Cross Game (クロスゲーム Kurosu Gēmu) is a romantic comedy baseball manga series by Mitsuru Adachi that was serialized by Shogakukan in Weekly Shōnen Sunday between 11 May 2005 (issue 22/23) and 17 February 2010 (issue 12). It is collected in 17 tankōbon volumes, with the final volume published in April 2010, shortly after the end of the anime series. It received the 54th Shogakukan Manga Award for shōnen manga in 2009, and has been praised internationally as quietly brilliant and a great success. The series was adapted as a 50-episode anime television series that aired on the TV Tokyo network from 5 April 2009 to 28 March 2010. The first episode of the anime, which covers the time frame of the first volume of the manga, received high praise, even outside of Japan.
Cross Game is the story of Ko Kitamura and the four neighboring Tsukishima sisters, Ichiyo, Wakaba, Aoba, and Momiji. Wakaba and Ko were born on the same day in the same hospital and are close enough that Wakaba treats Ko as her boyfriend, though nothing is officially declared, while Aoba, one year younger than them, hates how Ko is "taking" her sister away from her. After Wakaba dies, Ko and Aoba slowly grow closer as they strive to fulfill Wakaba's final dream of seeing them play in the high school baseball championship in Koshien Stadium.
The manga is divided into multiple parts. Part One, which consists of volume one, is a prologue that takes place while the main characters are in elementary school, ending with Wakaba's death. Part Two starts four years later with Ko in his third year of junior high and continues into the summer of his third year of high school. Part Three continues the story without a break, ending with Ko and Aoba traveling to Koshien.
At the start of Part One, Ko Kitamura, son of the owner of Kitamura Sports, lives in the same neighborhood as the batting center run by the Tsukishima family. Due to their proximity and the relationship between their businesses, the Kitamura and Tsukishima families have been close for many years, and their children go back and forth between the two homes. Because Ko and Wakaba are the same age and always together, Aoba is jealous of all the time Ko spends with her older sister. Aoba is a natural pitcher with excellent form, and Ko secretly trains to become as good as she is, even while publicly showing little interest in baseball. Then Wakaba dies in a swimming accident at a summer camp during fifth grade.
Part Two starts with Ko in his third year of junior high, as he continues training in secret. When he enters Seishu High School, he joins the baseball club along with his childhood friends, Akaishi and Nakanishi. However, the interim principal (the regular principal is on medical leave) has brought in a new head coach, and he in turn brings in transfer students from other schools as ringers just to play baseball. This team, led by their star, Yūhei Azuma, is the clear favorite of the school. Because the three friends refuse to take evaluation tests to join the first-string team, they are placed on the second-string "portable" team under the former head coach, Maeno, who has to use the Seishu Junior High School field for practice. This causes a rivalry between the two parts of the team. In the first summer practice scrimmage between them, the portable team loses by only a narrow margin.
During the summer vacation, while the first-string team plays in the prefectural qualifying tournament for Koshien, Maeno has the portable team practice at a recently closed elementary school with the support from a mysterious old man. The portable team also has six practice matches with other local high schools, all of which reached semifinals or higher in the regional preliminaries. Near the end of summer vacation, the interim principal decides to dissolve the portable team. However, Coach Maeno asks for a rematch scrimmage with the first-string team, after which the losing team would be dissolved and that coach would leave. The portable team, playing with Aoba, wins a narrow victory. The first-string team is dissolved, and the head coach and the interim principal leave to work at other schools.
In the spring, Ko becomes a second-year student and Aoba enters Seishu High School. Yūhei, who stays at Seishu despite having been on the former first-string team, moves in with Ko's family after the first-stringers' dormitory is closed. The reformed Seishu team goes on to prove themselves by defeating Sannō High School in the first round of the summer prefectural qualifying tournament. However, they lose to their second-round opponents, Ryuō, in overtime, ending Seishu's hopes of Koshien for the year. Ryuō subsequently reaches Koshien, advances up to the semifinals where they are narrowly beaten. However, Ryuō then goes on to win the spring invitational Koshien tournament later that same year.
