Shakunetsu no Takkyuu Musume

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This article has an addendum going into specifics, themes, and major moments! Thus, the addendum is full of spoilers, and should only really be read if you’ve already read this manga.

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YEAH!!!!!

It has been over half a year, but I’m back! And what better way to be back than with a manga that was at one point so obscure I was pretty damn sure I was the only person on the Western Internet who knew about it at the time beyond people who just document any and every manga that ever comes out? I wasn’t, though! Though it was only posted thrice in the year before reemerging two later, that opening page is from 2014!

I stumbled on this series so goddamn randomly. I was looking for some… thing — I don’t even think I was looking for manga but I somehow found this page (don’t worry, the translation for this series is… MOSTLY complete).

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My heart… won’t stop pounding…!

And I stopped like, what the shit is this. That seems strangely lewd for such a blatantly cute art style. I googled the image and found the entire first chapter up on the site for the magazine it ran in, discovering that it was a ping pong manga. Ping pong, sweat, and fairly overt sexual metaphors…? I’m scrolling through it, scrolling through it…

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Whoa. Holy fucking shit. What the fuck is this manga?

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Tsumujikaze-san…
Me too–

Me too, Ping-pong, I…

love…
LOVE LOVE LOVE IT…!!!

Alright, seriously, what is this thing and why haven’t I heard of it? Let’s look it up.

  • Status in Country of Origin: 2 volumes (Complete)
  • Website: last chapter was released only a few weeks ago, nothing else.
  • Rest of the Internet: no information, no news, no nothing.
  • This series is dead.

mikakunin fatal error

This accurately reflects my experience upon discovering Shakunetsu no Takkyuu Musume in 2015, and through more research I would come to find that not only was this seemingly completely unknown manga dead, the magazine it had been running in was dead! That could mean it was a “soft” dead, but really I figured it was a “not coming back ever” dead. I mean, did it have any reason to? Although it had been running two years, it didn’t seem like most people cared about it from what I could see even on the Japanese Internet. I looked hard into this. I looked for when it started, I looked for what people thought about it, and while I definitely, obviously, SOMEHOW missed a whole lot in my search, I thought I was thorough and couldn’t find any indication that Shakunetsu no Takkyuu Musume was anything other than prematurely killed. I was completely devastated. This series was super, duper, amazingly intriguing and I couldn’t get any of it. I’d seen series come back from magazine death before, but I knew it was extremely rare, and had no reason to believe this would be an example of a survivor. None. I bookmarked the series nonetheless, and remembered to keep the author in mind for their future works.

Cue the following year.

WAIT WHAT

HOLD UP, WEREN’T YOU DEAD

Shakunetsu no Takkyuu Musume (灼熱の卓球娘, Scorching Ping Pong Girls) is a table tennis sports manga with yuri under- (and spilling into over-) tones by Asano Yagura (朝野やぐら) that met an untimely death in early 2015 due to the end of Jump SQ 19. I basically had discovered it not long before it moved into Tonari no Young Jump (the same online platform that runs Akebi-chan’s Sailor Uniform) in May of the same year. This series wasn’t doing badly, and hell yeah of course it wasn’t, because Shakunetsu is a goddamn home run of a manga. Smash of a manga? It’s good. (ha ha ha it died again and this time who knows if it’ll come back kill me)

The series received a late 2016 anime and since then it has a not-too-large, but extremely passionate fanbase. The anime itself was amazing, and is… like, actually required viewing before you read this, or after you read the the first two volumes. The anime is basically what Asano-sensei would’ve done differently, meaning it’s a 1:1 adaptation with LOTS of bonus content. Not filler, extra things that were originally just skipped over, like more tennis matches. Oh, and, uh, the music…

birdy the mighty dance1282393760642

Fuuuuuuuuck… Dat MONACA hotness.

So yeah, Shakunetsu no Takkyuu Musume is rather kickass. The manga is, in my opinion, noticeably better than the anime but it’s kind of unfair to compare them. I think a rather decent budget would be required to really capture how this manga looks in a medium of animation. Asano-sensei’s art is very deceptive. At first glance, his style is pure moe-moe hyper cute stuff, but as evidenced by previous pages, his actual wheelhouse is raw, emotional intensity and stunning action.

