With the Portables off doing some secret special training, Aoba has to have a little misadventure of her own when visiting them.
What They Say
The district tournament begins, and the varsity team sweeps their first opponent. Azuma's getting a lot of attention from the media, but he and Miki start to have misgivings about Coach Daimon.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
It says a lot about the players on the Portables that even after being flatly told that they won't ever move up to Varsity level as long as Daimon is in charge, they still practice hard, attend the games of the Varsity players and work hard at everything about the game. There's a dogged determination about them to overcome everything but also to do what they feel is right, even as Daimon's team racks up some victories and continues to gain publicity. Amusingly, they do mots of their training out of the sight of Daimon and the varsity players, so they're wholly unaware of what's going on, figuring that the Portables have simply given up and gone home.
Even more amusing is when Aoba is questioned about it and she tells the varsity players that the Portables are off on secret training, even though she's just making it up so as to make herself feel better about it. When she discovers from Ko's parents that they actually are doing special training, she takes advantage of a situation to bring him a bag that he forgot so she can see exactly what's going on up and there and whether they really are training or not. Aoba's interest in Ko continues to grow, though she denies it readily enough, even though it's becoming more and more obvious to those that know her and have known her for many years.
The episode takes a somewhat unwelcome turn when through a bit of miscommunication, Ko's dad has Aoba getting off on the wrong stop and Ko along with Senda realizes that after a bit. They head off to the stop she likely got off at and they do a bit of detective work to find her, since there's an abandoned elementary school there with a really bad reputation among the locals. It's the kind of thing that sets up your haunted school angle, but doesn't follow through with it much (thankfully) and instead plays with having Aoba disappearing in an accident possibly with the two boys doing their best to find her. It's a distracting turn of events in the series that feels out of place and really sitcom-forced in a way, though the end results are worthwhile. Having Aoba watching the boys practice at the end and understanding how the Portables have come together as a team and how Ko has become energized by the whole experience really helps Aoba to see him in a new light.
Cross Game has been a pretty solid show in its first twelve episodes by focusing on the characters, the relationships and heavily on the baseball. The baseball side has been significant for a bit now with the Varsity/Portables game so I'm not surprised we're getting a bit of downtime in a way from focusing on the game itself so much. This episode does some nice stuff with Ko and Aoba and showcases how the Varsity team is doing and nudging us with a look about how the Portables are doing. Aoba's story in it is decent if you take out the whole getting off at the wrong stop piece as that felt like a poor distraction to what needed to be focused on. Still, the charm of the characters and the simplicity of which it deals in makes it all highly enjoyable in the end, but not without a fault or two. This episode felt like a minor speed bump on an otherwise very smooth road.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Dell 10.1 Netbook via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.