Ping Pong tells the story of two friends and their struggles to succeed at ping pong in inter-school championships. The child-like “Peco” Hoshino and his ever serious friend Tsukimoto (nicknamed “Smile” as he rarely smiles) have been friends for a long time. They are the top two player in the Katase High ping pong club and unassailable until a new chinese player arrives and solidly beats Hoshino in a friendly match, and Hoshino is then beaten by Sakuma, a student from rival Kaio school. Hoshino, at first so distressed he gives up training, then decides to stage a comeback at the next tournament. Meanwhile, his friend “Smile” who only plays to kill time and often lets people win despite his superiority also decides to try hard at the competition.
The film is well paced with plenty of character driven jokes. At first Hoshino is a little annoying as his character, incredibly over-the-top immaturity, but this mellows somewhat later in the film. Although the story is pretty basic, the cast of the two leads, their rivals and their trainers, all with very distinct personalities and styles make the film enjoyable. It’s also very well shot, utilising camera angles and shots to liven up the story, and only occasionally straying into manga-esque CG trickery.
The movie revolves around the philosophies of ping pong, the determination needed to win and the fierce rivalries. Although it’s a comedy, the parts which are meant to be serious are done well enough to evoke the desired emotions. In the end it’s a story of friendship and striving for something that you believe in, made interesting by superb directing and acting. One of the better Japanese sports films.
Based on the manga by Taiyo Matsumoto.