Cross Game, Vol. 5

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

At last, we can now talk about the big secret that comes halfway through Cross Game. Well, after we finish up the big game, of course. It’s an 8-volume series, and we’ve still got four to go. Will our team manage to defeat their rivals and go to the Koshien in their second year, and first with Ko and Azuma?

Hi, spoiler on the cover, thanks for ruining everything as always. In any case, no, of course they don’t. Sports manga have to follow a certain pattern, after all. Ko and Azuma and company have no had to experience the harsh realities of competition nearly enough. And Ryuou is a very good team. We really know that they’re going to win when we’re introduced to the likeable players they have behind the two supposed “superstars” – calm and patient Mishima to contrast with overhyped slugger Shimano, and cocky yet analytical phenom Oikawa replacing the cool – perhaps too cool ace pitcher Matsushima. It’s no coincidence that both replacements mirror Seishu’s own Ko and Azuma.

So yes, Ryuou wins and goes to the Koshien, and Ko and Azuma get a reminder that they’re not perfect yet – but also that they have another year to go. There’s lots of the usual Adachi touches here. Ko’s apology to the third years who will be graduating, and their hug. Ko’s fatigue and injuries, and his pitching through them. Aoba, once again, asking what Wakaba would be like were she there. (Her sister’s reply is both accurate and eerie foreshadowing.) Half the enjoyment of this manga is re-reading it and picking out little subtle bits you missed the first time around.

As for what Wakaba would be like were she around, well, one merely needs to look at the cover, which clearly shows Aoba standing next to a teenage Wakaba… oh, wait, no it isn’t. Instead, it’s Adachi using one of the hoarier cliches in fiction – the lookalike of the dead romantic interest. There’s a new soba shop in town, and their daughter, Akane (come on, he HAS to be trolling Takahashi here, even if it is a common Japanese name) is a dead ringer for a 17-year-old Wakaba… well, at least that’s what everyone isn’t saying. There’s a lot of stunned gazes, a few muttered asides, and some discussion of “ghosts growing older”, but mostly what we see here is Ko and Aoba trying to deal with her mere presence. They both, typically, share the same reaction – they’ve no idea if she looks like Wakaba as a teen or not, as Wakaba is still 12 in their heads.

As with the previous section, the second half of the volume is rife with fantastic character moments. Azuma’s quiet happiness at seeing his brother being cheerful, and his needling of Ko about fulfilling Wakaba’s dream – and Aoba’s, since she can’t participate. Mizuki doing his best to be nice and helpful to Aoba, but never quite getting the hang of it, mostly as he tries hard to do what Ko does naturally by being a brat towards her. Aoba’s detailed research on Akane, and Ko’s annoyance that everyone seems to assume that he’ll end up with her the moment she arrives. (Clearly they read the same big book of cliches Adachi did). And of course Akane herself, mostly still a nice, polite cipher, but her increasing puzzlement at everyone staring at her as if she’d grown a third head is apparent.

I remain ecstatically happy that Viz picked this series up. I do hope they do more Adachi in the future (digital?), but for now I will enjoy this, a release once again appropriate for the season – baseball is wrapping up, time to move on.

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  1. Yes, indeed this. All of it.

  2. I always here so many good things about this sereis and it just never clicked with me (I just couldn’t get past volume one’s characterization) Just one of those sereis I have to go not for me.

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