As Ko and Aoba enter their summer break, a girl named Akane Takigawa with a striking resemblance to Wakaba moves in next door to Ko. This causes mixed feelings among the various characters, particularly Ko, Aoba, and Akaishi (who had also liked Wakaba). Akane soon becomes friends with Ko and Tsukishimas, and begins working in the Tsukishima cafe. As another year begins, the romantic subplots further solidify when Yūhei expresses an interest in Aoba. Meanwhile, Seishu gains a new assistant coach in the form of Yūhei's older brother Junpei, after Ichiyo agrees to marry him if Seishu makes it to Koshien.
When the prefectural summer baseball tournament starts, Seishu starts with a dominating shutout against its first-round opponent, Matsunami Municipal High School. In the second round, they face Sena Municipal High School led by Tatsumasa Miki, a former Seishu first-string player, which in the first round defeated the team headed by Seishu's former head coach. Seishu wins with a nearly perfect game, ending Part Two of the story.
Part Three starts with the prefectural tournament still in progress. After another win by Seishu, Akane is hospitalized due to an unspecified illness. Initially, Akaishi's play is affected by worrying about Akane's condition. Ko continues to perform well and promises Akane to go on a date with her if Seishu reaches Koshien. However, Akane's illness is more severe than expected, and she is scheduled for surgery on the morning of the prefectural final against Ryuō. Before the game begins, Ko tells Aoba he loves her more than anyone, but in such a way she thinks he is lying until after Seishu wins in extra innings, clinching a Koshien berth. In the final chapter, the morning before traveling to Koshien, Akaishi visits Akane recovering in the hospital and Ko and Aoba head for the train station holding hands.
- Ko Kitamura (樹多村 光 Kitamura Kō) Voiced by: Miyu Irino
- One of the two protagonists, Ko is in fifth grade in Part One and enters Seishu High School early in Part Two. Despite their age in Part One, he and Wakaba are very close and their families treat them as if they are a couple. While he shows little interest in baseball to outsiders, he has practiced daily at the Tsukishima Batting Center in the 60-mile-per-hour (97 km/h) cage and above since he was old enough to swing a bat. Ko is described by several other characters, including Ichiyo, Yuhei Azuma, and Junpei Azuma, as very like Aoba. In particular, they say the two are both very competitive, and Junpei attributes their frequent squabbling to their similarities. After a sandlot game against Aoba's team in elementary school, Ko is inspired by her pitching form to become a pitcher himself, and at Wakaba's urging secretly adopts Aoba's daily training regimen. Although he does not play baseball in junior high school, Akaishi and Nakanishi convince him to join the high school baseball team. With his changeup pitches, control, and incredible fastball, he becomes the ace pitcher in Seishu High School, as well as a strong hitter. Ko describes himself as having no self-confidence and an excellent liar. Despite being at odds with one another, Ko and Aoba share a deep bond through their love for Wakaba. Ko takes to heart what Aoba has to say and values her opinion more than others.
- Aoba Tsukishima (月島 青葉 Tsukishima Aoba) Voiced by: Haruka Tomatsu
- The other protagonist, Aoba is the third daughter of the Tsukishima family, one year younger than Ko and Wakaba. Aoba is seen as a tomboy by other characters, one who loves baseball very much. Her father has played catch with Aoba since she was little, thus grooming her into a strong pitcher. She has a poster of Ryota Igarashi, a famous fastball pitcher, on her bedroom wall, and when she was young Aoba told Wakaba she was only interested in a guy who could pitch a fastball over 100 miles per hour (160 km/h). She has an excellent pitching form, on which Ko based his own form, and she has a wide variety of pitches. Although as a girl she cannot play in official inter-school games, in practice games she plays center field or replaces Ko as pitcher. Many younger members of the Seishu baseball team are inspired by how much effort she puts into baseball and coaching them, and work hard to not disappoint her. Ko claims she is secretly disappointed that she will never be able to pitch in an official game, and Yuhei Azuma points out that she is using Ko as her proxy to get to Koshien.
