the sudden cackling puppetmaster last episode.
The celebration party for Livius and Nike though, I feel, was the highlight of the episode. We get to break out some new costumes and formal dresswear for those visual aspects of traditional culture. There is our bit where our boy king gets to speak frankly about how he really felt about his wife when he first met her and threw her in prison. People are drinking, songs and dancing, relatives making smart remarks, and all kinds of other embarrassments. And our groom here has his nice little speech about family and such.
Honestly, if anything I think the event itself got the short end of the stick here: this is the sort of scene the series should have been wanting to lay the groundwork for leading up to so much more than it had been, to sell it all the harder and have it be more prominent.
Kanojo ga Flag wo Oraretara (Gaworare) [Episode twelve]
I am not entirely sure what I expected these endgame virtual reality combat sequences against the Angelus Gemini to actually look like. Thinking about it, I do not think I ever really gave it much thought at all. I was probably, had the idea ever crossed my mind at all, thinking something medieval or swords and sorcery themed given the character names and other trappings? But drenching the upside down cityscape and network access connections in gold, mist, and the borderline post-apocalypse works for me too.
It would get old were its style to be around too long, but for two conclusion arc episodes it should be enough to not wear its gimmick out (and it looks like we are busting “indoors” next week anyway)
Given what this series is, as a harem archetype steamroller locomotive, the Kingdom of Bladefield our princess knight is in direct line to ruler over serving as the critical center of the world nexus point to defend above all else is believable enough (even setting the prior legend bits aside). I can roll with it, the place may as well be Luxembourg or something in a world where over seventy percent of the global financial structure has already been taken over by an encroaching computer threat. Going along with that, now that we know the previous world of the series was a simulation, I think Souta’s old room being locked via encryption capable of being brute forced in a literal sense is stuff the show just gets to say and do now, and we can think that is neat for a few seconds and we move right on.
Nanami, then, is also in the running as Souta’s sister. And I say also since Number Zero has already claimed themselves to be as such at the end of episode nine in the post-credits sequence when speaking over the chains of the previous Nanami protocols which managed to embed themselves into Ruri while our “normal” Nanami existed as a kind of fork. Given, Number Zero has physical features which would line up well with them being a real world version of Nanami as well that has become a sort of contortion from whatever personality the simulation originally backed up, which is what I assume the whole costume has been meant to obscure here and there. I assume the finale will be dealing in this and why who did what, so for now what it does to hammer home why exactly there would have been so many sister thematics showing up throughout the entire series in the virtual world.
Also: ta-da, lead couple incest route I guess. Which I suppose has been such a prominent part of the media this show has been pulling its archetype bins for. We get another episode to do one last move one way or another, so that too will play into the finale somehow I am sure.
In either event: the idea that a happy ending for the original legend story that Nanami was told as a kid would be better no matter how cheap and made up probably does speak to the direction our rendition for this show will go in.
I assume the trials and pitfalls of the merry band as we know them to be in the tale (the several deaths early on, the Samurai memory wipe, princess separation from the group, etc), may well come to fruition in the hallways shown in the preview. I had thought them to be future perils when we heard the fuller legend those few episodes back, and that would be as good a place as any to trigger them. I do find it really interesting that Miyuki Mackenzie has also progressed past the first barrier with the rest of the group though. I did not expect her to be coming along for the ride into final battle, but, since a version of her became the main character of another reality simulation I am intrigued for what they will want to do with her here.
Hangers is a weekly series containing my passing thoughts on currently airing anime productions. Opinions, as always, are subject to change.