Leave all your preconceived ideas at the door, this is an awesome anime for the more discerning anime geek. When does play become more than play? What is the meaning of victory and competition? Should you sacrifice pleasure for success? What is it that defines adulthood from adolescence? Ping pong the Animation is so much more than a story about a sport.
What made me stop and take a look was noticing that the Manga is from the same writer of Tekkonkinkreet - Matsumoto Taiyou and the director is Yuasa Masaaki of Tatami Galaxy (one of my all time favourite anime series) - with these two heavyweights on the team I had to stop and take a look.
I confess this anime completely passed me by first time around, I mean it’s not my usual thing, it’s about Ping Pong right? Wrong! If anything the title Ping Pong is a red herring, this anime is much more about friendship, maturity, the absurdity of competition and defining yourself by one thing. Remove the Ping Pong and there’s the same posturing, battling to define yourself while growing up, egos and gang culture that permeates youth and seeps into adulthood too. At times you could easily transpose the scenes to an altercation between rival Yakuza, such was the dialogue and interactions between the characters - some people take Ping Pong very seriously indeed.
The main protagonist ‘Smile’ can be beautifully summed up by his comment in episode one
“smiling, getting angry - that stuff makes me tired” he's so wonderfully dead pan, so endearingly cynical, and yet there’s a brooding deepness that makes you want to learn more about him. His friend ‘Peco’ juxtaposes against him nicely, he’s the total opposite in many ways, it’s what I love about Matsumoto’s writing, he does characters extremely well, they’re complex, 3 dimensional and flawed in their own ways. I can see many parallels in the friendship between 'Peco' and ‘Smile' that are present in Tatami Galaxy, the main difference being the duration of the friendship - Matsumoto has a knack of writing incredibly annoying but charming characters such as ‘Peco' and extremely cynical ones like 'Smile' - I wonder if these introverted yet fiery characters are a refelction of Matsumoto himself?
Many do not like the animation style, but I love it, it’s very physical, often the bodies of characters in anime can be quite static and similar in shape, but with Yuasa’s style it’s not only their faces that express emotion, it’s as if their whole bodies reflect their personalities and show their emotions. There’s a beautiful realism to the animation style, people are imperfect, as is the world.
Ping Pong the Animation is more than just an anime about a Table Tennis it’s a story about modern life and the choices we make, it's brutal, beautiful, eandearing and funny. I love this anime!
So this year saw my first foray into the world of Comicon and it did not disappoint!! I only had one agenda, find and document the elusive Black Cosplayers! And lo and behold I found them and they were glorious!
Now I’ve read online comments from other Black Cosplayers that they can sometimes find themselves on the receiving end of racial abuse, being told they cannot dress as certain characters because those characters are not Black - newsflash people, half the characters you dress as are Japanese, and most of you ain’t Japanese… or do their Anglicised anime style features confuse you? Anyway, I found none of that here at Comicon 2015 - from promotional characters to comic book icons the range and effort of these Black Cosplayers was a beautiful sight to see.
There were Black fans dressing as their favourite characters and inventing some of their own, inspired by their best loved series. They challenged perceptions about what cosplay characters should be like, as well as drawing inspiration where there are no characters of colour and inventing their own costumes. The Black Cosplayers were definitely the highlight of my day!
The venue is huge, take supplies and a homing device! you will need it!! Two aching feet later, I swear I must have walked about 10miles today, I’m still not convinced I saw/experienced all Comicon had to offer! One of my favourite parts was just sitting outside people watching - well I say people, it was more like watching a parade of characters from multiple fictional universes having a day out! It looked like so much fun that next year I’m gonna have to cosplay too!
At the rear of the main exhibition was the comic book section, which featured tables from independent artists. Here I was able to meet with three very different artists/story tellers, all with some wonderful work!!