Viz is taking us out to the ball field with their latest attempt at a sports series, this time from one of the greats.
What They Say
On one summer day, Wakaba leaves for camp after making a promise to Ko. A few days later, Ko happens to turn on the television, and a high school baseball game is on. During the exchange, a news report comes on, and Ko can't believe what he hears.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga of the same name by Mitsuru Adachi which began in 2005, Cross Game is Viz Media's latest attempt at bringing out a sports show to US fans. The show may not have any more of a chance than some of their other attempts, but it is noteworthy because it's from Mitsuru Adachi who has some name recognition with fans over the years because of Touch or the manga Short Program which brought a lot of the authors short stories together. Sports shows have a hell of a hard time in the US, which is unfortunate, because there are so many good ones. While I'm not huge into sports, I love sports anime and the creative ways that they're done, whether outlandish or highly technical.
The series starts off by focusing on elementary students Ko and Wakaba. Ko's kind of a special kid in a way as he suggested that the class form a baseball team, named the Doors, but it turns out he has little interest in playing on it. He just wanted to get the uniforms made since that's what his family business is all about and he gets a bigger allowance when he brings in business like that. Ko does end up getting involved with the team though after an incident after school where he's giving Wakaba a ride and the toughest kid in the class sees that and doesn't like it since just about every boy in the class has a crush on her as she's considered the cutest in the whole grade. In order to get away from him and his two tough as nails friends, he ends up sliding down to the baseball field where he starts to play.
Not that he's any good though. He never claimed to be either so it's not exactly a huge shock he can't hit or catch. When Wakaba comes by later on and demands to know why Ko didn't pick her up after she gave him his first kiss, that just sets the tough kid in a bad mood, bad enough that he starts pitching for the other team and striking everyone out. Amusingly, though Ko may not like baseball, he does apparently spend a huge amount of time in the batting cages since he was three years old. Seeing his nemesis like this, he gets up the guts to go against him and ends up hitting a grand slam and winning the whole game. It's a nice setup for an elementary school age game that brings in a couple of the basic characters and establishes the setting nicely.
Then they go and hit you with a massive curveball. One that instantly changes the entire dynamic of the series and has me hugely interested in seeing whether it can carry off the emotional potential provided by what's here. Don't read anything about the show and just try experiencing it.
Though the series is new, having aired in 2009 and early 2010, and the manga is only five years old at this point, Cross Game has an older feeling to it with its rounder character designs and a certain kind of style to it that harkens back to shows from the 80's and early 90's. It's got all the modern sensibilities about it for animation style and technique, but the designs take a little from the past and the present to work while using things you see in shows like Case Closed for angles and roughness of some of the kids. It's got a great look to it that's filled with detail in the backgrounds, especially when it comes to the sporting related scenes, and a wonderful simplicity to the character designs that makes them instantly accessible and appealing.
Cross Game has a whole lot of potential based off of this first episode, and a slight skimming ahead has me even more intrigued to see how well it can carry it off. What we get in this opening episode is something not often seen and a sort of motivation to the characters that speaks volumes. It's not the usual cocky characters, the types that are instantly awesome or natural born geniuses. They're not shy, awkward types thrust into a situation they don't want to be in. They're just young kids who are living their lives and find their situations irrevocably changed and they have to cope and deal with it in the only way that they can at that age. With great looking designs and solid animation combined with a perfect setup, Cross Game has all the potential in the world right now and it's backed by the Mitsuru Adachi name. I'm simply excited.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.