Marunouchi Gaku has come back to Japan after being away for 10 years. He reunites with his childhood sweetheart, Tamano Kako. However, before they can date, Gaku must defeat Kako in a game of Takkoku. The problem is though, Kako is the #1 Takkoku player in Japan and she doesn't know how to go easy.
I believe in the sentiment of "grading relatively." By that I mean, I grade from the perspective of what audience would enjoy it. I would recommend things like Cage of Eden to Attack on Titan fans but I wouldn't recommend Cage of Eden to Nichijou fans. This is because manga is not a genre, but a medium.
So I will just come out and say here... as a slapstick, outrageous comedy manga with a romantic backdrop, Takkoku is the cream of the crop, and anybody looking for that should read it immediately.
Not recommended for ping pong fans, though they might get a kick out of it.
Although this manga is listed in "sports" because ping pong is the central point, I need to stress that Takkoku is as much about sports as Cowboy Bebop is about spaceships. Unlike Eyeshield 21 or Slam Dunk, you will not learn ANYTHING about the rules of ping pong. Characters use techniques like lighting themselves with electricity or controlling the ping pong ball with their mind, and especially ridiculous techniques that I refuse to spoil for you.
Also, you won't find a layered romance. The main romance is pre established and they are already so madly in love that the MC would bite off his tongue and kill himself if he lost her in a match. But what IS there is adorable and motivational, and you might even find yourself rooting for characters despite how the manga refuses to take itself seriously.
Now then... time to actually review it!
Now, the premise "the prime minister issued a law where the only way to start a relationship with someone was to win a ping pong match against them" is so downright different and unbelievable, that it is in turn the reason I started reading it. As you can imagine, this is a massive gimmick. A few chapters in, I wondered if it was really worth reading, or if the premise was the only reason I had read that far and everything else was piggybacking on that (that has happened with a lot of crappy ecchi plots, like Girls Bravo) but Takkoku!!!'s charm really shines through. What we have are ridiculous battles every other few chapters with equally ridiculous solutions, that are in a way smart as well. Its entertaining! And the crazy solutions are things that I would never expect nor could I think of them myself, which is something impressive. The main overreaching plot itself is actually good and surprisingly thought out, I found myself cursing every time a chapter ended and I was eager to find out what happened next rather than await every crazy battle.
The art isn't going to win any awards any time soon, but it fits perfectly and there is never a face off model (unless explicit) The artist ALWAYS has a new face to show off unlike Dragon Ball or Love Hina where it seems every panel is taken from some sheet of expressions the artist keeps around. Character designs sometimes seems like try hard attempts though. Nothing in the ping pong games look realistic, but maybe that's a good thing. The manga is never short of detail though, the artist never stops to draw every crowd or skid line so we know whats going on. And the characters he draws are so cute holy crap
This is probably the lacking part. Sure, I didn't expect (nor want) to see multi-layered, complex characters or a lack of archetypes, because again, this is comedy manga. It actually excels most when parodying common character tropes. Rather, none of the comedy comes naturally from the characters themselves, which isn't a good thing. It all comes from the absurdity of the situation itself, or the interactions. My largest complaint is that half the unique characters the MC faces in the "monster of the week" fashion almost never appear again aside from maybe a one liner or two. Which is a shame, because some of your favorite ones may be among them.
Definitely the strong suit, you will never find yourself bored while reading this. Every episodic battle is enticing and despite seemingly being gimmicky at first, it manages to keep itself up and never performs the same joke twice. It also avoids old tropes like nosebleed and takes others like love rivals and fiances and spins it in it's own clever over the top way. Sometimes just how unorthodox it is in general is enough to keep it going. Also, absolutely NO FANSERVICE