Ping Pong – Episode 9

I’ve fallen a week behind on my beloved Ping Pong, so I’ll try to keep this one quick!

This week, the first couple scenes of the episode described virtually everything ping pong has done for both Wenge and Kazama. We began with Wenge on the hilltop, in a scene that directly mirrored his first post-defeat chat with his coach. Same music, same framing, same plane in the distance. But of course, this time, everything has changed – Wenge’s comments are not based in fear on what will happen to him, but admiration for the opponent he inspired. In the distance, his teammates wait, awkwardly awaiting their chance to cheer him up. Wenge laughs at this, and apologizes to his coach – this time, it is he who must leave, to follow the path he has chosen for himself. For Wenge, defeat has opened his world, and this is reflected in the visual fundamentals of this scene – open sky, distant horizon, and friends awaiting his company.


In contrast, the next scene shows us Kazama in his usual pre-game bathroom ritual. As Kazama stands silent, the players outside gossip on Wenge’s loss, and prophecy stormy seas for Kaio ahead. For Kazama, ping pong has become a cage – he sees victory as his only route to respect, and both his demeanor and the framing of this scene demonstrate that. He stoops over in his stall, his body almost too big for the dark room he has consigned himself to. To him, ping pong is a closed door, and though he can reflect on his father’s envy of the bird in flight, he himself is defined more by his fear of falling.


Sakuma knows this, and his visit to Kazama is based in sympathy for his situation. Like Wenge, defeat has set Sakuma free – he knows now that ping pong is not the only route to defining himself, and his awkward small talk with Kazama dances around this knowledge. He mentions the difficult game Kazama’s teammate is facing, and Kazama coldly replies “If you want to win, you have to put in the effort.” Sakuma is not surprised to hear Kazama say something so simplistic – it plays straight to the fundamentals of what makes Kazama who he is. He has to believe that the failings of others are based on something as definable and surpassable as a lack of effort – he has to believe that this system of judgment is meaningful, and that ping pong can demonstrate his value as a person. As the other players lose and realize they are more than ping pong, Kazama stands alone in his stall, staring silently down at his purple ping pong shoes.

19 thoughts on “Ping Pong – Episode 9

  1. Oh wow, your screenshot of Kazama made me notice something about this episode right there: despite what he said about shoes in episode 8 (and what people said about his choice of shoes then), Kazama is now wearing those specially branded shoes. I doubt this is an animation accident so I bet that the show is saying a number of things here about Kazama and what’s really going on with him here.

    (Note that I don’t think his answer to Sakuma is the truth about why he plays ping pong any more than his answer to his team later was. And I think Sakuma knew it.)

  2. I’d love to see Beach Dude get another little moment in the finale, because this episode made him look like less of a comic relief character and more of a thread uniting everyone’s journey to find themselves.

    “Upsets like this make the sport interesting.”
    Very telling of the show’s liberation through loss mentality which is only expanded upon, in contrast with Kazama’s opinion on winning. On another note, it’s a sight to see how each episode has such a good end point.

    • Yeah, I’m guessing we’ll see Beach Dude there for the finale. They’ve made a strange little character out of him at this point, we gotta find out how his story ends!

  3. I know your a week behind on this, but I cannot wait until your writeup for today’s episode. I also cannot wait for this show’s finale.

  4. These write ups have been really interesting for me, because reading these posts it’s quite amazing how much of the story is told through the visuals. I’m really unused to it, as I usually think about the writing, the characters, the structure and the plot in general when watching a show. When I do notice visual symbolism, it’s not usually subtle, and Ping-Pong is both overt and subtle in its animation

    As such I usually tend to think of the animation as just being a combination of context and spectacle. While everything about Ping-Pong is good, it’s always a treat to see just how the visuals and direction show what anime is capable of as a medium.

    • Yeah, Ping Pong is a very cohesive production that definitely makes great use of all the medium’s strengths. I wish we got more shows like this that were as well-constructed as this one.

  5. Hey Bobduh i’ve been wanting to ask something of you for a while now if you don’t mind. Since you’ve been catching up to Hunter x Hunter recently, i think it would be nice if you’d do episode writeups of episodes 126 and 131.

    • It might happen! I doubt I’d do a minute-by-minute thing, but I might do something similar to these posts.

  6. Do watch that Adventure Time episode linked above! It’s got nothing to do with the plot of the series and you don’t need to know the characters at all. It’s actually the least great thing I’ve ever seen from Yuasa, but even Yuasa at his worst is marvelous.

    Also, I’m surprised you didn’t mention here Peco’s speech at the end of the episode. I thought it was one of the most beautiful moments in the series. Maybe it will make more sense to mention it when you review today’s episode though.

  7. What is also interresting is how Kazama’s attitude influence the whole group.
    He have imprisonned himself in victory (because it only adds more pressure to stay at the top, and makes defeat harder), but he imprisonned the others too.
    He has became an unreachable goal for the rest of Kaio, and have no relationship with the rest of the team (or with anyone else, actually). His victory doesn’t inspire others, it makes them doubting, or envious.
    And he has reduced their view of the world.
    The Second of Kaio doesn’t understand him at all, and only sees him as an unpassable wall on his way to succcess.
    It’s interresting that the one who understands him the best is Sakuma after leaving ping pong, and expanding his universe.
    (That’s also after losing than Wenge earned the sympathy of his teammate, and was able to have a good influence on them)

    • Yep, Kazama is basically doing to his entire team what Peco’s failure to improve did to Smile. Everyone can use a hero!

  8. Pingback: Ping Pong and the Courage to Fall | Wrong Every Time

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