Table tennis sounds like just about the last thing that needs an animated series, but leave it to the Japanese to make the sport as exciting as a superhero action-adventure series. This is our first extended look at Ping Pong, a new 11-episode animated series by Japanese director Masaaki Yuasa (Mind Game, The Tatami Galaxy) that will debut April 10th on Fuji TV’s late-night noitamina block. French audiences can see the series simulcast on Wakanim.
An adaptation of a mid-1990s manga by Taiyō Matsumoto (Tekkonkinkreet), the quirky table tennis-themed story was also adapted as a live-action feature in 2002. Tatsunoko Production is producing the animation. Key crew includes Nobutake Ito (character design), Kevin Aymeric (art director), Kunio Tsujida (color stylist), and Kensuke Ushio (music).
It’s hard for me to look at the trailer and not be awed by the absolute artistic mastery on display. What we see here are not cartoon characters, but stylized figure drawings in motion. Yuasa and crew know how to draw, and they put their skills to use by staging a cinematic space with forceful compositions from the unlikeliest angles:
The watercolor and wash backgrounds feel organic and painterly. They create a palpable sense of place without intruding on the action:
And who needs full animation when stylized animation can be used to create such dynamic, exciting motion: