There has been an anime series on just about every sport there is, be it the world game of football, America’s hard hitting grid-iron, professional cycling, sexy swimming, slam dunking basketball, aces of the diamond that is baseball or even the Japanese native pass time of karuta.
Sports anime are all about passion and the drive that pushes us to pursue sporting. While some sports fit the mold perfectly, some seem like they would have a harder time fitting into the form and remaining interesting.
I never thought in a million years that an anime about table tennis could be so utterly engaging as Ping Pong is but Tatsunoko Productions have made just that.
The story follows two ping pong prodigies nicknames Peco and Smile. Peco is plucky and confident until he meets his match in the champion from China aptly nicknamed ‘China’. Smile on the other hand is the silent type and long time friend of Peco, he is completely counteractive to just about everything that Peco is and has some deeper psychological issues to boot. He gained the nickname Smile somewhat ironically due to his constant lack of a smile. Little do these two know that their lives are about to change dramatically all around the ping pong table.
Unlike other sports anime, Ping Pong isn’t simply about winning matches and advancing through the ranks, instead it focuses on the psychology behind these players and what it is that has drawn them to this game. It is far more interested in these characters as people rather than as players of ping pong, which is genuinely refreshing for a sports anime series.
What really stands out about Ping Pong is the way in which is manages to weave what is ultimately a simple tale of passion and connection into something far more deeper and complex than a story about table tennis has any right to be. Peco and Smile are highly intriguing characters and within the span of 11 episodes we come to know them on a deep and personal level. Their struggles feel real and their triumphs truly rewarding. A lot of sports anime have a problem when it comes to character development but Ping Pong is all about character and it makes it a distinctly different show to your standard throng of sports series.
If there is anything that may be a barrier to viewers it is the art style of the series. Put into the simplest of terms it is different. It does not look like any other anime in recent memory but it is infused with so much style and flair that any perceived ‘ugly’ designs don’t really matter all that much. The show has a unique visual aesthetic that may not be everyone’s cup of tea but if you are willing to look beyond the surface you will come to find that Ping Pong features some of the most jaw-dropping sequences ever animated bringing to life the game of ping pong with glorious detail and vibrancy.
Madman’s English language release of the series is a top notch one to say the least, with all episodes in full English dub as provided by Funimation. The casting and acting on the dub are superb and the collection comes bundled with plenty of bonus features to dive into.
Ping Pong proves that the anime medium is not limited in any way shape or form. Any story on any subject matter can be told in this wonderful story-telling medium and the fact that an emotionally powerful story can be told about two teens playing Ping Pong is a testament to Tatsunoko Productions and the anime platform as a whole. Ping Pong may not be for everyone but it is highly stylized thought provoking anime at its finest. If you don’t mind a weird looking anime about table tennis, Ping Pong may just blow your mind with the punch it is packing.
You can pick up a copy of Ping Pong from Madman’s Online Store.