English: Ping Pong
Published: 1996 to 1997
Score: 7.941 (scored by 177 users)
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SynopsisMakoto Tsukimoto (nicknamed Smile) is a quiet high-schooler who's been friends with the loud and energetic Yukata Hoshino (nicknamed Peco) since childhood. They're both in the local table tennis club and both have a natural talent for it, although Smile's personality always enables him from winning against Peco. The club teacher however notices Smile's talent and tries to make him gain some sportive tenacity.
"I'm sure you'll understand too, someday. The melancholy of winning. The pain of praise. The weight on your shoulders... the lonliness and agony. The time will come where your efforts will seem meaningless, and your victories empty."
Like much of Taiyo Matsumoto's work, Ping Pong includes the same level of energy and surprising depth that outshines its basis to the point of sheer brilliance. Ping Pong, contrary to the title, is less a story about table tennis and more a story about the coming of age of two polar opposite individuals. The author uses ping pong as a medium to advance the story and to develop the characters, so well in fact the manga is almost criminally realistic. Ping Pong deals with worldly themes of friendship, affliction and adolescence, not so different from Tekkonkinkreet, the authors previous work, which makes it very down to earth and above all else - believable.
The manga introduces us to Peco, the energetic, I-don't-care-what-people-think personality, and Smile, the reserved gentleman who would rather lose than make his opponent feel bad. The development of these two main characters is quite the journey. The supporting cast are thankfully there for a lot more than just to provide moral support, and during a ping pong game Taiyo Matsumoto never really attempts to make the readers favour one character over the other, which allows the manga to stay at a realistic and high quality standard. What makes Ping Pong different from most sport manga is the larger focus on the characters as opposed to the game. The rules are not explained, nor do we get any history lessons. Table tennis is there as a foundation for the story and a means of development. Instead of the game fuelling the characters, the characters fuel the game.
If you've read anything by Taiyo Matsumoto before then you know to expect nothing less than absolutely superb art that gives off a level of energy like no other. Matsumoto's art is very unique - his lines are wobbly, the scale of things can sometimes be unclear and his shading is minimal while his inking is high. You won't find many sketchy effects usually associated with manga in Taiyo Matsumoto's works either, but what he does offer is something totally fresh and just as interesting - that being outstanding lineart. A huge amount of detail is put into every single panel and during the ping pong matches the energy behind his art perfectly catches the nature and pace of the game, which will have the reader flipping through the book at a dramatic and exciting rate.
Given the level of content in Ping Pong, which is only five volumes long, it is no wonder why Taiyo Matsumoto's series are generally rather short. In only these couple of volumes he presents the reader with a wonderfully fresh coming of age story, accompanied by an extremely exciting backdrop, filled with nerve-impulse boosts and eternal undying instinct to boot, complete with realistic characters sure to leave an impression.
Taiyo Matsumoto is known for saying his goal is to combine the powerful and cool feeling of American comics, the intellect of European comics and the light-heartedness of Japanese comics together to create a really tremendous work, and I believe he has achieved such with Ping Pong. You'll finish this manga worn out due to the level of content and intensity, but extremely satisfied, knowing you just witnessed something quite special. read more
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