“I play because I want to feel my heart race with you!”
I’ve been a fan of the idea of “cute girls doing cute things” in anime for a long time now. It’s always been one of my go-to genres when I’m trying to find something new to watch and each one always has its own spin on the genre that makes it unique. Several months ago, a good friend and I watched through one of his personal favorite shows, Saki, a show about cute girls playing mahjong with plenty of great hype moments and good character development. Moving forward, other friends began to watch it too and one friend in particular, /u/Ghostsoldier37 on Reddit, began recommending Shakunetsu no Takkyuu Musume to me based on my enjoyment of Saki. It took me a bit to get around to finishing it, but I can definitely say I found it worth the hype my friends built up for it. Scorching Ping Pong Girls lives up to its name, giving plenty of fierce fiery hype moments surrounded by a cute cast and great interactions between them.
The story of Shakunetsu no Takkyuu Musume follows young Koyori Tsumujikaze, a new transfer student at Suzumegahara Middle School. Upon her first entry to the school, she meets Agari Kamiya, a second-year student and “ace” of the school’s table tennis club. Koyori shows interest in the club and Agari invites Koyori to a practice match with her, quickly learning of Koyori’s natural skill at ping pong. As the story progresses, Koyori is introduced to the other members of the school’s club, such as the shy reserved Hokuto, the excitable genki Hanabi, and the large-breasted “mother figure” for the other club members Munemune. The story tells a tale of passion and ambition through its characters as they strive to better themselves at the game and as friends, and eventually aim for the national tournament.
The story, compared to that of other sports anime, is relatively simple and follows a well-trodden path. The main character enters as an unknown prodigy who quickly works her way up in the ranks with the club, causing challenge to the club’s former star player, and eventually meshes and the club becomes like a family as they work towards greater goals. It’s really nothing out of the ordinary as far as sports anime come, but it’s a concept that is still charming in its execution because of how the show works itself. The growth of the characters feels natural and there are plenty of major moments involving both the club members themselves and members of other school clubs that provide opportunities for the characters to grow both as table tennis and people. Some of my favorite moments in particular, without diving too deep into spoilers, are Hokuto’s backstory and Agari’s match with the club’s president, Kiruka Ushirode.
The characters, for me, are one of the strongest parts of Shakunetsu. The main cast is diverse with a wide range of archetypes and each have their own points that make them charming. Logically, let’s first take a look at our bright-eyed protagonist, Koyori. Koyori is a first-year transfer student at Suzumegahara Middle School. She has carried with her a passion for ping pong since a young age. Playing table tennis makes her heart race and she plays to experience matches like these, where both her own and the heart of her opponents race at the intensity of the game. For that reason, Koyori joins the table tennis club and first meets Agari. Her innocent nature and love for the game affects everyone around her, including the Mozuyama Middle School ace, Futamaru Kururi.
While Koyori is great as a main character and definitely brings a bright, happy mood to the show, my personal favorite character following the show’s conclusion was its secondary protagonist, second-year “ace” Agari Kamiya. While Koyori’s reason for playing table tennis lies in her enjoyment of the game and how it makes her heart race, Agari’s reason lies in her ambition. Agari strives to be the best, feeling challenged when Koyori came into the club and was looking to usurp Agari’s role as the club’s “ace” player. Agari has ambitions that reach high, wanting to aim high and try to compete at Nationals and organizing a practice match with Mozuyama Middle School’s table tennis club, a club that had reached the Nationals in the previous year. Agari’s growth lies in her own ambitions and her drive to be the best in whatever she does, and how Koyori’s innocent infatuation with the game combined with her skill drives Agari to improve herself.
While the two main characters were definitely the focus, there was no shortage of excellent side characters. Hokuto Itsumo is a shy, reserved second-year in the table tennis club. While she is nervous and mostly only talks to Hanabi, she possesses an analytical knowledge of table tennis and takes a methodical, calculated approach to the game. On the polar opposite end of the spectrum is Hokuto’s best friend, Hanabi Tenka. Hanabi’s playstyle can be described as wild just like her bubbly excited personality, opting for speed and her quick pace over calculated decision-making. Mune Oomune acts as the club’s loving “mother figure” (with jokes being made to her ample breast size frequently) and Kiruka Ushirode, the club’s captain, is a laidback third-year who is one of the strongest players within the club.
