Author: Taiyō Matsumoto
Publisher: Locus Publishing
‘Talent is something that can be discovered but not sought.’
April is a crucial month for table tennis – The Asian Cup will kick off in Yokohama, Japan at the beginning of this month, and the biennial World Championships will be staged in Budapest, Hungary, in late April. The two table tennis superpowers, China and Japan, are bound to end up in fierce competition.
The table tennis encounters between China and Japan are described in manga form as well. In this issue, we’re going to introduce Ping Pong by Taiyō Matsumoto, a highly rated Japanese manga that people still talk about some 20 years after it was first published. In 2002, it was adapted into a live-action film followed by an anime series produced subsequently in 2014.
Ping Pong focuses on two talented year-one students with drastically different personalities, who are members of the table tennis club at Katase High School. One of the main characters is cocky and loud while the other is reserved and quiet. They eventually encounter a young player named Kong Wenge (apparently adapted from renowned Chinese players Kong Linghui and Ma Wenge), who was kicked off the Chinese national team and then moved to Japan. The story begins as the characters prepare for the national championships together with elite players from several other high school teams.
Among Hong Kong fans, Tekkonkinkreet is Taiyō Matsumoto’s most popular manga. His debut work Straight is also a sports manga focusing on baseball. According to sources, Matsumoto personally visited national championship tournaments and sought professional advice and expertise from table tennis pros in order to produce Ping Pong. This is yet another example demonstrating the conscientiousness of Japanese manga artists in information collection and research.
Ping Pong’s soft drawing style is not particularly mainstream and some people may even think that this manga is not appealing to the eye, but there is no denying that Taiyō Matsumoto’s drawing style is unique and impressive. This work is still a sports manga classic not to be missed.