Ping Pong – not a film about the dodgiest of Rupert’s chums. Instead a Japanese film about table tennis. Based on a five book manga. That is a five book manga about table tennis. You know the way they say there are manga on every subject in Japan. Well Ping Pong proves it.

There is a suggestion that all sports films have the same plot. This is not true. Most have the same plot. Some occasionally allow the bad guys to win for a greater good, or as in Escape To Victory, the sport is really a side issue. But in most cases we have a hero to cheer for who will surmount all odds to win out in the end. Ping Pong is different, in as much as it slowly introduces us to a large number of characters and does not seem clear which of its protagonists is even the lead. Is it Smile – the ironically named ping pong natural, or Peco – his arrogant friend. You can tell this is based on a complex source novel, because right to the very end you do not know who is going to win.

Not many sports films (perhaps with the exception of Field Of Dreams) concern themselves too much with the philosophy of their sport, the philosophy of good sports playing. In the climatic match, the losing party starts smiling, \not because he is resigned but because he has realised he is part of the best game he will ever be in. The film stops to appreciate this too. Peco, his opponent, has one of the most irrepressible smiles I?ve seen in cinema – and the film earns its potentially over the top ending.

It is a film about table tennis. Based on a manga. Go see.