(Spoilers ahead, you have been warned)
With our #12 entry, we come to what is the most recent entry into my Top 10 list, a little gem from the Fall season last year. I didn’t watch this airing, being recommended it heavily by multiple friends a couple months later, and got around to it about two months ago. Going in, I expected a cute, fun show about girls playing ping pong. What I ended up getting was just that…only mixed with a whole lot more, with themes of passion and the meaning of friendship splashed about the series and plenty of hype matches accompanied by pounding EDM-influenced OST tracks. I certainly hadn’t expected to get as much into Shakunetsu as I did, with the show yielding my #1 OP of all time and also a top 5 character in my personal character rankings, and it certainly ended up being a very pleasant surprise.
I’ve talked a decent amount about what it was I loved about Shakunetsu no Takkyuu Musume before on the blog. The show has been featured in my review, my Taku’s Top 20 Anime OPS: Taku’s #1 OP, and also my write-up about how much Agari touched me as a character, so to say I loved the show is rather obvious. Agari brought traits I love in a character and a story about passion and ambition through her character and her drive to go to Nationals, Koyori provided a good counter-balance being the hotshot rookie who just plays the game for fun, and the rest of the Suzumegahara team brought their own individual qualities to add to the themes the show presented. In particular, I’ve mentioned before in casual conversation that I really related to Kururi and the idea of the “friendship fee”, feeling like friendships are tenuous and you have to earn the friendships of other people rather than them being unconditional. It’s a show that hit surprisingly close to home in many of its themes and blew me away with how well these themes were presented and executed. I’ve heard a lot of comparisons to another show I really enjoyed, Saki, but there was just something about Shakunetsu that just really captured me and kept me going throughout the whole show. I never would have expected a show about cute girls playing ping pong to affect me so much, but it actually ended up getting me a lot more interested in table tennis as a sport, given I loved playing table tennis in high school whenever it was offered in gym class.
Favorite Episode: Episode 10, My Brand of Table Tennis
Given my earlier comment about relating with the concept of the “friendship fee”, it makes sense that the conclusion to the arc featuring Kururi and the “friendship fee” would be my personal favorite episode of the show. For me, this episode was the pinnacle of everything the show did right. Koyori starts the episode struggling against Kururi’s curve drive but never gives up, instead remaining her excited and cheerful self which eventually leads to discovering her “sweet spot” on her racket. Zakuro’s encouragement leads to Kururi discovering her own sweet spot and playing “her brand” of table tennis, which leads to one of the most exciting and intense matches of the entire series. As the two battle back and forth, Koyori eventually comes out victorious, much to the worry and dismay of Kururi that Zakuro might leave her and not care anymore, which is obviously proven to be false. The friendship of Kururi and Zakuro struck very close to home to me and I found myself becoming emotionally attached to Kururi. The happiness at the support Kururi received after losing alone made this episode stand out for me and it hit a lot of nerves that really made me connect with it. The entire episode was fantastically done and definitely the pinnacle of the season for me.
Shakunetsu no Takkyuu Musume is an absolute joyride. It’s a ride that carries you through intense and heart-pounding matches, emotional moments that really make you care for the characters, and sweet resolutions that just make you feel warm inside. It’s a show that struck a lot of core points that I look for in shows and really made me care a lot about its characters. Agari has become one of my favorite characters of all-time for her role in the show and how much respect I had for her character and “Shakunetsu Switch” is my personal favorite OP, if not one of my favorite songs of all time. It’s a show that has absolutely earned its position on this list and almost pains me that I can’t put it any higher.
(Shakunetsu no Takkyuu Musume is available for streaming on Crunchyroll with all 12 episodes available for free)