Of all the reactions one can have while watching an anime, crying – either from sadness, joy, splendor, or some other feeling – is the one people seem to be the most ashamed of. That’s the explanation I eventually came to, and the only one that makes sense, after reading many blog posts written about various anime series accusing them of being emotionally manipulative and wondering what these authors are thinking. Every work of fiction strives to manipulate it’s consumer to be moved in some way. Now, when I read someone complain about an anime being emotionally manipulative, I picture the writer sobbing his/her eyes out, blubbering, blushing in embarrassment, and casting furtive glances around to make sure no one is looking at them.
Me, I want anime to manipulate the hell out of my emotions and one of the best examples this year was the musical montage in episode 11 of Ping Pong.
If Masaaki Yuasa is known to a person then it’s probably for his unique animation style and that was what first drew me to his works. Over time, though, I noticed another defining characteristic of his works – he’s joyfully sentimental. (If it wasn’t for his animation style then his detractors would probably derisively claim he’s a sappy director.) So, going into episode 11, I was expecting a thrilling climax, warm fuzzies, many tears being shed and a finish that left me happy/content/sad/cheerful/hopeful.
And I got a final episode that had a thrilling climax, warm fuzzies, many tears shed, and a finish that left me happy/content/sad/cheerful/hopeful. That’s not to say the episode played out like I thought it would; Masaaki Yuasa had a few surprises up his sleeve for this last episode. One was the aforementioned musical montage. The song used was apparently a well-known traditional Japanese kids song which meant nothing to me at first. However, the words were so perfect for the show and the kids singing were so delightfully kid-like and the montage of the main characters as kids learning and playing ping pong hitting so squarely in the feels (as the saying goes) that I either shed many a manly tear or cried like a little girl (pick your metaphor) the first time I saw it and again the next dozen or so times I watched it.
Any doubt that this moment should be included ended when, over the summer, I rewatched the second season of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex with my one sister. (I have it on DVD and she’d never seen it and had been politely bugging me for awhile to see it.) Not to spoil it but towards the end, at a suitably climatic part, the Tachikomas begin singing the same song and I realized I recognized the song and, thanks in part to Ping Pong, the manly tears began flowing almost immediately.