It's time to get the new year under way but nothing can go as smooth as you'd want when it comes to Ko and friends.
What They Say:
Ko and his friends ring in the New Year by visiting a shrine. But they find themselves chasing after a pickpocket that victimized Junpei and Ichiyo.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With Cross Game being a fairly relaxed show, doing a New Years episode would seem to fall pretty easily into that category since it's all about being mellow and going through traditions, old and new. The show has small challenges along the way, such as picking up Azuma and having Ko delivering noodles in which he gets to have a bit of an amusing face off against Aoba over it, and these add to the overall feel of the show in a very positive way. It's the kind of things we all go through during holiday events in different ways yet feels entirely familiar. A lot of it is also compounded by the quiet nature of the show when it comes to how it utilizes music as well, since it often doesn't use any for scenes where other shows would put some in to try and keep your attention. Cross Game knows it has your attention.
Cross Game does jump around a bit to show others going through their lives, such as Senda who continues to be confused with someone else by the old men in the area, and Azuma goes back home for a brief time which is welcome. It's an awkward piece there as he really doesn't feel like he belongs there, but not because of anything in particular. His sense of self and presence is very subdued in general and the way he keeps his distance along with his personality has him seemingly disinterested in anything. The only thing that gets him is baseball though, and the chance to get in a few swings perks him up a little. It's interesting to see him in the home setting since he's really no different than he is with Ko and his household. You had to wonder whether he was more personable elsewhere or if this really is who he is with everyone.
The small encounters that populate this episode give it a decent feeling, one where you see the interconnectedness of everyone but also that some are still very much on the outside at times. The focus on the push for Koshien is a bit stronger here, with a few nods toward it from various adults that follow the lives of the kids and want to see them make the grade. There are some small moments here and there as well that are revelatory, such as Azuma making it plain that all he's good at is baseball and that's why he does it as much as he does, almost to the exclusion of all else. His single-mindedness can be difficult at times, but with him having an actual goal for it and working towards it, it doesn't come across quite so badly.
Cross Game has a decent episode, though it's one that feels weak after the last couple where they had a fair bit going on with Akane and the surprise she brought upon meeting a number of people. The show spends its time going through the majority of the cast so there isn't a lot of heavy focus on anyone in particular, but both Azuma and Senda make out a bit better than normal as it all moves towards the same place where they're girding themselves for the new year and the serious work ahead of them of trying to make it to Koshien. The little moments shine here, whether it's Azuma talking to Aoba or the first snow falling around Ko and Akane. The characters are charming and fun to watch and you wonder exactly where their lives will take them.
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.