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Cross Game Graphic Novel Vol. 4 by Mitsuru Adachi (a J!-ENT Manga Review)

August 15, 2011 by  



Mitsuru Adachi’s highly-praised manga “Cross Game” starts to heat up with Vol. 4 as the Koshien baseball tournament begins.  Will Ko Kitamura and the Seishu Gakuen team have any chance to beat the heavily favored Ryou Gakuin team in the tournament?

© 2005 Mitsuru Adachi. Shogakukan. All Rights Reserved.

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MANGA TITLE: Cross Game Graphic Novel 4 (クロスゲーム)

BY: Mitsuru Adachi (あだち 充)

FIRST PUBLISHED IN JAPAN: Shonen Sunday

PUBLISHED IN USA BY: VIZ Media

RATED: T for Older Teen

RELEASE DATE: July 12, 2011

With Ko in his second year of high school and Aoba in her first, the regionals for Summer Koshien are about to begin! The third round pits Seishu up against mighty Ryuou Gakuin – one of the teams favored to win the whole shebang. Do Ko and team have what it takes to even advance that far in the tourney? But first, Aoba’s cousin enters the picture, and he might shake things up on a different front.

The road to Koshien begins for the Seishu Gakuen High School Varsity team in “Cross Game” Graphic Novel vol. 4.

The manga series by Mitsuru Adachi, one of the most highly respected mangaka in Japan.

He is also known for his manga that revolves around baseball and high school/grade school crushes. But Adachi’s most famous work is “Touch”, a baseball/romantic comedy and a winner of the 1983 Shogakukan Manga Award (his second consecutive award a year after his highly successful high school romantic comedy manga “Miyuki”).

The manga series for “Touch” was award-winning, the anime series is one of the highest-rated television anime series of all time and it was a story that literally made audiences cry as it featured a story of friendship, tragedy, loss, inspiration and hope.

Adachi would go on to feature other stories that revolved around other sports but one wondered if he would return to baseball (which is a very popular sport in Japan) and in 1992, Adachi would write a baseball-related manga series titled “H2”.

Over 13 years later, fans continued to clamor for another baseball-themed anime series and Adachi would return with the manga series “Cross Game”, similar to “Touch” would feature a romantic comedy that would feature friendship, tragedy, loss, inspiration and hope.

And with Adachi’s first baseball manga series “Nine” along with “Touch”, “H3” and “Cross Game”, the goal of the baseball players and characters are to make it to “Koshien” which translates to “tournament” and in Japan there are the “National High School Baseball Invitational Tournament” held in the Spring and “National High School Baseball Championship” in the Summer.

In Japan, the final 17th volume of the manga series was released in Japan and now, “Cross Game” will be released in the US in graphic novel format (compiling several of volumes into one release). “Cross Game Graphic Novel Vol. 4” compiles the manga volumes eight and nine.

Cross Game Summary

“Cross Game” is a manga series that showcases the development of a Ko Kitamura, the son of a family that owns Kitamura Sports, during the time he is a 5th grader, a junior high school student preparing for high school and then later on in high school.

The first half establishes the relationship between best friends Ko Kitamura and neighbor Wakaba Tsukishima. Both were born on the same day, at the same hospital and share a unique bond with each other.

For Ko, he’s not so ambitious and for now, he takes turns delivering sporting goods to the Wakaba’s father who owns Cafe Clover and the Tsukishima Batting Center. With each delivery, Mr. Tsukishima gives Ko a chance to go batting at the batting center, something he has done since a very young age.

Living with Wakaba and her father is Wakaba’s older sister Ichiyo, her very young sister Momiji and her sister Aoba (who is one year younger than her). Aoba is a tomboy who loves baseball, she has been practicing her pitching as a young girl and actually is quite talented as a pitcher. She also has a disdain towards Ko because he doesn’t respect the game as much as she does.

One day, after taking Wakaba to swimming school, he knows that the #1 bully in school, Akaishi doesn’t like him (Akaishi has a crush on Wakaba). So, as Ko was trying to get back home, Akaishi and his friends were trying to block the path, so thinking quickly, Ko takes a shortcut through the baseball field and pretends he is coming to join.

