Review by: Eduardo Zacarias
Publisher: VIZ Media
Author: Mitsuru Adachi
Genre: Graphic Novel (Shonen Sunday)
MSRP: $19.99 US
Rating: T (Teen)
Release Date: Available Now
Fans of manga sports series will find that this one scores big to become another MVP.
I’m a real sucker for anime and manga about sports and even more so when it concerns baseball so Cross Game was a manga series I needed to check out. Interestingly enough, VIZ Media decided to release Cross Game in omnibus form featuring the first three volumes of this manga series making it a beefy edition that not only hits a homerun in the sports department but also tells a touching story about growing up.
Talented manga-ka Mitsuru Adachi weaves a lovely little tale about Ko Kitamura, a fifth grader whose parents own and operate a sporting goods store that Ko himself works making deliveries and constantly trying to get friends and neighbors to buy sporting equipment. As long as he can remember, he has been going to the local batting center/café to hit some dingers but that’s not the only reason he goes there.
You see, Ko has always been friends with Wakaba Tsukishima, the second daughter of four Tsukishima girls who operate the batting center and café. Wakaba and Ko are practically inseparable friends – to the annoyance of Wakaba’s third sister, Aoba – but it is clear that Wakaba wants to be more than just neighborly friends and even envisions a future together as husband and wife. Being the cutest girl in their class, Wakaba is also liked by a big brutish boy by the name of Akaishi and one day – on a baseball field – Ko makes it clear to the bully that Wakaba is just a neighbor.
Of course, this is farthest from the truth and, while we witness this friendship blossom into something else, tragedy changes everything. Ko tries to cope with the loss but just doesn’t know how until he sees Akaishi shedding tears. Instead, Ko decides to throw himself into the game of baseball having often remembered Wakaba’s dream of seeing Ko become a great baseball player. Her sister Aoba even remembers her sister telling her that Ko has the potential of being something special in baseball.
As it turns out, Ko does have a talent for the game. Years of showing up at the batting center has made him a batter worthy of taking notice. Joining his friend, Hayashi, they start playing on a team with Ko accepting the role of pitcher. Surprisingly, Ko finds out that there’s an amazing pitcher out there as well who happens to be a girl. Imagine his shock when he realizes that this girl is Aoba, Wakaba’s sister!
The series often gives us a good glance into Aoba’s life as well so we come to know that this tomboyish girl has a love for baseball. She’s also a sullen girl who does not like Ko for the obvious reason that he has always had all of her sister’s attention. The fact that her family loves the guy (especially their little sister, Momiji) is equally irritating. Even when he comes into her life as well as share their love of baseball, Aoba cannot accept Ko’s presence.
Now in her Junior High years, Aoba plays on a team captained by Akaishi who has always had fond memories of Wakaba and remembers her telling him that he should be out in the field playing baseball rather than just watch from the sidelines. Akaishi is the one who truly recognizes Aoba’s talent as a pitcher and overlooks her gender despite the fact that everyone else just sees her as a girl.
Meanwhile, Ko finds himself on a team in his High school years but only as part of the portable team. Ko witnesses how the players on the varsity team are treated in school as teachers overlook everything from tardiness to poor study habits. He also sees the dirty side of school sports that come in the form of the interim principal and Coach Daimon who are trying to make a name for themselves by way of the team and its success this semester.
Looking for new talent to compliment his star cleanup batter – a boy named Yuhei Azuma – the coach looks into the portable team for talent as Ko, Akaishi, Hayashi and Aoba find themselves on the team. Well aware of the Coach’s intentions, Ko and his friends will show them that there’s more to them than meets the eye. With a lot at stake, Ko will give it his all while Aoba manages to surprise everyone with her pitching. Where they will stand on the team is yet to be seen but things heat up to make room for the next volume.
This omnibus edition of Volume 1 of Cross Game is a wonderfully surprising, moving and whimsical look at baseball and all the things that go with a coming-of-age story like this one. Adachi gives us a wonderfully written story with more than decent art but with a lot of heart so you will find yourself loving every page of this thick edition. If you love baseball or just a good manga series, put Cross Game on your Must Have list.
MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN
Ko and Wakaba have been inseparable childhood friends until a tragedy makes Ko take solace in the game of baseball he enjoyed playing with friends. Ko finds himself showing his true potential in the sport as Wakaba’s sister, Aoba, proves that she has not only has a talent for the game but also a great dislike for Ko. As we watch them both grow into High school students, baseball becomes an even bigger part of their lives.
The art is serviceable and despite a few character issues you will find a lot to love about the art … especially the backgrounds and the baseball action.
The Volume 1 Omnibus of Cross Game joins the ranks of some of the best baseball-themed manga already available by telling a story that’s not only engrossing but endearing as well. A very few select number of sports manga really makes you fall in love with the sport but this one manages to do that and more in this big edition you will like even if baseball isn’t your game.
Review copy provided by VIZ Media