Sports Anime is something of a blind spot in my viewing habits. A lot of the top shows of the past few years (Kuroko’s Basketball, Haikyu, Yowamushi Petal) are on my to-watch list, and a few other shows (Giant Killing, Free, Princess Nine) I’ve never gotten around to finishing. So on a recommendation I decided to sit down and watch Scorching Ping-Pong Girls, on the one hand I found it an enjoyable and brisk watch – but on the other, it left me hanging.
Scorching Ping-Pong Girls follows the Table Tennis club of Suzumegahara Municipal Junior High, which appears to be a girls-only school, as they attempt to build up the club and put on a serious challenge for Nationals before the current crop of Seniors graduates. In particular, a big part of their hopes comes with a new transfer student, Koyori Tsumujikaze, who is a gifted, though very shy, Table Tennis player, who has a knack of firing up her team-mates and her opponents (in the latter case in a way that knocks them off balance).
And, in a lot of respects, that’s the show. I don’t necessarily mean that as a minus. It’s a kind of deliberately formulaic show. That’s not a strike against it – in sports anime that’s something to a degree you expect. The question is how do you present that formula, and as the show goes on, how do you play with it and make it your own.
This ultimately leads to Scorching Ping-Pong Girls‘s greatest weakness – its length. This is a show that is one cour long. It lasts just long enough to have a tournament within the club that establishes everyone’s skill, a second match against another school as a friendly preseason bout, and a training retreat, before the show ends as we come to the first major tournament. In short, this is an anime with a “Read the Manga ending”. As the manga hasn’t gotten an official release and the show only has received the one series, this is rather frustrating.
Additionally, the animation is something of a mixed bag. When it’s on, it’s on. It depicts the Ping-Pong matches with a degree of style and energy that can be equal to something like Hajime No Ippo/Fighting Spirit. You get a sense of power in the hits, and a sense of the effort involved in the match with how the matches are animated – especially with how the characters get utterly drenched in sweat by the end of each match – to the point that I am utterly shocked that they didn’t take the opportunity to slip some fan service in through shower scenes after each match, just because how sweaty everyone looks. That’s not actually a bad thing, by the way – it’s easy when looking at Table Tennis, even with actual people, to under-estimate the amount of physical effort involved in the game.
However, there are points towards some middle matches where the quality of the matches just kind of slides downhill, as if these cuts weren’t the ones that the animators were really invested in – and that the ones they really wanted to draw were the turning point matches for each arc.
In all, I really enjoyed Scorching Ping-Pong Girls, and the action generally kept me hooked, but that made the ending of the series something of a let down. It’s a read-the-manga-ending for an anime that I don’t have access for the manga for (legally). Presumably I could find it through *ahem* other means, but that’s not something I feel I can recommend.
I certainly can recommend checking out the anime, but you should keep under consideration the kind of ending it has. As of this writing, the anime is currently available on Crunchyroll and has yet to receive a DVD or Blu-Ray release.