Taiyo Matsumoto was born in 1967. He is a manga artist who has won the love of critics, often the toughest audience, due to his surrealist art style. He is also known as one of the most influential mangaka that has ever lived. A few of his mangas were adapted into live-action films, and others have won critical praise. It was in 1986 when he released his first manga, shortly after a trip to France. It was looking at some of the fine art there, such as art by Moebius, that inspired him to create manga in a different way. The artwork in Matsumoto’s stories is deemed surreal. One of his manga that has been turned into a feature length movie is Ping Pong.
Ping Pong, the movie, was released in 2002, and is a story about two high teens who play table tennis. The two teens are good friends. Peco is a very competitive player, while Smile is his opposite, playing just for the sport. Peco and Smile have known each other almost all of their lives, and Peco does not realize that Smile often lets him win, in order to make sure that he does not get his feelings hurt.
Peco plays against a new Chinese player, who beats him badly. He becomes disheartened and decides to stop playing entirely. This leads their coach to push Smile harder than he ever has before. Smile beats a friend of both Peco’s and his named Akuma, who then goes back to Peco and tells him that he lost his match against the Chinese player because he was not trying hard enough. Peco takes the challenge and decides to train again, this time even harder than ever.
Peco comes back at the next tournament and beats China right off. Next is a character named Dragon, who is a friend of Peco’s and Smile’s. Finally Peco and Smile take each other on. The scene fades out and the audience then sees photos on a wall. One of Peco playing professionally, another of smile showing a child how to play ping pong, and a third of Peco, Smile and Draco at the tournament. Peco has taken first, Smile second, and Dragon third.
Blue Spring is another movie that has been created out of Matsumoto’s manga. It was released in 2001 and stars Ryuhei Matsuda, Hirofumi Arai and Sosuke Takaoka. The movie, and the manga, are about seven students who attend a high school that is not known as being one of the best in Japan. In fact, this high school is on the bottom of the list of good schools in the area. The story follows the seven students as they finish school and try to decide on what to do with the rest of their lives.