By Mitsuru Adachi. Released in Japan in 2 separate volumes by Shogakukan, serialized in the magazine Shonen Sunday. Released in North America by Viz.
And so, at last, after two delays (this was supposed to be out in July), we have the final volume of Cross Game. And perhaps the final Adachi in North America or a while, though I hope I’m wrong. If it is the last, though, at least we got this, a terrific story which both encompasses exactly what Adachi does best and also plays with his own cliches. Plus it’s one hell of a final game.
There’s a lot of flashbacks and flashforwards throughout the entire volume, as despite this being the big winner goes to the Koshien game, there’s a lot on everyone’s mind. Wakaba, her dream for Ko and Akaichi, and Akane’s surgery, all of which we are aware of. And Ko and Aoba’s conversation before the game, which we only get half of. Though I think we might be able to guess, especially given that Ko prefaces it by asking if he can lie. The flashbacks are all revelatory even as we reach the final volume. The old man who remembers Ko throwing baseballs against his wall with tears in his eyes is touching and sad, then we get Aoba’s own memories, as she catches him doing it. The manga has made it seem at times as if Ko coasts and doesn’t put in the work – this shows that he’s been doing it all along, but it’s a secret. Or a lie. Take your pick.
Some folks have noted they felt that the Akane plot was superfluous, but as I’ve stated before, I think that Adachi did that deliberately to contrast Aoba, so unlike his usual heroines, with Akane, who’s a carbon copy of the type he normally writes. Akane’s quite never-give-up attitude towards her surgery, her waking up to the satisfaction of seeing Akaishi hit an RBI for the first run of the game, and just generally being sweet. This is probably another reason why Cross Game was the perfect license for North America – we are a land which favors the Aobas of the world.
The game itself is a pitcher’s duel, of course, and Ko gets to show off both his batting and pitching chops. It’s the perfect game for a manga narrative (despite Aoba literally walking over to Adachi to suggest a plot at one point – it’s nice to see the 4th wall being broken right to the end), and the outcome is satisfying on both sides, even if one finds it bittersweet. And all that’s left is the realizations – not just Junpei and his marriage proposal/bet, but also Aoba, who understands as Ko walks towards her that Ko and Aoba were able to satisfy Wakaba’s dream. It’s a very emotional moment, and played as one.
But life goes on, and the final chapter is a scene of everyone getting ready for another trip – even if things have changed between the leads. Ko has always described himself as a liar, but it’s Aoba who gets the last word, with the biggest lie she’s ever told Even after she wonders to herself why she and Ko have to be so alike. A fitting end to a terrific series.