Anime Reel – Anime & Manga TV News

Cross Game – Manga Mondays

Posted on: March 22, 2010

Wakabaaaaaaa T_TIf you’ve read any of my writings for an extended period of time, you know that I’m a huge fan of baseball. So it should be no surprise that Viz’s weekend announcement of its upcoming release of Adachi Mitsuru’s Cross Game manga caused me to leap in the air and hoot in joy. I cut my teeth on his classic baseball drama Touch when I was just getting into the hobby, and have been hooked on his youth/sports dramas ever since. Cross Game is one of his strongest efforts yet, with the strongest supporting cast of all his stories and as deep of an emotional current as ever.

Full review after the jump – spoilers ahead! (Review spoiler: I really, really like Cross Game and you should read it)

Adachi Mitsuru is the undisputed master of the high school baseball manga. In the ’80s, his Touch manga captivated millions with the story of Uesugi Tatsuya, a young man who has to live in the shadow of his dead brother Kazuya and fulfill his promise to bring their childhood friend Minami to Koushien, the Japanese sports equivalent of March Madness. In the ’90s, H2 had a strong and successful run, though the bromance between Hideo and Hiro didn’t capture the Japanese imagination quite the same way Tatsuya and Minami did. As Adachi’s third major baseball manga (I don’t count the short Idol Ace), Cross Game had a lot to live up to, and in many ways it surpassed its predecessors.

Just like in Touch, Adachi is unafraid to bring tragedy into his tales of youth. The brief prologue starts with main character Kitamura Kou and his grade school sweetheart Tsukishima Wakaba seemingly on the fast track to growing old together, but after Wakaba drowns in a swimming accident at the too-young age of 11, her death casts a long shadow over the lives of both Kou and her younger sister Aoba.

The strength of most Adachi works is their quiet ability to convey emotion without having to resort to excessive amounts of dialogue. This is at its best in the few pages that come after Wakaba’s funeral: Adachi depicts a confused, lost Kou looking around to see what reaction is most appropriate. Finally, hours later, he sees another boy crying, realizes that it’s okay to cry, and weeps silently and brokenly into the night. It’s a powerful sequence, and it doesn’t require more than three words to convey the whole emotional range of grief. There are dozens of scenes like this in Cross Game (Wakaba’s sixteenth birthday made me especially dusty), and they give the characters a lot more life and depth than you’d expect from your average baseball story (think Field of Dreams as opposed to Major League).

It’s not all sad and serious, though – not by a long shot. Adachi breaks the fourth wall regularly, and always uses that time to poke fun at himself, and he never lets you forget that all of the characters are teenagers. They have their serious moments, but by and large they horse around, make fun of each other, and enjoy their youth. The cast is made up almost entirely of likeable characters, whose personalities are largely well-developed aside from the shortstop Senda, who never really graduates from being simple comic relief.

Storywise, the manga does a very good job of balancing all aspects of its nature. When it’s a baseball story, it’s a white-knuckle play-by-play that keeps you in suspense at what is going to happen next, filling the natural gaps of a baseball game with gripping dialogue and little character pieces. When it’s a comedy, it flows naturally and never feels forced – I especially love the segment where Aoba’s older sister her boyfriend that she’ll only marry him if the team goes to Koushien, which causes the laid back man to turn into a screaming firebrand of a baseball coach. And the romantic element, an underplayed but steady presence in the story, is a gentle stream that never becomes a rushing torrent; even so, it’s incredibly satisfying when the story reaches its inevitable and heartwarming conclusion. The ending, which happened earlier this year, reminds you that deep down, this is a youth drama that happens to star baseball players, rather than a full-fledged baseball series.

In conclusion: READ CROSS GAME. When the first volume comes out in October, I will remind you guys again, because it is something that everyone should read. It is doubly urgent for me to support this release because of the failure of Big Windup in the states, which sold so abysmally that FUNimation dropped it like a ton of bricks. If this does well, maybe the window will open for some of Adachi’s older works to see release – though that’s unlikely, I can at least cling to the hope if this does well enough!

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2 Responses to "Cross Game – Manga Mondays"

That’s great news, I’ll be sure to buy a copy and force everybody I know to buy a copy too.

I am curently reading some of his other works like “KASTU!” which is a boxing story. the first thing that struck me was how character design. I thought “Why Kitamura Kou boxing, shouldn’t be be warming his shoulder up!?” so far its really good.

I’ve seen the fan subs of “Touch” and agree its one of the best animes I’ve ever seens. I would like to know your point of view on the Cross Game anime thats currently airing? if you have time that is.

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