Cross Game Volume 2

Cross Game Volume 2 by Mitsuru Adachi

The first volume of Cross Game was my favorite new shonen manga of 2010, so when I got a new box of Viz goodies, this was the first manga I grabbed. I was happy to see that the second volume delivers on all the character development that was built up in the first volume. This omnibus edition contains volumes 4 and 5 of the manga. At the end of the first volume Ko and his “farm team” companions are gearing up to play against the elite varsity team at their high school.

The second volume opens with one of those deceptively simple scenes that serve to illuminate the relationships between the characters. Ko shows up at the Tsukishima household, asking to see Aoba. Mr. Tsukishima is slightly perplexed, but tells him to go into the house. Aoba’s oldest sister pops up suddenly into the panel with her hand on her forehead in disbelief, “Ko..? Here for Aoba?” Ko tells Aoba to follow him, and she goes with him, striking a fighting pose when he turns to throw her a baseball glove. It turns out that Aoba is the only person Ko can trust to give him a realistic assessment of his pitching abilities. His teammates haven’t said much to him, but they wouldn’t say anything to disrupt his confidence. Ko starts throwing the ball to Aoba and the sound effects start to kick in. Boom! Couples strolling in the park turn and stare. Boom! The sounds of Ko’s pitch echo in the night. Aoba catches every ball and when asked for her assessment, she says “You’re okay…I guess.” Ko is psyched and pumped up for the game, because Aoba’s “okay” is the best compliment she could give him. He challenges her to a bet, if he only lets the opposing team score 10 times, she’ll buy him a treat. Aoba changes the terms of the bet by yelling “Five runs!” Ko says “No fair.” and walks off into the night. Aoba nurses her battered catching hand and thinks “No fair for who?”

The game begins, and the corrupt coach and principal of the high school are unprepared for the farm team that they previously dismissed. The better players on the varsity team are aware of Ko’s talent, even while the coach tries to pretend that Ko’s pitching ability isn’t extraordinary. Even though the baseball game stretches over a good portion of the book, I was kept entertained by the skillful ways Adachi manages his cast of characters. Azuma, the ace batter on the opposing team begins to view Ko as a true rival. Aoba sits in the stands and provides a running commentary on all the players, which demonstrate that since she isn’t able to play with the boys on the field she might be better employed as an additional coach. The ancient but tricky coach of the farm team demonstrates some underhanded but effective ways of managing players, as he tells a false but inspiring story to his selfish third year players, and secretly arranges a different type of bat for a player who swings too hard but won’t work to change his approach.

One of the many things I appreciate about Cross Game is that the more poignant moments aren’t milked for melodrama. Ko’s still dealing with the tragedy that struck in the first volume, and the reader sees this in a couple scenes. He works himself tirelessly in the secret summer training camp of the farm team, saying that summer is a time he doesn’t want to think too much. He willingly humiliates himself just to get an item on Wakaba’s birthday list. These scenes are presented in the same slice-of-life manner as the rest of the manga, but I can’t help but think that in the hands of a less skilled creator, something like that would be presented with extra tears or emphasis. Cross Game just shows events unfolding with a natural rhythm that is deceptively effortless.

Review copy provided by the publisher.

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