Animation and Sound
Animation for Shakunetsu no Takkyuu Musume is led by production studio Kinema Citrus, known for their previous work on Yuyushiki and Barakamon. The animation was decent overall, with lots of nice work during the ping pong matches and flashy effects throughout. Character designs all look appealing and have points that distinguish them from one another. A particular point I found interesting was in the designs of the characters’ hairclips, in particular Agari’s. Agari’s hairclip is an up arrow, which, for me, symbolizes her drive to get better and improve with the arrow symbolizing her ambition to move upwards.
Sound direction for Shakunetsu no Takkyuu Musume is led by Fumihiroki Gou, a relatively new director to the scene with his biggest productions being Overlord and Touken Ranbu. Music is led by MONACA, a major anime music studio with projects spanning several popular anime across genres. The casual music for the show is nice and relaxing and sets a happy, upbeat tone for the clubroom scenes. One of the most interesting part of the OST for me lies in the match themes, with each match being accompanied by a fast-paced, driving EDM base. It really adds to the hype of each match and gives them an extra level of intensity. When talking about the music of Shakunetsu, I have to pay particular attention to the show’s themes. The show’s ED, Bokura no Frontier, is performed by popular idol group “Wake Up, Girls” and is a calm, mellow tune that sets a relaxing tone at the conclusion of each episode. However, I want to pay particular mind to Shakunetsu Switch, the show’s OP. Shakunetsu Switch struck me instantly as an absolute earworm with amazing execution and set itself up as one of my all-time favorite OPs.
(If you’ve been following my Top OP rankings, you’ll hear about that soon enough)
So, this is where my bias for the show really comes in. I had been recommended Shakunetsu no Takkyuu Musume very heavily by several of my friends in the weeks leading up to watching it and I had my expectations understandably high. That being said, going into the show, I loved it from the first episode. I was instantly drawn into the show by its cute character designs and a great practice match in Episode 1 to hook me into the series. It kept me going through its amazing characters, their great interactions with one another, and some really nice themes and focus on the themes of passion and friendship. Each pairing within the show had great moments that really defined them as characters and made their own section of the show special, like Hokuto and Hanabi’s first meeting and the idea of the “friendship fee” between Mozuyama students Kururi and Zakuro. I definitely greatly enjoyed Shakunetsu and it’s a show I would very quickly recommend to my friends and, in some cases, I already have.
I love ping pong. I love cute girls. So, it only makes sense that throwing the two together would be something I would enjoy. However, Shakunetsu no Takkyuu Musume does more than that. It combines the two of these together with lovable and memorable characters, a great soundtrack that sets the tone for each scene excellently. The show covered themes of friendship, passion, and ambition with care and did an excellent job of covering these themes without ever being too heavy-handed in its execution. What I got from Shakunetsu no Takkyuu Musume was an experience as fiery and blazing as Koyori’s passion for ping pong: A fun-filled, enjoyable and heartfelt romp that begs to be expanded upon with a future season. It was definitely one of my favorite shows that aired in 2016 and one where I’m definitely considering checking out the source material.
Story: 8/10, Shakunetsu didn’t do anything really revolutionary or ground-breaking with its story, but executed a tried and true formula with all the love it deserves.
Characters: 9/10, The characters were easily my favorite part of Shakunetsu, with Agari setting herself up among some of my other favorites.
Animation: 8/10, It wasn’t the most beautiful animation I’ve ever seen, but the animation was nice to look at with great character designs bringing it up to an 8.
Enjoyment: 10/10, Shakunetsu was an absolute blast to watch and it makes me regret taking so long to finish it in the first place.
Taku Recommends: Definitely watch it, it’s a great feelgood anime that deserves to be given at least a chance if you’re a fan of cute girls doing cute things.
Shakunetsu no Takkyuu Musume/Scorching Ping Pong Girls is available for legal streaming on Crunchyroll, with all 12 episodes available for free.