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Cross Game

Jan 18, 2011


Before embarking on Cross Game I kept wondering how it might be any different to Major, that other baseball show I adore. And the answer is, in every single way. Major’s Goro Honda is a dull-brained baseball maniac while Cross Game’s Kou Kitamura has wit and no especial love for the game. Goro wouldn’t recognise a woman if one happened to burst from his rib, but Kou has a best friend who is cute, intelligent, perfect for him, and he knows it. In Major, baseball comes first and drama second; in Cross Game, the drama circumscribes the baseball.

Having reached that conclusion roughly nine minutes into the first episode, I decided to stop comparing the two. This would be a completely different experience. This would be smart and witty and subtle - and hell yes maybe even a little arty with all those contemplative gazes everyone keeps throwing each other. The show starts slowly, deliberately holding back on Kou’s incredible talent while dropping definite hints that viewers should not take their eyes off him. Kou himself may feel apathetic about baseball but his team mates look to him as the secret weapon, even going to extraordinary lengths to hide his training from opponents. And that’s generally the kind of steady confidence viewers can expect for the remainder; most of the time, Cross Game stews with a tension that builds and builds and peaks victoriously during rip-roaring baseball games.

Original creator Mitsuru Adachi’s (Touch, H2) preference for subtle, extended characterisation in the context of fragile romance is very much in evidence here. The characters live in a stable suburban environment and their core beliefs are never challenged, giving Adachi much room to languidly reveal their facets through delicate reactions and quirky humour. Kou’s will-they-won’t-they romance with resident heroine Aoba Tsukishima benefits greatly from this as their complex personalities clash and meld in all the right places. The result is an emotional double-pronged plot comprising cute romance and visceral baseball tournaments.

Unfortunately, no matter how ingenious a series, there is always room for things to go tits up. If any show struck home this truism, it’s the beautifully crafted yet bafflingly clumsy Cross Game.

There are omens of its decline beforehand, namely the frequent references to Kou’s friend, Wakaba. Despite her loose relevance to the immediate events at hand, Adachi is never quite able to get rid of her. At least every other episode, she will pop up in flashbacks or photographs or someone will mention her in a conversation; she ends up haunting the narrative with the subtlety of a poltergeist, rattling our patience and marring an otherwise graceful record.

What strikes the decisive blow, though, is An Almighty Twist around the thirtieth episode that manages to be both tactless and wholly unbelievable. At that point, Adachi’s refined sensibility and intuition seemingly evaporate into nothing and the narrative, theretofore flying on wings of homely drama, swiftly sinks like a slider. It doesn’t all fall apart, exactly, but the narrative’s store of unconditional trust gets exhausted and the developments thereafter never feel as convincing.


Adachi’s concept design of monkey-eared, baby-faced pretty kids is endearing and expressive but also highly limited. From Touch to Short Program, his protagonists look identical, and Kou seems to be yet another clone. Apart from that, the realistic, muted colour tones and simple environments create an attractive understated effect.


No one will remember Cross Game for its soundtrack because most of the scenes prefer to go au naturale. Mostly, the music stays away until called upon to add zest to the action, and then it does so while on repeat. The various opening and closing themes, on the other hand, work well as catchy and emotive bookends to the drama in between. I wouldn’t buy any of the songs, but rarely did I skip them either.


Just before a big game that will decide their dreams for Koushien, Aoba asks a friend Yuuhei Azuma whether they can rely on Kou to deliver.

Azuma: He does seem usually unreliable. But…

Aoba: But?

Azuma: He’s too much of a mystery.

Kou’s mystery, his lackadaisical stoicism, is precisely what generates much of the show’s subtler intrigue. Miyu Irino plays Kou with a level-headed and highly likeable irony: he delivers dead-pan asides and faces both friends and foes with a neutral friendliness that gives nothing away. More so because his rare unguarded moments actually reveal that, behind his slacker persona, the cogs are sturdily turning. Even if he appears to be indifferent to baseball itself, he still has a powerful reason for playing. He makes for an intriguing mix of the traditional shounen hero who glides over adversity with trained aloofness and the modern man who is nonetheless intelligent and self-aware.

Aoba’s heroic, hot-tempered passion thus makes for an instantly engaging contrast. She plays second fiddle to no one, becoming Kou’s mentor and a key trainer of the Seishuu team. She represents not just Kou’s love interest but the other half of Cross Game, bringing an intelligent, strategic passion that Kou struggles to express. Adachi creates in her that rare shounen female character who is as capable and dedicated as her male counterparts. Kou’s understated charisma and her trained expertise play off each other wonderfully and form the pillar propping the show’s overhanging charm.

A few of the secondary characters, notably straight-talking Azuma and comic relief Senda, make their own unique impression. But there is also deadweight. Cousin Mizuki arrives at Aoba’s household one fine day with the intention of winning her heart… and then mills around uselessly in the background like a tired gag for the rest of the time. Mizuki and his pointless ilk frustrate only because Adachi shows great talent when creating other engaging walk-ons like Aoba’s sister Momiji, Azuma’s brother Junpei, and the highly feared baseball opponent Mishima.


