I can’t remember when I looked forward to an episode as much as Ping Pong 10. Happily, the episode did not disappoint. But it surprised me a little.
The Peco/Kazama match could have wound up the other way and it would have made sense, maybe more sense than a guy with a bum let taking out the champ. But that wasn’t a big surprise. Instead, we get something different altogether. Yurie hinted at it before she flew away: Kazama’s looking for a hero. I thought him finding it in the form of Peco to be a tad perverse, but it makes sense. Kazama doesn’t believe in heroes–he never had one. Everyone’s always let him down. For Peco to announce before the match that he is the hero only incenses Kazama into bludgeoning him out of the first two games. Meanwhile, Tsukimoto, for whom Peco is indeed a hero, quietly sits in a stairwell and tells Koizumi that the hero is returning (while we get views of a giant, ruined robot in, possibly waiting). Though at the time, we can’t see it.
If there’s a flaw in the episode it might be that the switch that is flipped inside Peco seems to come out of nowhere. He hears Smile’s voice and responds to it: have fun. Whatever the reason, he starts to play with the joy he used to have, wins the next two games, and we get the second big image of the episode–flying. They point out the contrast (sometimes overdone) between Kazama’s slow, agonizing climb up mountains and Peco, the bird, flying above him with little effort. It connects with that memory of Kazama’s dad talking about birds. Meanwhile, Yurie is flying away in a jet, happily off to find her future. This joy of playing rubs off on Kazama to the point where he actually smiles. Though he loses the match, he finally discovers that the game isn’t necessarily pain. He’s finally found a hero.
The match takes up the entire episode, as it should, with little breathers where we check up on Tsukimoto in his stairwell, or Baba and Kong, watching with great interest and providing commentary. The show uses every visual trick it has to show the match’s progress. Sometimes it’s a flow of static images scrolling by, sometimes it gets metaphorical and shows the opponents sprouting wings, sometimes they simply play, with no embellishment. They use so many tricks that it comes close to overwhelming the viewer, but to the show’s credit, it doesn’t. They’re the best action sequences of the series yet; the show rose to the occasion. I am, however, worried about next week. Are we going to see a flashback to Koizumi’s loss, what with Peco’s bum knee? I know they’ll play with that angle, but I think the show and the characters are too smart to settle for history repeating.
One more thing. Though they use the bird image for Peco, to me, when he plays, he looks more like a monkey.
On to Selector Infected WIXOSS and its own game, which no one (among the selectors) is playing for fun anymore. That’s maybe the point of this episode and what appears to be Ruuko’s true wish–that everyone can play together for fun. Well, maybe that’s her wish. She has one other one that is very similar to that wish in that other show I’m trying hard not to compare this show to, but no one thinks it can work. Yuzuki goes into some observations gained while being an lrig to that effect, but she doesn’t really know for sure. Maybe that’s the problem with this show: no one knows what’s going on anymore. Iona’s having a big selector tournament, but why? She’s not saying. Tama thinks there might be a solution, but what? She doesn’t know. Poor Hitoe is so obsesses with her wish that she again doesn’t see that it’s come true for her, though at great and ongoing pain. And we at home hardly know what’s going on anymore. Meanwhile, after we get the Hitoe business taken care of, we’re waiting for the inevitable Ruuko/Iona battle which will do … what? Sad to say, this series has fumbled the ball of plot.
The competition in Nanana’s Buried Treasure 10 is who can get to the latest treasure first, the club or Hiiyo. And it works out just as expected. The club does the dirty work and Hiiyo tries to take it away at the end. Well, it was more fun than some other episodes. The whole business of deciding which girder to walk on using the Fibonacci Sequence and a 13-character zodiac didn’t make much sense to me, but the puzzles here rarely do. It was fun to watch because Juugo decides, as usual, to leap right in and nearly get himself killed, and then Tensai gets clumsy and nearly does the same. And it was fun to see Hiiyo get knocked around a little, or a lot. too bad he’s still got that ring, so we have a cliffhanger for next week’s assumed final episode.