This week Shonen Jump Alpha rolled out its newest straight-from-Japan manga, Cross Manage! Replacing the sci-fi title Barrage, which wrapped up last week, Cross Manage fulfills the sports manga genre which has been missing from the Shonen Jump Alpha line-up. Historically, the sports genre manga has never been huge here, but certainly there is a cult that consistently buys these titles or Viz wouldn’t print stories like Prince of Tennis or Slam Dunk; there is just no way Viz would burn money on something no one is buying. Therefore, before you write off this tale about a guy who becomes manager of his school’s female lacrosse team as “some sports comic,” check it out.
Writer/artist Kaito presents to us his first serialized manga, which follows student Sakurai going into his second year at school, feeling aimless with no club to belong to (there are hints he used to be a soccer star, but an injury has prevented him from playing the sport permanently). One day while walking home he meets the ditzy Misora, who is practicing lacrosse and also goes to his school. After bumping into her a few more days in a row, one fateful afternoon she falls down hard while practicing and Sakurai quickly rushes to her aid. This leads to him helping her improve her lacrosse skills. Misora asks Sakurai to be their manager, but he refuses at first. However, after an accidental grope of her breast, Misora decides to use it to her advantage, forcing him to become the new team manager of the girls’ lacrosse team.
Being this is Kaito’s first time out, we have no previous manga work, nor a previous lacrosse-based manga to compare to, so anything is really game here. The set-up feels like a text book part-sports manga (athlete facing injury from the past helps others improve and become better) and part-harem-comedy manga (one high school boy suddenly thrust into a team of girls and the wackiness that will ensue in his life). I’m not sure how this will do with readers in Japan, but the harem-comedy aspect immediately ups this thing’s appeal above other sports manga for readers here stateside, where a large amount of readers buys into the harem-genre of anime/manga. The artwork on this title is nice, a chunk of pages feeling like an older 1980s manga layout, but still looking sharp.
Cross Manage is a new hat in the mix, and it’ll be interesting in the next few weeks to see where the story goes. If you like sports genre stuff, this is a no brainer. If you like harem-comedies, again it’s a no brainer. If you are a reader who can’t get over the barrier of “it’s a sports comic,” it’ll take a few more chapters to see if it becomes sports-heavy or comedy-heavy, and I’d wait a little bit to see if you should take a crack at it or not.