Ping Pong Girl is a show about middle school girls playing table tennis; and believe it or not the focus is more on table tennis than on moe-kyunkyun outings, so far at least.
Koyori is the new transfer student and she’s a timid shy girl who gets scared whenever more than two people surround her, or when she sees big chests. Meanwhile, the club’s ace, Agari, is an attention seeker through and through. The first two episodes introduce these two girls along with the other three top players of this junior high school.
Koyori makes her entry in a weird way. Upon reaching the school gates, Agari sees a red-haired pigtail girl sitting on the gate unable to get down. Koyori has been shown as a rather awkward girl who is not good with crowds, or anything else if one goes by her looks. At first sight, this appears to be a typical story about an amateur growing to become some sort of legendary table tennis player. But Koyori turns into a different person once she starts playing ping pong. She surprises Agari during a casual match shortly after their meeting. She then proceeds to defeat all the first year players in the club while Agari was too busy showing off during an interview.
She’s an attention seeker whose sole reason for playing is to become the greatest ever and be showered with praise. Things start looking grim for Agari’s position as the team ace when Koyori defeats Munemune, a senpai who is, or rather was, the fourth best player in the club. This is when we see that Ping Pong Girl is a show about table tennis first and foremost.
Munemune is an aggressive player whose specialty is her deadly smashes. Returning her smashes is pretty difficult because they come unexpectedly and are, of course, super fast. Koyori seems to be having some trouble and starts losing points without scoring any, as opposed to her straight wins against the first years earlier. Koyori shows herself as able to adapt to anyone’s playing style. Soon enough, she finds a way to victory. She starts making Munemune run, preventing her from getting into a favorable smashing position. And given her bulky build (read: her ginormous breasts) she has trouble keeping up with Koyori’s game, losing as a result.
Koyori’s next game is against the third ranked Hokuto who turns out to be a master of spinning the ball. She catches opponents by surprise, leaving them frustrated when they mess up their returns. There’s some focus on the serve: Hokuto’s forces the returns to go in weird directions. This control over the serve allows her to spin the ball the way she wants, surprising Koyori each time.
And as is her style, Koyori finds out how to counter these annoying spins. She starts speeding up the game and doesn’t give Hokuto enough time to think. Lack of time leads to poor decision-making: she chooses the wrong spins and places her hits poorly. This lack of control over the opponents’ returns also destroys another part of her game: the reliance on short rallies. Hokuto’s style means her games are short, and as such she’s no expert in long rallies. And as Koyori forces her into these, she manages to catch up and eventually wins the game.
Koyori’s third big game is against the second ranked Hibari. But unlike her previous two big games, this one doesn’t get much focus, which is a disappointment. It is quite understandable though since Hibari’s style is simply speeding up the game with her super fast drives. There isn’t much for Koyori to counter here and the only way to win is to match Hibari’s speed and eventually overtake her. It’s still a disappointment because apart from a couple of small rallies they don’t show much of her game and instead focus on Agari and her troubles, which so happen to be the second thing these two episodes focus on.
As mentioned before, Agari is an attention seeker who plays to get attention and praise from others. Koyori defeating all the lower ranked girls means trouble for her spot. Agari is conflicted: she doesn’t want to scare Koyori away or stop her from playing just because she’s better, but at the same time she doesn’t want to relinquish her spot as the team’s ace. She starts avoiding Koyori but then soon realizes that there’s no running away, and that she will have to face her. She starts some extra training to perfect her backhand which is more accurate than her forehand in spite of its lesser strentgh. What her specialty really is we’ll have to see, but based on how their casual match was turning out, we can hope for an exciting encounter.
As opposed to Agari who plays to win, Koyori is here solely for the love of the game. She just wants to have some fun. All those who play her also start having fun regardless of the outcome of their match. And this match between Agari and Koyori will let the former experience feelings she never had before with regards to her sport. Agari’s reason for playing table tennis might change after this match.
Ping Pong Girl isn’t anything like an extraordinary story. Only Agari and Koyori have been somewhat interesting characters. The others haven’t gotten much characterization, and it doesn’t really look like they will in the future either. The humour isn’t consistent: while some jokes are good, they sometimes fall flat. The artwork isn’t stellar and takes shortcuts with some still frames during the matches. Yet, in between that laziness there is some very good animation, and having more of it would be ideal. But the simple fact that there is so much focus on table tennis (so far at least) and the excitement provided by the realistically presented matches may just be this series’ saving grace.
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