Firstly, I have to say that things are pretty busy for me nowadays with how I’m trying to finish Youtube videos alongside the weekly reviews. I have no idea how many reviews I’ll do from now on, but at least expect a Youtube video every few weeks. I’ll try to do episodic reviews at least once or twice a week, and if some episodes are great, I’ll do even more. Speaking of some episodes being great, Ping Pong continues to deliver fantastic character development episode after episode with how it takes the perspective of multiple ping pong players each with their problems and motives. Meanwhile, Chaika continues to tread a path that’s difficult for me to critique as I don’t quite “get” this anime as much as I probably should. It feels like there are aspects to the show that I have yet to realize, and at the same time it feels like the show has yet to emphasize those aspects.
CLICK THIS IF YOU WANT TO SKIP TO PING PONG – CLICK THIS IF YOU WANT TO SKIP TO HITSUGI NO CHAIKA
If you do not want to be spoiled for the other anime, stick to just that section and don’t scroll too much.
Comments are open to both shows so unless you don’t mind spoilers for the other show, avoid it.
One of the most unique features of Ping Pong is how it utilizes all the characters’ perspectives to craft themes such as the disparity in hard work and talent, the drive to win, knowing when to move on, and so on. The most apparent theme in this episode is undoubtedly the disparity in talent as shown by how Sakuma despairingly witnesses his own hard work being unable to triumph Tsukimoto who didn’t work nearly as hard as he did. It would be hard to emphasize the importance of this huge disparity if it weren’t a sport. Sports are zero-sum games, at least most of are, and ping pong certainly is. You could definitely play sports for fun as many do, but if you love playing the game as much as Sakuma does, then naturally you’d want to win so you can continue to play for a living. In sports, there are few winners whereas with other professions in life, the idea of being the best is far more vague and there can be many who are considered to be “the best.” For instance, if you’re a financial analyst, you will be considered “great” as long as you earn superb returns. It also doesn’t mean that if one person achieves high returns that others cannot. There are many who can earn high returns. There are many who can be “winners.” In fact, the great collaborate with each other to become even greater. This applies to many other professions as well whether you’re a doctor, lawyer, physicist, teacher, and so on. Of course, fame is a different story, but the brutality of playing sports as a profession where the few truly talented individuals are capable of being winners is unlike most other professions.
It’s even worse than that though. You may see the top sports stars earn millions of dollars at every tournament, not to mention the large endorsements, but just a few hundred spots below that, life is rough. Even the 92nd-ranked tennis player in the world isn’t making as much as you probably think he is. And he’s in the top 100 in the world. For Sakuma, he loves ping pong, but he won’t be able to live on playing it on a professional level. He can be a coach, but he will never truly play to his heart’s content. After working thousands of hours, he still gets crushed. Whereas one in a different profession could still find solace in times of distress in the fact that he or she is still good at something and can still pursue it, Sakuma has reached a hopeless dead end. Hoshino too, realizes that his talent has faded. Tsukimoto is no longer just a crescent moon. He’s a full moon now. He’s blossomed. Hoshino sees this and thinks it’s better to move on than to struggle futily in a sport where one is blessed or one is not. Even if he didn’t give up then, there’s only so much a person can endure before succumbing to hopelessness. As for Kong, he also sacrificed a lot to get to where he is. His mother placed her hopes on him, but he’s faced with an insurmountable foe that blocks his way from going back to her and proving that her faith was well-placed. Perhaps Tsukimoto and Kazama too will meet opponents that they cannot overcome, and when that happens, they’ll be in the same position as Sakuma, Kong, and Hoshino right now. This process repeats over and over again until the ones remaining are labeled “the best.” Reality can be so bitter at times, but I’m glad that Ping Pong has portrayed this reality so well.
Chaika? Chaika! I have to admit that while Chaika’s way of speech was a bit annoying to listen to in the first few episodes, her character really grew on me with her reactions and how innocent she is. Anyways, the reason why I find this anime difficult to criticize is that I don’t quite understand what the major themes really are. You can identify how Tooru yearns for war and Fredrika’s yearns for her master to be themes, but they are sub-themes more than core themes. It feels like this adventure is going to be one filled mostly with sub-themes than a few central ones which is by no means a bad thing. Having an adventure like this every week with intriguing mysteries mixed in can also be quite something to see. You can probably guess from the other Chaika that the original Chaika’s personality got split into many different parts. The one with Tooru and Akari right now just wishes for a peaceful funeral while the one they meet in this episode has revenge in mind. But what exactly is the purpose of sending all of them out when there are going to be conflicting interests that make gathering the remains more difficult? Could this be a test to see who will come out on top? If we refer back to the first episode, the anime speaks of fate and that the existence of Chaika is only the beginning. Something is looming in the distance, but we have no idea what. We don’t know just how Tooru, Akari and Chaika are part of the bigger picture. It’s a bit frustrating being able to only surmise random thoughts with the evidence we have right now, but it’s also because of this larger mystery that this show is interesting. It wouldn’t surprise me if this anime ends up depicting a time of war sometime in the future with events that we can’t even imagine right now. This very possibility can be quite enthralling. It is also this very prospect that makes me think the real core of the show has yet to show itself which gives rise to my feeling that I don’t quite “get” the show just yet. Though, even if it this possibility were to become reality, it won’t be anytime soon. For now, the eyebrow adorableness that is Chaika will keep things rolling.