Title: Cross Game
Author: Mitsuru Adachi
Publisher: Viz Media (Shonen Sunday)
Volume: Volume 7 (volumes 14-15 of 17), $14.99
Vintage: 2009 by Shogakukan, April 2012 by Viz Media
Genre: Sports, baseball, comedy
With the North Tokyo Tournament coming up fast, training is in full swing for the Seishu Gakuen baseball team. Junpei Azuma is whipping the Seishu batters into shape with a grueling training regiment, working hard to get the team to Koshien so he can marry Ichiyo Tsukishima. Ko Kitamura is also preparing for the tournament by running to improve his stamina. Before the game, Aoba is surprised when several members of the team approach her asking for a date if the meet certain goals during their first tournament game. The opening game against Matsunami Metro is called in five innings after Ko pitches ten strike-outs. The next game pits an overly confident Coach Daimon’s Kurokoma Vocational against the unknown Sena Metro. To Daimon’s absolute shock, his team loses to Sena Metro, having grossly underestimated the team now led by a former player of his – Miki – leaving Seishu with the knowledge that they’ll be facing off against a former teammate. As the game between Seishu and Sena gets going, Miki is surprised by how much his former team has changed. He hasn’t been sitting on his hands, though, and his love of baseball and good instincts have turned the unknown Sena Metro into a force to be reckoned with. Miki’s aim isn’t to strike out all the batters of the opposing team; he’d rather let them fill the bases and crush their morale by not letting them score, relying on his team to back him up on the field. Miki plays the game well, but so does Ko, and Seishu has a secret weapon that Miki didn’t anticipate – Aoba Tsukishima. With the knowledge that the person on their team who works the hardest can’t ever play in the games, the second years pull out the stops to play a game Aoba will be proud of. The next game ends with a shut-out by Ko, whose balls seem to be flying faster than normal. Trying to replicate his form after the game, he seeks advice from Aoba. Unfortunately, he decides to test out that advice in their next game, and his control disappears. Yet even though his pitches are messy, they’re hitting the high nineties in speed, closing in on Aoba’s idealized 100 mph fastball. Remarkably, Ko doesn’t let it go to his head, and when a group of reporters asks him about his pitching, he does his best to give Aoba the credit she deserves. As the team practices for the next game, the news filters in that Akane is in the hospital, causing Akaishi to lose some of his focus in the game against Kicchoji. Seishu barely squeaks by with a win to enter the semifinals. After a visit with Akane in the hospital, Akaishi decides he needs to focus and play his best so she won’t feel at fault if he’s distracted by her. Ko and Azuma also have a talk about what’s really important in life. The team is going to have to stay focused in their upcoming game against Nishikura, a team who carefully plans out and controls each inning. The game is intense, with Seishu batting well, but only scoring off two home runs, but Nishikura has underestimated Ko’s speed. Ko finally goes to visit Akane in the hospital, where he learns that she’ll be having surgery the same day as their final game against Ryuou. Ko lies about the situation to Akaishi so he won’t be distracted during the game, but asks Aoba to go with him to visit Wakaba’s grave, where he tells her the truth and asks Wakaba to watch over Akane. Ko’s a good liar, however, and stubborn; it’s clear he intends to carry some of the burden alone as they gear up for the game that will determine if they make it to Koshien.
The kids, in particular the boys, are really starting to mature in this volume. They’re becoming more serious about the important things. They’re dedicated to baseball, but at the same time, starting to realize there’s more to life than baseball. Well, not much more, but a little, at least. Friendship, love, life…. Azuma asks Ko if he would worry about Akane, even if it meant not getting to go to Koshien. Before, Ko might have put baseball first, but he now recognizes that death is a finite end, but not getting to go to Koshien isn’t the end of the world. He even knows that Ichiyo would react the same way, and won’t stop herself from being happy with Junpei just because the team doesn’t make it to Koshien. Akaishi is also growing up and learning to be a real gentleman. Aoba says that “boys are nice,” because “they’re so simple,” and in a way she’s right. Both Ko and Akaishi work hard so that Akane won’t worry about them or feel guilty, and (though Aoba is oblivious to it) the rest of the team is working hard to make Aoba proud and make up for her absence in the game. It’s sweet, and it is a little simple minded, but on the inside the boys are filled with swirling emotions. Ko in particular, who keeps much of the truth about Akane’s situation to himself so the others won’t worry. At the same time, his mind is filled with thoughts of Wakaba, worried that the summer tragedy years ago will repeat itself. He has a lot on his mind, and it will be interesting to watch how it affects him in the game against Ryuou; he’ll need to focus 120% to go up against Mishima and Oikawa. The boys aren’t the only ones maturing, of course. Aoba is too, although she’s perfectly oblivious to the effect it’s having on her teammates. She doesn’t see it, but she’s becoming a beauty, and the boys are taking notice. It’s not all about her looks, though, because they hold her skills in baseball in high regard and respect her as a member of the team. There isn’t a single player on the Seishu team who would ever say she wasn’t a member of the team just because she can’t play in official games. She works her ass off and gives her all for the team, and she’s as amazing as Ko when it comes to pitching, though in different ways. There isn’t a lot of baseball action in this volume, and some of the games are rushed through in just a few pages. The focus is on progressing the characters and setting things up for the battle against Ryuou and their final chance to go to Koshien. Ryuou is getting ready, too; Mishima and Oikawa have been watching Seishu’s games, and are itching at the chance to play against the unstoppable trio of Ko, Azuma, and Akaishi. There’s only one volume of Viz’s omnibus sets left, and it all comes down to one final game as the gang tries to make Wakaba’s dream come true.
Review copy provided by Viz Media.