Ping Pong & Other Sports-related Anime, Week 3: Drowning in a sea of balls

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I guess getting skunked means a lot to some people.


Ping Pong THE ANIMATION Ep. 3

• I like the cut of Smile’s jib. Even though the kid thought about visiting Butterfly Joe to check on the old man’s health, he isn’t shy about removing himself from a potentially awkward situation. When Butterfly Joe’s wife invites Smile to dinner, he outright replies, “I don’t really like eating in other people’s homes.” A lot of anime characters in his shoes would just laugh nervously, hem and haw, and eventually get roped into eating the unwanted dinner anyway. I like characters who aren’t doormats. Sure, the kid throws his matches on purpose, but that doesn’t mean he’s a doormat. He just doesn’t think winning is worth the trouble for both him or his opponents. There’s a fine distinction here.

• The woman says, “There’s really no charm to you, is there?” But if there’s nothing to gain, charm is overrated.

• Damn, we’re going to have a match-up between Smile and Kong already. Smile still hasn’t quite gotten that push that Butterfly Joe thinks he needs. I wonder if Kong’s abrasive attitude, however, will bring out that edge in Smile. What’s clear is the kid will act if he’s up against the wall. Kong’s antagonistic demeanor might just do it. Then again, as arrogant as Kong is, his story isn’t without its tragic elements. Smile might pity the guy too much to go all-out.

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• I guess everyone at Kaio is required to shave their heads. Seems a bit extreme to me.

• If the competition in Japan is really as weak as Kong believes it to be, I’m not sure why dominating the field here will get him back onto the Chinese national team.

• According to Dragon, Smile isn’t qualified to hold a racket because he always considers his opponent’s feelings. Nevertheless, Smile simply doesn’t think of sports as warfare. After all, can cost you your life. To some people, sports is life. I think this attachment to a game, however, really confuses Smile. Really, that’s all it comes down to. For some, sports and sports rivalry is a substitute for nationalistic fervor. For others, it’s just a game. Some people love to play sports, but will never understand why others can enjoy watching it. Personally, I toe the line. I love watching sports, but I couldn’t care less about sports rivalries or crushing the enemy team. With regards to Smile, I don’t think he cares all that much about watching the games.

• Smile crushes his first opponent. Again, he’s not a doormat. He simply wins when he needs to, and when he doesn’t need to, it isn’t worth the effort. He doesn’t put as much stock in the intangible stuff that others uphold such as deriving enjoyment from crushing one’s opponent.

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• Plus, this bit of dialogue from him says it all: “It’s nonsense to stake your life on table tennis. It baffles me.”

• Elsewhere, a player wants to drop out of his upcoming match against Kong because he feels as though his pride is on the line. Personally, I think you’d stand to lose a lot more face by forfeiting. I realize no one likes being stomped, but everyone is getting stomped. The only person quitting would be, well, this dude, and that would make it stand out more than the mere fact that he got stomped.

• Welp: “There are Africans who can’t dance, you know.”

• Someone tell me what a “ponpokopii” is.

• Peco tells Smile not to randomly change his playing style because it’ll make the latter develop bad habits. I’m pretty sure Smile is always capable of playing this way, however, so it makes me wonder if Peco isn’t just being a tad bit insecure here. He’s always been the top dog between the two of them, but now that everyone’s looking forward to Smile’s every match, Peco’s place in the pecking order is being threatened.

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• I’ve never subscribed to the idea that “[t]alent isn’t something that only goes to those who want it.” Smile wants his talent; he just opts to play ping pong for fun. Ergo, his talent helps him have fun at the game. It’s not like he wakes up everyday and curses the fact that he’s good at the sports.

On a related note, I truly feel that for the majority of cases, talent only comes about because it has been nurtured. I understand the commonsensical belief that some people are simply born with a gift, but that really shortchanges the amount of work and effort that is required to reach the top of any particular field. Sure, Albert Einstein is a genius, but he didn’t wake up one day with a complete understanding of relativistic physics. I think lazy people just like to tell themselves they don’t have an innate talent, and it makes it easier for them to give up on themselves.

• Oh god, the humming. I feel like it’s a way for Smile to keep the match light-hearted and fun despite him still going all-out to win. Even so, the fact that the humming has a purpose in the story doesn’t make it any less annoying to listen to.

