Anime Impressions – Cross Game – aka The Best New Anime Not Involving Amnesia or a Light Music Club

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I wasn’t planning on watching Cross Game since it was a sports anime and I don’t normally do sports anime. There are exceptions, like Bamboo Blade, but generally speaking it’s a genre I don’t bother with. However, after a comment by JayyG mentioning character development in Cross Game, I figured it was worth a look.

Rating: episode 1 – 11/12A+
Rating: episode 2 – 10.5/12Strong A
Anticipation Level: very high

Wow, this show has character development in spades.

Koh (or Kō) is born into a family that runs a sports equipment business. On the same day and in the same hospital that he was born, a girl named Wakaba, was born to a nearby family that runs a batting cage/café business. Koh and Wakaba have been life long friends and many people, including Wakaba, think it’s destiny that the two will marry in the future. The story starts in earnest, after a time leap between episode 1 and 2, while Koh is in middle school. Koh is a genius batter, having mastered the skill from hitting in the batting cages since he was 3 and has been secretly training as a pitcher after his team gotsmoked by Wakaba’s younger sister, Aoba, while in fifth grade but doesn’t actively play the sport. Since this is a sports anime, Koh will most assuredly get dragged into joining the baseball club and we’ll watch as Koh matures and attempts to realize the potential that he has.

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Koh from episode 2. He’s a lot less cute now that he’s in middle school.

It’s my policy to be as spoiler-free as possible so I had to make the story overview above sound vague because there are events in the first two episodes that I don’t want to spoil; therefore, I’ll just talk about the story in generalities right now. Yes, there is character development in Cross Game and, actually, I was completely taken by surprise by how much there was. Not only has the show done a very good job in establishing Koh, Wakaba, and Aoba’s character in the course of two episodes; many of the side characters have already been given a fair amount of development as well. I find that I’ve already grown attached to the characters and want to see what happens to them in the future.

I can’t help but compare the difference in approaches between Cross Game and Saki. Saki bypassed character development and went right into intense mahjong action, using fan service and pseudo-yuri elements to entice non-mahjong players in sticking around. On the other hand Cross Game introduced the characters, made us care about them, and kept the time spent on playing the sport in question to a minimum – only sparing the time when it would advance the story and kept the actual game playing comprehensible for non-players. There’s probably people out there that would disagree but I think the approach of Cross Game is miles better and makes for a far superior show that anyone could watch and enjoy.

The source material for Cross Game has an old school look to it that Synergy SP does a very good job in translating to the anime. It might look a little odd at first but I found myself quickly warming to the animation style used. Much like Kaiba, I think this is a case of when less is actually more but it’s impossible to get the screenshots to do the show justice. I also like the character designs but I wish Koh and Aoba didn’t look so similar. And speaking of Aoba, Haruka Tomatsu is her voice actor (Ayame Ikaruga from Asu no Yoichi and Nagi from Kannagi) and she does a great job voicing a role that’s similiar to Ayame. I thought the rest of vocal actors did a good job though I didn’t recognize them like I did for Aoba. Miyu Irino is the voice actor for Koh and looking at his other credits, he did Tsutomu Senkawa for Birdy the Mighty Decode as well as voicing Sora for Kingdom Hearts and Haku in Spirited Away. And Wakaba is voiced by Akemi Kanda who did Ryou from Clannad.

The other thing I was surprised about was how Cross Game felt at times like a slice-of-life show. The animation style probably helped reinforce this but in a season that doesn’t have much in the way of slice-of-life (there is Ristorante Paradiso but I’m still unsure if I like that or not), a show like Cross Game is welcome.

In closing, I said in the title that it’s the best new anime behind East of Eden and K-ON! but in reality, if it can continue at the level it has shown in the first two episodes, I could see Cross Game finishing in front of both.

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Cross Game also has an awesome cat in it.

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14 thoughts on “Anime Impressions – Cross Game – aka The Best New Anime Not Involving Amnesia or a Light Music Club”

  1. i was waiting on this impression and im glad u finally posted it……like u said the way the characters develop over a span of 2 episodes is pretty amazing…..take the bully (he really didnt bully anyone but he was the stereotyped bully character) whose name i cant remember for example after the events in episode 1 he applies himself faces tribulations through middle school by having to deal with the douchebag upperclassmen in the baseball team and finally becomes the captain……thats a lot of development for a character that is not the lead…….also take Ko’s chubby friend there looks to be a pretty interesting story as to why he doesnt play basebally in middle school….it goes without saying that Ko and Aoba go through the most drastic development and it really is amazing to watch this characters as they mature………..

