12 Days of Anime #7 – Watching A Well Made Show, And Crying – Ping Pong the Animation

With all the talk about bad shows, and great shows that surprise us, where’s talk of actual workmanship? Of a show that tells a story without surprising you, actually taking it through all of the motions, from start to conclusion, and has you along? In my post about spoilers I touched on this point, but surprise isn’t the big thing in emotional resonance, which is what I look for in my media consumption. If surprise were everything, then rewatching a series wouldn’t work, and my post on Durarara for day #12 is an example of me revisiting material repeatedly.

So what am I looking for? A show that is well made, a show that is well constructed. The characters make sense, the relationships make sense, and for a character-centric show (which not all are), that means events arise from characters acting true to their nature. I just need people who make sense, explore being people by being people. And Ping Pong was such a show, and it was great.

Ping Pong’s story was a very standard “friendship in a sports show” sort of series, and most of the characters fit into established archetypes quite well, but the show was well-acted, scenes were well-balanced in terms of visual composition, a sense of gravitas, and often being light-hearted. Fighting for the sport, fighting to find themselves, fighting for recognition, or self awareness, or fighting because they believed they must. There was nothing unique about the story, or about the characters, but as I said, why does one need that?

The art direction was unique, to say the least. In that sense, the show was most similar to Kill la Kill, of all shows, where a what I assume was a lack of funds or time (the opening video wasn’t even fully animated or coloured the first few weeks of the show airing) was overcome with an artistic touch, more like an artistic hammer. The show had quite a few naturalistic or even samurai-film esque moments and visual touches,which reinforced the feeling of showdowns as showdowns between honour-bound samurai.

Ping Pong the Animation episode 5 notes - Sakuma Manabu - Akuma - going for a samurai showdown

That samurai flair, after I mentioned it several times already – Everything in this show was deliberate.

I could relate to the characters, because they were fully human, and fully understandable. That’s the other part of “surprising”. Surprising means you can’t foresee, and often can’t relate. And then the ending came, where the show cheated. The video linked at the start is a segment from the episode, from the finale, “Bokura wa Minna Ikiteiru” – “We are all alive”, a children song in Japan. This song speaks perfectly to what the show is about, to what many people (such as Bobduh from Wrong Every Time) seek from their media – to explore the human condition. Me? It gave me that, but also what I seek from in media, becoming emotional.

Why did I say it cheat? Because I have a reflexive, Pavlovian response to that song, which is also known as “The Tachikoma Song” from Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig, which I’ll include below. I can’t listen to it without tearing up, due to the circumstances in which it played in that show. Ping Pong? Watch it. That I didn’t write a post about it or most shows this year is unfortunate. Did I have what to say about Ping Pong? I had too much to say, and you can read my episodic notes for that great show here. Great, but great in how basic and simple it is, which I’m using here as highest praise. Yuasa Masaaki is a true artist, in that he knows how to let the work speak for itself.

So, dear readers, any show that was just well done that you’ve watched this year? Alternately, and this should be easier, a moment that got you highly emotional?

3 comments on “12 Days of Anime #7 – Watching A Well Made Show, And Crying – Ping Pong the Animation

  1. Sejin says:

    Aaaaah, that moment from GitS:SAC 2nd Gig! T_T

    I think the most emotional moment for me this year was when I saw a 12-minute short called Tsumiki no Ie (AKA La Maison en Petits Cubes). There were no words spoken at all; everything was conveyed with sound and visuals. Essentially what it boiled down to was an old man having occasion to look back on his life. It was incredibly simple, but poignant, and it hit me emotionally like a truck.

    A close second would be when I was re-watching the first season of Mushi-shi a few months ago. I was watching the episode where Ginko is trapped in the bamboo forest, and it got to the end, and I was just thinking about everything that had happened in the episode and what was happening to the husband, and for whatever reason it just felt so much more tragic than it had when I’d watched it previously. I don’t cry easily, but this moment and the one I mentioned in the previous paragraph really brought on the tears (I don’t say that I don’t cry easily as any kind of proud statement; I actually wish I could become more easily emotionally invested in what I watch as I experience it).

    I guess those two things would also qualify as things that I thought were well-done, but the thing that left the strongest impression on me in that regard is something I just saw a few days ago. It’s a movie from 2011 called Margaret, about a girl who is involved in a traffic accident, and how it affects her moving forward (that’s an incredibly basic summary that doesn’t really fully do it justice, but I guess it’s passable, and I don’t want to drag this comment out). I think it really excels at capturing what you mentioned above—life, living, and humanity—and it does so in a very humanized and non-judgmental way.

    • Guy says:

      I don’t remember that moment in Mushishi, been a few years since I’ve watched the first season.

      I’ve been far too lax on anime shorts/films over the past ~4-5 years, which I’m slowly catching up on. Used to watch most in local conventions, which stopped bringing them over. That moment in Tsumiki no Ie reminds me of the one bit in Pixar’s Up! I thought was both great and which got me tearful, the silent story of the couple’s lives.

      You don’t need words for emotions.

      About Margaret, is it “non-judgmental”? To portray something in a humanizing way is already a judgment.

      • Sejin says:

        I don’t usually watch many shorts, but when I do I tend to watch several in one go. I actually haven’t seen Up, though I’ve heard it’s really good.

        It’s really difficult for me to pin down just how judgmental Margaret is. On the one hand, it’s definitely empathetic and sympathetic in that it really understands where its characters are coming from and presents their actions, reactions, thoughts, and emotions as all valid, even though the viewer probably won’t agree with all of them. It shows the complexity of life without taking sides (at least not in an obvious way). So, it’s humanizing and non-judgmental in that it understands and sides with all of its characters (which is what I meant when I used the terms; though, maybe I used them incorrectly?), but I definitely see what you’re saying about that being a judgment in and of itself.

        The presentation is very “true neutral”, but various series of events and their outcomes (would this be some of the writing, then?) have me waffling back and forth on whether Margaret is completely non-judgmental by not taking sides, because some things end well, other things end badly, and still other things don’t have full closure by the end of the movie.

        If things end well for a character, is that taking sides even though the character does good things and bad things, for good and bad reasons, throughout the movie? And even then, I’m not entirely sure that the character’s growth over the course of the movie would be enough for her to take the ending and make something positive out of it. It doesn’t feel like something the character deserves, or has earned, but it doesn’t feel like she doesn’t deserve it, either. It just happens the way it happens (this kind of thing is what I mean by the presentation being very “true neutral”). Also, other characters do good and bad things for good and bad reasons throughout the movie as well, but their endings (or the closest thing to it) run the full gamut from positive to negative.

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