Cross Game Volume 4

By Mitsuru Adachi. Released in Japan in 2 separate volumes by Shogakukan, serialized in the magazine Shonen Sunday. Released in North America by Viz.

Summer is here, and that means it’s time for another volume of Cross Game, which Viz has cleverly set up to be released one per season for the next 2 years. (OK, that may be coincidence, but it’s nice to think about.) There’s lots of baseball here, as well as lots of Ko and Aoba. It’s just what we want in an Adachi manga.

For starters, we meet the guy who showed up at the end of last volume, Mizuki. He’s clearly nuts about Aoba, ad just as clearly is not going to get anywhere. This is played with nicely – Aoba has to change the way she gallivants around the house with a boy living there now, and Momiji is quick to pick up on this and tease her for it. Moreover, he manages to kill the rumors that Ko and Aoba are dating – which admittedly doesn’t lead to much yet, but that’s likely as the focus of the last half of this omnibus is baseball. For the most part, though, as a rival Mizuki fails. But since he was never intended to be serious, that’s not all that bad a thing.

(And yes, as noted, you can marry your first cousin in Japan, though it’s done far less frequently than it once was. Hence the need to make the belabored joke here.)

Meanwhile, we continue to see Ko and Aoba’s similarities, which are almost eerie at times. It’s shown time and time again how they think almost exactly alike, and can read each other better than anyone else out there. This can be a plus – neither of them can hide a minor injury form each other for long – but is also serving to keep things distant between the two, as Aoba is quick to note that Ko and Wakaba weren’t just hanging out all the time, they were a genuine couple – even if Ko wouldn’t admit it. At least we get to see Aoba actually get flustered by Ko for once, when he gets right in her face trying to show what the cameras at Koshien will be like.

I mentioned Wakaba, and her presence is still felt here. Aside form the aforementioned discussion, we see a nice scene of Ichiyo, the oldest sister, trying to show Ko that it’s possible to move on and find new love. Ko, of course, remains reticent on the subject. There’s also a lovely montage of Momiji’s memories of playing with Wakaba and Ko when she was a little girl, and her realization that time will eventually move on. But not yet – Ko buys Wakaba a sparkly pendant for her 17th birthday, just as her list asked.

And of course there is baseball. We meet Mishima, a player on the rival Ryuou team, and you know that he’s meant to be a feature of the series because Azuma remembers his name. He’s good too, with Ko noting that he’s the one batter that he’s really worried about. Of course, he’s not actually PLAYING due to another slugger wanting all the glory and convincing the coach to leave him on the bench. It’s been rather startling how much power politics has been in these volumes – and how it’s nice to see Ko’s team as the one who’s there to play the game, with everyone contributing.

The volume ends on a cliffhanger, of course, so the outcome of the game isn’t known. Still, at this halfway point, the series shows no signs of flagging or getting boring. I will admit that we have had it hammered home a great deal how alike Ko and Aoba are, and indeed they seem to be slowly inching towards a realization. The male rival didn’t do anything to sway Aoba’s heart at all. Hrm… perhaps a distaff counterpart?

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