Story: Mitsuru Adachi
Art: Mitsuru Adachi
Translation/Adaptation: Lillian Olsen
What They Say
In the summer of his second year in high school, Ko and the Seishu baseball team must take on mighty Ryuou Gakuin and their genius slugger Keitaro Mishima. With everything on the line, will destiny find Seishu moving on to the next round? Later, new neighbors are setting up shop next to Kitamura Sports, and their daughter bears a striking resemblance to Wakaba…
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
The first half of volume 5 (volume 10 of the original order) is entirely the Seishi/Ryouu game; entirely! Picking back up with the fourth inning of the game, we spend a good 180 pages with this extremely exciting and suspenseful baseball game. Everything that has worked previously with the games, whether they were lengthy or abbreviated, is at play here. Honestly, that is all that there really is to say about this section of the book. If you’ve read my previous reviews where the game is a large portion of the book or have been reading Cross Game up till this point you know exactly what you are in for. You are in for high drama, baseball strategy from the minds of the players, the coaches, and the spectators, Adachi’s uncanny method of turning baseball into what is quite possible the most exciting sport in existence, and subtle touches that deepen the characters on both sides.
Since it is imperative in talking about the second half of the book, I must spoil the end of the game. If you want to keep the suspense and haven’t read this book yet, STOP READING THIS REVIEW AND READ THE BOOK!!! So, now that you are ready…Seishu loses the game and is disqualified from the rest of the Koshien tournament. But oh boy, what a game it was! Much how I feel about the World Series in 2007, the real championship game was held outside of the championship. The loss removes all hope of the team going to Koshien that year, and with it being Ko’s second year in high school, time is running short at this point. Thankfully, all the main cast that we have grown to care about over the course of the series are second years as well. We only have to ruin the dreams of the third years but…hell, I don’t even think we were told what their names were!
The second included volume steps back and focuses on the other aspect of this manga that Adachi excels at…character relationships! I have to give to Adachi: he has a way of building relationships, deepening the characters, and enhancing the storyline with such subtlety and grace that I, for the first time ever, understand why my grandparents love soap operas. Not to put this on the level of soap operas, which I find terribly written and needlessly drawn out to the point of ludicrousness; but depth and care given to this manga’s characters is something that usually takes an extremely long time to accomplish. Adachi accomplished that goal in the first two volumes (first volume in Viz’s release) and has only enhanced it from there.
The basic element added to the second half was one that hit my heart hard. I have grown to identify with and know these characters so well that it feels as if I know what they are feeling and the text bubbles only confirm my thoughts. A new neighbor has moved in right next to Ko, it is a family that runs a Soba Noodle shop and they have a daughter named Akane. Akane is approximately the same age as Ko and looks exactly like Wakaba, given that Wakaba lived to be that age. To compound every one’s feelings, this all occurs right before the Summer Festival that Wakaba died the day before. Ko, in a clueless confused manner, goes to the festival with Akane and what do you know…she’s wearing a similar dress to the one Wakaba used to wear. Everyone who sees this girl thinks they are seeing a ghost and even pose the same question, “Do ghosts grow older?”
The rest of book deals ever so delightfully with every one’s continued interactions with Akane as new and different situations are created and resolved with the kind of glee that I have come to expect. The real heart in all of this is the possible romantic relationships that have been the subtle core of the series. If you were Ko, would you eventually love Aoba or Akane. Both have their pros and charm but would Akane simply be a subconscious replacement for Wakaba? Yes, I know it is ridiculous and sappy but these are the things I thought about while reading this book, these are the things that make up the foundation of the story, these are the things that continue to make this series a stand out and possibly the most pleasant reading experiences of the year.
I’m going to level with you, yes this volume is going to receive another “A” rating from me, yes it completely and totally deserves that rating. But with this volume in particular I feel that a large portion of the credit should go to Viz, not just Adachi. In choosing to make this series available in omnibus editions, they not only have allowed themselves to finish the series (because at 17 volumes continued sales would be sketchy and they might cancel it before finishing) but they have inadvertently made it the masterpiece that it is on a volume by volume basis. If this series was released as the original 17 volumes there would be a lot of variance in letter grades. They would fluctuate between a low “A” and a low “B” depending on the particular volume. With this book, the first volume could easily be given a solid “B”. That is because, as fantastic and exhilarating as it is, it is just a baseball game, literally nothing else happens outside of the game. The second half would probably receive a “B” or “B+”; fantastic as it is, it is only the beginning to something larger in the scope of personal relationships. It is a solid start but has some stumbles in it’s pacing because it is trying to launch the new plot development off the ground. However, combined they make for such a fantastic read Such a fun, heartwarming, and pleasant experience that it is able to overcome any and all slight missteps and becoming something greater that is not just a page-turner but also something that begs to be re-read time and time again. Thank Adachi for creating the best sports manga I have read, but don’t forget to thank Viz because their choice in release format is what allows the series soar.
Content Grade: A
Art Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A-
Text/Translation Grade: A-
Readers Rating: [ratings]
Age Rating: 13_
Released By: Viz Media
Release Date: October 11th, 2012