Ping Pong the animation follows the story of two genius table tennis players Smile and Peco. One is quiet and reserved while the other is boastful and confident. When their coach realises Smile’s potential in the sport, he attempts to change Smile’s reserved attitude and help him become a great player.
Ping Pong the Animation is a masterpiece. If you can get past the first episode and overlook the odd art style, I can guarantee that you will love this anime. There are so many things this anime does right, from character development to visual storytelling to exploring themes of talent versus hard work. Character arcs are fleshed out precisely, bit by bit every episode as you steadily learn about their motivations or lack thereof.
Smile is a character that is very timid and silent. He is gifted at Table Tennis but lacks the inspiration and motivation to become a great table tennis player. Then there is Peco, the table tennis prodigy who wants to become the number one player in the world but becomes sluggish and lazy, thinking he’s above the tedious training regimen followed by his fellow classmates. There is the bitter Kong Wenge from China trying to bite for more than he can chew, feeling resentful and angry about his current predicament. Finally there is Ryuichi Kazama, a man with a traumatic childhood who only seeks to win and plays for everyone other than himself.
There are three types of players in any sport, the ones aiming for the top, the one that plays for fun, and the one that plays for reasons other than self-satisfaction. The four characters are reflections of each one of these categories. Yet, whatever their reasons are, they are all are united by this one sport that gives them a great deal of pain. Then, there are these small moments, whether it’s a bitter realisation of a brutal reality or an innocent laughter, it lets us see their genuine love for the sport. You can’t help but become entranced by their attitude towards table tennis, all for different, albeit valid reasons.
Sakamoto is the ideal human being living his days with style and elegance. He’s handsome, knowledgeable and athletic, a real polymath. Want to get the best of him? Well, best stop your thought there because whatever scheme you’re trying to pull, he’s one step ahead. Hmm, well not ahead per se, just simply that every tragedy that befalls on him turns into a fortune. Pull a chair under him while he’s trying to sit to make him fall? Bad luck, he’s simply going to balance himself in his seating formation with his tremendous core strength. Steal his chair? No problem, he’s found a new seat on the window. All the girls like him, all the boys want to be like him, heck even ghosts want to be with him. Haven’t you heard? He’s sakamoto.
So what’s sakamoto’s deal? Why’s he so good at everything and what is the point in having an ideal and unrelatable main character? Well if you’ve been pay attention, the story isn’t about him, but the characters he encounters – people that are victims of bullying, people that entice bullying, those that lust, those that greed. Those imperfect individuals like you and I, witnessing perfection. What would you do in the face of perfection? Strive to be the best that you could be or cower in jealousy? Because no doubt you will never be as handsome as Sakamoto, quick witted as Sakamoto or even as athletic as Sakamoto. But in an odd way and perfect kind of way, I feel drawn to these minor characters more than Sakamoto because I am not perfect either.
Sakamoto isn’t much a character as he is an entity. He is not the saint that comes to solve all your problems, or even help you solve them. He will simply guide you in the right direction. The perfect example is in the episode where Yoshinobu Kubota is being extorted from the delinquents in his class. He succumbs easily to their pressure and allows them to take his money. He doesn’t want to give his money away but neither does he attempt to defend it taking the easy way out by asking money from his parents. So we come to understand why it’s so easy for Kubota to give his money away. He didn’t work for it, pour his sweat and tears for the money so why should he pour sweat and tears to defend it?
Yoshinobu Kubota asks Sakamoto for help but Sakamoto helps him in the most odd way possible, he helps name earn money so that he can pay the delinquent his money. Yoshinobu doesn’t understand why Sakamoto won’t simply beat these hooligans or why he has to work just to pay the delinquents. But as Kubota gets better at his job, and receives compliments from his manager, he starts to enjoy it. When the paycheck arrives, he feels genuinely proud of his accomplishments and when he has to give his money to the delinquents, he refuses to. He wants to protect his accomplishments. This character growth arc for me personally is more admirable and beautiful than anything Sakamoto does throughout the entire series.
The anime reminds us to not take life too seriously and the episode that best showcases this is episode 6. The first 10 minutes of the episode is Sakamoto walking along a white line along the side of the road as three middle school boys follow him doing the same thing. The leader of the group is jealous of Sakamoto for being able to do things he cannot. As all four of them follow the white line and spend more time together, the three kids start warming up to Sakamoto. It’s a very nostalgic scene that reminded me of times when I was younger. I didn’t want or need a lot of things to be happy, just spending time with my older brother and friends with no care for tomorrow was enough to make me happy.
