Active Engagement Through Timed Comments: Ping Pong The Animation

Anime, unlike a game, a sport, or mechanical tinkering, is a fairly passive hobby. You plop yourself in front of a screen, press play, and maybe livetweet about the episode as it’s going on. But most people watch shows straight through. Outside of refreshing crunchyroll streams frozen for too long to plausibly be a dramatic pause, an average anime requires very little user input to run from start to finish (even books and manga at least require readers to turn pages). That doesn’t mean anime is a shallow hobby, or a passive one, but it does mean that the big moments in anime, the ones that suck the viewers into the screen like some elastic pink thing, are pretty important, since viewers typically aren’t doing anything that would serve to distract them from how tacked-together and plodding a subpar sequence is. A good anime will have a few moments capable of forcing viewers to snap to full attention, and a great one will have several per episode.

These moments are often obvious to whoever experiences them, but because so much subjective and personal experience goes into how one person experiences a work of entertainment, it can be difficult to isolate these on a macro/crowd level. If attainable, that information would be useful in a number of discussions, notably in those trying to tie a particular sequence into discussions of how much it might have meant for the show sales-wise.* Participating in discussion of an episode is a way to suss out your thoughts on a show, but a lot of that discussion is per-mediated in the sense that you’ve had time to digest before you speak your piece on it. By contrast, commenting systems built into video streaming platforms offer a fast-reaction look at how specific moments or intervals in a show evoked strong, immediate reactions. Which, in turn, makes these moments likely candidates for ones that pushed people over the top from being interested to being locked-in.

Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be taking a look at the timed comment data for several successful shows to get an idea of which moments may have been “high-leverage” ones that brought more fans into the show’s big tent. First up, the eleven episodes of Masaki Yuasa’s Ping Pong The Animation. Full disclosure: I’m writing this having seen the show, and assuming you’ve seen it too. Since this is essentially a list of scenes of importance from a slightly atypical perspective, there’s obvious spoiler potential below.

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Sell Me in 20 Minutes: Knights of Sidonia, Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka, and Ping Pong

You can do most things with 3DCG as it stands now in anime, if you use it in a manner conscious of its limitations. But Knights of Sidonia didn’t feel like it was bringing any kind of production-side A-game beyond the first-2-minute action scene. The scene in the rice plant where the male lead was running away put way to much focus on motion that was very wooden, and it cut out of that scene with a very sloppy fade-to-black transition.*┬áThe show is just nowhere near as good as Arpeggio was at handling the weak points in its CG style, and it was missing opportunities by not, among other things, restricting walking exposition scenes like the one about the third gender to discretion shots. The mech scenes, at least, were smooth as silk. I kept watching, though, and development of what seems like a very Xenogears-y world got intriguing pretty quickly, thanks in part to effectively washed-out pale color palettes and in part to the fast-moving story (even before counting the cliffhanger at the end). I’m willing to give this one two more weeks.

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