Of course, Ko talks like he knows the game but in truth, he can’t catch, nor does he know baseball. What he does know is how to bat and it’s something he has done since he started hitting the ball at the Tsukishima batting center.

And despite his bad playing, the bully Akaishi and his friends join the other team and shows off his stellar pitching skills (Akaishi was a great player in Little League but was kicked out for punching another pitcher) and is able to strike everyone from Ko’s team off. When Ko comes up to bat, one of the bullies (who is playing catcher) asks Ko a question to find out more of his relationship with Wakaba, Ko dismisses them as just neighbors, but when Wakaba comes, she talks really loudly about how she kissed him and he never picked her up which angers Akaishi.

So, when Akaishi tries to strike him out, Ko knocks the ball out of the park and gets a grand slam to win the game.

The team’s leader Daiki Nakanishi is convinced that with practice and if Ko learned the fundamentals of baseball, he has the potential of becoming a great player.

While Wakaba praises and supports Ko, her younger sister Aoba can’t stand him because he’s not doing it for the love of baseball, it’s because he usually does what people tell him to do. Wakaba tells her younger sister that if Ko puts his mind into it, he could be the best pitcher in Japan and may be able to throw 100 mph one day (note: Aoba once told Wakaba that her dream guy is a guy who can pitch 100 mph) and Aoba her to not take him away from her. Which frustrates Aoba since she can’t stand him.

As Wakaba finds her love growing stronger with Ko and feels that they will grow up to love each other, one day she comes to watch Ko’s team take on another team which Aoba pitches for. As Ko watched Aoba’s dedication as a pitcher, he starts to see how much of an influence her pitching is and her dedication for baseball training and eventually inspires Ko to start training, becoming stronger and being a better player.

One day during the summer, Wakaba visits Ko and she tells him that she has created a birthday gift list, so he knows what to buy her all the way up to her 20h birthday (which she wrote down that when she turns 20-years-old, she wants an engagement ring from Ko). Also, she hopes to go to a festival with him after she arrives back from swim camp.

The night before Wakaba is to go to swim camp, she spends her time with Ko and reminds him about how she wants to go to the festival when she comes back and kisses him.

A few days later, as Ko goes to visit the Tsukishima’s restaurant and batting center, he notices that its closed. Which was unusual.

When he goes home, he turns on a baseball game and a news update comes up. He hears that an 11-year-old died at the swimming camp at Minagawa Valley and her name was Wakaba Tsukishima. She died while trying to rescue a third grader who ventured out in the deep water.

Ko doesn’t know how to react, he doesn’t know what to do…his best friend, the person who he was most close with, has died.

This sets up the second volume of the series of how Ko had stopped playing baseball but has never stopped training. Aoba has become a baseball player, including the bully Akaishi but Ko and Daiki haven’t played in awhile and consider of getting back into it.

Aoba still can’t stand Ko but she continues to observe him as he tries to join the baseball team. But everything about Ko frustrates her and when she describes him, her older sister Ichiyo is convinced that both she and Ko are more alike.

“Cross Game” vol. 1’s second half focuses on Ko, Akaishi and Nakanishi knowing that they have talent but among the older students in their school, they will need to prove themselves. Especially to a new coach who treats his players badly and is more concerned of winning for prestige.

Will Ko be able to convince everyone that he can play baseball? Will Ko be capable of successfully making Wakaba’s last dream come true?

In the second volume of “Cross Game” and you have the senior team that is trying to make it to Koshien and you have “The Portables”, the group that can be seen in America like the JV Team as opposed to the Varsity. And the The Portable Team has Kitamura, Akaishi and Nakanishi and other talents who are deserving to be in the varsity team but are not considered anything special.

So, the Portable Team will be taking on the Seishu Gakuen High School Varsity team to show that they are just as good, if not better. For the Portable team, this is also there chance to get the arrogant Coach Daimon fired as they know he’s more interested in staying as coach for financial reasons and earning a reputation of a top coach rather than doing what is necessary to make it to the championships.

