Title: Cross Game
Company: Synergy SP
Format: 50 episodes
Dates: 5 Apr 2009 – 28 Mar 2010
Synopsis: Baseball was probably the furthest thing from Kitamura Kou’s mind. Aside from partaking in the occasional pickup game or two, Kou preferred to live a normal childhood, relaxing with his school friends and his neighbors, the Tsukishimas. One fateful summer, tragedy strikes. This event comes as an absolute shock for Kou, but it would serve as the catalyst that would awaken Kou’s desire to live out that person’s last dream: to see him and his group of friends reach the Koushien, the final stage of the national high school baseball tournament.
Episode one: Once you watch it, there’s no stopping.
Characters: Interactions are engaging, exhibiting great chemistry.
Soundtrack: Nakagawa Kotaro delivers an enjoyable, light-hearted score.
Pacing: The baseball games never feel like they drag on and on.
The fun, idyllic days that marked Cross Game‘s first episode seemed like they would last forever. Its disarming atmosphere teases you into thinking that the show is nothing more than a light-hearted, coming-of-age story, and while the latter part remains true, it does so by tossing a wrench in the works in the form of a tragedy. In doing so, it creates an absorbing backstory for this drama, one that reels us in hook, line and sinker, using the tragedy as the lure. Turning away is no longer an option; we feel compelled to find out how the characters come to terms with the event as its effects continue to play a role within the narrative as it unfolds.
Cross Game isn’t a departure from the sports genre, but it sure executes the formula flawlessly. It features the usual group of determined underdogs who toil and sweat, but are able to climb the ladder towards respectability. The pacing is such that the story doesn’t waste time dwelling on the easy games, and Seishuu’s results during difficult games are never tainted by fluke events. Bad things do happen once in a while, and when they do, the team is forced to roll with the punches. For example, when a star player falls ill the day before an important tournament game, the mangaka, Adachi Mitsuru, lets the chips fall where they may. No reprieve is granted. Better luck next time.
Despite the setbacks, the characters continue to persevere, and it’s during the course of baseball practice and non-game situations that these characters demonstrate their charm and cohesive chemistry. Cross Game boasts one of the more likable casts in recent memory, and it derives a large part of its strength from their personalities that interact in a natural and genuine manner. Though there are too many to count, the protagonist, Kitamura Kou, sets himself apart with his nonchalant demeanor and quiet self-assurance which feels like a breath of fresh air. Of the major characters, only Tsukishima Aoba feels somewhat static since her interactions are marked by tsundere tendencies which eclipse her other personality traits, but she does make up for that with the dedication with which she pours into the team so that everyone can perform to their true potential.
You can’t have a sports anime without a blossoming romance or two, and with 50 episodes, there’s plenty of time for romances to fully develop alongside the baseball in Cross Game. I particularly liked how the primary romantic focus slowly progresses. Oftentimes, people in love really don’t know what’s going on, between them, and this trait is on display throughout the series. The point at which it comes to fruition is charming and endearing, and when you take into account the tragic conundrum that presented itself as the major obstacle, makes the end result all the more fulfilling because it signals that the characters are able to move on.
Through the highs and the lows, the show never falters, never loses its rhythm. All heart, Cross Game reveals the magic that can happen when every aspect of the show fits together just right, and in so doing, delivers a fantastic experience.
The Rating: 9
Reviewed by: zzeroparticle