(Note: Episodic notes are still mostly to be found on the Episodics Notes’ page, but up to a couple every week will have their write-up appear on the main page, when I think they warrant it. For those who don’t know, I take the notes as I watch the episode, and merely re-order them afterwards.)
Last week had had an episode about being a part, and being apart. About teams and loneliness, and how to be with someone, to be with a group, then both sides must be willing – you need to reach a hand, and have the other side accept it for friendship, or it’s a long fight ahead.
Peco is back for Ping Pong, for he remembered not only his dream, but that he had one. He also reminisced of old Smile – is part of his goal to fulfill Smile’s dream, by being someone for him to aspire to? Hm.
Thoughts and Notes:
1) Training Your Guts Out:
1) The episode opens with Kong, teaching techniques to his friends, without technology, and Kazama – alone, selling the superiority of technology, of relying on others’ skills and effort. No, he doesn’t believe it, but that’s the image he is selling.
2) Poor Peco, the old lady is running him ragged. Poor Peco? He’s getting not just what he asked for, but what he wished for. Immanuel Kant had said that those who want something also want what it entails – you can’t wish for something without wishing for its required conditions, and for its required outcomes.
3) “When am I going to play Ping Pong? I want to get my instincts back ASAP!” – Silly Peco. First you become someone who can play, whose muscles are capable of having instincts, and acting out on what they see they need to do (“Shit, I can’t get to the ball!”) and then you can play. You asked the old lady last episode to teach you Ping Pong from the beginning, didn’t you? Part of what she’s teaching you again is that there are no shortcuts, and demanding that you prove your drive, your dedication.
4) This isn’t about fun, Peco – Ping-Pong is serious business, and if you succeed, you might even get a little kiss ;-)
2) Smile and Others:
2) Koizumi, looking forlorn, even as the enemy coach tries to poach his best player, who reinvigorated him.
3) This is Peco, in a nutshell. When he wins, he’s all smiles and love. But he can’t handle losing, or putting in the work.
4) The phrasing here matters. “In terms of Smile’s future, it’s a very clever idea.” – But that doesn’t mean he likes it, not one bit.
5) Oooh, all the imagery of butterflies when Koizumi spoke. He’s “Butterfly Jo”. Yes, adults have or had heroes as well.
3) Why Do We Fight?
1) “There are many reasons to play ping pong, aside from for money and success.” and then we see Kazama’s history, where his father or grandfather died alone, with people denigrating him for not succeeding. That had apparently left a mark on young Kazama. He has no heroes, including not his family – no one to look up to. His is a solitary existence, governed not by what he wants to be, but by what he does not wish to be.
2) Kazama’s coach isn’t worried about his weaker players, as he said before – they are driven. He’s worried about Kazama. Kazama who is empty inside, who is going for a “future”, without believing in it. Kazama has no heroes. He lives a post-modernist existence, with the “death of the father”, with the death of God. There is only himself he can rely on.
3) This scene has several layers. Smile as opposed to his image – he has feelings, not just that he can feel happiness or be depressed, but that he cares what others feel, and doesn’t enjoy being hated. One can be happy and depressed, while still not being affected by the same things others are – but no, Smile doesn’t want to go to Kaio, where he got one of them ousted. He has feelings just like everyone else.
That sentence actually refers to how the scene opened as well – feeling abandoned by his coach, and feeling grateful that his coach is thinking of his best interests. Smile can appreciate these things.
And the final meaning of this scene is that unlike Peco, Smile is driven to train on his own. But why? He’s not driven by the thought of “success”, unlike Kazama. It’s because unlike Kazama, he believes in heroes. One would say that he wishes to become said Hero, but after last episode, I think he will want to be the strongest monster, so a hero will arise, or alternately, even if he’s not a hero, he will pose as one, instead of the absent hero.
4) Learning The World Isn’t Easy:
1) Old Lady’s son is a national-level coach, cool.
