In the world of Japanese ping pong, a mighty king has fallen. An underdog team suddenly breaks the indomitable Oudou Academy's nine year winning streak, creating a power vacuum as players everywhere are given hope that they too can reach the national tournament.
Suzumegahara Middle School is home to a small-time team: Hanabi Tenka, who has a rapid attack style; Hokuto Itsumo, who can predict the ball's most likely path; Agari Kamiya, famous for her signature backhand smash; vice-captain Mune Oomune, who has an aggressive playstyle; and team captain Kiruka Ushirode, who possesses an impenetrable defense. Despite their skill at ping pong, the team has never made it further than the local city tournaments.
But everything changes when transfer student Koyori Tsumujikaze arrives in town. Filled with an intense love of the game, she quickly makes a name for herself as another top player on the team. Koyori's positive attitude towards ping pong lights a fire in each of the girls' competitive hearts, and together they embark on a mission to win the national tournament.
A pleasant surprise. After marathoning the whole series in a night, I have to say I really enjoyed myself. The characters are all fun and have their own little quirks. I felt they went together in the series well. The show is pretty much all about ping pong too, hardly any filler at all. Surprisingly little fanservice too, considering it's full of girls getting sweaty and moving around a bunch. I was actually hooked on the dramatic moments in each episode, and never felt like fanservice was being crammed down my throat for the sake of selling a product. Not a masterpiece, but worth your
time, and worth buying to put on my shelf. If you want a show with a deep, involved story and great character development, maybe you shouldn't watch a show about ping pong.
Shakunetsu no Takkyuu Musume (Scorching Ping Pong Girls) is a textbook case of 'I should have known better'. This anime from studio Kinema Citrus - following the trials and tribulations of a middle school girls table tennis team - had the potential to be an interesting experience but the warning signs were there from the opening episodes. What unfolded was a by-the-numbers moe-sports hybrid. You've seen this before: New girl has skill, makes number one player jealous and the pair work hard to overcome their faults and step up their game. Is there at least interesting characters or twists to the story to make
this predictable formula exciting? Don't get your hopes up. Annoying mannerisms from the cast, bland character design and a drab narrative all play their part in making Shakunetsu no Takkyuu Musume a show I'd backhand off the table in a hurry.
Our main character is Koyori Tsumujikaze, a shy transfer student who finds the perfect place to seek excitement thanks to the Suzumegahara Middle School table tennis club. It's there she runs into the number one player, Agari Kamiya, a confident but jealous girl. Koyori is in search of the player who can bring out the best in her, and Agari fits the bill. Agari has never been greatly tested by the rest of the club but when the talented Koyori shows up things start to change.
It feels kind of wrong to hate on such a light-spirited show but when its characters sound and act like fingernails on chalkboard then it's hard not to. To counter this I've come up with a way to make watching Shakunetsu no Takkyuu Musume somewhat bearable. It's "Tozzy's Scorching Ping Pong Girls Drinking Game", and the rules are simple. Grab a bottle of your favourite spirit - the kind that makes your head throb harder than Koyori's heart - and make sure you key in the emergency number on your phone beforehand, just in case. Then take a shot every time Koyori mentions the excitable state of her heart, Hokuto converses with a character not by name but by the colour or composition of their underwear, Kiruka decides to nest her noggin in Mune's comically large chest, Hanabi squeezes or fiddles with someone's hair or one of the first-years need the game explained to them during the middle of a point. It's not so much that there's anything wrong with these things, it's just that their repetition reinforces little surprises Shakunetsu no Takkyuu Musume is willing to throw the viewers way. The show is built upon characters who act a particular way, and one way only. Sweet, jealous, insecure, creepy, quiet or loud. The end result? No curveballs. Little development. Rarely entertaining.
If you've followed through my drinking game I apologise in advance. I assume by the point you've made it through the 12 episodes adhering to these rules then you're in trouble. Regardless if you're staring down an empty bottle or into your soul contemplating why you watched this show there's one thing that's clear to see - Shakunetsu no Takkyuu Musume is no different from the last moe dribble you watched. It's sickeningly sacchrine and painfully dull. All these faults, cliches and annoying characters are actually disappointing because there's the odd moment of glorious animation in this show but it's not worth slogging through the remainder of the series to witness it. Some of the table tennis scenes (the main reason I watched this show) look fantastic, at least when the characters decide to shut up and let the game unfold, that is.
Thanks to a one-dimensional cast and a story that ends at an awkward moment Shakunetsu no Takkyuu Musume earns three heartbeats out of 10. Someone get me a defibrillator and make my heart race again.
Simple; yet thrilling, vivid enough for me to be addicted to this series. There are many ways I can express my love for this underrated gem of an anime. I never thought an anime such as this let alone a sports anime would give me this much enjoyment. I'm not a sporty type of person so I tend to avoid sports centred anime but I'm glad I watched this and watched it all the way through.
