Shakunetsu no Takkyuu Musume First Impressions
“You really are good, Koyori-chan. I heard from one of the teachers that you were a prefectural finalist at your previous school.”
Sports anime and the moe aesthetic seem like an odd combination. I can envision instances where this combo makes sense, but ping pong wouldn’t be at the top of the list. Moe is usually implemented in calm, often slice-of-life, scenarios that are primarily character driven. Sports anime has some similarities in that the overlying plot is baked into the very premise. You have conflict in the guise of tournaments, and you have rivals against which our protagonists compete. Because these elements are so easy to establish, sports anime generally get to devote most of their focus to the character drama at the core in much the same way as most Moe series. However, the element that makes ping pong seem like an odd sport to construct a Moe-styled anime around is its sense of kinetic movement. I know I’m focusing a lot on Shakunetsu no Takkyuu Musume’s artistic styling, but it’s an element that I felt was at odds with the surrounding story. Luckily, while this episode hardly knocks it out of the park (That’s a ping pong metaphor, right?), it’s pleasant and entertaining enough to warrant a look even if it stumbles a bit along the way.
The plot of Shakunetsu no Takkyuu Musume a.k.a. Scorching Ping Pong Girls’s first episode centers around Agari Kamiya, the second year ace of her school’s table tennis club, as she introduces a new transfer student to the environment. The back and forth between her and the transfer student, Komori Tsumujikaze, serves as one of the stronger elements of the episode, as Komori is amusingly shy, but, also, clearly talented. Komori doesn’t actually show up until about eight minutes in, however, and the humor prior to her appearance didn’t work particularly well for me. There are a couple jokes regarding the size of an upperclassman’s bust, and a weird Scrubs-style aside where Agari likens the affections she receives as the team’s ace to being an idol. Thankfully, once Komori is introduced, her timid nature gives the other characters something to work off of, and, much to my surprise, even the jokes about the upperclassman’s breasts come back in a way that actually made me chuckle slightly. The comedy is never great, but it at least becomes passable in the second half.
The dramatic focus would appear to be on Agari coming to grips with a new talent arriving on the scene and making her seem less special. It’s a factor that isn’t handled subtly, since both Agari’s pridefulness and Komori’s capabilities are made quite apparent. It also doesn’t help that another anime focusing on table tennis, Ping Pong the Animation, used its narrative to deliver a thoughtful treatise on the nature of talent just two years ago. It’s a little early to call it, but I think it’s fair to assume Shakunetsu no Takkyuu Musume is probably no Ping Pong the Animation. It may end up being good, but I very much doubt it will be THAT good. The artistic style, which I early referred to simply as Moe, falls closer to the style of shows like Nichijou and Lucky Star than more detailed works like Clannad or K-On. To be perfectly honest, it didn’t impress me all that much. There are some decent shots during ping pong matches, but, even then, it never seemed like anything exceptional.
Before I wrap up, a few Notes and Nitpicks:
- While I’m only mildly positive when it comes to the show, at this point, I do still want to applaud it for having an entirely female cast. I brought this up last season when talking about Cheer Boys!! on the anime podcast, but sports anime is a genre starved for good female characters and it’s nice to see a series attempting to add to that limited roster.
- As far as good female characters from sports anime are concerned, I like Chihaya from Chihayafuru (Though, that might be stretching the definition of “sports.”), Natsu from Baby Steps!, and…. I don’t know… maybe, Aoba from Cross Game? I think I’ve already run out of characters.
- Seriously, what was the point of that whole ‘I’m an idol of the school, but with ping pong,’ fantasy? You could maybe argue that it was to convey Agari’s underlying arrogance, but the show hadn’t exactly been subtle with that prior to that peculiar aside.
Shakunetsu no Takkyuu Musume isn't likely to blow anyone away with its first episode, but there is nothing terrible about it either. Even if the comedy sometimes falls flat and the narrative has yet to set itself apart from the crowd, there is enough charm here in the character interactions to justify taking a look.