• Peco’s distressed face during this match is the most notable thing to me:

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I wonder if the outcome here will somehow affect the way he’ll play against Demon.

• Ah, Kong’s coach starts to remind his player of what’s at stake should the Chinese player lose in the third round to some first-year student. Smile is too precise, and as such, he has to factor in every variable, even if it would result in a negative outcome for the match. It’s no surprise then that Smile ultimately throws the game despite being only three points away from winning in the fourth set. For Kong, everything the guy has worked for is on the line. For Smile, it’s just a game. Why play a part in crushing a man’s dreams if the outcome ultimately means nothing to you? I mean, I know how frustrating it must be for guys like Butterfly Joe and Dragon to see Smile “squander” his talent, but I can’t really blame the kid. If ping pong is nothing more than a distraction, why shouldn’t he consider Kong’s feelings? Winning means a lot to them. It doesn’t have to mean a lot to Smile.


Baby Steps Ep. 3

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• Someone should tell Kei Nishikori to work on his endurance. I kid, I kid. Or maybe not. Seriously though, Kei’s got all the talent in the world to win a major with the big four continuing to age, but the guy is constantly getting himself injured. That just tells me his fitness isn’t quite where it needs to be. Anyway, I guess I should talk about Baby Steps.

• I actually think the level of hard work that Eiichiro is putting in is simply scratching at the surface of what you truly need to do to get to the very top. It’s not tennis, but Kobe Bryant is known for his insane practice regimen. You have to eat, drink, and sleep a given sport to really take it beyond the amateur level. Yeah, hitting a ball against the wall for six hours may seem insane to the layperson, but from a realistic standpoint, it’s actually a bit too late for Eiichiro (and Natsu as well) to start going pro. Of course, this is an anime, so it’s okay if we bend the rules a bit, but it doesn’t hurt to have the proper perspective when watching these shows too. It’s not as easy as simply picking up a racket in high school and turning pro.

In fact, it should take years to achieve the perfect hitting form. It really isn’t something you’d do in a few days. Plus, he’s hitting against a wall. It’s another thing entirely to maintain your perfect form while you’re lunging for a ball that’s slicing away from you. Or a top spin that kicks up to the level of your head. Or a dropper that just barely makes it over the net. Anyway, you get my point.

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• I think making Takuma a delinquent is a bit much. He doesn’t really have to be the complete opposite of Eiichiro in every single way to serve as a rival, but here we are.

• Also, making the guy play a one-set game when he has yet to serve or successfully return a serve seems silly to me. Hell, I don’t think Eiichiro has even learned to hit a backhand. I don’t understand why a coach would ever do that. I know, I know… the story just wants the hero to fail now so that he can pick himself up later. Doesn’t make it any less jarring to see though.

• The kid that beats him is so annoying.

• According to the anime, Takuma’s serve is one of the best in the country. Eiichiro also calculates it to be 170 km/hr. I’m sorry, but that’s a pretty weak serve for someone who supposedly has the potential to turn pro.

• Supposedly, Eiichiro has spent a month learning the basics, so he should be able to return a single ball, right? Well, someone should teach him common sense and tell him to stand further back. Just sayin’…


Haikyuu! Ep. 3

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Big surprise there. Anyway, I thought the match against the other first-years would be in this week’s episode, but nope. Instead, we practically spend an entire episode on Shoyo proving himself in Tobio’s eyes. Well, I guess we did get ourselves acquainted with Kei and wow, every single first-year is an asshole! What’s up with that? Anyway, I don’t have much else to say about the episode. It was kinda boring.

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9 thoughts on “Ping Pong & Other Sports-related Anime, Week 3: Drowning in a sea of balls”

  1. Of course, if Kong found out that Smile threw the game, he would hate it. He mentioned in the first episode that ‘holding back only insults your opponent’. Smile holding back devalues Kong’s victory, so the considerations aren’t as simple as ‘Kong needed the win’.
    What Smile does only works because only he does it, and because he takes care not to do it often. It is incompatible with sports as an institution.