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I am
aiming even higher–!!

That alone grabs attention and can make me want to read, but to add there’s so much standout excellence that kept me reading. Shakunetsu is a weird series. It does quite a lot weirdly as a sports manga, but really it’s its themes relating love and playing of the sport to, well, sex that caught me by surprise. For a while it’s just funny/amusing, but Asano-sensei then goes in such mad, insane, wild directions with this concept it’s mind-blowing. Technically speaking, this series has not gone very far despite having run for several years, but we’ve gotten such an amazing presentation and cast so far that it doesn’t even matter. Well, it doesn’t matter insofar as if any of this strikes a chord with you, its to-date 26(-ish) chapters are absolutely a must read. It does matter in that, bloody hell, I want more now. Fun characters, twisted characters, sweat, spats, metaphorical indulgence, lilies, a whole lot of utterly gripping action, and of course, ACE; I was right to bookmark this series when I came across it years ago. I shall now count the ways this regularly moving, heart-throbbing, passion-fueled manga, Shakunetsu no Takkyuu Musume, is worth a look.

Why two covers? Aside from the obvious of “just look at them together“, this series has two full-fledged protagonists.Shakunetsu no Takkyuu Musume -16

The way Shakunetsu executes this is somewhat strange, however. The character who would ordinarily be the rival sort in a sports story is presented in the narrative position of the main protagonist to start with. This is Kamiya Agari, Suzumegahara Middle School’s ACE.

Suzumegahara is, oddly for a sports series, not exactly an underdog of a school when it comes to their ping pong club. They’re not necessarily a top tier school, nor are they known for going to Japan’s Table Tennis Nationals, but they’ve not only got great players, they’ve got A LOT of players. Their table tennis team seems to be really popular, and emphasizes skill by regularly pitting teammates against one another on a scoreboard. Agari is the best their team has, and she takes an immense amount of pride in that. Perhaps second only to how big of a dork she is, Agari’s pride is her defining character trait.

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now who dat

The other, more standard sports story protagonist is this new transfer student, Tsumujikaze Koyori.

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Chapter 1 introduces both of them, but in an interesting spin on things Koyori is kind of… mysterious?

We quickly learn that Koyori was one of the top four players in her entire prefecture while at her last school, but this is after her being introduced like this, and more importantly after this — a scene the series opens with in which an unknown, incredibly powerful player defeats the reigning champions and is noticeably wearing dog-mascot clothing.

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Coincidence? No, no it’s not a coincidence, it very obviously has some sort of connection, and given how we actually know very little about Koyori and her past, even far after chapter 1, it sets up a surprising amount of intrigue.

Koyori functionally reminds me of Saki from… Saki (which I’ve yet to read in full, despite being around when it first started being translated), the titular mahjong genius who is very unassuming ordinarily, but can be terrifying when demonstrating her skill in the game. Unlike Saki, Koyori unabashedly loves her game of choice and knows she’s good at it, but almost as if to compensate for her amazing confidence while playing or observing a match, she is an utter failure at everything else and cripplingly nervous to boot, which honestly only makes her more intriguing.

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Like, this hot mess is supposedly the “strongest” character we know of. What’s with that?

We don’t really get much in the way of Koyori’s perspective in this series. Really, it’s brief snippets as opposed to the heavy amount of focus and backstory given to Agari, the semi-typical “rival”, even as early as chapter 1. So I call it strange. Characters like Koyori are so often our primary grounding protagonists, after all, but here it’s this interesting, highly endearing, highly flawed girl instead (not that I dislike Koyori…! Far from it!).

The sense of mystery Koyori possesses tugs me along, and I suspect that is intentional. As for ACE, she just wholeheartedly grabs hold of your attention and refuses to let go. Throughout chapter 1 we learn how possessive of her “ACE” title she is, becoming not only jealous, but resentful of Koyori as the newcomer rises rapidly through the club’s ranks to the cheers of the other members. She loves and believes she deserves the title of ACE (hence why you’ll see many fans of this series praising her as ACE, cheering ACE, always referring to her as ACE, etc.), while generally throughout the series she goddamn proves she does. Repeatedly, awesomely, all the time.

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Take a good
hard look.
–This is
me!!!

This
is me!!

