Cross Game is a moving drama that is heartfelt and true, yet in the brilliant hands of manga artist Mitsuru Adachi, delightfully flows with a light and amusing touch. The series centers around a boy named Ko, the family of four sisters who live down the street and the game of baseball. This poignant coming-of-age story will change your perception of what shonen manga can be.
I'm not a big fan of Shonen manga. I read it in the course of my day to day but I kind of stay away from it. But I don't shy away from it by any means. I heard about Cross Game from Ed Sizemore, I believe, and decided to just cover it for the MMF. I had heard Mitsuru Adachi from his work on Touch (which I still haven't gotten through) so I thought "it's another baseball manga from Adachi!?" The phrase One Trick Pony came up, I can tell you. But the good news news is that I don't feel of what I've read of Adachi that he's in danger of being stale.
I found myself liking what I was reading by something I thought of after getting through the first part of volume 1. It was this: there are people with degrees of potential. There are the people who seem to burn bright but are cut down, the people who take a while to burn bright and the ones who seem to burn bright but really are dull on second glance.
Ko Kitamura, in his third year of Junior High (seriously, I don't get school ages in Japan/US), and works at his family's sports equipment shop. He is friends with the Tsukishima family who run a local baseball batting centre, specifically Wakaba and to a lesser degree Aoba. He and Wakaba are the same age with Aoba being a year younger. Because of them being extremely close and friendly, people assume that Wakaba and Ko make a good couple. Ko and Aoba don't get on but they are not hostile with each other. Life is good with Ko and the Tsukishima's. We then see as Ko and the Tsukishima's grow up together and they enter high school. Ko is an excellent batter and Aoba is a great pitcher. Wakaba states that Ko could be really good. Aoba doesn't believe her, per se.
Now I'm going to stop "plot-ising" here. The main thing that has me ordering the second volume of this series is the fact that Adachi completely gets the idea of the impermanence of life. People go about their life not knowing what could be around the corner. But they treat each day as best they can. I can't tell you why but when the story is joyful, the author knows where to break and tell a joke, or give you something to feel light and good. But when things are bad, oh Lord, it's absolutely heartbreaking.
On page 187-189, I've been there. Not specifically that situation, but the feeling of being lost and not knowing what to "do". But life goes on. Horribly, painfully, it goes on. Where Adachi gets it right is that people cope with loss as best they can. We know they are hurting. But they try their best to meet each day.
The artwork is amazing. When the boys and Aoba play baseball, there's a fluidity to the proceedings that is really buzzing. I know when they throw things, that they (the baseballs) are travelling fast. Unfortunately when they talk about scores and runs, I still don't understand baseball. Oh well. The tranquillity of the scenes of daily life is really amazing. I could really feel that summer heat belting down on me. I found myself looking at all the details in the backgrounds to see if I could peer around covers and over buildings!
The characters are lovely, with the main leads getting the most development but the background ones are good too. Daiki Nakanishi, who is friends with Ko, serves as baseman ( I do know what everyone in baseball does, I just don't know about scoring in baseball). Senda, a shortstop on the high school team, is an eejit. There, I've said it. Other than the Tsukishima sisters there aren't that many female characters but towards the end of the omnibus things do improve at that end. Ko especially, I feel for. He's not trying to be a great baseball player but he can't help it. And it's the Tsukishima sisters that make him want to be better, if only on a sub-consisous level.
All in all, I love this series. I can't recommend this enough to people. The back of the book states "[the] story will change your perception of what shonen manga can be." Yeah, that sounds about right in my case.
This review appeared as part of the May Manga Moveable Feast, a monthly round up for a particular manga title, and is hosted by different websites. For more information on this month's title, see the link.
Please note, some of this review has been edited to remove spoilers. To see the original please see the link