One of the things I like about Ping Pong is that I have no idea where the story is going.
True, we know who the strong players are, the people who Tsukimoto will probably meet in the future, but you get the idea that maybe he won’t. There are other things going on for all the characters that might derail the big showdown. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if we never see Kong again after he was defeated by Kazama, but maybe I’m wrong. Maybe he’ll be the recurring friend/rival the show was making him out to be. Maybe Tsukimoto will join that big bad high school where you eat, breathe, and sleep the game. Or maybe he won’t, but become friends with Kazama, who doesn’t seem to be an unpleasant sort if you’re not playing against him. There’s a lot of talk this episode about things other than ping pong, okay, there usually is, but it seems more pronounced this week. The lady who runs the dojo wonders why she was ever so intense about the game. Koizumi seems to want to use the game to bring Tsukimoto out of his shell. Kong begins to wonder if it’s time to leave it.
On the more traditional sports side it was a fun episode. Since Peco bugs the hell out of me I was delighted to see him lose badly to Sakuma, especially with all the junk Sakuma tossed at him (and it takes some good pacing and direction to make such a weirdo match interesting. Half the time they were both staring at the ceiling, waiting for the ball to come down). The Kong/Kazama match was almost frightening, though it was mitigated by Tsukimoto’s bored reaction on the sidelines. I wonder what he was thinking? Was he sizing up Kazama for a future match? Was he pondering what Kong would do next? Or maybe he was pondering what he himself would do next, since he, like me, likely has no idea where the story will go from here.
Watching Nanana’s Buried Treasure 4 made me feel like I had missed an episode. We start with Juugo and Tensai waiting for Isshin to sell the wish-cane, only our dumb, earnest Juugo has pulled a fast one and is now working with the thieves we’d seen earlier. There’s also talk about how this thieves group, Matsui, had faked kidnapping Juugo, and that Tensai had known all along. Maybe I’m just watching too lazily, but I wish the show would give us a couple more hints before dropping this on us. Not to mention that Matsui is apparently run by Juugo’s dad, whom Juugo hates. More interesting than that is the examination of Juugo’s character we get this week, first in a conversation with Isshin about dreams and goals, which Isshin wins. And later when Juugo gets a call from his dad. Juugo loses that one, too. The upshot of it being that the lad is too bitter about something to actually care for people, a self-hating belief that makes Nanana’s statement at the end about Juugo finding her killer very intriguing, not to mention the respect he has for Tensai. This show might actually be better when it’s not working the treasure route.
I think what bothers me about Mahouka, besides the long, tedious infodumps by the dull, super-competent main character, can be summed up by the conversation in the cafe early in episode 4, where Tatsuya is explaining the concept behind “cast-jamming” without this antinite rock no one can get their hands on. Apparently, you can make to conflicting magical waves which cause a distortion, which you then fling at the opponent who’s preparing the same sort of magic, and his/spell is then negated. Ignoring the idea that such a simple idea wouldn’t have been discovered already if magic was so high-researched as it apparently is, we have the consequence that magic can be made ineffective. The reaction from the kids: our society would crumble. To which I reply: No, YOUR society would crumble.
This odious thinking by a group of well-meaning kids makes everything else that happens in episodes 4 and 5 seem sinister and greedy, and makes me think twice about the motivations of everyone at the school, including Tatsuya, who, when talking about the discrimination lesser talents endure at the school, responds with a “what would you have the school do to change it,” on a practical level a good question, but also an evasive one. Mayumi at least acknowledges that the discrimination was partly codified, but vows to abolish the Student Council policies at the next election, the sort of vague promise meant to shut up detractors for now. To be fair, I think Mayumi’s sincere; I also think she’s naive. To add to the annoyance, the weeds who are pushing for reform are being backed by a powerful anti-magic society who do terrorist things, rather stupid ones, too, like attack the school forum for no apparent reason, or wear their bracelets while ambushing Tatsuya so he can identify them. I’m hoping the show won’t use this as an excuse to dismiss any anti-magic opinion that comes up.
During all this we are subjected to more dull speeches by Tatsuya, who speaks in a monotone and sounds condescending even when trying to be humble. And we watch while still more girls, and a school doctor, fling themselves at him, and Miyuki getting pissed off every time, though I thought the inadvertent freezing power she let off was fun to watch. So was Hitoe’s speech about finding a goal in life bigger than controlling her abilities, but then, this show needs all the levity it can get.
Selector Infected WIXOSS … I wondered what would happen to Hitoe, whether she would quit while she had friends or continue and possibly lose them. Turns out the show wants to be dark and take away her happiness. A couple of things I wonder about. The nature of the “tainted wish” she got for losing to … whoever, means that she has forgotten her former friends and that any potential friends cause her physical pain when they get close to her. But other people can touch her, and there’s nothing said about remote friends, online, on the phone. What she has is rough, but it’s not as though she has lost all means to connect to someone. Not much solace at the moment, but I also get the feeling these problems can be fixed, if the show wants to fix them. Too many loopholes.
The other big question is: why didn’t anyone tell her? You got the impression from Hanayo’s moping that they weren’t allowed to, though that doesn’t make sense when she’s freely able to tell Ruuko and Yuzuki about it. It’s possible that the lrigs have something in it for themselves, that’s it’s not in their own interests to spill the beans. Surely there must be something going on when Midoriko won’t tell Hitoe. Otherwise it was a solid episode, not much more. I liked how Yuzuki vented her anger at Hanayo, how the game is somehow driving her and her brother apart, in spite of her wish and how Tama said there was something white in her head which kept her from thinking too much. But I’m wondering now why, when confronted by the truth, the girls just aren’t tearing up their cards and running away from the game. They still have a choice.