This anime is as I've mentioned before simplistic, it's a show about girls playing ping pong, no more and no less. It plays out like a typical sports themed show
would about becoming the best and winning the main competition for that sport; and features the theme of typical 1v1's for a lot of the episodes; showing us the characters strengths and weaknesses and getting more in depth into that aspect. For a story premise like this it really doesn't sound all that interesting but there are many features that make this enjoyable. Mainly because it's cute as hell but also accompanied by these matches is a killer OST to accompany them; a feature I will go more into detail with later on in this review.
This season focuses on a build up to the national competition; with friendly matches and training up to the main event which in-toe is enough to keep you hooked. We get to see the main cast flourish well and their bonds with each other and also an opposing team which increases the enjoyment factor; but other than that this is all we see from this "first season" if the show is lucky enough to gain itself a second.
In all fairness while being cheerful and enjoyable a concept like this isn't too original, but works well for what it is.
The art presented is very cute; it has that charm that made me enjoy it the most, with a cute cast of enthusiastic characters the art style complements that feature well in many ways. It's very bright and stands out well; reducing the serious tones from most of the matches of ping pong and flourishing the fun side to sports rather than competitive. Again this is very simplistic in terms of anime but it catches the eye well and makes the vibrant show even more splendid to watch.
Now moving onto the sound; which I complemented previously in the story section of the review. The OST to go along the ping pong matches is glorious, up-beat, enjoyable and keeps you hooked into the intensity of the matches. It has a very electronic and modern vibe to it which fits the sport well. The ball hitting the racket in the SFX department is also satisfying to hear especially as the fight grows more intense and you root for your favourite character to win the match. Also I have to mention the stunning opening theme, which I loved so much that I bought it on CD. It's upbeat and also complements the show well. Overall, fit to my taste in music.
The characters are pretty generic, there's nothing too special that stands out for them other than the fact they are all passionate about ping pong and competitive to become the very best. I can't find much words to describe the characters but their enthusiasm and up-beat natures is always fun to watch. Which although not very good led me rooting for each character every episode.
I can't honestly pick a favourite character they were all so splendid to watch.
The character development between Agari and Koyori was also pretty neat to watch; but that's all I can really say for this part of the review.
Enjoyment-wise. I loved this show to death; I want more, it was always the highlight of Mondays as it was cute and feel-good to watch. This led this to being my favourite anime of the Fall 2016 season, it can't compare to other more well received titles, but it had enough charisma to keep me hooked and demanding for more. It wasn't hard loving this series at all for it's nice set of characters and entertaining ping pong matches; along with the prior mentioned gorgeous OST.
Overall. I'm scoring Shakunetsu no Takkyuu Musume an 7/10 (going enjoyment-wise mainly it would score an 8/10).
It didn't present much for it to stand out well in the crowd of anime, but for me it was a gem compared to many other anime's I've seen. If you are into cute up-beat and happy toned anime's. this is a 100% recommendation from me.
I have so much love for this series, and I am really hoping this gets a second season someday.
The idea of putting moe girls in a competitive environment is not anything new to the world of anime. It is something which has been pulled off with great success in the past in shows like Saki for example, and in general I think it adds a nice touch to the otherwise somewhat formulaic sports genre of anime. Following a similar idea, Shakunetsu no Takkyuu Musume is a surprisingly engaging series which keeps you coming back for more. However, although it exceeds expectations in some areas, it also comes across as rather frustrating or awkward in others. It is the kind of show which I
really enjoyed watching as a whole, but when actually thinking about it I cannot help but find quite a lot of holes in it regardless.
The story is quite straightforward and can be roughly divided into two parts. The first half of the anime follows a group of female middle school students in a table tennis club who interact and compete against each other within the club itself. Then in the second half they start playing team games against other schools instead. In other words, completely standard stuff for a sports anime. What is perhaps a bit less ordinary though is the in-house rankings they have where every club member is placed on a ranked leaderboard which is constantly updated based on recent performance in order to determine who the best player in the club is, and in turn to motivate everyone to play their best. What exactly determines these rankings is never explained in detail, but it seems to be some sort of combination of a king of the hill format and an overall collective skill evaluation. In either case, the games are generally quite fun to watch and the anime as a whole is surprisingly addictive as a result, but there are definitely some problems with it as well.
The first issue I have with Shakunetsu no Takkyuu Musume is the characters. There are two main girls: Koyori and Agari, the two most highly ranked girls in the club. Agari is to a large extent a rather stereotypical twintailed tsundere (albeit with boobs for once), but initially she also has a rather strange superiority complex which causes her to frequently look down on others and just take it for granted that she has to be the best, though she grows out of this behavior over time. She can be pretty arrogant but for the most part I am honestly okay with that; in a sense I think it is refreshing to see some main characters every once in a while that are actually intentionally flawed rather than being 10/10 perfect goody-two-shoes all the time, so I actually kind of like Agari as a whole.
