Hit Against Your Hero at the Ping Pong Exhibit

When a show's soundtrack is as important to the story as the protagonists, it makes sense to move the party out of Akihabara to celebrate it in Shibuya, the hub of all things hip. So what better place to host a Ping Pong gallery than Tower Records? You can even pick up an album by series composer and electro-producer Kensuke Ushio on your way out the door.

Step into the Tamura table tennis club and check out the messages from director Masaaki Yuasa and creator Taiyo Matsumoto. As a longtime fan of Matsumoto's manga, Yuasa was worried that he wouldn't do the title justice. But after seeing the director's experimental work, Mind Game, Matsumoto was confident enough in Yuasa to give him full creative control.

The last time we saw cardboard standees used to represent key frame animation was last March at the Little Witch Academia museum. The unique animation style is one of the show's main selling points. If you want to get into the specifics of what makes Yuasa's art pop, check out the episode recaps on the Cartoon Brew blog.

You don't need to know the difference between short and long pips to enjoy Ping Pong, but a basic understanding of the sport can't hurt. For example, the penhold grip used by Peco and Sakuma lets you easily change-up between offense and defense but suffers from the lack of a backhand--hence everyone's surprise when Peco shows up with a rubber on the back of his racket. 

Likewise the movement of the court is true to life, with each serve and slice putting a strategic spin on the ball that demands the proper counter hit. Animators need to know the physics behind the game, not just the rules of animation. 

Yuasa drew the storyboards for every episode himself, a rare feat for a TV series. Perhaps that's why the show feels as consistent and unified as a film. Although the layouts are based on panels from the original manga, Yuasa fleshes out the action with his personal style and even adds character backstories that Matsumoto couldn't fit into the manga serial.

This interactive installation takes us back to basics to learn how to hold a racket all over again. But as you volley against Peco, Smile and the rest of the cast, timing is more important than your grip. 

Dragon says that fancy gear is no substitute for intense training, but you can't argue that looking the part puts a spring in your step. Question is, do you want to chop like Smile, play the loop like Peco or cook dim sum with China's mom at Tsujidou Academy? First thing's first--pop in the soundtrack, pick up a racket and start hitting with a friend!  

Event dates: May 23rd-June 8th
1-22-14 Jin-nan, Shibuya-ku Tokyo
8F Tower Records
Entrance fee: 300 yen
Hours: 10:00-21:00
Official homepage: http://tower.jp/article/news/2014/05/14/n100_140515