- Aoba is very close to Wakaba in Part One, and according to Ichiyo jealous of how much time Wakaba spends with Ko. She frequently reiterates her intense dislike of Ko throughout the series and often squabbles with him. Despite this, she is very like him in behavior and talents, as several characters comment. After Ko becomes the ace pitcher of Seishu High School, Aoba slowly comes to admit his qualities as a player, and becomes less reluctant to offer advice and even teaches him new breaking pitches. Eventually she admits she has faith in his ability to fulfill Wakaba's last dream, in which he pitches at Koshien. She is often teased about her similarities with Ko in their behaviors and habits. Her name means "green leaf" or "fresh leaf".
Cross Game was written and illustrated by Mitsuru Adachi and published by Shogakukan. It began serialization on 11 May 2005 in the shōnen manga magazine Shōnen Sunday (issue 22/23 2005), and concluded with the 170th chapter in 17 February 2010 (issue 12 2010). The seventeenth and final tankōbon volume is scheduled for release in April 2010. The series is divided into multiple parts. Part One, "Wakaba's Season", consists of volume one, and takes place while the main characters are in elementary school. Part Two, "Aoba's Season", covering volumes 2 through 14, with chapter numbering restarted from 1, begins four years later with Ko in his third year of junior high school and continues into high school. In October 2008, the series went on hiatus at the end of Part Two, resuming in March 2009 with the start of Part Three, which is untitled and covers volumes 15 through 17, with Ko in the summer of his third year of high school.
The series is licensed in France by Editions Tonkam, in Italy by Flashbook Editore, in South Korea by Daiwon C.I., in Hong Kong by Jonesky, in Taiwan by Chingwin Publishing Group, in Indonesia by Elex Media Komputindo, and in Thailand by Vibulkij Publishing.
In March 2010, Viz Media confirmed the series licensing in North America. The first volume, collecting the first three tankōbon volumes, was published October 12, 2010, with publication on-going.
Cross Game was adapted as an anime television series produced by SynergySP and directed by Osamu Sekita, with character designs by Yuuji Kondō and music by Kotaro Nakagawa. The series aired on the TV Tokyo network beginning on 5 April 2009 in the 10:00–10:30 am slot; episodes began syndication later in April 2009 on AT-X and other channels in Japan, and finished airing on 28 March 2010. The first DVD volume of episodes was released in Japan on 24 July 2009, with additional DVDs released monthly.
The opening theme song, "Summer Rain", was written by Kentarō Kobuchi and sung by Kobukuro. It was released by Warner Music Japan on 15 April 2009 in both regular and limited edition versions, and peak ranked at #2 on the Oricon singles chart. The ending theme song for episodes 1–13, "Heartfelt Dream" (恋焦がれて見た夢 Koi Kogarete Mita Yume), was composed and sung by Ayaka and arranged by Shintarō Tokita. It was released as a single by Warner Music Japan in both regular and limited edition versions on 22 April 2009, and reached #6 on the Oricon singles chart. The ending theme for episodes 14-26, "Orange Days" (オレンジDays Orenji Days) by Squarehood, was released as a single by Warner Music Japan on 5 August 2009. The ending theme song for episodes 27-39 was "Moeruyō na Koi ja naikedo" (燃えるような恋じゃないけど) by Tsuru, which was released as a single on 11 November 2009. The ending theme song for episodes 40-49 was "Rehearsal" (リハーサル "Rihaiseru") by Natsuko Kondō. The final ending theme, for episode 50, was Loving Maiden (恋スル乙女 Koisuru Otome), also by Kondō.
Viz began streaming the Cross Game anime in North America in May 2010.
In 2009, the manga series received the 54th Shogakukan Manga Award for shōnen manga in Japan. The first volume of the French edition won the Prix Tam-Tam Dlire Manga 2007. The manga was also used in an academic paper presented at the 2007 conference of the International Research Society for Children's Literature as an example of telling a story using "silent" scenes (scenes with no dialogue) to powerfully convey a message.
