One of the biggest matches of their lives is now at hand and the pressure is intense for everyone.
What They Say:
It's the day of the district championship game between Seishu Gakuen and Ryuou Gakuin, but Aoba is not at the stadium, choosing instead to be at the hospital for Akane's surgery.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With Akane's surgery having gone off without a hitch, Ko is able to put all of his focus squarely on the game itself. He's been a bit cagey with his friends about what's gone on and all that was involved with it, even keeping aspects of it secret from Akaishi, so that everyone would get a good nights sleep. Well, outside of Ko since he's showing a yawn or two at the start of the game that will determine who goes to the next stage. The district championships get a lot of attention and the energy is huge there as everyone is excited to see what's going to happen. A bit tired he may be, but Ko is able to step up right from the start with a strong pitch (which is amusingly 'translated' into mph rather than the kph we see on the screen, which is more localizing than translating unfortunately).
The fun of the game is definitely evident, especially as Ryuou is a school that has definitely earned its position much as Seishu has. A cocky pitcher that believes nobody will hit a home run gets shown up pretty quickly with just what Azuma can do, though it's not exactly what he thinks will happen. Still, the Ryuou pitcher is just as strong as Ko is but in a different way which keeps both sides in a strong fight against each other for every base, every pitch and every play in general. Thankfully, it's not hugely dragged out where we'll spend episodes upon episodes with the game as it moves at a good clip. We know these kids are good, so we get to see some of the key moments of the game early on and admire the way they play and the enthusiasm and energy of the crowd that's in attendance.
Baseball obviously dominates this episode compared to others, something we haven't really seen in awhile all told, but it's pretty much a given and I honestly expected more of it in the last few episodes. Cross Game continues to find a good balance for its various angles and there are some decidedly cute moments in here as well, such as the batting cage and café being closed and the way Ko gets certain stern looks from Aoba in the middle of the game about his performance. It is good to see that Ko isn't unbeatable with his play, something that's been consistent throughout the series, and seeing the way these two teams compete here is wonderful. It's not full of loud and obnoxious personalities fighting and arguing over it, screaming about victory or anything similar. It's strong, confident and serious players loving every minute of their dreams getting ever closer, but knowing only one team will go further.
Cross Game's style of character interaction, personality and baseball has been a winner from the start, even when it has its lulls like it did in the twenties here. There's such a sense of excitement about it, and a sense of uncertainty about just how far the team will go and what they can achieve that you really don't know what will happen. With the series opening on such a down note and surprising note at that, that uncertainty has been one of its biggest assets that continues to serve it well because it's not overplayed. With this episode, seeing the kids reach a huge moment in their young lives that they've dreamed about for several years if not all of their lives to some degree, it's powerful. And that has been a key word for Cross Game since the start that simply won't let up, though it uses it very carefully.
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.