Ping Pong Girl brings us the much hyped match between the two top-ranked players, but unfortunately doesn’t quite manage to live up to expectations.
Although the episode only shows the match between Koyori and Agari, the latter’s character is also at point of focus.
Let’s talk about the match first. They manage to make things somewhat exciting and keep us interested enough in seeing how Koyori manages to counter the top ranker’s game. Agari’s specialty is her loop drive and she backs that up with deadly smashes (on that note, it’s good to see the show go out of its way to explain what a loop drive is). The effect is deadly, as the ball speeds up upon impact on the table while also staying low. This leaves the opponent with a defensive shot as their only option; but then that just makes it easy of Agari to smash the ball.
Agari’s game is lethal and gives her a 8-0 lead; only then does Koyori’s comeback start. Here is the difference between the two: while Koyori observed her opponent’s game closely until she was able to identify a weakness, Agari relied entirely on her special move without taking Koyori’s own game in account in spite of its past successes. Furthermore, these comebacks weren’t otherworldly: they do happen in real life too.
Koyori starts to counter Agari’s backhand smashes instead of trying to get her loop drives, knowing they give her more space to adjust her moves. This breaks down her opponent’s game, and Koyori starts attacking Agari with a barrage of forehand smashes, each stronger than the last. Towards the end, Agari starts having fun in the game and switches to her deadlier forehand; but she remains unable to overtake Koyori.
One noteworthy aspect is that all those who lost to Koyori so far did so because their game lacked innovation; they had no backup plan in case their strategy got countered. Koyori, on the other hand, isn’t good at one thing only: she has the ability to adapt to and counter almost any style. So her opponents have essentially been making her life easier. Hopefully they’ve learnt from their defeats and we can see them trying different things in the future.
While they managed to somehow make this match quite a thriller, there was one big problem: the animation cut far too many corners, as evidenced by the abundance of still frames. One would expect to see the ball actually moving and the racket actually swinging in a table tennis anime. But the folks at Kinema Citrus probably couldn’t get enough talented animators or even dedicated animators to do this. Or it could be that they were conserving their budget for later use (which we hope is the case). The laziness was less in-your-face previously because there was some good animation from time to time, but here, it is pretty obvious. It’s a shame, because more actual animation would’ve made this much more exciting.
Now to move on to the focus Agari got. Agari was raised by her hyperactive mother who taught her she had to be the very best. But sadly for her, she turned out to be pretty mediocre at almost everything she tried her hand at. Table tennis turned out to be the one thing she had a knack for, and she started perfecting her ping pong skills mainly because she had found a liking for it. But at some point, the praises that came with each victory started to get to her head. Her reason for playing changed: she started to play not because she loved the game, but because she liked being praised.
Her match with Koyori got her all excited and gave her a thrill she hadn’t experienced before. Losing points started to feel exciting to her even though it meant defeat was approaching. She has now remembered that love for the game she had forgotten for so long. Koyori gave her the kind of excitement she needed so badly; her enthusiasm for the game is contagious, and Agari has been infected, which is a nice touch.
The episode ends with Munemune telling her possible onee-chan about Koyori and how cool she is. This senpai has just recovered from a foot injury and is the team captain; therefore, we can expect her to come up against Koyori in the coming episodes. Speaking of her, this latest performance has secured her place in the team, and she’ll be playing in their upcoming tournament.
Ping Pong Girl had hyped up this match quite a bit, and it did live up to expectations to an extent; yet poor animation means disappointment also creeped in. Agari’s development was nice and seeing the girls on good terms even in defeat was heartwarming. Animation is a big concern though, as sports anime in particular are meant to be dynamic: so many still frames would hurt the show a lot on the long run. And although the character development was nice, this may be the last time we get any as further episodes will most likely be about training and the subsequent tournament.
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