Ping Pong Dash!
卓球Dash!! (Takkyuu Dash!!)
Shounen – Action, comedy, drama, sports, romance
15 Volumes (complete)
Media Do (Akita Publishing)
Haruku, a delinquent, is in a bad mood after he travels all the way to Tokyo to see the girl he likes and is turned away. But his mood turns even more sour when a rival leader destroys a can of his favorite coffee. Still worse yet, he meets Sawa, a girl the total opposite of Haruku’s ideal, and to top it all of, she kicks him! He decides to get revenge by taking her on in her preferred sport: table tennis!
I was excited to read Ping Pong Dash! in full — did it live up to my hype?
Ushiku Burai School in Ibaraki Prefecture has a very high amount of yankee students. (Think Yu Yu Hakusho or Kenka Bancho.) We meet Haruku, a former country boy who was just dumped by a girl. As he’s sulking, one of his gang members gives him a can of coffee to
shut him up ease his anger, but another delinquent ruins the can before he is able to drink it. Haruku knocks him and his gang down in revenge, inadvertently saving a boy from the school’s ping pong club. Just then, a transfer student arrives on the scene, and she inadvertently presses all of Haruku’s buttons by being a stylish Tokyo chick, not knowing where his beloved Max Coffee originated from, and mispronouncing Ibaraki. When she sees blood and guys down, she assumes Haruku is a bully and hits him right in the ping pong, if you know what I mean.
Haruku is super angry, especially when the thug he knocked down earlier snaps a photo of it. So he decides to take the girl, Sawa, down by defeating her in her beloved ping pong. After he inadvertently walks into the girls’ changing room, Sawa is even more disgusted with Haruku, and she accepts. Long story short, Haruku couldn’t even score a single point, even when he tried to cheat. His friends expect him to be even more enraged, but Sawa’s passionate play and harsh words about him making a mockery of the sport make him fall in love with her instead! So he decides to play ping pong in order to be a man worthy of her affections.
Ping Pong Dash! is a sports manga, as we follow Haruku’s journey to be a better player than Sawa in order to win her over. This involves him learning the basics, developing named tricks, and trying to get enough members on the boys team, as the current lineup is just the stereotypical short, glasses-wearing, easily-bullied Junichi.
The girls team, however, is championship level and is led by an elite coach who is over 100 years old. But perhaps now that Haruku is interested in ping pong, his dream of seeing both teams at Uchiku Burai being #1 can come true?
… Well, that’s only if he manages to stay alive though, as the coach has a habit of collapsing and falling into a false death.
Yes, Ping Pong Dash! is very much an over-the-top comedy that even breaks the fourth wall at times. The sports aspect, as I will get into more later, is secondary to all the jokes. Haruku is very insistent that his favorite coffee should be considered the local specialty. Misaki, the captain I mentioned above, is constantly scrambling to stuff the coach’s soul back into his body. Another player, Himeka, has her own… unique appearance and a zest for love in her heart that’s bigger than her body. Yeah, let’s go with that. Plus, some of these high schoolers’ heights should be in the Guinness Book of World Records. When they were back in elementary school, they were probably like Bill Watkins from Spy x Family.
The author mentions the one major serious turning point in the manga corresponded with Ping Pong Dash! losing popularity. It’s no surprise since it’s the absurdity that grabs readers from the start, like Haruku’s debut image:
Haruku, as you might glean from his decorated ride above, becomes completely head-over-heels when he’s in love. After he crushes on Sawa, he’s full of goofy grins and set to charge in and defend her at any time, even when he’s sandwiched in a ping pong table and has to spiderwalk his way to her. A complete fool for love.
However, Haruku’s yankee history isn’t suddenly disregarded even though he aims to train in table tennis. Rather, that facet of his life becomes tightly bound with his pursuit of ping pong glory. Rivals assume that him joining the ping pong club has made him weak, and Haruku recruits some of his fellow gang members into the ping pong club. Yeah, you can bet other teams are astounded by this team who mostly look like delinquents! Anyway, due to a warning from Sawa, Haruku controls his temper, but while you can take the yankee out of the fight, you can’t take the fight out of the yankee.
Which goes back to the sports aspect. First of all, the manga is rather unique with the emphasis on the fact the girls team completely outshines the boys team. Technically, both genders are in the same club, so you see Sawa and other gals training and having practice matches against Haruku and the other guys. It isn’t until the aforementioned serious turning point in the story that there’s real separation between the two groups and the boys team gets their own coach. But in a genre where female characters are almost always restricted to the manager position, it’s great to see ladies who have skill and talent.
Of course, that being said, there are plenty of instances of fanservice here (Haruku at one point makes an observation that ace girls player Aoi’s normal garb, a bandeau top, is basically skimpier than a bra), and Himeka’s unconventionally attractive looks are often a punchline. That’s not to say the young men aren’t ever showing off their bodies or are all handsome, but some ecchi elements are included. That shouldn’t be surprising considering how often we see characters bruised and bloodied from an all-out street brawl though and the idea of bonding through physical altercations.
Anyway, Haruku does end up forming a full team, and they face some tough competition as they attempt to rise to the top. We see matches, named attacks, hallucinations/illusions to represent players’ skills, and borderline fantasy techniques. This should all be familiar to you if you’re read or watched other sports titles like The Prince of Tennis or Yowamushi Pedal. You could even say Ping Pong Dash! parodies the genre at times — a coffee-based special attack? A bonus mini-series where a female player tries to spread the joy of table tennis in a beauty contest and wears a game-inspired bikini? It all works because the manga was never meant to be taken seriously.
