For these last few months, I can’t watch movie in front of my computer patiently without fast forwarding. However, this 2002 Japan sports movie succeed glue me to my seat and made me able to fight the urge to fast forwarding because, IMHO, the movie has a unique way to make us wonder, what will happen to both of the main characters. And, what is the name of the movie? Simple: Ping Pong.
Childhood friends, Hoshino a.k.a. Peco (Yosuke Kubozuka) and Tsukimoto a.k.a. Smile (ARATA), are Katase High School table tennis players. Peco looks strong as an attack-type player and dreams to be a world champion, but never practice seriously. In the other hand, Smile who is a chopper, is also never practice seriously because he thought that table tennis is only for killing time. Smile always looks up to Peco while Peco is enjoying his winning on weaker players.
However, Smile’s real talent has gained attention from Katase High’s coach – Butterfly Joe (Naoto Takenaka) and skillful players like Kong (or China, played by Sam Lee) and the undefeated Kazama (or Dragon, played by Shido Nakamura). All of them has similar opinion: Smile has a bad habit. He plays to lose, especially to Peco. Soon, Smile eventually reveals his true skill, while Peco finds himself as a loser…
It is hard to write good synopsis about the movie without spoiling the “mystery”. I hope I didn’t spoil too much. ^^ Okay, first, do not believe that this movie is a comedy. Nope. If you think that this is a comedy who will make you laugh hard, then this is not for you. In this movie, Peco’s comical expression is not always meant to create laughter. IMHO, it is more like a tool to describe Peco’s childlike and happy-go-lucky nature: contrast to Smile’s aloof attitude.
Ping Pong is more like a human drama which discover the feelings of a competitor towards a competition with feel-good scenes to make you smile. What made me love this movie is how the main theme of the story is revealed (at least for me) by letting the audiences discover the truth behind Smile’s action and closing it with a beautiful conclusion (again, at least for me 🙂 ).
My favorite scene is Smile’s smile when he “greeted” his hero. I won’t spoil anything or post a picture of it because it is better for you to wait patiently for the smile to come. 🙂
And yeah, my favorite character is Smile. ARATA has a great job in delivering what Smile feels. His flat expression while dribbling the ball with his paddle while fighting Kong is one of intense scenes in the movie.
But to tell you the truth, I’m rooting Smile to lose if he ever played against Peco. Haha, weird, eh? It is because, even though Peco looks childish, I just can’t hate him. Btw, Kubozuka looks so different here: he brushed off his handsome façade and become the energetic Peco.
Ideas and Story Development: 4*
I’ve seen few movies/doramas about soccer, basketball, baseball… But ping-pong? That makes this movie looks fresh on me. The movie is also has a unique approach about describing sport competition by revealing different sides of the competitors instead of focusing to a main character that just want to win a game.
Cast and Characters: 4,5*
Every character is strong and has his/her own role to drive the story, even Ota and his two fellows, or even the “poor young guy” who played against Kong in first game. By comparing it to the original manga, I think Fumihiko Sori -the director- succeed to cut many characters while effectively distributed their role to other characters that appear in the movie. My little objection is how Peco has to be that “arrogant” when fighting Kazama. He’s succeed in making me mad, like Kazama did. LOL.
Music and Sounds: 4*
At the first 30 minutes of the movie, I even didn’t realize that there are BGMs there. Hehe. I only realized that there is music when Smile played against Kong. There are four notable vocal songs that I like: three of them are from SUPERCAR (Strobolights, Feel Your Soul, and ending song: Yumegiwa Last Boy) and the other is from Sugar Plant with “Rise” (the one that is played when Smile is running away from his coach and Peco with Sakuma/Demon (Koji Ookura) have chit chat at the bridge). The songs are coool…
I think most (if not all of them) of the ball movement is CG works. Since the ball is small and the movement is fast, the CG blends with the movie well. There are slow motion scenes when the characters plays ping-pong and I noted that many of their movements seemed repetitive. But, since I don’t know much about variation of ping-pong moves, I don’t mind at all, hehe.
Opening and Ending: 4*
The opening is making me, “Hm… what?” But, somehow, glued me into my seat. This movie may be slow for you, but it is enough to know the characters. After Kong’s revealed Smile’s bad habit, the story pick up its pace. The ending, IMHO, is one of the best “feel-good movie” ending that mix perfectly with its theme song.
Final Score: 4*
5,0 = Definitely must see!
4,0 – 4,9 = Highly recommended
3,0 – 3,9 = Interesting enough. Try to see it.
2,0 – 2,9 = Try it if you had nothing else to do 😀
1,0 – 1,9 = Zzzzz…
Ping Pong is no way mine. All pictures captured and presented here by dhitzunako for illustration only. No copyrights infringement is intended.