The first two volumes of the Japanese edition were described by Anime News Network (ANN) as "quietly brilliant" and "the slice-of-life genre at its best", saying that despite some "storytelling goofs", there is "no matching the pleasant feelings that come from reading this series." The French edition was praised by Manga News as a "great success" and "a pure delight as usual," citing as key ingredients the "appealing and funny characters" put in funny situations, accessible drawing style, and Adachi's talent for staging baseball scenes; Adachi was praised for his ability to mix "the sports world which he cherishes so much and the love relationships that are not yet real but so much implied and awaited" and his skill at rendering moving scenes without dialogue. The reviewer noted that while Adachi's art style has not changed much since Touch, his layouts are cleaner and his action scenes more dynamic than before. Anime Land praised Adachi for his "sense of the elliptical and staging", the verisimilitude of his stories, appealing secondary characters, and ability to develop comedy in just one panel. The reviewer claimed Adachi's handling of Wakaba's death is "remarkable" and that the event "gave real meaning" to the story.
The first episode of the anime series was called the "masterpiece of the new season" by ANN, which also complimented the musical score as "understated but highly effective". Two reviewers at ANN gave it the highest possible rating, and one said that he would have given it a higher rating if possible. Another praised its "honest and heartfelt storytelling" while saying it would be easy to call the episode's pacing "almost too-languid". A fourth reviewer found it to be typical of Adachi anime adaptations, but that the production values were "at best, mediocre and, at times, brushing up against the marginal".
Chris Beveridge of Mania.com, after viewing the first episode, said the series had "an older feeling to it" because of the rounder character designs reminiscent of those from the 1980s and 1990s, calling it a "great look" with a "wonderful simplicity" and backgrounds "filled with detail". Beveridge called the animation "solid", and stated that the series had "a whole lot of potential", making him excited to see more. He was impressed with the way the events of episode one were handled in the second episode, comparing the pacing and style to that of Kimagure Orange Road, which he stated is one of his favorites series. He especially liked the way the budding romance was shown between Ko and Wakaba back in the elementary school days, and how it affected the current relationship between Ko and Aoba.
Beveridge called the third episode "understated", moving at a slower pace which helps to begin showing the true nature of several of the characters, and the good pacing continues into the fourth episode where a dynamic between Akaishi, Nakanishi, and Ko is developed. Beveridge praised the character building in the fifth episode, calling the interaction of Ko and Aoba "very charming" and "reminiscent of real childhoods", with things "starting to fall into place" for the main focus of the series (high school baseball) by the end of the sixth episode. He praises the exposition used in the seventh episode, the protective instinct of Ko, Nakanishi, and Akaishi when it comes to Aoba, the use of flashbacks which show how the past is affecting the characters in the present, and the good pacing which "really sets it apart from almost every other sports show".
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- ^ "Cross game Vol.4 ( ADACHI Mitsuru ADACHI Mitsuru ) Tonkam - クロスゲーム - Manga news" (in French). Manga News. Archived from the original on March 15, 2010. http://www.webcitation.org/5oGBEQFm5. Retrieved 25 June 2009. "Même si leur relation reste tendue, elle est en train d'évoluer : Aoba commence à croire aux paroles de sa défunte soeur. (Although their relationship is still tense, it is evolving: Aoba begins to believe in her defunct sister words.)"
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- ^ "Viz Media to release Mitsuru Adachi's Cross Game Manga in October". Anime News Network. March 18, 2010. http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2010-03-18/viz-to-release-mitsuru-adachi-cross-game. Retrieved March 19, 2010.
- ^ "VIZ MEDIA PREVIEWS THE RELEASE OF BASEBALL MANGA SERIES CROSS GAME ONLINE AT SHONENSUNDAY.COM". Viz Media. April 7, 2010. Archived from the original on April 8, 2010. http://www.webcitation.org/5oqTRh6jz. Retrieved April 8, 2010.
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- ^ "Découvrez les précédents lauréats Tam-Tam" (in French). Salon du livre et de la presse jeunesse. 2007. http://www.salon-livre-presse-jeunesse.net/D_06_02_01_tam_tam_07.php. Retrieved 8 April 2009.
