The film traces the growth and friendship of two very different high-school ping-pong players. "Peco" Hoshino is a brash, arrogant player, determined to turn pro. He taught his quiet, nerdy...
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The film traces the growth and friendship of two very different high-school ping-pong players. "Peco" Hoshino is a brash, arrogant player, determined to turn pro. He taught his quiet, nerdy childhood friend "Smile" Tsukimoto. Smile frustrates his coach and rivals, who recognize his talent for the game since it is just a game to him. To teach him, his high-school coach learns that coaching is more than just training the students to be good ping-pong players. Ironically, as Smile begins to develop his game, Peco undergoes a severe crisis after his defeat by rival players and is unable to play well until he rediscovers the original reasons why he plays ping-pong.Written by
There's a lot of great stuff coming from Japan these days and it's not on horror flicks about stylized spirits and discordant ghostly sounds. "Ping Pong" has something and it captures a feel that many people I know who have visited Japan felt on first viewing "Lost In Translation". It looks like Tokyo and it looks like hyper-real Tokyo at the same time.
But this is a very, very different story from "Lost In Translation". Based on a manga, this is a surreal and existential and neo-Zen comedy about the competitive world of young ping pong players in modern Japan. Peco and Smile are two players who have been friends since their youth. Peco (Yosuke Kubozuka of "Go" and "Tomie: Replay") is the brash and outrageous champion who crushes all opponents while rubbing their face in it. Smile (Arata from "Afterlife") is the better player (he's called Smile because he never does - Excellent!) but isn't especially interested and often loses on purpose to Peco out of some sort of loyalty. Not only does this anger his coach (a former ping pong star) but it gives Peco a further inflated ego.
During an inter-school competition, both are defeated. Peco loses to the champ of the disciplinarian, militaristic school of skinheads named Dragon (newcomer Shido Nakamura). Smile loses to China (Sam Lee of "Gen-X Cops" and "Public Toilet"), so named, as that's where he is a pro and he's just in Japan to kick start his career (sort of like when a ball player gets sent back down to the minors for a tune-up). Needless to say, the rest of the movie involves the two needing to pick themselves up off the floor solving the inequities of their friendship along the way. And of course, it all is heading back to a great rematch.
This is a lot of fun as the competitions are startling in their originality and quite beautiful at times. There are some amazing epiphanies from one character re-christening himself in a river, one of the skinheads getting his due and when Dragon learns to play ping pong completely for pleasure.
I'll also say this; the soundtrack is amazing. I don't know who any of these groups are. They're all Japanese. But we were all jumping up and down to the music the first time we saw it. If you have an all-region DVD player, I would suggest you get the Japanese disc as it comes with a feature where you can watch the whole movie with just the music soundtrack.
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