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Sunday, September 4, 2011

Manga Review: Cross Game GN 3

Cross Game volume 3
Author: Mitsuru Adachi
Viz Media/Shonen Sunday
370 pages (2-in-1 omnibus edition)

It's time for Ko and the other misfit Portables to either put up or shut up. If they lose against the varsity players, they'll be kicked off the baseball team forever. But will a newbie like Ko be good enough to take on an elite squad of recruits?!

Spoiler warning: Review contains spoilers for the series so far. Read at your own risk!

Ah, Cross Game. The series that just gets better and better with each passing volume. In this collection of chapters, we see the showdown to end all showdowns between varsity and the portable team, with the jobs of each team’s coach – as well as the life of the portable team itself – riding on the outcome. We are also introduced to several new characters, including the dour Yuhei’s older brother and an unexpected rival for Aoba’s affection, one that might actually have more than a snowball’s chance in hell of being noticed by her. Yikes! This volume is a pitch perfect blend of baseball and character development that any likeminded Adachi fan will cheer for.

The game between the two Seishu teams take up a sizeable chunk of the action this volume and for good reason, too. The outcome of this game really does change how baseball at Seishu operates, with a lot of major people either leaving or switching sides (or as much as you can switch ‘sides’ when you are all in the same school). The big reveal of the identity of portable manager Hiroko Okubo’s grandpa will certainly knock most readers flat on their backsides, especially when Okubo confirms it in such a matter of fact tone you almost miss it at first. Plus, when Ko really switches up his game, it truly changes everything, including any doubts in your mind that Ko truly has the potential to fulfill Wakaba’s final dream of pitching at Koshien.

Speaking of Wakaba, the series has not forgotten about her – and given how great an impact she has on Ko and Aoba, I’m glad she hasn’t been shoved into the background to be lost forever. Her presence is definitely felt in the second half of the book, when they all visit Aoba’s grandparents in the country – a place they hadn’t visited since Wakaba’s death. There are memories of Wakaba all around, from the bath house to the photo albums. Also in the photo album is one of those new characters that is probably going to irritate Ko very much, given he is a childhood friend of Aoba’s. That will certainly be a development to keep an eye on, especially if he turns out to be a baseball player like Ko – and given that he’s close to Aoba, I have no doubt in my mind he’s handy with a ball and glove.

Cross Game continues to be a hell of a quality shonen title that appeals to sports and non-sports fans alike. I love everything, from the games to Aoba and Ko’s banter, to the development of relationships inside the team itself. The art is wonderful as ever, and Adachi continues to prove he is the master at making readers feel for his characters in unexpected ways. I cannot wait to get my hands on the fourth omnibus – and I can only hope Viz releases more of Adachi’s works in English for everyone to read.

You can read more about Cross Game at the Shonen Sunday page!