- ^ Hafiz, Martabak-ers (29 September 2007). "Silent Scenes in Manga as the Powerful and Universal Visual Languages". http://martabakomikita.multiply.com/journal/item/119. Retrieved 9 April 2009.
- ^ "Cross game Vol.1 ( ADACHI Mitsuru ADACHI Mitsuru ) Tonkam - クロスゲーム - Manga news" (in French). Manga News. http://www.manga-news.com/index.php/manga/Cross-game/vol-1#review. Retrieved 21 June 2009. "Une grande réussite d'Adachi. (A great success for Adachi.)"
- ^ a b "Cross game Vol.3 ( ADACHI Mitsuru ADACHI Mitsuru ) Tonkam - クロスゲーム - Manga news" (in French). Manga News. http://www.manga-news.com/index.php/manga/Cross-game/vol-3#review. Retrieved 23 June 2009. "Du pur régal comme à son habitude, M.Adachi mélange habillement le milieu sportif qu'il chérit tant à un des relations amoureuses pas encore concrètes mais tellement sous entendues et attendues (A pure delight as usual -- Mr. Adachi ably mixes the sport world which he cherishes so much and the love relationships that are not yet real but so much implied and awaited)"
- ^ "Cross game Vol.6 ( ADACHI Mitsuru ADACHI Mitsuru ) Tonkam - クロスゲーム - Manga news" (in French). Manga News. http://www.manga-news.com/index.php/manga/Cross-game/vol-6#review. Retrieved 30 June 2009. "De l'humour bon enfant, un dessin tout public, une histoire d'amour toute simple avec un sport comme décor : voilà la méthode Adachi. (Light comedy, an accessible drawing style, a simple love story with a sport as background: that's Adachi's method.)"
- ^ "Cross game Vol.4 ( ADACHI Mitsuru ADACHI Mitsuru ) Tonkam - クロスゲーム - Manga news" (in French). Manga News. http://www.manga-news.com/index.php/manga/Cross-game/vol-4#review. Retrieved 25 June 2009. "C'est l'occasion pour notre auteur de montrer tout son talent de metteur en scène graphique pour les scènes « baseballistiques », ajoutant quelques touches d'humour qui sont toujours le bienvenu. (It's an opportunity for our author to display all his talent in staging scenes of "baseballistics", adding some always welcome comedy touches.)"
- ^ "Cross game Vol.5 ( ADACHI Mitsuru ADACHI Mitsuru ) Tonkam - クロスゲーム - Manga news" (in French). Manga News. http://www.manga-news.com/index.php/manga/Cross-game/vol-5#review. Retrieved 30 June 2009. "On se laissera attendrir par sa dévotion pour l'anniversaire de Wakana, le tout génialement mis en image : pas un mot, c'est par des angles de vue bien choisis que l'auteur nous fait comprendre les sentiments de ses héros et arrive ainsi à nous toucher. (We are moved by the tenderness of his devotion for Wakana's anniversary, all gently shown on stage: not a single word, it's the points of views well chosen by the author that make us understand the feelings of the heroes, and thus leaves us touched.)"
- ^ "Cross game Vol.6 ( ADACHI Mitsuru ADACHI Mitsuru ) Tonkam - クロスゲーム - Manga news" (in French). Manga News. http://www.manga-news.com/index.php/manga/Cross-game/vol-6#review. Retrieved 30 June 2009. "Depuis «Touch», le style graphique de l'auteur a peu évolué mais sa mise en page est devenu plus claire, son dessin occupe mieux l'espace, les scènes de matchs sont beaucoup plus dynamique. (The author's art style has not evolved much since "Touch", but the layout is clearer, his drawing is occupying better the space, the match scenes are way more dynamic.)"