Cross Game delivers gently rolling romantic drama spiced with baseball games that will send viewers flying from their seats - and all this driven by quaint and lovable characters. Although Adachi seems to forget what to do with it all two thirds of the way, Cross Game nevertheless turns out to be a rare, multifaceted experience that shounen fans should grab at the next opportunity.

7/10 story
7/10 animation
6/10 sound
8.5/10 characters
7.5/10 overall

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kyuuketsukii Sep 23, 2011

@ whoever said it

The relationship didnt just happen in 5th grade they had known each other for their entire lives up till that moment.

AnimalSoldier Feb 25, 2011

Just finished Cross Game this morning,and I gotta say I agree 97.4 % with the review.

The only part where I disagree is with regard to your rating for the sound. Opening & endings aside,I thought the music suited the anime very well. Each scene was great (musically) and the final scene in every episode was perfect in my opinion.


"Waka coming up every 2 seconds was also annoying. I don't care how much they loved each other, no relationship that happens in 5th grade would have such a powerful influence on everything you do when your 17."

I hear that! As much as I loved Wakaba,she only lasted for about 12 mins. WHY did she have so much influence? She had absolutely nothing to do with any of the events that were taking place. Maybe if she lived for a few more episodes,it would've been less annoying.

"I feel like the relationship between the leads could have picked up a little bit. The lack of progress became a source of annoyance towards the middle of the series, even before the horrible twist."

I hear that too. The only reason why I watched each episode with such hunger,was because I wanted to see the development between Kou and Aoba,and I was left disappointed in the end.


The reason why the obsession with Wakaba is mentioned as a flaw,is because even though she was important to the cast,half of an episode is not enough for us to understand why she is so important to so many people. We could see that her and Kou were perfect together,however we only saw that for like 5 seconds.

Agroftw Feb 16, 2011

@ killermouze

I think I would have to disagree, respecitvely of course. The annoyance of Wakaba being brought up every "2 seconds" is a matter of PoV. You see annoyance, others may see simple brillance. I dont think it was a matter of how much "they loved each other" so much as a tradgey changing the lives of everyone involved. Its not a huge suspenion of belief to think that a tragic loss of life wouldnt have a powerful influence on what you do for the rest of your life.

As for my comments on the review:

Wakaba's ghostly presence hovering in the anime was crucial. The plot, the characters, everything was based on Wakabas 20 minutes of existence. If anything I applaud the anime for its inventiveness. What some may call excessiveness, many others may call gut-wrenching. Wakaba "popping" up in every "other episode" wasn't done to simply elicit emotions from the audience. Her flashbacks served as a way to piece together events that those who hate spoliers where otherwise unaware of. Though I have no complaints on the review and while I thought it was brilliantly written, to focus on Wakaba as one of the huge flaws in the series is kinda head scratching. Unless I totally didn't get what it was you were trying to say!!

While it speaks for the anime itself when a reviewer can only mention one secondary character as deadweight, I kind of don't understand why Mizuki was even brought up? In an anime that has a stellar cast of supporting characters, Mizuki was such an afterthought that I would wager 90% of the audience didn't even care that he was such a useless foil to Ko. While I understand the need of objectivness for an anime that you clearly like, I think we can call it nitpicking :).



killermouze Feb 10, 2011

Just finished watching this anime, and I sadly have to agree with everything you have said; particularly about the "twist" and the cousin character. The drama then got a little stupid, and the successful use of all the characters that was so wonderfully done just flew out the window. Waka coming up every 2 seconds was also annoying. I don't care how much they loved each other, no relationship that happens in 5th grade would have such a powerful influence on everything you do when your 17. To add one problem on, I feel like the relationship between the leads could have picked up a little bit. The lack of progress became a source of annoyance towards the middle of the series, even before the horrible twist.

Its just so frustrating when such an amazing premise is hindered by such stupid things half way through. I think its a common theme that animes feel the need to add more and more ridiculous sub-plots and characters even when they are not needed. Sometimes keeping it simple and cute is the best route. Love triangles and the likes can get really annoying in a series like this, particularly towards the end.

I loved the slice of life side mixed with sports idea though. I watched eye-shield 21 and originally loved it, but I got bored because it was just so one track minded on football that it eventually got stale. Just wondering if you have any suggestions for other series that have a good mix between romance, slice of life and sport/fighting,etc. If you look at my profile, I've seen my fair share of anime though so I might have seen the most obvious ones.

xCoComi Jan 20, 2011

Wow , ones again a wonderful review! And I got to thank you , ive been thinking that I should watch this anime for a while now , but never got around to do it , this review however made me wanna watch this anime now!

So thank you :D