Cross Game 2
December 27, 2011
Mitsuru Adachi – Viz – 2011 – 17 volumes
this is an omnibus containing vols. 4-5
This series is so good! As much as I liked the first volume of this, I completely forgot just how well the characters worked and let the next two omnibus volumes languish on my to-read pile. It’s difficult to convince myself (and others, probably) that this is worth reading, since the story is a pretty simple one. It’s high school baseball. But it’s a lot more than that, too, and it’s hard to explain why that makes it good. Ko’s still getting over the death of a loved one. So is his sister. They’re trying to compete with the varsity baseball team at their high school, whose coach says they aren’t good enough simply because he didn’t hand-pick them. The two volumes in this omnibus mostly cover the game between the varsity and “portable” baseball teams, and it’s just a pleasure to read.
I like Slam Dunk, but somehow, Cross Game is ten times better. Part of that is that I prefer baseball as a sport, but it’s hard to explain the fact that… these characters aren’t as ‘tude-filled as the ones in Cross Game, but as a result, they feel a lot more human. And slightly more clever than they should, to be fair. But man. I can’t get over how much fun this is to read.
The first chapter is the prep leading up to the varsity game, and the last… mmm, maybe two chapters are about Aoba going to visit the training camp that the “portable” team is participating in. One other chapter throws suspicion on Ko, who appears to be brown-nosing the varsity team’s manager in order to get a spot. Both of these stories at the end of the book summon the ghost of Wakaba, Aoba’s sister who passed away. Then again, the whole series does in some ways, since it was Wakaba who had faith in Ko’s pitching abilities when Ko had shown no interest in baseball outside her family’s batting cages.
Aoba, who apparently hates Ko, is the one who narrates the game with the varsity team, and the one that provides all the stats she collected while playing the gifted members of the team. Ko’s catcher also did his share of spying, and coaches Ko through his pitching. There’s a lot of stats slipped in here… but somehow, it’s not boring. Every pitch that Ko throws is likely to make or break the game, and it’s exciting to learn how the batters may or may not hit the particular pitches that Ko is throwing. It doesn’t sound exciting, but I promise it is.
And the other thing I like about this game is that it really isn’t clear who is going to win. Ko and the serious players on the “portable” team are all first years, so they have all the time in the world to reach varsity and go to the big National Baseball Tournament. This game really isn’t important, and given the fact that several members of the “portable” team really aren’t good, there’s not a huge chance that they will win. But Ko’s a good pitcher, and some of the players are good, so they keep the game interesting. There are several points where you think that, yeah, maybe the portable team might win, and several others where you are simply waiting for the trouncing that is due to them. It’s balanced very well, and neither a win nor loss is guaranteed at the outset. It makes reading it genuinely interesting.
Basically, I can go over all the nitpicky details of what makes this a good story in theory, but for this one, you just have to trust me. It’s about baseball, and high school students, and it is very, very good. There’s no substitute for reading it yourself and finding out what makes it great, and if it sounds like your kinda thing, odds are you won’t be disappointed.