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Archive for April 20th, 2012

Ping Pong (2002)

Hoshino and Tsukimoto are two friends who just happen to be the best table tennis players at their high school. Hoshino nickamed Peco is a brash and cocky player who loves the attention, plays to the crowd and hogs the limelight whenever possible which is in complete contrast to his friend Tsukimoto whose nickname is Smile because he rarely smiles. Peco has only seen his friend smile just once but he can’t remember when that was as it’s such a long time ago. Peco wants to be the world table tennis champion in the future but is kinda lazy about training and practising – he assumes his natural talent will pull him through any match. Smile on the other hand doesn’t really care about table tennis. It was Peco who rescued him from some bullies when he was younger and introduced him to table tennis. Smile has enormous talent and is technically better than Peco but he refuses to turn it on when he’s facing Peco as he doesn’t want to betray his friend plus he sees Peco as a kind of hero to him. He’s very loyal to Peco. Basically Smile only wins when he feel like he wants to win. Peco’s world is about to come crashing down as he’s humbled badly in an inter-school competition match. Smile shows the kind of raw talent he has against an opponent but once again gives up the match when he hears that his opponent would be fired from his team. He doesn’t want the guy to be humiliated. Peco’s confidence is totally shattered after his match and he quits the game. Seeing that his closest friend is better than him, he dissolves his friendship with Smile. The table tennis coach recognises Smile’s potential and after Smile loses his bet to the coach, he starts to train him. Smile learns how to become a proper player. Peco meanwhile is content to do nothing except play video games but after an epiphany of sorts and a talk with his grandmother we see Peco regaining his mojo to give table tennis another go. The stage is set for them to face each other in the final of a table tennis tournament but who will come out on top between the two?

I’d heard good things about this movie and it didn’t disappoint me one bit. It was really good. Whilst the premise of the movie might make you think it’s all about table tennis and the competition – it goes beyond that, in reality it’s more about a study in friendship. You might also argue that the story is about finding onself – that a ‘hero’ lies in each and every one of us. It just needs someone to give us that extra push to get the hero inside us out into the open. The movie has got a little bit of comedy, the story is ace and never gets boring, the table tennis matches are exciting and fast and the two actors who play the lead characters (Yosuke Kubozuka and Arata) bounce off each other well and have great on screen chemistry. Two friends who are complete opposites of each other but both want something that the other has – Peco wants Smile’s natural talent and Smile would like to be more care-free like Peco. I’ve liked watching the actor Naota Takenaka in other movies and he gives a wonderful performance as Smile’s coach ‘Butterfly’ Joe who can relate to Smile and the way he is as he was the same when he was younger.

I expected the table tennis matches to have some kind of ridiculous OTT CG effects much like The Prince of Tennis movie but thankfully director Fumihiko Sori keeps them to a minimum and subtle enough which I thought was good as too many effects could have distracted the viewer away from the story itself. I also like the fact that there are no real villains at all in the movie – even the players from the other school such as the champion Kazama who sees each match as a matter of life and death isn’t that bad of a person. In fact we see his attitude changing near the climax when he begins to realise that he should be enjoying playing his matches especially against somebody like Peco.

Overall, I thought Ping Pong was fantastic and have no hesitation in recommending this unique tale.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.

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