Cross Game Volume 4

Cross Game Volume 4 by Mitsuru Adachi

Picking up and reading Cross Game feels like a mini vacation sometimes. Adachi’s slow pacing and emphasis on everyday life creates a manga with a very natural tone and pacing, where events in the character’s lives pass by without artificial emotional drama. Ko starts working on his dream of getting to Koshien in earnest, as he starts playing regular high school baseball. Aoba’s handsome and athletic cousin Mizuki starts to attend Seishu Gakuen High School, sending most of the girls in the school into a tizzy until it is clear that the focus of his attention is Aoba. One of the ways Aoba and Ko are similar is the way they are somewhat oblivious to their own skills and attraction. Aoba goes on a date with Mizuki without being aware that there might be any romantic undercurrents, and Ko’s unassuming and hard working despite the fact that key people around him think he’s a baseball savant.

Ace hitter Azuma is so funny with his extremely narrow focus. He’s discussing a batter on a rival team and recalls his name, Keitaro Mishima, but he has absolutely no memory of one of his former teammates who has transferred schools. Mishima is forced to play down his full potential in order to not show up a senior player. Ko and Aoba continue their antagonistic relationship, but they also have moments of perfect understanding. When Aoba is standing alone on the pitcher’s mound Ko quietly walks towards home base and settles into catcher’s position, saying “You wanted to pitch, didn’t you?” When the Seishu Gakuen team plays against Sannou, they’ve been thoroughly scouted beforehand. The opposing team coach sees Ko’s inconsistent pitching and concludes that there isn’t much to his game while Aoba says while she’s watching in the stands “Guess he decided that he needed a little fielding practice.” The Seishu coach watches the game unfold with perfect equanimity, because while his team might have been scouted they are so new at playing together that they can’t help but be surprising.

One of my favorite moments in this volume of Cross Game happened towards the end of the volume, when Ko and Azuma are walking together discussing their upcoming game. Ko makes the pronouncement “I just have to pitch a game that Aoba won’t hell at me about.” Azuma’s typical poker face shifts infinitesimally and Ko asks “Was that a smile?” Azuma replies “Nope…I did not smile.” These little moments of character interaction set against the backgrounds of the playing fields and sky are what makes Cross Game so special. I’m still thoroughly gripped by this story.

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