Title: Cross Game
Author: Mitsuru Adachi
Publisher: Viz Media (Shonen Sunday)
Volume: Volume 4 (contains volumes 8 and 9, of 17), $14.99
Vintage: 2007 by Shogakukan in Japan, July 2011 by Viz Media
Genre: Sports, baseball, comedy, romance
It’s a new season. Coach Daimon has moved on, along with most of the varsity team. Azuma stayed behind, and now lives in Ko’s house. Aoba is in high school now and has joined the baseball team, despite not being able to play in official games. There’s even a new face in town, Aoba’s cousin Mizuki Asami, who is the same age a Aoba. He also quite obviously has a large crush on her. Unfortunately, Aoba is incredibly dense about such things, and thinks her cousin is just being friendly. It doesn’t stop Mizuki from trying, however. For her part, Aoba is starting to become slightly more aware of herself as a girl…but not by much. Meanwhile, the team has been performing well in practice matches, and their coach has been letting Aoba pitch as much as possible since she won’t be able to play once the official games begin. Her older sister Ichiyo and Azuma’s brother Junpei cheer her on, while Azuma notes that his brother has been more genuinely cheerful since he met Ichiyo. Mizuki comes to show his support as well, and even attempts to take Aoba on a date as a reward for winning her first game, but Aoba remains oblivious to his attempt. Ko doesn’t seem to think much of it, trusting in Aoba’s lack of feminine sense, but Mizuki doesn’t at all try to hide the fact that he wants to go out with Aoba. Ichiyo gives Ko some relationship advice, worried that he might be closing himself off after losing Wakaba, but only time will tell if he’ll ever be able to get over his first love. With some important games coming up, Ko, Nakanishi, Akaishi, and Azuma scope out their main competition, Ryuou, their main obstacle to making it all the way to the finals at Koshien. A face from Azuma’s past is on Ryuou’s team – a skilled batter named Keitaro Mishima. The only thing saving the Seishu team from being overwhelmed is the fact that the Ryuou coach has basically benched Keitaro in order to not take attention away from their star batter, Shimano. Seishu’s first official championship game is against Kirigaoka West. As a team from what was an all-girl school just three years ago, Kirigaoka is ill prepared to face Seishu, and Ko and the gang score a fairly easy victory. Next up is a game against Sannou, who has been continually and secretly scouting Seishu to find weaknesses in their line up. Unfortunately, they didn’t scout quite enough, and the ever growing in skill Seishu team takes them by surprise. Particularly surprising to Sannou’s coach is Ko’s pitching, and he even goes so far as to label Ko as the type of pitcher who only comes around once in a decade. Aoba appears to be taking note, as well. The day of the big game against Ryuou arrives, with the Seishu boys as prepared as they’ll ever be. Ko is brimming with confidence after reportedly managing a 93mph fastball, and both he and Azuma are confident they can beat Ryuou…as long as Keitaro remains benched. It won’t be easy, however.
Amusement in this volume comes from everyone’s reactions toward the appearance of Mizuki Asami. Everyone but Ko seems to be overly interested in him, and everyone seems to think that Ko is the most interested. He seems fairly detached initially, until those around him keep putting ideas into his head. I don’t remember if this popped up before, but Akaishi’s been spreading a rumor that Ko and Aoba are going out in order to keep the fangirls away from Ko so he could concentrate on pitching. That might have something to do with why everyone tries to drag Ko into their curiosity over Mizuki (or they’re just less oblivious than he is). At any rate, if it didn’t bother Ko before, the constant prodding from his friends ends up raising his interest. The obvious similarities between Aoba and Ko continue to provide some giggles, like when both of them wake up one morning and down some expired milk (with Aoba criticizing Ko for drinking milk two days farther after the expiration date than she did). They’re so similar that they tend to rub each other the wrong way, but the rapport between them also highlights their shared memories of Wakaba. They even remember the exact same scene from Wakaba’s favorite movie. Speaking of Wakaba, we get some touching scenes this volume, most notably the morning that Wakaba left for camp, when she told Aoba about her dream of everyone playing at Koshien and begged Aoba to teach Ko how to pitch. There’s also a lot of self-deprecation from Adachi which breaks the fourth wall on occasion, but remains a charming element of the series. What I’m really enjoying is watching both Aoba and Ko grow and mature. It’s subtle, as it should be, but it’s also not hard to miss. Particularly Aoba, who suddenly seems to realize that she is in fact female. It’s heartbreaking to watch her on the sidelines, missing out on celebrating a win with her teammates just because she’s a girl, but Ko gently encourages her in his way to keep at it and not to give up on baseball. It would be great if they could find a way to change or get around the rules so that Aoba could have a chance to play at Koshien along with everyone else, just like in Wakaba’s dream. Azuma is becoming more and more likable as the story goes on, the arrogance that seemed to flow from him early on giving way to a genuine friendship between him and Ko, with both supporting each other in their way. He’s actually a rather gentle and understanding sort of fellow, and it’s nice to see that despite his stoic nature he’s just as human as everyone else. I’m slowly falling in love with this series with each volume, and I encourage everyone to at least check it out. It has such a gentle and natural feel, and is an easy and entertaining read. Please support this unique manga if you are able.
Review copy provided by Viz Media.