Ping Pong The Animation Episode 10
As the match starts between Peco and Kazama the scene begins with the camera panning up from Peco's hand getting ready to serve to a view of Kazama being swallowed by darkness. It then cuts to a panning close up shot of Kazama. The black uniform, the dark background, and the shadowing on Kazama's intense face brings a presence of an imposing and joyless force. Next we see Peco surrounded by a wavering white light, the color of the hero. But he's overwhelmed by Kazama's presence as evident by the faintness of the light and the darkness slowly swallowing it. The panning extreme close up shot of Peco and his hero mask show that despite Kazama's overwhelming presence he's committed to playing for fun and with his childhood hero persona.
The scene then ends with a really cool shot of Peco that starts at a high angle, pushes into an extreme close up of his eye (with Kazama's reflection) and then pulls back to a low angle. Everything about this camera work exudes the willingness of a hero to accept such a huge challenge
This whole scene also lays the thematic ground work for the rest of the match. Light vs. dark, playing for fun vs. the cold drive for victory and hero vs. anti-hero. I also love the use of the vertical panning shots for constant thematic transitions.
As the match continues Kazama's dark aura proved to be too overwhelming for Peco. Kazama viewed his father as a hero, losing him and hearing his grandfather belittle him shook this core belief. With that pillar of strength gone, he relied solely on his ability to play Ping Pong as a form of strength. This led to his play to be strongly driven by the pressure to win, to fulfill his grandfather's lofty expectations, and the painful fear of defeat. These rather negative reasons for playing has taken the joy out of the sport and led to emotional isolation. This grim and painful approach has made him a brutal and domineering player which is reflected by the darkness that surrounds him and that eventually engulfs Peco.
As Peco further gets dominated by Kazama he starts losing confidence. In the background he hears Smile's humming. Peco imagines Smile telling him to find the fun out of playing such a tough opponent which improves Peco's play. As Peco gains momentum the background becomes white, the overall setting seems brighter, and the darkness surrounding Kazama slowly dissipates. The play has a more jubilant vibe and atmosphere.
Kazama's background is now light blue, reinforcing that Peco's more positive aura is dominating the match
Notice the competition number on Peco's back acting as a cape. There are multiple full shots like this one in this part of the match that demonstrates Peco's childlike hero persona.
The use of imagery to represent the characters' personality and their development is very much present in this episode and excellently so. The reoccurring image is flight, which symbolizes freedom. Peco's hero persona has adopted this image and it's reinforced by his unrestricted and flighty play-style. Kazama's style while strong and imposing is also restricted and burdened. This is reflected by the imagery of constantly struggling to climb a cliff with the fear of falling into the dark abyss below him.
An extreme close up of Kazama's eye seeing the image of Peco taking flight.
The imagery of Kazama's constant struggle but now looking to break out of it.
As Peco makes Kazama realize the joy of Ping Pong the pressure and burden are unloaded. He's now free to just enjoy the sport and fly away from isolation.
Peco and Kazama taking flight together as they put on a fun match.
Another extreme close up of Kazama's eye, this time seeing Peco flying away where he can't reach him, a realization that Peco will win the match.