    1. So you honestly think Smile is standing there going, “Hm, I hate this guy so if I do this, it’ll devalue his win!” That’s ridiculous. The considerations for him is as simple as “Kong needed the win.” Yes, Kong may see it as an insult, but does Smile intend it to be an insult? I see nothing in his character to suggest this.

      It is incompatible with sports as an institution.

      No, not really. Smile doesn’t intend to compete at the highest level. In fact, we all do what he does. Do you crush your siblings in sports every chance you get because it’s “incompatible with sports as an institution?” Of course not. Letting people win from time to time is not incompatible with sports. It works perfectly fine. Those who truly play to win will rise to the top. The rest of us play sports our way. It’s not like any of these characters are the world’s best ping pong players, so it’s perfectly fine to acknowledge that sports is more than just pure competition.

      1. No, no, I don’t mean that Smile deliberately lost to insult Kong. I’m pointing out that the choice of deliberately losing could have been more complicated if Smile were a different person. I don’t think Smile even feels hate very strongly.

        For Smile, yes, the considerations are uncomplicated. If someone like Kong was playing against Kong, however, that someone would think ‘I will not dishonour this person by throwing the match’. I’m not saying that what Smile does is wrong, or anything like that, just that the code that Kong follows has its own logic, and the question of whether to deliberately lose could have been a harder one if Smile was less dismissive of the hardcore values of the Kaio players and Wenge.

        True, we all do this. For Smile, it’s working out fine, too, so far, and will continue to work out as long as he does not compete at the highest level. Koizumi, though, clearly plans to send him to the highest level. We might see him end up there, or we might not. That is sth that remains to be seen.
        On a side note, it is worth noting that ‘the highest level’ is a more relative term than it appears to be at first sight, but that has no bearing on any of this as far as I can see.

        1. the question of whether to deliberately lose could have been a harder one if Smile was less dismissive of the hardcore values of the Kaio players and Wenge.

          I doubt it. In Smile’s shoes, I still would’ve thrown the game. Being dismissive of someone’s values doesn’t necessarily mean anything above and beyond simply disagreeing with them. Kong can be pissed when he finds out all he wants, but looking at it practically, the fact of the matter is that it’s a no brainer to pick between having your career saved vs. feeling insulted because your opponent threw a game. Unless, of course, you’re an idiot who wants to have his cake and eat it too.

          I still see nothing to suggest that considering your opponent’s feelings is incompatible with sports. Sports encompasses a lot more than simply winning. What Smile is doing is still sports. He just can’t do this if he wants to be the best, but if you want to say it’s incompatible with winning, then no shit. Deliberately throwing games is obviously incompatible with winning.

  2. I would have hesitated, since I’ve seen a handful of people who held their sports ‘honour codes’ to be way more important than their careers. None of them are famous or anything, but people like that exist.
    Though its probably no coincidence that they aren’t accomplished.

    >”Sports encompasses a lot more than simply winning.”
    Hmm. You’re right in that there is a definite ‘play nice’ tradition in sports. Not in professional sports, and also not so much in sports that tries to emulate the best, like this tournament looks to be doing. There, it’s, as far as I’ve seen, less play nice, and more ‘play fair and play hard’.
    So yes, what Smile has going is an ethic that only has a place in casual sports, but that was agreed upon already, I think.

  3. On a not really related note, you really think Nishikori could beat, say, Djokovic? I mean, Feder’s not really a factor anymore, and Nadal is starting to lose his edge, but I think Novac’s still going to dominate for at least five more years.

    1. Well, nobody really thought Wawrinka would come out of nowhere and beat Djokovic and Nadal to win the Aussie Open. I think the skill gap between the top four (including Murray in this) and the rest is overstated. What separates them from the rest of the pack is consistency, physically or mentally. I do think Nishikori has the shotmaking ability to beat anyone (his serve is iffy). Sure, Djokovic will likely win the majority of the majors, but that doesn’t mean those like Nishikori can’t swipe one or two titles for themselves. He just always misses a ton of matches every year, so it’s hard to build that consistency. You can see it in those best-of-fives against the top players. He’ll challenge them, but can never hold on to win a set or more. I believe he was up a break a couple times against Nadal earlier this year at the Aussie, but his form would just break down at some point in a set and he’d give the break back. I think that’s just his fitness holding him back.

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