After she gets schooled/romanced(?) at the start of the series by Koyori (who takes her ACE spot, and they fight back and forth for it throughout the series), she turns from being single-minded in her pursuit of the top (such that she disregards enjoyment of the game in favor of victory) to still fairly single-minded in her pursuit of the top, but having remembered why she really took up table tennis in the first place. Well, it’s fun.

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Basically, Koyori loves the game to such intense extremes and plays it so hard that Agari can’t help but get excited, and just must go all out. It’s an effect Koyori seems to naturally have on people, as her doggy hype levels are constantly off the charts if she’s playing ping pong. It gives her a pleasant and humorous dynamic with Agari once the ACE has stopped being bitter and angry.

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And these two, particularly ACE, have a lot of amazing moments in store.

But, there are other characters.

Did you know that if you combine the pairs’ songs from the anime together it basically makes a new track it’s really cool (Hanabi + Hokuto)

Main pair aside, Suzumegahara is host to many, many players, as I’ve said, but only four others are particularly significant (the very side characters are cute though). They are: Tenka Hanabi, Itsumo Hokuto, Oo Munemune, and Ushirode Kiruka–and yes, in case you noticed: they all have pun names. Here’s a quick rundown (mostly provided by other people):

The school names are bird names: Suzume = sparrow, Mozu = shrike, Tsubame = swallow, Houdou = phoenix, Hayabusa = falcon
Tsumujikaze Koyori
Wound-up Whirlwind
Kamiya Agari
Rising Up-arrow
Tenka Hanabi
Unrivaled/Ground-level Fireworks
Itsumo Hokuto
Always (puffing) Steamy (clouds)
Oo Munemune
BIG BOOBSBOOBS
Ushirode Kiruka
Backhand Chop
Kouhai They’re all plant names.
Hinomoto Hajime (日本 一), the advisor
#1 in Japan
Futamaru Kururi
Spinning Around twice
Zashikiwarashi Zakuro
House spirit/mainly a rare tourny name
Sasorida Sachiko
I’m a scorpion/no pun?
Yuragi Yura
Swaying, Swaying
Kanenashi Mayuu
No money/no pun?
Hamu Kimiko (公子 (公 = ハ+ム))
Munch Munch
Tsukinowa Kumami
Moon ring bear/Bear
Kagurazaka Kohime
no pun?/Princess
Sakigake Nemuri
Incoming Sleep
Irohani Irori
no pun?/Loli
Houjou Homura
Abundant Flame
Fujinomiya Fubuki
no pun?/Blizzard

Among the Suzumegahara crew, it’s hard for me to say whether my favorite is Hanabi or ACE. Hanabi is a super high-energy player with a tomboyish design and constant smile (and >< expression) that I think are A+.

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She’s also a little interesting given her backstory, her fiddling-with-people’s hair habit, and how she’s technically the third or fourth best on her team (behind the protagonists and the captain; maybe these are holdovers from the prototype one shot for the series, in which Hanabi was ACE and Agari didn’t exist), but her skill isn’t exactly what makes her immediately stand out. That said, Hanabi, Hokuto, Munemune, and Kiruka (the captain), while fun and full of charm, are all rather standard characters.

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The hyper one, the calm and collected but kind of weird one (Hokuto, who has a thing where she calls other characters (aside from Hanabi) by the type, pattern, or color of the panties they wear (which she somehow determines from their paddle)), the motherly one, and the lazy/somewhat perverse but skilled one. They function well and they still make you invested. As a plus, in their pairs they get pretty darn lovey dovey at times and it’s all very sweet–I can’t even say something like “particularly Kiruka/Munemune” or “particularly “Hanabi/Hokuto”; they all have incredible heartfelt moments that I shouldn’t show. All this said of the cast so far, the obvious best character is one of the antagonists.

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But I ain’t sayin’ nothin’ specific about her. Not here. All I’ll say about Tsukinowa Kumami is that she practically steals the manga for two years of its run (that isn’t an exaggeration or joke) and everything about her is fucking fascinating. See for yourself, and then read the thing I wrote about her/the rest of the manga in detail (spoilers there, DUH).

