Ping Pong, a drama with some comic elements, follows two high school friends and their “passion” for the game Ping Pong. Peco is an arrogant player, determined to become a professional, while Smile, an almost complete opposite character, is frustrated that others see ping pong as more than a game. Although Peco taught Smile the game of Ping Pong, we see the tables turn as Smile surpasses Peco in talent. With competitions around the corner, will Peco be able to fulfill his dream?
Title: Ping Pong
Other Names: ピンポン (Pin Pon)
Genre: Comedy Drama
Director: Fumihiko Sori
Cast: Yosuke Kubozuka, Arata, Sam Lee, Shido Nakamura, Koji Ookura, Naoto Takenaka, Mari Natsuki
Running Time: 1hrs 54mins
This is one of the first Japanese movies that I watched and really enjoyed! I cant remember how I heard of it, but I think what first drew me to this movie was when I started university, one of the activities we did to get to know everyone in our dormitories (and surrounding dormitories) was to have a table tennis tournament at our sports centre. I guess because I had a lot of fun with my first experience with table tennis I thought that this movie would be fun, other wise I don’t think I’d even consider taking the time to watch this, let alone read the back cover of the DVD case. I’m glad I did watch Ping Pong; I’d have to say that it is one of the better sports themed teen comedy dramas that I have seen.
Peco and Smile are members of the Katase High School table tennis club. Smile (nicknamed so because he hardly ever smiles) is a clever boy who, although is quiet and reserved, is firm and focused in his decisions. Peco is on the other hand is athletic and competitive, overconfident and outspoken. These two have been friends since primary school and although Peco taught Smile the game of Ping Pong, Smile seems to have the natural talent that Peco lacks. Both players have opposing views on the game, while Peco aspires to become a professional, Smile sees Ping Pong as a means of passing time. A competition is taking place and both the characters lives are take a turn that As certain events unfold, we see obstacles appear in front Peco, which he must over come if his dream of becoming a professional has any chance of being within his reach.
Ping Pong is about the relationship between two friends, Yutaka Hoshino (nicknamed Paco) and Makoto Tsukimoto (nicknamed Smile, because ironically he never does), using table tennis as means of portraying not only their relationship with each other but also the relationship they have with themselves. As the movie begins we find out what the relationship between the two characters are and they regard each other. Peco is a carefree student who hardly ever turns up to his table tennis club to practise, whereas Smile is the complete opposite. As Peco plays the game aspiring to become a professional, and for the pure enjoyment of defeating his opponents, Smile’s attitude towards the game is that it is just for passing time.
We learn about other characters and rivals involved in the story, such as a friend of both Paco and Smile nick named Akuma (meaning demon, a play on his name Manabu Sakuma). However an interschool competition changes the lives of both the stars of this film. Peco looses his enthusiasm for the game and Smile ends up being forced into playing the game seriously, being taken under the wing of the coach of the high school club. Peco, who was pretty much lost without his dream, is brought back to reality, made to realise what his passion was, by the owner of a table tennis arcade centre. What ensue are aspects of comedy intertwined with action, tension, drama, and the strength of friendship as both characters make it back to compete in the next competition. Throughout all this we find out the history of many of the other characters such as the two coaches, who used to be serious Ping-Pong players, as well as their rival friend Demon and two extremely talented rivals Dragon (an extremely self-disciplined competitor) and China (…a Chinese player). As the last leg of the movie plays out, we are met with the to finalist in the middle of their game reaching a state of peace and understanding between themselves each other and the game.
I thought the movie was very entertaining and fresh in terms of a sports themed teen movie. I am not sure how this compares to the original manga that it was based on, however it is a piece of art that should definitely be seen as it was also a smash hit in Japan. The director incorporates Computer Graphics through out the movie (but not over the top, which would otherwise make it seem unnatural and possibly cheap) that enhances the pleasure of viewing the fast paced game of table tennis, as well as other small details throughout the movie. I see the movie as a beautiful story of two friends and the hurdles (in this case a game of table tennis) they encounter in life that they work hard to overcome. In my opinion the end result of the movie is successfully closed in the sense that it does not seem incomplete or hastily ended.
An action packed movie filled with fun and laughter, and great use of visual effects. I highly recommend this for anyone who is interested in Asian cinema!
I give it an 8/10.
Check out the official site for Ping Pong!
You can buy Ping Pong from Yes Asia.
You can buy Ping Pong from Amazon.
You can buy Ping Pong from Play-Asia.