Cross Game Vol. 3

By Mitsuru Adachi
376 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

I’m normally not into reviewing a series again right after tackling the previous release. So after reviewing Cross Game Vol. 1-2, I figured it would be safe to wait a few volumes before bringing it back up. But by the time I was done with Cross Game Vol. 3, I was so struck by the direction of the series that I found that I couldn’t wait any longer. In short, I feel like Mitsuru Adachi gets just as frustrated at other long-form series as I do, and took steps here to show that he’s not going to fall into that same trap.

For those who have never read Cross Game, it’s a combination baseball and romance series, as Ko strives to become the best baseball player that he can, while engaged in a love/hate relationship with Aoba, the younger sister of Ko’s deceased love Wakaba. Put on the second-string "portable" baseball team in high school, the power-hungry coach and assistant principal are determined to get their own hand-picked team to the national tournament, while treating Ko’s team like dirt. It’s a set-up that in any other series would stretch on for the bulk of its run, as the portable team struggles against the unfair restrictions and time-and-time-again narrowly loses to the primary team.

Fortunately for us, that’s not the kind of series that Adachi is creating for us. The two-team set-up has just the right amount of time provided to it in Cross Game; last volume we had it introduced to us, we saw the portable team get defeated in a scrimmage, and here we see how the portable team will respond and ultimately resolve the issue. In other words, there is a lot of forward momentum in Cross Game. Stories are introduced, we get a little bit of focus on them, and then Adachi brings that particular plot to its conclusion. It’s how a long-form serial should run; if there’s no advancement of any of the plots, it becomes a lot harder to want to keep reading.

The one exception to this rule, at least for now, is Ko and Aoba’s relationship, but I’m actually fine with that, thanks to how Adachi set it up. Aoba’s disdain for Ko has always been firmly rooted in two factors; her sister Wakaba’s love for him (which took time away from Wakaba and Aoba being together), and Ko never truly applying himself to work harder. Those two threads are firmly tied together; it’s not until the latter is resolved that the former can be addressed. So as Cross Game progresses and Ko continues to focus more and get better at baseball without slacking, only then can Ko and Aoba’s relationship grow stronger. And since a great deal of Cross Game is about Ko getting better and improving, it makes sense that this (along with presumably the big tournament) will be the final plot thread to get resolved.

The art in Cross Game is adorable as always. He’s great at the action sequences; the baseball games leap to life even just in the little glimpses we get of the play, from catching to throwing to hitting. In just one or two panels, you can figure out exactly what’s going on without a need to linger and stretch each moment out. It helps that Adachi is great with the reaction shots too; a lot of the big game between the two teams is shown through the faces of the people in the stands, and it tells the story perfectly because every little twitch and frown and moment of terror is reflected back at the reader in those facial expressions. Adachi’s also good with making sure the smaller characters get their fair share of attention; the fact that Aoba and her sisters all look similar but not identical, for instance. It’s a carefully drawn book, but it’s got a ton of energy and enthusiasm on every single page.

The best thing about Cross Game? I feel like I’ve barely touched the surface on all of the great stuff going on here. Aoba’s two other sisters get their own little plot threads and moments, there’s the teammate now staying with Ko and his own reason for desperately trying to get to the tournament, the feeling-forgotten Senda and his moments, and so on, and so on. Adachi’s Cross Game is so good that I will blindly buy anything else of his that gets translated into English. This is, easily, one of the best mangas being translated into English right now. Buy it, buy it, buy it.

Purchase Links (Vol. 1): | Powell’s Books
Purchase Links (Vol. 2): | Powell’s Books
Purchase Links (Vol. 3): | Powell’s Books

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