If I had to lodge some complaints or rather criticisms toward Shakunetsu as a manga, I’d say that the pacing is… bizarre. Funnily enough, I’m not talking about the huge amount of chapters (and chapters in PARTS) spent on a match with Kumami, but I am talking about WOW, it takes no time at all to “get to it” in this manga, huh?

Unlike the anime, the manga gets right to “the match that matters” every single time. This honestly makes the first two volumes suffer a little bit I think. See, for the first tournament we see in the manga, we’re told there’s going to be a tournament… and then it’s the final match (the other matches are only caught in a scant few glimpses). It really threw me off. Even for the intro of the series–we’re pretty much just told that Koyori is doing great in the club, and then she has her climactic match with Agari (though actually, I like how the first chapter is paced). The anime covers all the matches they played to get to the final, making the rival characters of the first tourney stand out better. That’s great, because without that it’s literally just Koyori versus Kururi, done. Hardly any development for the Suzumegahara cast occurs, none occurs for any of the antagonists there save for Kururi (the impact of whose arc is dulled as a result), it’s just one (really good) match and you’re finished. This is why I said the anime is required viewing. Not just because you can’t read most of the first two volumes in English, but because without it I feel like the story loses some substance in its rush to get to the good part (while all of the series is definitely good, Kumami is the good part to be clear). Maybe it was done in an effort for the series to survive at the time? Still, even when we get to the matches that most of the series so far has focused on, we get there after having skipped loads of other games to get to that point (well, maybe not loads, but things are skipped). Most sports series would have more training or more matches, but Shakunetsu (the manga, at least) ain’t got time for that. This isn’t a huge detriment, I just know this already great manga could be even better. Just make sure that if you watch the anime first, afterward you page through the raws of volumes 1 and 2. Don’t miss out on Asano-sensei’s art.

That said I hate how the author draws chibi Koyori.

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It’s bald and like, some sort of unshelled crab or — What the Hell is this?

But really, these complaints are largely superfluous. I adore this series. Highly recommended: a new favorite.

As a final note, if you watch this series you might want to consider using fansubs. The official translation… “translation” is, let us say, dodgy. Examples:

  • Kururi “death” puns. She says “desu” most of the time, like Suiseiseki, and it IS in katakana (the alphabet the Japanese use for foreign words and weird pronunciation) so it COULD be translated as “death”, but although she’s creepy she has no death obsession. This was added in, or at least far too overemphasized. Sometimes, they put in a “death” even without a デス.
  • Translating “suki suki” as “wub wub” instead of “love love” is incorrect, though not so big a deal. A curious choice, since she’s not slurring or anything.
  • “ACE” is written as “ace”.
  • The “hoku” Hokuto tends to say shouldn’t really be translated as “beam”, it’s more like puffing with heat.
  • Hokuto doesn’t say “payback’s a bitch”. Of course she doesn’t.
  • Hokuto does not call Munemune “thong” to imply she wears thongs. She calls her something more akin to “side string panties”. Did they have some vendetta against Hokuto?
  • A title drop is forced in at one point despite not being there.
  • Translating “do your best” as “break a leg” is fine in most contexts… not when you’re talking to a character who previously had a leg injury.

But regardless, consider buying this series one way or the other! Maybe not the anime…  Buying anime is usually really, really expensive, whether or not you import it (no exception here: the six BD bundles you can buy cost around $70 US each :| ). You could watch it on the obvious English language choice, though. As for the manga, try CDJapan, Bookwalker (guide), honto (guide) (only two volumes available here for some reason), and/or ebookjapan. New chapters of the series can be read on Tonari no Young Jump’s website. Asano Yagura’s website can be found here, and his pixiv account here. Give the series a look! Enjoy!

Next time, a different character-focused manga, and one that is so much more well-known. See ya then, thanks for reading!

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This article has an addendum going into specifics, themes, and major moments! Thus, the addendum is full of spoilers, and should only really be read if you’ve already read this manga.

6 thoughts on “Shakunetsu no Takkyuu Musume

  1. thehoennhippo says:

    Nice to see another review from you! I checked out the anime for this one when it was airing but never finished it despite liking it enough, should definitely check it out again soon after this recommendation of both.

  2. mcmoor says:

    Wait, so what your recommended sequence for enjoying this? Anime -> first two volumes -> the rest of the volumes? Or just anime then the rest of the volumes? I’m speaking of English version of course.

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