Unfortunately she is an exception rather than the norm on that front. Koyori is the newcomer prodigy in the club who jumps straight to the top of the rankings right after joining. She is very shy, gets embarrassed easily, and is kind of hopeless at anything other than table tennis, but that is where she truly shines. The problem is that she shines way too much... and in the wrong way. Honestly, Koyori feels too much like a battle shounen protagonist to me, as her special "ability" is awfully close to nakama power in my eyes. Essentially she magically powers up from "having fun" when playing the game (more on that later), which I think is really immersion-breaking and stupidly cliché. And as far as the supporting cast goes, it's somewhat bland across the board. There is Hokuto; the calculative girl who refers to everyone else by the colour of their panties, Munemune-senpai; who is literally named after her enormous tits, Hanabi; the energetic girl who goes >.< at any given moment, and Kirika; the club president who likes enforcing punishments onto everyone she defeats in a match. However, beyond these quirks, they are quite uninteresting as a whole. Probably the most interesting character in the show to me would ironically rather be Kururi, the ace player of the club from a different school that they play against in the second half of the anime. She is an interesting case of a borderline yandere, which is not exactly something commonly seen amongst moeblobs, at least outside of Higurashi.
Secondly... there is the somewhat awkward usage of blushing and fanservice. Do not get me wrong, I enjoy seeing red-faced moeblobs as much as the next guy, but Shakunetsu no Takkyuu Musume takes this concept way too far. Essentially, Koyori has this obsession of wanting to "feel her heart race" when playing games, which it seemingly does whenever she is playing a skilled opponent, and it is also the main source of her suddenly powering up as I mentioned before. Not only is this stupidly cliché and cringey to watch, but whenever she does this she also starts blushing so hard it looks like her cheeks is going to catch on fire. What are you so embarrassed about? All you are doing is playing a sport. Are you just blushing for the sake of blushing? It makes no sense at all, and only feels like the producers are trying way too hard to make the girls look cute. I often complain about how many anime tend to throw in ecchi fanservice shots in untimely situations where they simply do not fit in just for the sake of having them, and what Shakunetsu no Takkyuu Musume does here is effectively the same thing except with moe instead of ecchi. And it happens way too often for me to just ignore it, especially considering that Koyori actually infects Agari with this syndrome after a while so that she starts doing the same thing too, and so we are left with two tomatoes playing table tennis all of a sudden... which is really awkward to watch. As a side note to the above, this anime also has some other form of fanservice in the sense that these girls tend to sweat *a lot* when playing, turning their gym clothes rather transparent a lot of the time. However, this part actually does make sense unlike the needlessly excessive blushing and can also look pretty sexy, so I would consider it a plus point.
Thirdly, this is quite evidentially a rather low-budget production and it kind of shows in the animation. Considering that table tennis is a very fast-paced sport, you would also need some rather impressive animation in order to keep up with it, and unfortunately Shakunetsu no Takkyuu Musume generally does not. There are way too many still shots during the duels instead of fluid animation, which makes it a bit stiff to watch. Occasionally it looks really good though, with some really impressive sakuga usage momentarily, but these are sadly mere exceptions. I think the budget distribution per episode is probably a bit uneven, as some games seem to look a lot better than others. Also, I personally have a bit of a problem with the general character designs: for many of the girls it looks like their cheekbones are completely deformed with almost 90 degree bends in the middle somehow. For Agari this is particularly noticeable. But again these are only visual flaws and not anything major. There are also occasionally some annoying adaptation issues, such as the anime skipping entire sets from matches when playing other schools. Like why are these matches played as best-of-five if you do not have time to show it all anyway, instead of just letting it stay at best-of-three? Probably because it was like that in the original web manga and they did not want to change anything, but cutting it out is hardly a better option in my eyes.
So evidentially, there are quite a lot of things which could have been done better. However, all that being said, I still enjoyed Shakunetsu no Takkyuu Musume decently as a whole. Yes, there are numerous flaws, but beyond the aforementioned issues, I thought it was a pretty solid anime. Even though these problems certainly do drag it down, I would still put the show slightly above average. Seeing cute moe girls working their hardest to achieve their dreams is a quite beautiful sight, and the unusually competitive nature of the matches even within the club itself certainly helps in catching your interest because it makes even regular practice games feel important. Normally training arcs tend to often feel like fillers in sports anime in my experience, but here the girls are competing just as much within the clubroom as outside it, which is a quite refreshing experience. All-in-all, what you have is an anime which probably will not leave much of a lasting impression, but for a mere 12-episode moeblob show you can do a hell of a lot worse. Though it really needs a continuation because the way this season ended was not exactly very conclusive.
PS: For whatever reason, Crunchyroll's subs for this particular anime were generally quite sub-par by their standards. Unfortunately I have not seen any other group pick it up yet at the time of writing this, but I hope someone does in the future, because the anime probably deserves it.