When I started watching Ping Pong Club, I didn’t expect very much from it. If I’m honest, all I wanted was a sneaky giggle and some crude fun. What I got was all of the crude, none of the entertainment, and about as many laughs as you’d find at a clown’s funeral. Actually, I take that back; the latter would provide many more opportunities for amusement than this monstrosity of a series.
The show focuses on the antics of the Ina Middle School’s male ping-pong club. When they face closure, they must win the district tournament in order for their club to escape abolishment. Unfortunately the majority of the members consist of perverted slackers, who have little to no interest in actually playing the sport. In a desperate bid to get them to practice, a new female manager, Kiyoko, arrives and offers a month-long pervert pass to whoever performs best at the competition. Unfortunately, after less than a third of the way into the series, the district tournament has finished, and with it goes the show’s only real attempt at including any form of plot.
Ping Pong Club simply offers an outlet to showcase the deranged activities of the club’s members, occasionally throwing in the threat of the girl’s team taking over their clubroom to give the pretence of an actual storyline. I can excuse the absence of plot to some extent, but the lack of humour is the series’ most detrimental downfall. Though I am the first to admit that comedy is purely subjective, I had at least hoped that in twenty-six episodes, my lips would at least threaten to curve into a half-hearted smile. Alas, even the barely smirk-worthy jokes, such as Maeno’s ‘Protruding Pecker Serve’, soon become relegated to the realms of the bloody annoying with the show’s excessive repetition. Now I like a good knob joke, but after seeing Maeno’s wiener peering out from his shorts the first couple of times, the subsequent hundred occasions on which the series seems to re-use this gag merely provides employment for out of work tumbleweeds.
In a desperate bid to find something nice to say about this god-awful series, I will concede that the visual style perfectly suits the content – both are cheap, crude and nasty. The more normal cast members look like stock characters hastily grabbed from a bin of mediocre design that no one really cares about nor notices. On the other side of the paddle there are the ‘zany’ cast members, whose grotesque appearance had me reaching for the sick bag on more than one occasion. The worst offender is Maeno – the most hideously unattractive character that I’ve ever witnessed. However, kudos goes to the naked old age pensioner who gets her wrinkly boobs stuck in a shower drain for forcibly burning such an horrific image into my retinas for life. Building upon this visual rape, Ping Pong Club fails to display any smooth movement, and instead relies upon an abundance of panning shots, presumably in the hope that the poor animation quality will go unnoticed.
I find that in any comedy series, the soundtrack is the key to making a humorous situation completely riotous. Regrettably the cheesy score only makes a weak attempt at enhancing the comedy and thus not only fails its purpose, but also becomes incredibly annoying at the same time. Ultimately both the music and voice acting offer nothing particularly worthy of mention – let alone praise – and may as well be forgotten.
Ping Pong Club boasts the most incredibly terrible cast that has ever managed to ooze its way onto my screen. The majority of the characters fall into the category of ‘one-trick ponies’, where each person receives a single measly personality trait, which results in tiring and endless running gags. For example, Tanabe’s presence would be insignificant if not for his horrendous body odour. While fun to point and snigger the first time his odious stench causes someone to pass out, the joke soon wears thin, and the realisation that his personality has no substance whatsoever quickly becomes apparent.
The characters fortunate enough to avoid the ‘one-trick pony’ trap, inevitably suffer from their own pitfalls. Takeda, as the most insipidly normal member of the series, manages to excite less than the dusty ping-pong balls that lurk in the corner of the clubroom. Maeno and Izawa's outrageous double-act antics provide the majority of the show's 'entertainment' – and believe me, I use that word very loosely – but their wacky personalities are unable to compensate for the weaknesses of the others. Against all my hopes to the contrary, Ping Pong Club exhibits a complete lack of character development and subsequently mocks me for being so foolish as to expect any kind of redemption from it. While the show feebly attempts once or twice to develop its cast of immature and crude idiots, it instead manages to once again fail. By the end the same pack of annoying, pathetic buffoons awaits.
The biggest joke of the entire series was that I actually continued to watch it until its inevitably pointless conclusion. I had hoped that it might get better – it didn’t. I thought maybe there might have been some twist at the end to make trudging through the twenty-six mind-numbing episodes worth it – there wasn’t. Ping Pong Club certainly proves that simply pushing the boundaries of tastelessness with its crude humour does not immediately equal good comedy – or, in this particular case, any at all.
At Ina Middle School, the boys’ Ping Pong Club is seen as more of a joking matter than something worth the school's budget. It doesn't help that they are constantly being outdone by the girls' team and their fiery-tempered coach, as well the fact that most of the boys on the team care more about their ding dongs than their ping pongs! In a desperate attempt to motivate the team, the boys' coach introduces a hot-bodied female manager, who might just bring a sexual tension to the team that could work to their advantage. But can these hopeless boys improve their game enough to emerge victorious at the upcoming tournament and win the prize she's willing to give?
While I like a variety of different genres, if you give me comedy or slice of life, I'm bound to be happy – and if it's dark humour, all the better! I'll review whatever takes my fancy at the time, and whether you agree or disagree with my opinions, feel free to drop me a line.