Cross Game

Title:Cross Game
Keywords: , , , , , ,
Notables: Animation - Synergy SP
Original Concept - ADACHI Mitsuru
The story revolves around Koh Kitamura, a grade-school boy whose family runs the Kitamura Sports store. He gets to know the four daughters of the family who runs the nearby Tsukishima Batting Center, thanks to the store's business and his own batting practice at the center. Aside from playful bantering between Koh and the Tsukishima daughters, all is peaceful in their lives until a tragedy strikes their world. Four years later, Koh continues his baseball training, despite not playing a single game since the tragedy. The manga follows Koh's gradual full return to the sport he loves, and his coming-of-age surrounded by the Tsukishima daughters and their other friends.

This will be the fifth manga title by Adachi and the third baseball manga (after Touch and H2) to be animated for television.


Read the (translated) manga online at MangaFox

New anime series to be aired in 2009. 50 episodes in total.
OverallArtAnimationCharacter Design MusicSeries StoryEpisode StoryReviewer
Buy 8 7 7 8 9 9 Ggultra2764 [series:2055#1552]
To the doubters that sports anime can't create a touching coming-of-age story about moving on from a tragic loss, Cross Game does well at setting up such a story while exploring the sport of baseball that is a major part of the lives of the show's two main characters, Koh and Aoba. While the series is nowhere on par on the visual quality of recent titles like Ookami to Koushinryou - Season 2 and Higashi no Eden, it does offer development on a greater number of characters than recent anime titles I've come across. There's a genuine sense of believability with many of the character personalities that are seen throughout the series and how they develop as the series progresses since much of Cross Game runs through all three of the years Kou and his classmates are in high school. There is a good amount of subtlety to be found in the series as well hinting to developments and thoughts the characters are experiencing, especially with others and in the case of those close to Wakaba, trying to learn how to move on from the tragic experience. The only minor issues I found with the series were a recap episode seen in the middle of the series and Coach Daimon being tacked with a villain archetype.

Beyond the character focus, baseball is a major focus within the series and a key focus to Koh and Aoba as they try to fulfill Wakaba's final wish of making it to Koshien. The games are just as dramatic and well-developed as the character tensions within the series with the preparations, strategies and interactions between the teams. The tensions and believable focus on the game of baseball did well to hook me into each of the major games that Seishu took part in.

Being my personal favorite anime title of 2009, I personally recommend Cross Game to anyone looking for a believable coming-of-age story with baseball being central to the story. With plenty of characters to focus on and providing enough subtlety to their developments, Cross Game is one of the best recent character-driven anime titles I had the opportunity to experience in quite a while.

Last updated Friday, May 14 2010. Created Monday, March 29 2010.
Buy 8 8 10 9 9 9 Silence [series:2055#2939]
Sports anime was never my type, and yet this series is able to draw me in and make me feel so much.

The first episode was really intense for me. Right off the bat, the magnetism of the characters is clearly felt, and I began to feel for them straight away. Hence when it ended, I received a large emotional shock. From then on, the chemistry and down to earth characters carried the show. Add some spice of the strong emotions to reach Koshien, and the disappointment when they fail, and we have an excellent series.

I really like how the characters related to each other; the emotions displayed are modest, as expected from an everyday setting. Yet, they carry strong messages. So quietly and subtly, I get to understand how everyone thinks, and begin to empathize with them. So each episode passes like a breeze, over before I even realize it. Realism is also reflected in the games too, making them exciting and fun to watch.

Towards the middle of the series, the pace slowed down a little, but it picked up once again as we enter the final phase. Despite the outcome being pretty much predictable, the show still managed to send me for an emotional ride. It also dealt with the feelings of the losing team, which is rare.

Overall, Cross Game is an extremely impressive series in a dying breed of anime. It is one show you should not miss.

Last updated Thursday, April 01 2010. Created Friday, October 23 2009.
Buy 9 10 9 8 10 9 chibi [series:2055#2380]
So, how many baseball series have I watched counting this one? Four? Five? But darned if this isn't an interesting one. The artwork and animation are almost primitive, and dialog is superficially simple, but there are lots of undercurrents and sub-plots going on, with just a glance or a turn of phrase telling more than words. (For instance, Aoba switches to formal mode of speech when she wants to make Kou feel like he's an outsider.) If it manages to keep going like this without getting tied down too much by the game itself, Cross Game could be a real winner.

Update: After 17 episodes, I still end each one with the thought "I really love this series". And the Azuma character reminds me of Jessica Rabbit's line: "I'm not bad, I'm just drawn that way."

Conclusion: A deceptively simple story with lots of character and relationship depth that is not easy to pull out but is well worth the effort. Like Touch, character affects the sport, and the sport affects the character, but this is done with more subtlety and realism than in Touch and covers a greater number of characters. Overall, I thought the balance between sport and drama was just about right and is likely to be entertaining even to those not normally inclined towards sports series, and its quality stands out above the cookie-cutter shows that sometimes seem to be all that are being released lately.

Last updated Sunday, April 04 2010. Created Monday, May 11 2009.
Buy Jan-Chan [series:2055#967]
Another Adachi sports-manga title, so of course I would be interested…. And this title is yet another classic Adachi story.

Reminiscent of his earlier series (Touch), the main character is a quiet boy, who after a tragic loss has to step up, and prove himself brave and worthy enough to stand on the pitchers mound at Koshen. His life is entangled with three sports-minded sisters, who happen to run a batting center down the block from his father’s sports store.

