I’ve recently been catching myself rewatching the last few episodes of “Ping Pong” over and over again. Although much of the anime is inspired by the 2002 film based on the Ping Pong manga, every frame and shot of the show is made with the complete dedication that only a genius like Masaaki Yuasa could uniquely offer. “Ping Pong” is far from a typical sports anime; it’s a complex story of emotional growth that traces itself through a group of ping pong players. It’s difficult not to scream out in internal joy when we see folks like Kazama and Smile finally becoming enlightened at the end of the show.
First of all, this episode is amazing. It’s incredibly well-written, very compelling, and it stays true to the philosophical themes established in previous episodes. I talked about the theme of heroism in episodes 1 and 2 of Ping Pong the Animation, and luckily for me, my analysis has only been further validated by episode 3.
A condensed summary of what we learned in episodes 1 and 2 is as follows: Peco and Smile represent two opposing definitions of heroism.
I know what you’re thinking. Man, come on, Madoka came out what — ten years ago? And during those ten years it’s been completely uncontested as the greatest anime of all time. I’ve loved this show and made it part of my LIFE. I own the Madoka figurines. I buy the Madoka posters. I wear the Madoka t-shirts. If you cut me open and looked into the bloody guts spilling out of me they would spell out the words M A D O K A MAGICA. Uh, in Japanese, of course. In all of my years I haven’t seen a single good objection to Madoka Magica — not even one! — so why is your random blog post going to be different?
Okay, guy, you might have a point. But hear me out: Madoka Magica is entertaining, sure, but it’s philosophically incoherent. It’s like eating spaghetti with ketchup instead of tomato sauce. It’s like adding vinegar to your morning breakfast cereal. There are so many bits and pieces of the show that would probably stand reasonably well as independent stories, but when combined, they become an inconsistent mismash of incompatible and mutually exclusive moral messages. Spoilers follow, but I’m assuming that if you’re at this point in the reading that you’ve either seen the show already or aren’t concerned if I spoil it for you.