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.
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?