- ^ "Animeland - Critiques - Cross game Vol.5 - La BD" (in French). Anime Land. 5 September 2008. http://www.animeland.com/critiques/voir/11591/Cross-game-Vol5. Retrieved 24 June 2009. "Le sens de l'ellipse et de la mise en scène d'Adachi émeuvent encore (Adachi's sense of the elliptical and his staging are still moving)"
- ^ Naumann, Steve (3 April 2009). "Animeland - Critiques - Cross game Vol.11 - La BD" (in French). Anime Land. http://www.animeland.com/critiques/voir/15253/Cross-Game-Vol-11. Retrieved 24 June 2009. "Encore une fois, il réussit à nous surprendre avec des histoires semblables (Once more, he succeeds at surprising us with the verisimilitude of his stories)"
- ^ Naumann, Steve (9 February 2009). "Animeland - Critiques - Cross game Vol.10 - La BD" (in French). Anime Land. http://www.animeland.com/critiques/voir/14970/Cross-game-Vol-10. Retrieved 24 June 2009. " ... on ne peut s'empêcher de s'attacher aux personnages secondaires ( ... we cannot help but find the secondary characters appealing)"
- ^ Naumann, Steve (6 May 2009). "Animeland - Critiques - Cross game Vol.12 - La BD" (in French). Anime Land. http://www.animeland.com/critiques/voir/15356/Cross-Game-Vol-12. Retrieved 24 June 2009. " ... la drôlerie que seul Adachi réussit à développer en une seule case ( ... humor that only Adachi manages to develop in just one panel)"
- ^ Bahu-Leyser, Emmanuel (5 September 2008). "Animeland - Critiques - Cross game Vol.1 - La BD" (in French). Anime Land. http://www.animeland.com/critiques/voir/9268/Cross-game-Vol1. Retrieved 21 June 2009. "Mais, à la grande surprise, la fin dramatique tombe comme un couperet et donne un vrai sens à ce tome ... mais il faut admettre que la mise en scène est toujours remarquable. (However, to our great surprise, the tragic ending falls like a sharp blade and give real meaning to this volume ... we must admit that the staging is as always remarkable.)"
- ^ Santos, Carlo (3 April 2009). "The Spring 2009 Anime Preview Guide: Carlo Santos: Cross Game". Anime News Network. http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/feature/2009-04-03/carlo. Retrieved 9 April 2009.
- ^ Brienza, Casey (4 April 2009). "The Spring 2009 Anime Preview Guide: Casey Brienza: Cross Game". Anime News Network. http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/feature/2009-04-03/casey. Retrieved 9 April 2009.
- ^ Beveridge, Chris (May 17, 2010). "Cross Game Episode #01 Review". Mania.com. http://www.mania.com/cross-game-episode-01_article_122639.html. Retrieved June 14, 2010.
- ^ Beveridge, Chris (May 19, 2010). "Cross Game Episode #02 Review". Mania.com. http://www.mania.com/cross-game-episode-02_article_122672.html. Retrieved June 14, 2010.
- ^ Beveridge, Chris (May 21, 2010). "Cross Game Episode #03 Review". Mania.com. http://www.mania.com/cross-game-episode-03_article_122740.html. Retrieved June 14, 2010.
- ^ Beveridge, Chris (May 24, 2010). "Cross Game Episode #04 Review". Mania.com. http://www.mania.com/cross-game-episode-04_article_122760.html. Retrieved June 14, 2010.
- ^ Beveridge, Chris (May 25, 2010). "Cross Game Episode #05 Review". Mania.com. http://www.mania.com/cross-game-episode-05_article_122763.html. Retrieved June 14, 2010.
- ^ Beveridge, Chris (May 26, 2010). "Cross Game Episode #06 Review". Mania.com. http://www.mania.com/cross-game-episode-06_article_122764.html. Retrieved June 14, 2010.
- ^ Beveridge, Chris (May 31, 2010). "Cross Game Episode #07 Review". Mania.com. http://www.mania.com/cross-game-episode-07_article_122919.html. Retrieved June 14, 2010.
- ^ Beveridge, Chris (June 7, 2010). "Cross Game Episode #08 Review". Mania.com. http://www.mania.com/cross-game-episode-08_article_123068.html. Retrieved June 14, 2010.