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.
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.