There is something so beautiful about how animation can be shaped into all different types of styles, depending on the person and their vision of how it’s supposed to be. I always marvel at artists who have a signature style, because it’s so beautiful to see the variation. If you’re a digital artist, working in animation is so meticulous and detail-oriented. If you’re a traditional artist, every brush stroke is deliberate, and it matters. So, where do works like Ping Pong lie?
Ping Pong The Animation is a feat of artistry, mostly hand-drawn frames that are conjoined using digital animation techniques. Combining the two gives you this unique hybrid product, unlike anything I’ve seen before. It’s like watching someone’s drawing come to life before your very eyes, quite literally moving art. I think the closest thing I can compare it to is The Tales Of The Princess Kaguya, made by Studio Ghibli in 2013.
I know there is some heated debate going around right now about what constitutes art and what doesn’t, but it helps to remember that art takes time and effort to create. If you could just generate true art using AI (Artificial Intelligence), that doesn’t mean it’s comparable to something created through brush strokes and placements are done by hand. That humane touch is what takes things like 3D from uncanny valley to CGI artistry.
And vice versa when it comes to Ping Pong. Hand-drawn animation might be considered outdated to many, maybe even tedious. But the hard work you put into it always shines through. There’s a reason why companies like Studio Ghibli suck with the style for so long, and still prefer it over others. There is something so raw about it. This is exactly why Ping Pong shines the way it does. So, let’s discuss!
Ping Pong The Animation: A Labour Of Love
Ping Pong is already a pretty beloved manga. Both written and illustrated by Taiyō Matsumoto, it was even nominated for an Eisner Award last year. When the source material is that renowned, of course, extra care would go into its animation project.
It looks like nothing we are used to from an anime. The anime industry is pretty cut and dry about what it wants in aesthetics, and it usually doesn’t drift away from that ideal. But not Ping Pong! At first, the style might seem jarring. With harsh line art, slightly jilted animation, and a toned-down color palette, it almost shocks the viewer with its signature style. Some might say it looks rough, but that’s the charm of it.
That style looks so organic and refreshing in a sea of ‘perfect’ anime, it’s what lifts the anime from being a run-of-the-mill sports anime to a work of art. There’s a reason why it’s considered one of the best anime of the 2010s in such a short amount of time. It did something right.
Why Hand Drawn Anime Are Such A Masterpiece:
Look, I love high-definition, 3D-blended anime just as much as the next girl. I, too, cry watching big-budget Makoto Shinkai features that are like fluid water and magic come to life. But there is something so rustic and gorgeous about the way hand-drawn animation still holds up.
I used the word charming before, but that’s it. It’s magnetic, seeing how the brush strokes translate from paper to pixel on the screen. It adds this unique touch that, honestly, fully digital works just don’t comprehend. That doesn’t mean digital animation is bad, or inauthentic. Of course, it has its own identity. But the hard work that goes into creating each frame by hand, for something dynamic like sports or a fight scene, is just awe-inspiring.
Hand-drawn animation has been going out of style because it’s just too much work, but I think anime like Ping Pong remind us why 2D animation is nowhere near its apex.