The arrival of Akane continues to send subtle shockwaves to roll through the cast.
What They Say:
Akane finally moves next door to Ko, and Aoba doesn't like the fact that the two are becoming good friends. But one day, a certain incident brings Aoba and Akane closer together.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
A lot of the tone of the series at this stage can be told just from the opening minute of the episode as Azuma fills in the sisters about what he and Ko have learned about Akane. While the eldest is curious and a little tense perhaps about it, you can feel the tension emanating from Aoba as Azuma talks about her. And that's just with her back turned to everyone while she clean sin the restaurant. Akane's arrival and striking similarity to what Wakaba would look like at that age has really shaken her, though some of it is for reasons she doesn't quite understand herself yet. It's easy to imagine that Aoba's mind is going a mile a minute over it and every little thing is being analyzed and critiqued yet she's not fully aware of why she's feeling this way.
Aoba's reaction after that is just as interesting, though more amusing, as she basically scouts out Akane and learns as much about her as she can from a distance. All it proves is that Akane is not Wakaba in quite a few ways and that seems to ease her mind, but when she tells Ko about it he doesn't really seem to care. While there's obviously some physical resemblance and that's kicked off things, the male mind is a bit odd since he's going to view her as her own person. Ko even has the best line of the series so far I think in saying that Wakaba will always be the fifth grade version he knows in his heart. He even goes so far as to say that to the guys, but since they all knew Wakaba, there's a certain comfort there in that they've all shared in that loss and can understand where each other comes from with it.
Akane herself gets some decent time in this episode, which is definitely welcome, since she needs to get away from being almost a figment of their imagination and to be something real instead. Ko helps out easily enough by being generally friendly with her but it's Momiji that really provides the catalyst for things becoming easier. There's a very sweet moment where the two of them are in the park drawing and you can see Momiji being really uncertain about the whole thing since it reminds her of her sister so much. When she walks Momiji home, she manages to find a creative way to befriend her, but it's the opening that's needed. Especially when the girls dad opens the door and he sees her for the first time and Aoba walks up. What really strikes me about this is that it has the potential for all of them to be really good friends with her, to almost really adopt her as a member of the family, if they can keep it from being creepy. When Akane really understands what's gone on in the past, it could easily drive her away if it gets to be too much. Yet it could also be something she's looking for.
When Cross Game really wants to tell its story, it's a damn good show. Almost too good in the way it makes the characters so accessible and easy to connect with. After the draught of good material we had in the twenties, the thirties seem to be ramping things up in a way we haven't seen for weeks and weeks. This episode starts to humanize Akane more, something that's really needed at this stage so that she doesn't become this entirely magical creature that has arrived in the real world. This subplot is done very well here because it takes a good young woman and doesn't try to glorify her or highlight her weaknesses. It simply brings her in as she is and lets us decide how we want to deal with her. While her character can be controversial and really drive a wedge between fans, it's hard to not like her based on what we know of her so far, how she presents herself and the way she manages to fit in. Cross Game really manages to win me over to her side and to the way everyone is handling it. It's not overplayed, which could easily be done, as it all simply feels right.
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.