Thursday, December 4, 2008

Ping Pong: More Matsumoto manga must, um, migrate

A movie review!  But first some links; god knows I love my links:

This manga story in which the author (a sort of right-wing Japanese political commentator) defends whaling is crazy and hilarious.  My favorite part was when he told the story about being kept up all night by a humping dog.  I have no idea what that was all about.

Dean Haspiel's "Fear, My Dear", the second part of his "Billy Dogma" trilogy, is complete and up for reading at Act-I-Vate.  I'll have to try to read and review it when I get the chance, since I loved the first part, "Immortal".

I'll recommend most anything by Jack Kirby, so be sure to check out this awesome-looking story at Fortress of Fortitude.  It's called "Toxl the World-Killer", from (I believe) an early-70s issue of Weird Mystery

And finally, Pappy's Golden Age Comics Blogzine has a sweet "The Spirit in Space" story by Wally Wood (and also a Spanish translation of an Eisner Spirit story).  Kick ass. 

Ping Pong
Directed by Fumihiko Sori
Japan, 2002

I can definitely say, seeing this movie really makes me want to read the Taiyo Matsumoto manga series upon which it was based.  I can just see his version of the story in my mind, full of elongated limbs swinging paddles and faces contorted in the agonizing bliss of athletic combat.  God, I bet it's a great read.  Somebody publish it in the U.S., please.  But in the meantime, this live-action version is a decent substitute, filling the screen with entertaining drama and fun sports action.  I dug it.

It's a more Japanese take on the sports genre than you usually see in sports movies, focusing on elements like honor and friendship.  It helps that the sport is an individual one rather than team-based; this removes those elements of working together and maintaining team spirit and whatnot, allowing the characters to internalize their conflicts before exploding with action at the ping pong table.  You've got two main characters: Smile (so named because he never does), who is serious and nonconfrontational, often losing on purpose so as to not humiliate his opponents; and Peco, his opposite, who is loud and obnoxious, prone to trash-talking and constant self-aggrandizement.  They've been friends every since the latter kept the former from being bullied as a child and then taught him about the pinging and the ponging.  But now that they're both in high school, they're members of the Ping Pong Club and often at odds with each other, their coach, their fellow members, and their opponents.  It's an endearing mix of characters, and it makes for some fun, dramatic storytelling.

Of course, this being of Japanese origin, the drama gets cranked up to maximum, with characters giving up the game, returning dramatically, making life-altering decisions, having angsty confrontations, musing on ping-pong-based life philosophies, and just generally making everything entertaining for the audience.  It's a damn good two hours, especially with the stylish depictions of the sport itself.

So yeah, I give it a recommendation, but what I really want is to read the source material.  With more space to flesh out the characters and their dramatic relationships, not to mention what I expect are some beautifully kinetic depictions of the games, it's gotta be excellent.  Somebody get right on that for me, okay?

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