Speaking plainly may not be human nature for the most part, but when it happens it's a game changer.
What They Say:
Ko visits Akane in the hospital and finds out that she is to undergo an operation on the day of the tournament final. Ko tells Aoba, and they pray to Wakaba for a successful operation before heading into the final game.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Cross Game has finally nudged Ko into going to see Akane in the hospital and it's one of those strangely pleasant yet quiet kind of moments. Ko's relationship with her does feel odd at times with how it's been unfolding, though in some ways it feels decidedly Japanese in that they're keeping much to themselves. Or at least the way that such things are presented through media, making it feel this way. The two have only a short talk overall, but it's interesting how Akane sees there's something very strong between him and Aoba and she continues to push him in certain directions. Ko has a real heart to himself though, which we've definitely seen, and he takes an interesting approach by asking Aoba to go with him to Wakaba's grave to pray for the success of Akane's surgery. It's not something Aoba expects, since she wasn't aware of the surgery itself, and the combination of the two hits her like a lot of bricks.
This actually takes up the first half of the episode as the two spend their time walking there together and remembering bits of the past. There's a cute scene from when they were younger and visiting Wakaba's grave site and ended up getting into a fight where they made a mess of things until they were forced by the caretaker to clean it up. A caretaker that's still working there no less. The two have quite a history to themselves and it's neat seeing things like this reveal itself. Of course, the two of them going together causes a small ripple effect as Azuma still isn't quite sure of his place with her and it's unsettling in its own way for him to find out about it. It actually leads to a really great moment of honesty on Azuma's part that makes things clear in a way that people usually do. Simply saying out loud that you really like someone, even in his restrained tone, has significant impact.
The sports side of the series is definitely picking up its pace as we get closer and closer to Koshien. The various teams continue to come together to bring us towards the end game where it's just down to the final two. Yet during all of this, it's oddly quiet as well for Ko and many of his teammates. They practice and work out, they go through their daily lives and they spend time together. There's a wonderful moment towards the end where Ko plays catch with Aoba and they have a real conversation about feelings since Azuma has made his clear. Her asking if he likes Akane more than Wakaba is definitely hard, but it's something that has easily softened over time. When she asks him if he likes Akane more than herself, it's hard to say exactly what she's feeling but it's the kinds of questions people get asked very rarely in life and they're always turning points in some way.
Cross Game is within reach of the end of the series so it's starting to move things along a bit more plainly at this point. It's covered a lot of ground over its entire run so far but it's done so in a kind of laid back and natural pacing that can be disconcerting in a lot of other shows but feels wholly appropriate for such a realistically done series. The honest that comes from the cast has been evident throughout but in this episode they start to get a bit more honest about things since it's all coming to a head. The tension and quiet before the big events here is just right and seeing the way they're all so tied to each other yet uncertain of each other is wonderful. This series continues to delight me episode after episode.
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.