Ping Pong and the Liberation of Failure


I really have nothing to say, but I want to say it just the same.

An essential quote from Federico’s Fellini’s 8 1/2 and also a testament to me, as a person, both on and offline. Quiet as kept, I’m not a man of many words and find myself more delighted by funny faces than actually having anything meaningful to say about all these Chinese cartoons I watch (not to mention, screencapping entertaining moments with the Pun of the Day and pointing out interesting aspects of mise en scène is quite frankly much easier than taking the time to carefully compose words in a more organized and coherent fashion), but I guess even I can be motivated to write a little something… as was the case when I saw a certain exchange of tweets.

In short, Ping Pong is about the liberation of failure. Most sports anime that I’ve seen (Baby Steps, Giant Killing, Hajime no Ippo, etc.) are underdog stories that use success as more of an inspiring focal point. So, Ping Pong separates itself from the pack by treating success as a burdensome dark cloud that prevents the show’s characters from seeing the forest for the trees. Striving for success becomes an unhealthy obsession, not only to the detriment of one’s enjoyment in life, but also at the cost of well-being and here lies the importance of the amusing paradox that is failure: the fall from grace is simultaneously a flight of freedom. Failure is not to be frowned upon, but a learning experience which allows Sakuma to discover the family life, Wenge to care about someone other than himself, Kazama to experience enjoyment for the first time in ages, Smile to pursue a teaching career and Peco to reinvigorate his love for the sport (Egami engages with a similar revitalized passion [as a cheering spectator the second time around] and it’s a commendable [Yuasa-added] feat that a tertiary character miraculously manages to carry nearly the same weight as Peco, the heart of the show). I love ya, Failure.

As an aside, it’s worth noting that Ota has to worry about the family business and Yurie eventually seeks out fashion. While neither of them were forced to suffocate under the weight of success, the important thing to recognize is that there exists a world outside the realm of ping pong (as crazy as it sounds!), adding a good degree realism to the show.


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