The series draws to a close with lots at risk for both teams in the twelfth inning.
What They Say:
Thanks to Ko, Seishu has earned a one-run lead in the twelfth inning, but pitching eleven innings is starting to take its toll on Ko.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
From start to finish, Cross Game has been a very interesting series and one unlike most other sports series out there. From those first few episodes, we got a real feel for the style and nature of the series which has largely held up throughout its fifty episode run. With some nice little nods and flashbacks here, such as the coach remembering the early days and the promise of these kids that was being ignored by the previous coach, there's something very bittersweet about it all. With everything now coming down to the twelfth inning with Ko having earned them a one run lead at the end of the previous episode, it's again all up to Ko. It's almost a bit brutal in a way as he's had to pitch constantly throughout the game and the strain of dealing with pitching again at this point is definitely starting to show. But it's this kind of moment that can really define a young man with who he really is. There's a great moment where he says to Akaishi that he's the pitcher and Akaishi is the catcher, showing the bond that the two have had for years and that he knows what it means.
The strain that Ko is under is actually a lot of fun to watch as he works through it in the way that is very much him. You can see the strain hitting him, but it's not really psychological at all but rather it comes down to the physical side. It's intense but great to see him as he works through those last batters in an attempt to hold them off so they can claim the victory. When it finally does come around, there's a great easing of that tension that's wonderful to see as well. I really liked the sequence with the Ryuou players though as they deal with their loss, as their coach is proud of them for being the strongest team in the schools history but also having the players note that they'd win if there were more than one game to be played between the two teams. But as the coach says, it's the summer tournament for Koshien, you can't think that way and just have to roll with it knowing you did your best.
Thankfully, they don't spend the entire episode on the game and allow for some epilogue material, including a wonderful hug between Aoba and Ko that leads to Aoba slapping him really good. But there's strong meaning between the two for something like that to happen and even Azuma seems to know what it really means. The two have had quite the relationship over the years and with this victory, it's the culmination of a dream of Wakaba's for Ko that Aoba is able to see through for her. With the show moving things towards Koshien with Ko and Aoba heading there, it's all very relaxed at this stage and wholly appropriate. It feels like much of the personal stories side of the series has been with the quiet moments and the somewhat frank discussion while still skirting things a little bit.
The finale moments of this episode really says all that needs to be said about the relationship between Aoba and Ko that has been simmering from the start. A few words conveys much as does the simple smile of Ko. The remainder of it gives us some really nice stills about where various characters end up and the kinds of things that make them happy, which is all you really want at this stage. Cross Game started off with a tragedy and made young lives difficult. But they overcame them, made new friends and found their paths in life. This series has had its less than great moments to be sure, but by and large Cross Game is one of those series that will stick with you for a very long time because of its wonderful writing, pacing and execution. These are characters you want to follow for more than just this brief period in their lives. You want to see where they'll go. But even though we'll never get to, we end our relationship with them here knowing that they'll be going to great places and full of happiness.
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.