Mania Grade: A
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- Art Rating: A-
- Packaging Rating: A-
- Text/Translation Rating: A-
- Age Rating: 13 and Up
- Released By: Viz Media
- MSRP: 19.99
- Pages: 576
- ISBN: 9781421537580
- Size: B6
- Orientation: Right to Left
Cross Game Vol. #01
Cross Game Vol. #01 Manga Review
By Chris Kirby
November 30, 2010
Release Date: October 12, 2010
© Viz Media
Can you feel the heartstrings being pulled, the rousing feeling of excitement, and the joys of true passion? It must be baseball season.
Writer/Artist: Mitsuru Adachi
What they say:
Cross Game is a moving drama that is heartfelt and true, yet in the brilliant hands of manga artist Mitsuru Adachi, delightfully flows with a light and amusing touch. The series centers around a boy named Ko, the family of four sisters who live down the street and the game of baseball. This poignant coming-of-age story will change your perception of what shonen manga can be.
The first volume of Cross Game by Viz is actually an omnibus edition containing the first three volumes of the manga. I think this is a very smart move considering that sports manga typically do not sell very well in America and the omnibus format will get the whole of Cross Game out in just 8 volumes. Also, by releasing the series in this format we get a good introduction in one volume that anyone who reads it will be able to tell if this series is one they would like to follow or not. For me personally, I knew this was a series to follow after the first couple of chapters!
Cross Game follows Ko Kitamura, the son of a local sports store owner, and the Tsukishima family. The first 10 chapters (the original volume one) introduce us to the characters and how the game of baseball ties in with their lives. Wakaba Tsukishima was born on the same day as Ko and is endlessly in love with him despite his obliviousness, Aoba is a year younger than Ko and is a fervent baseball player, the youngest Tsukishima daughter is Momiji who is fun loving and care free while the eldest, Ichiyo, takes care of them all. While the volume takes its time in introducing all of the main characters, to local baseball team and the class bullies, we get to quickly and fully care for all of them. Ko seems like a space cadet but there is something in his presentation that I was able to identify with and understand his perspective, Akaishi (the toughest kid in school) is in love with Wakaba and a softie at his core, and Wakaba is probably the kindest character in a manga that I have recently read.
While it may be considered a spoiler, a certain event happens at the end of chapter 9 that actually sets the main story in motion. While I was reading, I was instantly absorbed in the overt kindness of the characters and the wonderful story telling; but, in chapter 9 Wakaba dies trying to save a child from drowning while a swim camp. I was immediately grief stricken! “What is wrong with this manga!?” I thought. I just spent 10 chapters getting into the story and really falling in love with the characters and here the author takes the sweetest most gentle character of them all and kills them off! Yeah, tears started to well up on this one.
The next volume begins after a four year time skip with Ko entering into high school. What follows is 20 chapters of heart tugging slice of life dealing with Aoba’s interactions with Ko, how the characters continue to deal with Wakaba’s death, and how they all start to grow into the people they were meant to be. Oh, did I mention this is a sports manga about baseball? Baseball plays as the main back drop to the story line and gives the focus the characters need and actually provides the basis for their motivations. But baseball itself is rarely shown in the manga. There are a couple of scrimmage games here and there and some practice but it all plays second fiddle to what really makes this manga special, the characters. Even the part where Aoba is being abused by the varsity coach to act as a pitching machine is more about the characters than it is about the game.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I love all these characters. The way that they show their vulnerabilities and mature because of Wakaba’s death and have since grown together, or apart in Aoba’s case, is really something special. Plus, baseball is my favorite sport and using it as a back drop to a heartwarming coming of age story (think The Sandlot more and Rookie of the Year less) just raises my excitement level. As a matter of fact, this manga is actually quite a bit like The Sandlot in how baseball plays a major part in the kids’ lives but it is about the kids first and foremost. This is by no means a negative thing as The Sandlot has always been one of my favorite movies.
The art style of the series is quite different from what I’ve seen in modern manga. This series started in 2005 but looks more from the 80’s with its simplistic, rounded art style. The art actually brought me deeper into the story because it adds a light air about everything and really pumps up the fun. If this was drawn in a more angular, realistic style I probably wouldn’t have pulled as much from the drama as I did. Also, the author throws in a lot of gags and silly jokes in where you least expect it. Not to compare it but, the way the gags seem kind of random and are pretty off the wall reminded me of Osamu Tezuka. I really enjoyed that aspect of the series not only because the jokes were actually pretty funny, causing me to make a couple of “out-loud” laughs but also because Adachi knows when to use it and when not to; in contrast Tezuka used the gags to break the tension in many of his more series works.
It just occurred to me that I haven’t really mentioned anything about the main plot or the other main character Aoba. Well, the main plot is typical shonen, to become the best. In this case the aim is to one day make it to Koshien, the big baseball tournament. How the characters go about doing this is an admirable fashion, by not trying out for the varsity team and instead playing on the “portable” team and keeping the fun in the sport. Aoba, Wakaba’s younger sister, has grown to truly hate Ko and is very tomboy-ish. She actually provided for me one of the biggest strong points in the book, she is great at baseball for one and secondly, why does she hate Ko so much? I see their relationship going somewhere romantic in the future and I’m ok with this because despite being so mean to Ko throughout the book you can really tell just how sweet she is and there is just something about a girl in a baseball cap that just makes them captivating to me.
Viz has really pulled a rabbit out of the hat with this one. In addition to making a wise decision in how to release this series, it is a series that can really disarm the reader with just how sweet the storyline is and how exciting it can get when the baseball comes into play. I am really curious to check out the anime, also released by Viz albeit streaming only at this time, but after some quick research and finding out that the first 10 chapters are condensed into the first episode leaves me leery. The beauty of the artwork, the perfection of the pacing, and true joy in the characters make this a series to languish in. Just sit back and enjoy because few other series released this year have been able to suck me in as deep as this one did. I am looking forward to seeing the direction the story will take but as long as the characters are the ones taking me there…I really don’t care. Highly Recommended! At this price point there is no reason not to pick this up just to at least see if you like it or not and if you don’t, tell me why so I can gain some perspective because it wholly unnatural how much I like this simple, sweet series about America’s favorite pastime.
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