Cross Game, Vol. 7

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

As we reach Viz’s penultimate volume of Cross Game, the tournament is upon us. Meaning that, after a brief break last volume, baseball finally returns in a big way in this volume. Not that this is a bad thing, of course. Adachi finds new ways to make things interesting. An old, proud villain getting what’s coming to him. An old friend on a rival team trying his best. Akaishi dealing with distractions putting him off his game, just as Azuma did last volume. Ko finding that if he sacrifices control, he can throw even faster. This is still a sports manga, and the baseball chapters are very good.

Speaking of Akaishi, it’s interesting contrasting his relationship with Akane to Ko’s here. Akane spends most of the last half of the volume in hospital, which, as I noted before, is throwing Akaishi off his game due to his being distracted. The way she handles this is great, and shows me that I think she’s pretty much written Ko off. (She gets the 2nd best line of the book. “Boys are nice, aren’t they?” It’s funnier in context.) Later, we see her conversation with Ko, which is almost entirely elliptical and filled with unspoken meaning. She’s pushing Ko towards Aoba, just as she tries to push Aoba towards Ko at the start of this volume.

Ko, honestly, doesn’t need that much pushing. I think he understands where his feelings lie on the matter – at one point he notes Akane looks like Wakaba… too much like her – but he simply isn’t the sort of guy who presses things in a straightforward way. His training to become a great pitcher took Aoba by surprise, and I think his feelings need to do the same. We’re hearing more and more about Ko being a “great liar”, and that’s not just discussing his ability to say the opposite of what he means with a straight face. We have several moments here where Ko is clearly being honest and forthright – with Aoba at Wakaba’s grave, and with Azuma when discussing Ichiyo’s “bet” (Ko clearly knows Ichiyo is going to get married Koshien or no.) However, the constant background chant of “liar, liar, liar” makes us wonder if this is how Aoba sees him – deceptive, shifty, not saying what he means.

As for Aoba, I’d noted several reviews ago that Cross Game features a hero who’s similar to Adachi’s heroines, and Aoba is a heroine that’s quite like Adachi’s heroes. She still has trouble accepting things. Not just the idea that Ko might be interested in her – something Ko denies to her face – but the idea that she has any worth beyond sports. Her attempts at common ‘feminine’ activities – cooking, sewing – are disasters, and the fact that everyone looks to her as an inspiration in baseball must hurt horribly given that she can never truly participate. Akane says point blank that if Aoba learns to like herself, she might learn what Ko really sees in her. And even Ko is, I think, starting to realize that he can’t pull the “I’ll do anything but date you” thing forever. His brushing off of Aoba when he goes to Akane in the hospital, saying “you’d be a third wheel”, is startling, and one of the few times I think Ko means to provoke a deliberate reaction.

The baseball team, in case I forgot to mention it, has made it to the finals by the end of the book. If Seishu wins, they go to Koshien. Of course, while we’d like to see that, the final volume will be about Ko and Aoba, as always. They both took Wakaba’s death in different ways, creating behavioral habits that were designed to avoid having them be hurt again. And as they grow up – Ko, drifting away from any conflict, and Aoba, angrily punching past obstacles – they realize that this can’t go on forever. Something has to give. In the final volume, we’ll see how Adachi handles it. And who wins.

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