Cross Game (manga)
Cross Game is a romantic comedy/baseball manga created by Mitsuru Adachi that consists of 17 volumes serialized from May 2005 – February 2010. I originally heard about this series from a friend who highly recommended the anime. A few weeks ago I noticed that the show was on Hulu so I decided to check out an episode or two. Much to my surprise I was drawn in to the series quickly and watched about 20 episodes in two days (much to my dismay since I should have been studying). Hulu didn’t have the entire series so I decided I’d just read the manga instead. It wasn’t too hard to find the entire series online and once I started reading it I finished it all in about three days.
For those wondering what the series is like, I would have to say that it should be considered “slice of life” with some baseball tossed in on the side. Don’t mistake this as a series like Slam Dunk! or even Prince of Tennis. It’s more about the character development than it is about the actual sport of baseball. I’m not by any means a fan of baseball (I really hate watching it since it’s so slow) but since the series isn’t that heavy on baseball and the action also goes pretty fast it doesn’t seem that bad.
Anyone that plans to watch the anime instead of reading the manga should be happy to know that for the 20 or so episodes of the anime I saw it followed very closely to the manga.
The story can be split up into two parts. The first part happens when the protagonist Ko Kitamura is in the fifth grade. During part one you get introduced to the main characters and it happens quite fast. You hardly get to know the characters before tragedy strikes. Part one is quite short being only one volume, but it plays a very important role in the series.
The second part starts after a time skip to when Ko is finishing up his last year of middle school. He’s been training pitching by himself and will practice batting whenever he makes deliveries to the Tsukishimas’ batting center next door. Ko and his two friends Akaishi and Nakanishi join the baseball team in high school but are placed in the second string due to a complicated series of circumstances. They eventually become regulars after the first year and the team strives to reach the Koshien High School Baseball Tournament. While there is a lot of baseball matches played throughout the series, the other side of the story is the development of the characters and the relationships between them.
Ko Kitamura is the son of the owner of Kitamura Sports, a sporting goods store. He grew up next door to the Tsukishima family which owned a batting center with an attached cafe. The Tsukishimas have 4 daughters with one of them Ko’s age, one older and two younger. Wakaba is the second oldest and actually has the same birthday as Ko. They grew up very close and were more or less in a relationship. An accident in the fifth grade ends up taking the life of young Wakaba and that’s where the series really starts. He is a very hard working and talented pitcher who can also stand his own in terms of hitting. His goal is to get to the Koshien and works hard to try to reach that goal. His work ethic makes him a role model for the team and he is truly a cornerstone for the team. He has strong bonds with his close friends and they are often seen together both on and off the field. He also spends a lot of time over at the Tsukishima’s because they are right next door and he will frequently go there to use the batting cages.
Aoba Tsukishima is the other main character. Aoba is the third oldest Tsukishima daughter and always liked baseball and is a talented pitcher. She was jealous of Ko because her older sister Wakaba spent so much time with him and Aoba felt that Ko was stealing Wakaba away. She truly loves baseball and even trains Ko pitches other than fastballs. She is very much a tomboy but is still very popular among the boys. There has always been tension in the relationship between her and Ko but there is a mutual understanding most of the time since they are actually quite similar in personality.
As the story unfolds it’s interesting to see the motivation of each of the characters. Both Ko and Aoba are fueled to succeed in baseball in order to fulfill the last dream that Wakaba had. Along with Ko’s friends Akaishi and Nakanishi they play through three years of high school baseball, facing a host of hardships along the way.
Action scenes are a great measure of the art in a manga since it requires careful planning by the mangaka. Adachi draws the action scenes brilliantly, making it very easy to understand what’s going on at all times. The action in the manga is very dynamic and at times you can almost hear the roar of the crowd and the crack of the bat because you’re just that drawn in. The other thing that Adachi excels at is being able to illustrate a great dynamic range of emotions. Throughout the series Adachi is able to show pain, sadness, joy, and many other emotions. One of the things he does so well is being able to move the story along even without dialogue. The power of those silent moments really brings the art and storytelling to a higher level.
I found it so easy to relate to the characters in the story. The interactions and relationships between them were interesting and definitely keeps the reader engaged. I was constantly wanting to find out what will happen. Although I wanted to find out about their performance in each of the games, it was more interesting to see how the characters grow throughout the series. The art was pleasant and the pacing was very nicely handled. Doing some research into the mangaka it seems like he likes to recycle/reuse his stories. His well known work “Touch” appears to have a very similar story which makes it seem like he’s just rehashing the same story with some slight changes. It’s easy for me to overlook that with how much I enjoyed the series although I probably won’t be reading “Touch” since the stories have so much in common. All in all, I would highly recommend this show for anyone that enjoys slice of life stories.
[easyreview title=”Cross Game Review” cat1title=”Story” cat1rating=”9″ cat1detail=”Touching story with the right balance of slice of life and baseball.” cat2title=”Art” cat2rating=”8″ cat2detail=”Well drawn, all of the action was easy to follow.” cat3title=”Characters” cat3rating=”9″ cat3detail=”Great character development.” cat4title=”Enjoyment” cat4rating=”9″ cat4detail=”I had trouble putting it down!”]