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Manga / Cross Game

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Cross Game is a romantic comedy baseball manga series by Mitsuru Adachi, which ran from 2005-10. Although it is better described as a Coming of Age Story: All about life. Death. And baseball! Think The Wonder Years plus The Natural. (If you are too young to remember The Wonder Years replace it with Boy Meets World). A year-long anime adaptation aired starting in 2009. Viz has licensed both the manga (volumes collecting two Japanese volumes each, with three in the first, started coming out in late 2010) and anime (weekly episodes began streaming from their website in May 2010).

Fifth-grader Kō Kitamura has a girlfriend, Wakaba Tsukishima, who in his words is "the cutest girl in 5th grade." He didn't ask for this girlfriend. In fact he'll insist he doesn't have one. Wakaba, however, insists otherwise, casually ordering him around, instructing him to take her to her swimming class on his bike, and giving him a list of what birthday present he is to give her each year for the next ten years. Kō grumbles a bit occasionally, but he doesn't really resist — Wakaba has him wrapped around her little finger, and he is never getting free. They were born on the same day in the same hospital, and everyone agrees they are destined to be together.

Everyone except Aoba Tsukishima, that is. One year younger than Wakaba, Aoba adores her older sister, and is quite jealous of Kō, and the attention Wakaba showers on him. She even declares that she hates him. However, because they are so close together in age, the three often end up doing things together, even though Aoba sometimes feels like a third wheel. Unlike Kō, who is pretty directionless without Wakaba telling him what to do, Aoba is dedicated to becoming an excellent baseball pitcher.

Then the end of the first volume happens (equivalent to the first episode of the anime), with Wakaba's death, by drowning in a river during summer camp. Fast-forward four years, and Kō and the Tsukishima family are still dealing with the repercussions. As Kō enters high school, he joins the high school baseball team. As he begins to grow up he finds that getting older isn't easy.

More realistic than most sports anime, the baseball games are slow and feel like real games. The emotions that the characters deal with are strong, but very real and understandable.

This manga provides examples of:

