Ping Pong The Animation once again delivers a thematically deep episode that emphasizes what it needs to emphasize while keeping a level of simplicity that doesn’t make it pretentious. Meanwhile, Sidonia no Kishi treads the solid sci-fi path to its conclusion, and next episode, things are going to get very rough for the people on Sidonia.
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What is a hero? Some say it is those who sacrifice their lives for others. Some say it is those who do unconventional things that help others. And then there are some who say that there’s no such thing as a hero. But the hero has appeared in this episode. This hero is not the hero who saves other people’s lives in dramatic ways. This hero saves the souls of those that have been robbed by the competitive desire to win and only win. The fiercely competitive nature of Kazama Ryuuichi has been touched upon almost every single time he’s on screen. His tireless training methods and his commitment to ping pong is like no one else’s in this anime. With that, however, comes the anxiety of being a winner, and more importantly, the loss of something that once pushed him to compete with such force that has now been replaced by that brute force alone. Of course, that “something” I am speaking of is the joy of playing the sport that he loves. The reason why he continued to play after his first few hits with the paddle as a kid was because it was fun. It’s a understandable desire to want to get better at what you enjoy to do, and so he did. But through all of the competitiveness, the joy he once had was eroded more and more until eventually he hid in isolation before each game because it wasn’t the feeling of looking forward to another game that he felt; it was the pressure of being a winner that he felt. But it shouldn’t be this way; the fun he derives from playing the game should push him to play it. At least, that’s the main theme of this episode.
Kazama was once climbing up from the abyss, and he found no other way but to continuously struggle to get out. He thought that was the only way. He thought he couldn’t fly and be free. I would say that, if a hero didn’t face him, then he’d be right. By himself, he will probably never find what’s now so deeply buried inside him, but Hoshino’s infectious attitude towards playing ping pong allowed Kazama to finally be free of… well, everything. At last, he has realized both his limit as a player and how he should feel when playing ping pong. A hero is capable of bringing the most out of an individual in these respects. A hero is capable of showing the true nature of the game. Now, some of you will probably ask, “What about his knee? Isn’t it pretty serious?” To this, I ask of you to look at that injury less from a realistic standpoint and more from a thematic standpoint. The injury is part of the barrier that prevents Hoshino from realizing his status as a hero. It is the thing that he needs to let go so that the enjoyment he has when playing the sport he loves will overwhelm everything. The fun that he has playing the game will resonate with his entire being, and at that point, nothing else will matter. Nothing else needs to matter. The two are in their own little world where they have the time of their lives. To them, this is what it means to truly play this sport, and this is also what it means to portray themes beautifully.
Okay, I can’t start discussing Sidonia no Kishi without talking about Gauna Hoshijiro and how she’s winning the harem so badly. I mean, she had the mind of a baby, and Tanikaze was all over her. Now that she can write… I don’t think anyone else stands a chance. But honestly, are Izana and Yuhata even trying anymore? Anyways, aside from that, Sidonia no Kishi has continued to deliver a solid sci-fi feel with more serious elements mixed in. The one thing I’m fairly satisfied with is the overall pacing of the show. While I would love to see some more large scale battles, which we will actually get next episode so my hope will be realized very soon, it dedicates enough time to almost everything. We have some backstory regarding what happened in the last war, the delicious suffering of Kunato, the mysteries of the Gauna being slowly unveiled but at the same time becoming even more mystifying, and so on. The show is adept at tackling many different plot points at once and none of it feels rushed. However, with all that said, I have to admit that one of the more glaring problems I have with the show is Tanikaze. It’s not that I hate him as a character, but he’s just been this fantastic pilot who can take down Gauna single-handedly and… well, that’s about it. There’s not a lot of emotional depth or character depth in Tanikaze aside from his attachment to Hoshijiro and now, Gauna Hoshijiro. It’s not just the Council using Tanikaze as a Gauna killing machine; the anime is as well.
I just want to look more into the mind of the man. How did his experience with his grandfather shape him? I’m not just talking about his skills. I’m talking about his motivations for doing what he’s doing, what he wants to do in the future, and how he feels about everything on Sidonia. We don’t really see much of a conflict in him as he just does what he thinks he needs to do. For example, in episode six, the captain asks him to “be like the knights of Sidonia who protected us long ago.” Tanikaze swiftly takes it up, and that’s fine. But when Kunato betrayed him for his own desires, I expected to see him struggle a bit more with the concept and what it really means to be a knight of Sidonia not only in regards to Kunato’s betrayal, but the loss of Hoshijiro as well. The anime does address this in episode seven, but it’s to a very small extent. The line, “You’re a pilot now,” with a short flashback with his grandfather in which he says, “You want to be a pilot to protect Sidonia, don’t you? Then you need the resolve for it, even if it’s hard,” is all that was needed to put him back into shape. But why does he want to be a pilot to protect Sidonia? What made him take on that belief so strongly that he’d be willing to risk his life in battle numerous times? I think the anime needs to dedicate more time to developing him as a character. Ten episodes have already passed and I can’t say I care about Tanikaze more than I did nine episodes ago. If the rumor of this being a 2-cour is true, then perhaps we’ll be seeing that development not too far into the future. There are more problems with the anime, but most of them are not as significant as this particular issue. Still, on the whole, it’s been a solid ride so far and I’d very much like to see a second season.