Ping Pong 9 is a little disappointing in one respect, but only one.
For all of the characters it’s following, all the different paths, like that long-haired guy who’s trying to find himself or that whiny girlfriend Sakuma’s found himself, it looks like this show is going to settle down and be a sports anime after all, for good and bad. We have Peco playing through pain and painkillers to go up against Kazama because his friend Tsukimoto is “calling” to him. What sets is apart from traditional sports shows is that fact that they’re friends and the relationship between them has changed. Smile used to look up to Peco, he was the hero to be called upon, like Peco’s being called upon now. But he’s no longer the stronger force, the protector. You could maybe say that the roles are reversed, but Tsukimoto isn’t the type to play up being a hero. I suspect a lot of heroes are like that.
Along with the heroes business we get another question: “What do you play for?” We look at Tsukimoto and wonder. Peco because he’s the hero, or so he says. Kazama, holed up in the can, tells Sakuma he is playing for himself, though maybe a better answer would be his father and family. Outside the can he says “for the team.” Meanwhile we got that guy wandering the world in search of himself (no luck), who probably didn’t have anything to play for, which, if this was a lesser show, would suggest that’s why he wasn’t a better player. But the show has been sneaking us glances outside the ping pong arena: Kong’s mother, Sakuma, and showing us that living entirely for the sport is a mistake. Sanada seems to think that he must beat Tsukimoto to earn Kazama’s respect and to get the girl, but it’s possible that he’s mistaken.
Meanwhile, heroes have to slay monsters. The show has ignored Tsukimoto in the tournament up to now, but the Sanada match is too important to skip. Tsukimoto wins, easily, robotically (I love the hydraulic noises they sneak in while he’s playing), testing Sanada before finding the strategy he uses to beat him. The game features some of the show’s best split-screen moments yet. We watch them slide by like a river, or one image forcing another one offscreen. Next he plays … who? Typical anime logic would suggest that it’s Peco/Smile in the final, but this show is a little smarter than that. Can he actually beat Kazama, even with a knee full of painkillers?
Meanwhile, on Selector Infected WIXOSS, everyone is still trying to get their heads around the inanity of the situation, hold on, that’s just me. Everyone in the show, since they live in it, is quite serious. It’s just me and a million other viewers who are trying to figure out who thought up these ridiculous rules. Yuzuki, on the other hand, has done some thinking of her own. She’s decided she doesn’t want to play, and she’s gone out and told Ruuko, which means she’s stuck in 2D land forever. Why the hell not? Now that her former lrig Hanayo has her brother/boyfriend, no reason to go back. Hmm, if she hadn’t said that (and the show gave no indication of her being punished yet) and she guides poor Hitoe to victory, she’d get the friends, and Hitoe would be stuck with whatever wish HER selector had. What if her selector is a NEET who hates being around people? Anyway, plot-wise, nothing much gets accomplished. Even the Ruuko-Hitoe battle is interrupted when she freaks out over her former friends’ proximity, which opens up a whole bunch of other questions, like who’s the idiot running this game. Oh, right, that would be Mayu, who we didn’t get a good look at because of the supersaturated light, but she has a nice Kyubey imitation thing going on with her hair. Elsewhere, Iona calls out selectors (by all, I mean Ruuko) for a big event which I figure will round up the series with a million unanswered questions and more bewildered fictional characters and viewers.
Meanwhile, on Knights of Sidonia, Nagate makes a new friend!
They don’t have a name for it yet, apart from “Shizuka” or “placenta specimen,” the former being an insult to the real Shizuka and the latter being icky. But watching that thing achieve more sentience and mimick Shizuka’s behaviors, I got to feeling almost paternal toward the thing, and Nagate, still something of a bright-eyed boy in that society, seems to feel the same. If you encounter a monster that can mimic the girl you had a thing for and died, you’d act with revulsion. It must be doing something right to have that effect on Nagate. Or maybe he ought to just get over Shizuka’s death already and move on to another girl, or sexless being. It’s not like he doesn’t have a lot of choices. Numi, the scientist who is in charge of the Shizuka-whatsit even does a clumsy meganekko number on him, but zero gravity makes falling over impossible.
While we watch Nagate watch Shizuka-placenta and wonder when the thing is going to turn on them (very soon, it appears, but Numi’s on to it) we get other little plot points, such as Nagate’s continued success on the battlefield, the emigration of 100,000 citizens and the social implications of that. That’s in the background for now. We also get strangeness with Kunato (remember him?) discovering a part of the mansion he hadn’t seen before, people visiting Ochiai’s clone, inexplicably held captive down there, but for now it’s just plot seeding. And finally, the harem are trying to get Nagate’s mind off the alien thing and on to … them, I suppose. As for me, I’m rooting for some more battling. It’s been quiet long enough.