    I usually like 12-13 ep anime but im hoping this one will be 26 episode long ……just because i feel they could do a lot with it……then again i wouldn’t mind it being 13 if making it 26 would make it drag on……….this show has really good pacing so i feel that the production studio will probably keep that up…..i didn’t read the manga so im not sure wether it has enough material for 26 episodes

    I feel i should mention the fact that the subbing is still going on for this anime i was worried because shiki said they were disbanding but that ended up being a Troll and jadefansubs is catching up…..they both do a fine job so the subbing is well secured…

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  2. hmmm, i don’t really like the art and I’m not in favor of following an anime about small kids, however Major season 1 on the contrary was way better..

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  3. I know what you mean about Koh and Aoba looking alike, but I think it’s the manga-ka’s intention. Their similarities are a running theme in the story.

    I do agree with where you rank it, it’s one of the best shows this season. There’s nothing new or earth-shaking about the story and the characters, but the blend really works.

    @Kiryu-zero: It’s not about little kids for very long. Major is OK (and is super-popular), but I prefer the way Cross Game does things.

    @JayyG: Having read the manga, I know they can’t finish this story in 13 eps. I think even 26 eps would be too rushed. I anticipate this going for perhaps a full year – the last two SynergySP shows airing in this timeslot (Sunday 10AM) were Hayate no Gotoku! and Zettai Kallen Children, both 52 episode runs. And the Cross Game manga has run longer than either of those at the time they first aired.

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  4. Ed i dont think i would have a problem with 52 much less 26…..i think this is a series that can stay enjoyable for a long period of time….ep 4 was good it introduced that guy that was hitting homeruns like it was nothing…..im sure he’ll play a big role in the anime so im curious to see his character develop

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  5. All Mitsuru Adachi material is really slice-of-life, even if all of his manga is sports-related. Check Touch, Hiatari Ryouko, H2, Rough, Nine or any other work of his and you won´t regret it.

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  6. im watching touch…………..im only on ep 4 but so far its pretty cool it took me the first ep to get used to the old animation style but it doesnt really bother me that much…………………..i really want tachan to step it up though hopefully it wont take him some tragic turn of events to get him to start training

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  7. When I have some time, maybe I’ll check out some of the other stuff by Mitsuru Adachi.

    I think there’s a good chance this’ll run at least 26 episodes. Maybe SynergySP likes to do long series. I’m still wondering why SynergySP isn’t doing the second season of Hayate. Was it because they wanted to do Cross Game instead of Hayate or were the sponsors not happy with their adaptation of Hayate?

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  8. steel im on ep 24 of touch…..and so far its really good def check it out when u have some time

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  9. Adachi Mitsuru’s H2 and Cross Game were so good. The series was kinda sad, and thats why I want to watch more 🙂

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  10. Sigh… Adachi Mitsuru is alaways brilliant. It’s a pity it’s practically impossible to find any of his stuff licensed in english.

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  11. Saki bypassed character development and went right into intense mahjong action, using fan service and pseudo-yuri elements to entice non-mahjong players in sticking around.

    This was why I never really got into Saki and dropped it after two episodes. At that time, the yuri subtext didn’t really help, because I used to loathe yuri back then (I was fine with yaoi, though).

    Speaking of Haruka Tomatsu, that seiyuu always surprises me whenever I find her name in the list of voice actors in anime. Because she doesn’t always sound the same–her incredible voice range and ever-evolving voice acting are her greatest assets. I’m glad that she has taken many roles now.

    Let me mention my love for Miyu Irino, too. He appears to be an underappreciated seiyuu (at least, in MAL), despite belonging to the generation of VA that propelled anime to its currently growing popularity. He’s a great VA and can voice pervy as well as innocent characters.

    Speaking of Mitsuru Adachi, I’ve only seen Touch and read his manga Q&A and KATSU! His works, in my opinion, feel a less like sports shows and more like a SOL infused with romance. I didn’t really love Touch though there was nothing really detestable about it. On the other hand, I really fell in love with KATSU! Its sports and romance are both toned down, compared to Touch’s, but when it did highlight these aspects, they shine really brightly. Adachi’s also a romanticist himself.. I think, because of his sweet and genius cutting of scenes into panels (I have a hard time finding my favorite spread from his manga right now. I’ll return once I find it).

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  12. @miharusshi: Yeah, I just looked up Haruka Tomatsu. She does have a range and ability to hide that it’s her which is probably the mark of a true professional but makes it hard for the viewers to recognize it’s her.

    I remember when Cross Game began airing that some people at the time thought Miyu Irino voiced his characters a little too woodenly – which I thought was wrong – and that might explain why he’s underappreciated now.

    Your comment about Mitsuru Adachi being more of a SOL infused with romance writer reminded me of the live action Aoi Honoo (Blue Blazes) that I watched last fall. In it the main character actually comments that he’s completely clueless about romance and his trusted adviser is Mitsuru Adachi’s manga.

    Funny you should bring up Cross Game, I’ve been feeling lately like it’s probably time for a rewatch.

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  13. Maybe Adachi was back then the romance guru of Japanese teens? Hahaha
    Because of his writing, I often feel like it wouldn’t be strange at all if the stories he wrote actually resembled real life events of certain people.

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