2) Peco introduces himself, “Fast offense”, and then we see him immediately after complain about how harsh his training is, how fast it is. Peco has a strength, but he’s only strong compared to those who lack skill or talent. He has talent, he has potential, which is recognized, but he has little else.
“Don’t hit with your guts! Look!” – See, he has to unlearn relying on his talent. He has to learn how to do things properly, and then he could also power it up with his talent. No shortcuts, only hard work.
3) “Smile ran away. I tried to be considerate, but…” – “That’s why people run away from you.” – Old people who know one another. No dancing around the issue. Being with other people is hard.
“You’re always acting timid, worried about how they feel. That’s the hardest attitude for them to deal with.” When you can’t deal with your feelings, you also can’t deal with others dealing with them. When people are always considerate of you, you must consider yourself, and also be considerate of them.
4) “If you love him, then don’t act timidly, but act.” – I see now. The problem is Koizumi is forcing the other side to act first, to say how they feel, he confronts them with their feelings. He should just envelope them and let them feel his love, and act on it. Spoken like the true Old Lady, and how she treats Peco ;-)
But, isn’t how she says Koizumi is acting is sort of how Smile is towards Peco? Hm.
5) “If you won’t give him any loving, get out of his life.” – Man, this sentence. Maaaan. You can write whole books about it.
6) Did Smile “run away”? He feels like Forrest Gump here, who did run away. Feels like he’s giving it his all, letting his energy be sapped away.
7) “I’ll smack you (next time you make me worry so much)” – That’s a form of love, and waiting for Smile is a form of love as well. And Smile responds! “Yes, my coach!” :o
5) Duty Bound Freaks – Preparing for Showdown:
1) Hm. Kazama is trying to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders. But he doesn’t think of himself as a hero. He sees himself as being beholden to duty, of making it up for his predecessor’s weakness, of doing what he must. He doesn’t enjoy life.
2) His 2nd in command is so duty-bound as well, so very stiff. I almost thought he’d present the flowers as if they came from Ryuichi. So, he calls Kazama “A table-tennis obsessed freak”, as the 2nd in command in a place where that is the whole point. He thinks Yurie likes Kazama due to Ping-Pong? “I’ll defeat you and then take her from you.” – He wishes to leave Kazama with nothing, or to leave him Ping Pong and take the girl – I think Kazama might be fine with it…
3) Sad Butterfly Jo, and I thought this scene before was about Smile. Now I see – “Don’t go easy on your opponent, no one wins in a game like that!” – He went easy on his opponent, and in so doing he also robbed himself of the will to win, forever, and his old friend probably wasn’t overjoyed either. Truly feels like someone ready for a duel for life and glory.
4) Oh, Kazama Ryu, the rich man, is Coach Koizumi’s old friend, his old rival. One match, to decide the fate of two men. Samurai battles again?
5) Old Lady’s son remembers Peco from long ago, in the Dojo. But his excited narration of his talents, skills, and progress – it’s like watching Speedwagon or Stroheim from JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure :P
6) Heh, Peco’s siblings. When Smile passed Peco earlier and the kids tried to wake him up, I wondered if it’s an illusion, since they all had Peco’s face :D
7) Hm. Smile training with another player, and Kong training with a robot, against Kazama. With a robot, with Smile? Hee. Ota worried needlessly, he looked like someone heading to the gallows – He plays ping-pong for fun, but being crushed isn’t fun.
Post Episode Thoughts:
Another good episode. Peco is made to earn his progress, and Smile admits to having feelings, and is confronted by them. We see some more of Kazama’s past, of his burden. He doesn’t play tennis for a dream, and he doesn’t play tennis for fun. He plays tennis for honour and duty, and not his own. He plays because he must.
This episode isn’t as much about themes as it’s about confronting one’s past, and building for the future. It’s playing the beat of “growth”, for the challenges and fights that are to come.