Having read the manga, I can share that if you are into these types of sports stories, then this one is great! Adachi is a true artist at scenic layouts and backgrounds. He has his favorite characters, so true to form, the main characters in this story resemble others that he has used before. The story is rich with elements of loss and longing, friendships and rivalries, with a dash of innocent high school romance. But this is a story about baseball, and that’s where it is falls a bit short – for me at least. Just how many different ways can one try to tell a suspenseful story about a pitcher trying to out-pitch a batter? At least Adachi (mercifully) does not try to draw out and string along each of the various games.

While most (actually ALL) of Adachi's tales deal with sports related themes, he excels and shines at how he presents the various characters of the story. It is hard not to build an empathy for Koh, the three Tsukishima daughters and their friends as their story is told. With a focus on the characters, their history and their love for the game of baseball, the actual baseball games appear almost secondary to the story. Adachi even manages to sneak a cute little cat into the story (neko-mania?) which proves a comedic counter point to some of the more serious issues.

And so Adachi has another winning story in his coming-of-age tale of a boy who looses his interest in baseball due to a tragedy and then has to find his way back to the sport that he both loves and is gifted at.

Last updated Saturday, May 15 2010. Created Saturday, April 25 2009.
Rent Stretch [series:2055#628]
(All episodes watched):

The sports anime genre isn't a favorite of mine, which is why Cross Game was one of the last new Spring '09 series that I watched. Episode one didn't make a whole lot of sense to me episode two did much better. The simple character designs are misleading; this is in fact a complex and sophisticated series, much more so than I had expected at first sight. This series and Adachi Mitsuru have gotten a good deal of discussion at ANN lately, and apparently episode one was a tremendously compressed retelling of many volumes of the manga, which might explain how unimpressed it left me. We seem to have the common theme of someone who is really good at a sport but isn't putting their talent to full use, except that here the story is told with some genuine originality and skill, and keeps me intrigued.

I enjoyed the conflict between the high school's own talented local baseball players and the imported ones recruited from elsewhere to manufacture an artificial champion team. Even though it may have taken longer than an actual game would have, the retelling of the match between the expert team and the lowly "prefabs" was great fun and kept me glued to the TV. I also liked the way that Azuma, the star of the first string team, didn't turn out to be a total asshole after all as he became disillusioned with his team and it's ruthless coach. More than once I've been pleasantly surprised as what had seemed to be two-dimensional bad guy characters have been fleshed out. This show seemed likely to remain thoroughly entertaining and engaging for it's entire run of a full year.

But as it turned out I think that the best part was already over. The second game between the two teams went remarkably quickly, compared to the first one at least. I had expected the rivalry between the two to be the main theme of the series 'til the end, but that doesn't seem to be the case anymore. A new and intriguing premise was established (largely in the episode 17 preview). This show continued to do an excellent job of firmly holding my interest, even though this new and much longer arc wouldn't be quite as much fun as the first one.

One problem was that I wasn't completely comfortable with Tsukishima's cousin being introduced as a new character. He seemed to have developed little personality (he just declares that he's in love with her, which is awkward), and the others had such great ones that I was unhappy to have attention diverted from them. In short, don't change things when they are going so well. Hopefully this guy would shape up quickly. Actually, Azuma, of all people, was probably my favorite character now. His laconic, arrogant attitude gives him a distinct personality and I can't help wondering where he is going to go. I sort of wished we would get back to the baseball diamond--that long game had been fun and we hadn't had much playing since then.

My wish was answered as Aoba is persuaded to take part in a game between girl's teams and the playoffs for Koshien begin for Kou. Episode 29 was a major turning point. I had been wondering why the players of another school, Ryuou, had been given a place in the OP sequence when they would presumably play just one game against Kou's people then lose and be eliminated from the running. That wasn't the way it turned out, and Ryuou came to look like the main rival for the remainder of the series. Also the new female character Akane is introduced and there is something odd about her looks. I figured that maybe some romance would take off from here, perhaps even involving Azuma.

But in fact my hopes weren't answered and my interest in the series gradually faded away. For some reason almost an entire season passed, taking us to the series' three-fourths complete mark, and I simply couldn't think of much to say about it. Maybe that meant that Cross Game would've worked best if it had been compressed to 39 episodes instead of 52. I guess I have just lost a good deal of interest in the ongoing story, and although I still enjoyed the show, it was no longer the standout performer which it once seemed to be. Perhaps the excitement would rev up again in the final season.

And to a certain extent it did, the ending was OK, but I can't help thinking that Cross Game was at it's best in the first season and went slowly, almost imperceptably downhill towards averageness from there. At the end a major character declares his love for a certain girl; this was something I was expecting way back at the beginning of the series, but as it extended to multiple seasons without much happening my impression changed to thinking that his love life wasn't going to go anywhere and this would be a pure sport show. When Akane came along I expected a romantic triangle involving Aoba and Kou, or maybe a quadrangle with Azuma, but things never heated up. A crisis which might have been a tragedy for Akane instead came off without a hitch. Was her only role to act as some sort of spiritual messenger for the late Wakaba? When the declaration finally came about, I could only think what? That seemed to come out of left field (ha!). Still, Cross Game never became altogether uninteresting. The conclusion was exciting and then cathartic, just not up to the standard which the original season had established. I always enjoyed the show, but cannot in all honesty recommend buying a fifty episode series like this. Maybe season one.

Last updated Saturday, May 01 2010. Created Wednesday, April 22 2009.

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