That being said, whether it’d be due to the creator’s inexperience as an author, too many plots vying for attention (yankee situation, boys team, girls team, Haruku’s crush on Sawa), or just because Ping Pong Dash! lost steam, this series fast-tracks the matches too much. Considering Haruku has 0 experience, even in a straightforward sports title, it would be hard to show a believable rise to the top for him without some extensive story developments.
Haruku’s goal is to beat Sawa, who is quickly established as a true phenom in the world of table tennis, so Haruku has to out-genius the genius. Sawa is considered a bit ditzy, but it’s more like she doesn’t read the air. Sawa senses Haruku has talent, and it was nice to see a love interest who wasn’t the overly stubborn, dishonest type. However, she leaves the manga for a good part of it, and Ping Pong Dash! never recovers once we learn why she’s good at the sport. For Haruku, this eventually causes him to become even more fired up to win, but I would have preferred her to stick around and not add a rather solid layer of drama to this lighthearted tale starring a cross between Yu Yu Hakusho‘s Kuwabara and Trigun‘s Vash.
Other key players in this series are Momo, who is basically Haruku’s right-hand-man in their gang, and Koshiro (more often referred to by his family name of Takatsuki), a former #3 player who transferred to chase after Sawa. Because of both of those aspects, Haruku views Takatsuki as his rival. These type of characters, who are portrayed as the protagonist’s opposite, tend to be serious, but Takatsuki also has his own goofy side. For instance, when he hears Haruku is dashing off after Sawa, so does Takatsuki… only, he’s still getting dressed.
But even in this abridged format where it ends in the regional championships instead of national, you still hit many of the usual sports story beats: a player confronting the past, someone considering themselves average trying to win, the cocky upstart, etc. But, again, the manga just fast forwards too much. Haruku searches for an incoming freshman to join the team, and he isn’t involved in a match until the end. It’s partly a gag, partly a story thing, but too much is rushed, and, even worse, skipped. It’s not like the ending leaves holes or you miss out on a key match (which has some great visual representations), but I wish the author had better planned out how many matches to include and what Haruku needs to do to win Sawa’s heart.
I still had a good time, and I just love Haruku’s passion and ridiculousness, but I just get the feeling this series would be so much sharper if Honda had made it later in his career. Of course, everyone starts off somewhere, but you can definitely see this manga’s limits. I would love a sequel set before the epilogue — and the bonus afterword which adds even more absurdity.
Ping Pong Dash seems to have been Honda’s first manga, and while I don’t know what he was doing in those six years between his first illustration and Ping Pong Dash‘s release, but dang, it’s almost too good for a first work. I mean, look how much effort he has to put into Haruku’s hair alone — and he’s not the only one with a pompadour! Honda also likes to include some… how should I put this delicately, a wide range of designs for his characters. Sawa may be the typical beautiful love interest, but the girls’ team captain is tall, and another is on the BBW side. The boys’ team includes a handsome guy and a shortie with glasses, and some of Haruku’s gang members are having difficulty scoring dates because they look 40-ish rather than in their teens, lol. Expect a lot of angry faces and violent acts, complete with shoving a box of cigarettes in the mouth, unleashing a devastating blow that spins the opponent, and swollen heads. This is balanced out by the manga’s humor, like Haruku going Sawa gaga or him demonstrating where he keeps his secret coffee stash. It’s just full of over-the-top violence and comedy.
Honorifics are used. Several footnotes are used to explain details like yankee and kappa. As you can tell from the title, ping pong is used as the name of the sport. That’s actually a brand name, but it’s one of those names that have become interchangeable with the generic term. Freshman is used for first-year. Typos like “I thought him” instead of “I taught him” and “techniqu 0with” instead of “technique with”. Some stilted dialogue like “same school grade as me” instead of “same grade”.
Note that one of Haruku’s goons named is romanized (as is typical) as “Yukichi”, but we see it written as “Yukiti” (a generally Japanese way of romanizing these syllables) on a shirt. “Ouhou” is also seen on clothing when “Oho” is how the English version chooses to romanize the name.
In volume 6, book pages are flipped in a Western way. The actual pages aren’t flipped, but you scroll from left to right to get to the next page. This means that two-page spreads are incorrect and are on the wrong sides. This lasts goes on until volume 10, as 11 is back to right-to-left. In addition, there seems to be some sort of issue with the Kindle edition. I noticed that on my iPad the top and bottom was slightly cut off. This wasn’t as noticeable when I switched to an Android device, but be aware that there could be formatting problems which could hamper your experience.
Some lines are repeated twice. Some Japanese words like “raijin” and “hatsumode” are kept.
Ultimately, Ping Pong Dash! disappointed me with its serious story beats and Sawa departing for a good chunk of the story. I wish the author had just kept this as a ridiculous comedy, as it was almost ridiculous how much I enjoyed it. I could have looked passed the super-fast matches if it had just kept that level of humor, but it’s no surprise the manga lost a lot of fans when it tried to deviate from its original energetic tempo. Still, I’m glad I got to read it in full.
Honda’s Creature! is available through Media Do.
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