A story can have amazing artwork, animation, story and all that jazz but what it fundamentally needs is heart. Characters drive the story. If the characters are uninteresting or unlikable, the viewers aren’t going to be interested in any of their actions. and they are certainly not going to be rooting for what the characters are aiming to do, their desires and their aspirations. This is one of the primary criticism that comes up when talking about A Whisker Away: Miyo is annoying and Kento is uninteresting.
This is one complaint I will not understand about A Whisker Away. The movie, first and foremost, is targeted towards children. It does exceptionally well at keeping the characters simple and direct. Miyo is the girl with a troubled past and seeks to be happy with the boy she loves. Kento is a boy who has the burden of supporting the family and has trouble expressing himself. Yoriko is the sensitive and caring friend of Miyo. Characters don’t need to be overly complicated for them to be third dimensional. They simply need to make choices that fit the context of their personality. This is what makes characters believable. If the characters were perfect already, there wouldn’t be much to talk about.
Miyo on the surface is a happy go lucky girl who likes a boy in her class. However, as we will come to understand, her home life isn’t all that pleasant. She was bullied at a young age because of her parent’s divorce. She doesn’t understand why things are the way they are but suffers for it. She is too young to. And.. she has found an easy way to run from all her problems. She can turn into a cat and go to the place she loves the most. Much like drugs are an escape from reality, so is the mask. She becomes reliant to the mask and it makes sense. It is the only thing that gives her happiness. When she is faced with a dilemma at the lowest point of her life, after being rejected by her crush and having a fall out with her family, the cunning cat mask seller appears and convinces her to give up her human mask to become a cat permanently. However, the mask, is not without any consequences.
The mask seller is the personification of our dark thoughts that implants fear and doubt into our heads. He is cunning and while he makes some very minor appearances, he appears at some of Miyo’s lowest points in her life. This is very much intended to be metaphorical. We all have dark thoughts when we hit our lowest points. We doubt ourselves when we feel insecure and rejected. Ultimately, he wants us to make mistakes. But when we are isolated for a long period of time, and feel detached from our friends and family, and the world, the mask seller starts to make sense. Difficult choices start to become easy to make and just like Miyo, we make irreversible mistakes.
The ramifications of her actions catch up to her. Turning into a real cat isn’t very pleasant when you realise their lifespan is significantly shorter and they cannot understand humans. When she witnesses how her actions have affected her friends and family, she realises that there are no simple solutions to our problems. This point of the story is superb because it feels real. From the start the story has built on Miyo’s shortcomings. She keeps unpleasant feelings bottled up inside her and lets it explode. In some cases, she can be hypocritical, like abandoning her best friends similar to how she felt abandoned by her mother and not understanding that Kento may feel embarrassed by the things she says in school. Her outbursts are how she got the mask in the first place. However after realising that one cannot simply run from their problems, she decides to tackle them directly. And this is her growing up.
The movie does many things right. And in this sense, the use of lighting & colour is one that is abundantly clear. It can be argued as one of the best in the medium. At emotionally difficult moments, darker shades of blue are used to invoke feelings of sadness and isolation. When Miyo visits places she loves, the lighting is warm and energetic. During more sinister moments, it’s dark and mysterious. Scenes are never clustered and instead kept relatively clear and focused. The animation is fun and creative. One that stands out most is the cat mask seller. His movements are erratic, unpredictable and, fun. He is mythical, so his eyes are yellow and pierce into your soul. He is mysterious, so he comes out of weird places like pots, then vanishes into thin air. He is sinister and powerful, so he towers over others.
Jujutsu Kaisen has all the great makings of a good anime. Great visuals, characters, premise, and soundtrack. Everything fits so damn well together and every element complements each other making this anime such a joy to watch.
Jujutsu Kaisen without giving much away, is a shounen anime about Cursed Spirits and Sorcerers. The protagonist, Yuji Itadori is a physically gifted high school student living a relatively normal life. One day, he unknowingly picks up a cursed item and hands it over to his fellow classmates. Some unfortunate events down the line, Itadori swallows the item to gain power which results in him becoming a vessel for the curse.
As a fan of One piece and of Luffy, it is very easy for me to dig Itadori’s “don’t give a fuck” attitude. Starting off as a relatively easy-going, high-spirited kid, the death of his grandfather and his parting words makes Itadori realise the importance of life. This motivates him to eat the cursed finger of Sukuna (the king of curses) to obtain enough power to protect his friends from suffering an improper death. While he is level headed and composed at most times, he can become very emotional and impulsive when witnessing unfair and cruel behaviours. All in under one episode we are given his personality, origin, and his motivations which helps him become an interesting and complex character.
