WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR SCORCHING PING PONG GIRLS
Hey everyone – it’s been a while since my last Character Focus. Hell, it’s been a while since my last article. But I’ve been watching some more stuff and I found some more inspiration to write. Funny enough it came from one of the least likely places I would have thought – Scorching Ping Pong Girls, a show from Fall of 2016. It involved a lot of cute girls doing ping pong things. But hidden within that was actually some very good character development, at some points even reminding me of Ping Pong: The Animation with its writing. One that stood out the most was the green haired gothic lolita, Kururi Futamaru
At first glance, just like the rest of the show, Kururi doesn’t appear to be anything special. She appears just before the practice matches in a gothic lolita outfit buying some supplies from Hokuto’s store and is built up to be a very terrifying figure known as the “Driver of the East”. Even though she doesn’t appear as so, she’s made to be equal if not better than Agari who has been shown to be the best in her club alongside Koyori. But it’s not until we get to the practice matches themselves that we begin to learn her backstory and what I think makes her such a good character.
To get off course very quickly, the reason that Kururi surprised me is because there was almost no reason for the show to give the “antagonist” any characterization. In plenty of shows, especially those where there are such clearly defined “antagonists” or “bad guys”, they are treated as wanting to defeat the heroes simply because they are bad, or for some similar reason. But not Kururi. We learn quite a few things through her flashbacks and her actions.
The first thing we notice is her obsessive devotion to Zakuro, something in between a crush and a protective nature. She acts cold to those around her whether on purpose or not, but when talking to Zakuro she nearly turns into a bumbling fool. Through pretty direct means, we learn that their relationship is based on Zakuro being the only one to stay in the ping pong club even after Kururi put her through terribly tough training.
This reveals something interesting about Kururi and how she perceives others. She felt like doing the best involved that kind of training; no one else seemed to agree with her. She was isolating herself because she thought that she was too different, that her training was too tough. But out of all those members that left, Zakuro stayed and they continued to grow together in skill. Zakuro was the first one to show Kururi that she wasn’t doing things “wrong”, she was just doing things “differently”. She didn’t abandon her as all the others did.
Since they were together for such a long time, because Zakuro stuck with Kururi, Kururi developed an extreme attachment to her which was very clearly shown throughout the course of the show. This is built upon by her scene with Koyori in the bathroom; she grabs Zakuro and says “she is who I play for”. She found her reason to play ping pong seriously thanks to Zakuro showing her that someone was willing to stand by her and get serious about winning.
But that’s only half the story. When Kururi begins to lose to Koyori we see the cracks start to form. She’s terrified of losing. She’s never had that fear because she was always able to crush her opponents – but when faced with losing she gets cared of the idea that Zakuro will leave her. She keeps playing not just for Zakuro, but out of fear that Zakuro will leave her and find her useless if she doesn’t win. Since they built their relationship on ping pong, Kururi mistakenly thinks that’s the only thing their friendship is based on.
Of course, once she DOES lose she’s reassured by Zakuro and they reaffirm their relationship with one another. At the same time we as the viewers are reminded that friendships aren’t built only on how useful your friends are to you, they’re built on caring for each other and wanting to help each other succeed. Zakuro realized how hard Kururi was trying for her and it only strengthened their ties to each other, contrary to how Kururi thought it would weaken them.
So within the course of a few episodes we get to see this girl who isn’t even tied to the main cast go through more development than we see from some main characters of similar shows. We see her reasons for playing the game and we learn about her worries and concerns which makes the final payoff of her being reassured by Zakuro that much sweeter. Understanding her past also gave the match between her and Koyori that much more tension. Usually in these cases we’re always rooting for the good guy because we have no reason to root for the antagonist. But I’m sure some of you who watched the show wanted to see Kururi win, even though the lesson in the end was that it didn’t matter if she had won OR lost.
Needless to say, the entire time they were developing Kururi I was impressed. A character that could’ve EASILY been a one-off got the same love and care that any of the main characters did – and while I wrote this article on Kururi, the other characters DO have good development on their own. If you haven’t watched this show yet and can deal with the CGDCT shenanigans that come with the show, you’ll be pleasantly surprised (it IS fairly heavy on some of those things, be warned). Learning that Yasuhiro Irie (Fullmetal Alchemsit: Brotherhood) directed this show was very pleasantly surprising but also made perfect sense, given the overall quality of the show in the end. Here’s hoping for season 2 and more cute girls doing ping pong things.