In volume 3, the Portable Team were the winners of the competition against the Varsity Team and Coach Daimon and the interim principal are fired.  With a change of players, Seishu Gakuen High School Varsity begins their plans for their road to Koshien.

Meanwhile, Ko Kitamura has a new roommate. Because the high school dorms were temporarily closed, the Kitamura family has taken awesome high school slugger Yuhei Azuma in temporarily.  As Ko has a new roommate, so does Aoba Tsukushima, as her first cousin Mizuki Asami (who is in love with her), a son of a popular mountain climber, comes to live with her.

“Cross Game Graphic Novel Vol. 4” (Volumes 8-9 of the manga series) features Mizuki Asami moving in with Aoba and immediately declaring his love.  Everyone can tell that Ko is somewhat jealous, but he tries to pass it off as it’s nothing.

For so long, Ko and Aoba’s friends have made rumors that the two are going out in order to have Ko and Aoba focus on baseball.  But with Mizuki in the mix, the truth is out that Ko and Aoba are nothing but friends and the girls want to date Ko and the guys want to date Aoba.

But those who are really close to Ko and Aoba know that the two are very much alike and are perfect for each other, despite their hostility towards each other.

Meanwhile Seishu Gakuen High School has made the elite eight at Koshien and at the spring Koshien, they made the final four.

We get to see the competition fever sweeping the baseball teams, scouting of other teams and players taking place.  While Seishu Gakuen are the underdogs, a lot of people are putting their bets on the awesome Ryou Gakuin High School.

In the second half of the graphic novel (vol. 8 of the manga series), Koshien begins as Seishu Gakuen take on Sannou and Ko Kitamura suddenly becomes a hero in the newspapers as his pitch clocks in at 93 mph (he made a promise to his deceased girlfriend that he will one day pitch 100 mph).

But this sets up to the ultimate meeting between Seishu Gakuen and the favorites to win the Koshien, Ryou Gakuin High School.  Does Ko Kitamura and friends have what it takes to beat them?

Another enjoyable volume of “Cross Game” with volume 4 of the popular baseball manga graphic novel series.  Volume four features volumes 7 and 8 and tries to find a balance between showcasing Aoba and her cousin Mizuki but also people wondering if Ko Kitamura is bothered that her cousin has pretty much announced his love for his first cousin, and that he wants to marry her.

Meanwhile, the second half features the beginning of the Koshien tournament and now Ko Kitamura, Yuhei Azuma and friends try to win it all!  But can they?  Especially against the heavily favored Ryou Gakuin team.

“Cross Game Graphic Novel Vol. 4” is another fun and exciting volume of the series.  It’s also great to see flashbacks of Ko and Wakaba and why Ko Kitamura works so hard but also we get to see how Aoba’s emotional feelings towards Ko is starting to change?  Is their actually a chance that these two can fall in love?  No doubt that Mizuki will be the person in this love triangle to make sure it doesn’t happen.

But of course, the focus on the Koshien is quite exciting as we get to see the rivalry, the scouting and strategies made my the teams.  By no means are the baseball matches boring.  You can literally feel the excitement and energy on the pages courtesy of Mitsuru Adachi’s love for the game!

As mentioned in my previous reviews, Mitsuru Adachi’s art and writing is well-known and he is one of the most popular and respected mangaka in Japan. He has a unique style when it comes to his character designs and he has a good knowledge of baseball and capturing the intensity and the strategy that goes on inside the game and this second volume showcases that intensity and perseverance of the baseball players.

Overall, I am so happy that “Cross Game” has been released in the US and one can hope that with the success of the manga series, perhaps Viz Media will continue to release more of Adachi’s works outside of Japan.

“Cross Game” is an enjoyable, touching, inspirational manga series that I hope many give it a chance, even if it does touch upon sports, specifically baseball, Adachi makes the story quite enjoyable for non-baseball fans as well.

But with the Koshien now heating up and the main matchup between Seishu and Ryou now beginning, I can’t wait to read “Cross Game Graphic Novel Vol. 5”!

Highly recommended!

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