Title: Cross Game
Author: Mitsuru Adachi
Publisher: Viz Media (Shonen Sunday)
Volume: Volume 5 omnibus (contains volumes 10 and 11, of 17), $14.99
Vintage: 2007 and 2008 by Shogakukan, October 2011 by Viz Media
Genre: Romantic comedy, baseball
It’s time for Seishu’s big game against Ryuou Gakuin to see if Seishu will qualify for Koshien. This game is going to take everything they have and more, but with confidence from their last win against Sannou, the guys are ready to give it their all. Volume 5 picks up just after the third inning, with the score 1-0 for Seishu, from a home run by Azuma. Arrogance is running high in Ryuou’s pitcher, Matsushima, and their clean-up batter, Shimano. While their aces struggle to keep it together, Ryuou’s benched back up pitcher, Oikawa, and batter, Mishima, start getting excited as they watch the game play out. The challenge before their team is one of the best they’ve had in a while, and watching the Seishu underdogs hold their own against a high ranking team has got their competitor’s spirit burning. Mishima finally gets a chance to play when Shimano injures his hand catching a line drive hit by Azuma, and things start getting even more interesting when a tiring Matsushima is replaced by the fresh Oikawa in the ninth inning. With the game tied, and Ryuou up to bat, Ko starts changing gears to prepare for Mishima. In order to try and strike him out, Ko sacrifices his control for speed, and even after two hours of play, he’s pitching faster than ever. Unfortunately, he injures his hand catching a line drive off Mishima. It’s not as bad as Matsushima’s injury, so Ko is able to keep playing as the game goes into a tenth inning with a tie. The first sign of trouble is a bat throw by Ko on a strike, then Ko misses a throw on the mound from the catcher. When Oikawa hits another ball straight towards the mound, Ko tries for another catch…but this time, he misses, and that’s the end of the year’s Koshien dream for Seishu. On the bus, the team is so thrilled to have played such an amazing game, that they don’t care about Ko’s mistake, and even Azuma assures Ko that the game he pitched was nothing to be ashamed of. The story shifts gears, and life goes back to relative normality. Ryuou is making its way through the Koshien ranks, and next door to Kitamura Sports a soba shop is under construction. This soba shop won’t ever be an afterthought, however, as the owners’ daughter looks uncannily like Wakaba would if she were still alive. As the summer festival approaches, everyone has Wakaba on their mind, as she died six years ago just before the annual summer festival. Perhaps as she is already on everyone’s minds, the appearance of the similar looking Akane takes everyone by surprise, from Aoba and her family, to Ko, and even Akaishi, who twice drops breakable objects in shock at the sight of her. The resemblance is so unsettling that Akaishi and Aoba even think they’re seeing Wakaba’s ghost. She is not Wakaba’s ghost, of course, and she’s not at all Wakaba, as Ko is reminded by several people around him. She’s trouble, though, that’s for sure, as Ko is clearly drawn toward her, and Akane herself begins to feel sisterly affection for the younger Aoba. For the most part, no one’s brought up the resemblance in front of Akane…until a blundering Senda blurts it all out. Meanwhile, Mizuki is still trying to get Aoba’s attention, even going so far as to nick his hand up quite a bit to fix Aoba’s broken alarm clock for her, and asking her to go to the summer festival with him.
There’s a lot to love in this volume. There are plenty “Aoba, you’re just like Ko” comments floating around, which of course she ignores, because it’s impossible that she’s anything remotely like him. The baseball game in the first half is genuinely exciting and unpredictable, helped by the fact that several of the characters are thoroughly enjoying the game themselves. The normally bored Mishima gets excited at the prospect of facing a pitcher like Ko, and Oikawa finds himself admiring the rookie pitcher as well. Both Mishima and Oikawa are typically benched to allow seniors Shimano and Matsushima their spot light, so they’re practically salivating at the idea of getting to play against one of the only teams that’s been a real challenge. Despite the competition, respect grows between the four players (when you include Azuma) throughout the game, and their impressed with one another’s skills. Then there’s Akane. She really does look like Wakaba, enough that some people are prone to forgetting that she obviously is not the same person. Azuma seems quite interested in where Akane’s appearance will lead, while Ko, as usual, seems swept up in the impressions that others are pushing onto him. Akaishi can’t get over how similar they are, while it seems like Aoba is doing her best to convince herself that Akane isn’t Wakaba. I feel sorry for Akane, who undoubtedly will have to struggle under everyone’s memories of Wakaba, and prove that she is her own person. My favorite moments in this volume involve the growing friendship between Azuma and Ko. That Ko is able to put a smile on the normally expressionless Azuma’s face is a sign of the respect Azuma holds for Ko, and is the best evidence available that Azuma really does see Ko as a teammate and friend. He compliments Ko’s abilities, but only when Ko really deserves it, but any praise from someone like Azuma is high praise indeed. For Ko’s part, he’s even started warming up to Azuma and seems less bothered that the other boy is living at his house. It’s a lot of fun to watch their friendship grow, and the highly observant Azuma pairs fantastically with the generally clueless Ko. The only real disappointment with this volume is that characters like Nakanishi and Akaishi get very little face time. Akaishi has some nice moments while he’s catching Ko’s pitches and noticing how much faster the balls are flying, but Nakanishi has one or two comedic moments and is otherwise barely seen. The boys will be entering their final year of high school soon, so things will surely be heating up as they try for their final attempt to make Wakaba’s dream of everyone playing at Koshien come true.
Review copy provided by Viz Media.