The story grabs the viewer from the very beginning with an intriguing hook – the protagonist has been abducted and is said to be executed by an unknown individual. The high stakes keep the viewer on edge as the story switches to a more light-hearted tone while also building the dangers of possessing cursed items. All this tension explodes when a curse attacks his friends and Itadori is faced with a dilemma of whether to protect them or run away.
Jujutsu Kaisen is one of the most beautiful looking I have ever watched. Not only is it extremely aesthetic, but also fluid and stylistic. The camera movement is experimental with amazing tracking and POV shots. The shake effects make every punch and hit feel impactful and as if you’re part of the action. The great choreography ensures the viewer doesn’t get lost with what is happening around them. The Curses have terrifying sound effects befitting of their designs and mannerisms. During action sequences, the dark orchestral music complements the frightening tone of the series.
Recommendations: If you enjoyed this anime, consider watching Naruto as it is heavily inspired from the series.
For fans of the supernatural genre, Castlevania has it all – Vampires, Monsters, Monster Hunters, Magicians and Sorcerers. Based on a video game and manga of the same name, the story is about the vampire Vlad Tepes exacting revenge on the citizens of Wallachia for executing his wife, Lisa. Causing mass genocide by unleashing all kinds of horrifying monsters into Wallachia directly from hell itself, Trevor Belmont, a monster hunter attempts to stop him in his tracks.
As it is an American cartoon, the voice acting is perfectly casted and incredibly well done with believable performances all around, reminiscent of Hellsing Ultimate (another anime about vampires). The realistic art style supports the mature tone of the series which is already riddled with gore and violence.
The storytelling is immersive and can make you feel like you’re playing an rpg video game as the main cast visit different locations and interact with the local residents discovering new information and challenges they must overcome. This is quite intentional as the cartoon was primarily adapted from an action-adventure game. There is never a dull moment to be had as there are a great deal of interesting characters, each with their own goals and motivations along with concurrent events occuring in different parts of Wallachia which keeps the story fresh and compact.
While the animation can feel lazy and stiff at times, it kicks up a notch during action scenes displaying some of the most beautifully choreographed fight sequences in anime. Effects of fire, water and other elements are especially well animated and the use of lighting and colour adds a cold and grim atmosphere to reflect the severity of Dracula’s actions.
On a negative note, some intriguing plot threads I would have liked to explore more thoroughly had been skimmed through to make room for the primary story. The story can feel quite rushed as there were far too many characters to address in 4 seasons. In contrast to earlier seasons, ordinary citizens who are the primary victims of the ongoing war between humans and vampires are given no room for dialogue. Feeling detached from these ordinary citizens hurts the actions of the protagonists as their primary goal is to save these people.
Japanese Title: Tenkuu no Shiro Laputa Year: 1986 Episodes: 1 Studios: Studio Ghibli Adaptation: Tenkuu no Shiro Laputa Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Romance, Sci-Fi
A ground-breaking and stunning visual masterpiece.
Castle in the Sky is an epic fantasy adventure following a brave pair of adolescent orphans, Sheeta and Pazu on a quest to discover the mysterious castle, Laputa. On their journey, the children encounter some troublesome, slap-happy comical band of pirates and maniacal government agents.
The dazzling visuals are sure to transport any viewer into the dreamy wonderland designed by Hayao Miyazaki. The stark contrast between the industrialised steampunk constructions and the beautiful dynamic natural landscape in the world of Laputa creates a very stand-out unique feel – which has managed to inspire countless animated movies including WALL-E and Up.
Every Sci-Fi design, whether it’s airships or towns leave a sense of wonder as to whether they could exist in reality due to the sheer amount of detail that’s put into them. Characters are simplistic yet easily distinguishable as their outfits are reflective of their lifestyle while their mannerisms flow in a subtle yet unique way that synchronizes well with their personality.
The two hour thrilling atmosphere leaves minimal room for dialog due to the plot-driven nature of the narrative, so qualms about character depth are fair. While there are hints of character motivation, the information is certainly lackluster and unimaginative. However, this doesn’t mean the characters are dull. In fact, Pazu and Sheeta’s actions are inspiring as their brave hearts never falter while encountering many dangerous obstacles. Pazu’s willingness to dive head first into danger for his friends are some of the greatest moments in the anime.