There were a lot of lovely moments in anime this year, but my very favorite comes from my favorite new show. Ping Pong was already a tremendous show before episode five – its characters, storytelling, and aesthetics were just demolishing the competition, and Wenge himself was already its most poignant character. Cast out alone into Japan, he’d been forced to come to grips with the limits of his own talents, and his false pride could no longer make up for the fundamental loneliness of his situation. And yet Wenge rose above – instead of retreating into himself, he reached out to the teammates around him, and ended up making a new home of his exile.
The Christmas montage is a strange thing, apparently a device completely invented for the anime specifically, and yet it’s easily the high point of the show’s first half. It comes just as Wenge’s isolation has ended, and as all of the show’s other characters are only just beginning their solitary journeys, foreshadowing the peace they will eventually find through Wenge’s early steps on the path forward. It’s hokey and maudlin and incredibly intimate, a song of earnest love that cheers not because that love is reciprocated, but because the singing is shared with friends. That’s one of the keys in Ping Pong – not that the journey is a success, but that the journey is shared. And the awkward, heartfelt nature of Wenge’s song is a pretty perfect reflection of what anime means to me.
Happy holidays, everybody, and thank you for sharing some time with me. I hope your 2014 had some moments worth remembering, and I hope all our 2015s are even brighter.