  • The Ace: Aoba, Azuma and Kou in spades.
  • Adaptation Expansion: Midori and plotline where Aoba tries out for the national women's team.
  • And You Were There: Akane and Wakaba
  • Annoying Younger Sibling:
    • Momiji... from Aoba's perspective
    • Ichiyo's perspective too—wouldn't you be annoyed if your kid sister accepted bribes to talk up the guy courting you?
  • The Atoner: Azuma wants to go to Koshien in Junpei's place because his brother injured himself and ruined his baseball career saving him from a fall.
  • Beach Episode: Of the pool variety.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Aoba and Kō. So much!
  • The Bet:
    • Instrumental in kicking out sunglasses and most of his players.
    • Another one gets Junpei to drop his casual attitude and become assistant coach to the team.
  • Birds of a Feather: Increasingly emphasized with Ko and Aoba
  • Bland-Name Product: Yakult Sorrows, Seibu Cions
  • Brains and Brawn: Ironically, Akaishi is the brains and Ko is the brawn in the battery. On more than one occasion, Ko says all he has to do is aim for Akaishi's glove, and Ko and Aoba commit some subterfuge to prevent Akaishi from falling apart over Akane. Mishima and Oikawa agree that catcher is the one department that Seishu has a clear advantage over Ryou.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Repeatedly in the manga. Characters tell the narrator/Koh to cover off-screen events or introduce their characters. Or characters throw objects at the narrator commentary or count the number of panels they appeared in. The author is also not above sliding in advertisements for previous issues or his other manga, and then having the characters hang a lampshade over it. The author also makes occasional comments about the manga industry (deadlines, filling pages, editors).
  • Butt-Monkey: Senda. Nakanishi is also one whenever his team needs him to lose weight, too.
    • Senda tends to be the go-to guy whenever someone needs to get comically injured or generally kicked around. The poor guy is so pathetic that on Valentine's Day, he buys chocolates for himself just so people don't think he didn't get any. And gets called on it.
    • Senda thanks Ko for saying he (Ko) likes him (Senda), even if it may be a lie.
      • He finally gets his moment of glory when he hits a lead-off homerun during Seishu's penultimate game.
  • Cannot Spit It Out:
    • Aoba, several times. The most prominent example may be buying Ko Valentine's Day chocolate but then saying they're for Azuma when Akane shows up. Other examples include making an effort to cook him a Neapolitan spaghetti and asking why he worked so hard to avoid a date with her.note 
    • Ko: when Aoba asks if he likes her, he first asks he can lie, and when told he can, he tells her he does — but in a way that makes it sound like he doesn't.
  • Can't Catch Up: Ko, Aoba and Azuma are leaps and bounds more talented than most of their Seishu teammates, but Akaishi is hit hardest by feelings of inferiority. However, opposing coaches still note that he's rather important to their team, and hits fifth, behind Azuma and ahead of Ko, for a reason. Daimon also mentions to Azuma that besides him and Ko, the one other member of the team he'd like to see injured is Akaishi.
    • Aoba as well, and it is one of her biggest frustrations. Despite being one of the most talented baseball players in the story, she has to come to grip with the reality that her female biology means not only is she not legally allowed to participate in men's tournaments, she will never be able to surpass the best of the boys and that this difference will only increase as they get older.
  • Casanova Wannabe: Senda
  • Catchphrase: "You're the pitcher, I'm the catcher, at Koshien Stadium, the stands packed full." And all its variants.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Played with. Aoba has always resented Ko for monopolizing Wakaba and continues to antagonize him through high school. However, they both care for each other and each other's families. Of all the people on the team, they are the ones that understand the other the best.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Kō, Aoba, and Azuma.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Both Akaishi and Azuma with Kō. Kō never really defeats Azuma but the Prefab team did beat the First team during the game Azuma refused to play.
  • Degraded Boss: Daimon first beats the team, then gets beaten by the team, then gets used to show how strong Miki's team is.
  • Distaff Counterpart: The anime gives Aoba counterparts to people in Ko's circle: Keiichiro Senda ↔ Koganezawa Midori, Shimano Tadashi ↔ Shimano Meguri. Both pairs are cousins and have similar personalities and appearance.
  • Doppelgänger: Akane and Wakaba. Both characters even have the same voice actress.
  • Doppelgänger Replacement Love Interest: Deconstructed
  • Downer Beginning
  • Dude Magnet: Aoba who apart from Azuma, Senda, and Mizuki being in love with her, is constantly hounded by guys and even some girls.
    • Must be a family trait, as Wakaba had both Ko and Akashi in love with her, while Ichiyo is known to have guys hit on her, to the point her sisters score the attempts!
  • Even the Girls Want Her: Aoba gets a lot of Valentine's Day chocolates.
  • Everyone Can See It: Everyone but Ko and Aoba, anyway.
  • Evolving Credits:
    • The four leafed clover represents the four Tsukishima sisters. In every episode/volume except the first, Wakaba's leaf is faded out. It gets colored in again for the final episode of the anime, symbolizing that the characters have finally come to terms with her death.
    • Halfway through the anime, Seishu's rival baseball team gets a Promotion to Opening Titles, as does Akane.
    • The last scene before the logo, where the screen is cut into four pieces, changes to reflect the characters' evolving relationships. At first it features just Ko and Aoba, then adds Azuma, who looks at Aoba, and Akane, who looks at Ko. Finally, Azuma is replaced by Akaishi, who looks up at Akane, symbolizing both their growing relationship, and Azuma's selfless decision to put his feelings aside and let Ko be with Aoba.
  • Fanservice: The manga does this a bit, which could double as Male Gaze. There are several upskirt shots, including when Aoba is pitching in a skirt.
  • Feminine Women Can Cook: Comparisons between Wakaba and Aoba (and Ichiyō too).
  • First-Episode Twist: First Volume Spoiler in the manga Wakaba dies
  • First-Name Basis: Kō and Wakaba, and Aoba. A Running Gag is that Aoba's many admirers get upset that Kō and Aoba are on a first name basis, since they assume it means he's her boyfriend. Aoba is not amused.
  • Girl Next Door: Wakaba, Aoba, and Akane all fit here
  • Handsome Lech: Junpei.
  • Hard Work Hardly Works: Aoba is this on both sides of the trope in different ways. Aoba is a natural pitching prodigy that many would never have any hope of beating. However, she works extremely hard to maintain and improve her form, and yet no matter how good she is or how hard she trains, she'll always have to compensate for the fact women don't build muscle as efficiently as men. She also can't change the rules that forbid female players in men's tournaments.
  • Hero's Muse: Ko-Aoba's mentor relationship from Ko's perspective. He admires her form and copies it. His quest (besides the one for Wakaba) is to pitch 160kph for her.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy:
    • Azuma. He gives up on his feelings for Aoba so that she can be happy with Kō.
    • Akaishi. First, he accepts Ko-Wakaba. Later, he encourages Ko-Akane because he wants to see Wakaba smile.
  • Ironic Echo Cut
    Aoba: I bet he's nervous like hell. After all, this is the first game he can't afford to lose.
    Cut to Kō sleeping
    Kō's mother (from downstairs): Kō! How long are you going to sleep? Don't you have a game today?
    (half awake): Uh? Game? (Unfazed) God, I'm so nervous.
  • The Jinx: Ko and Aoba's fathers refuse to watch games in person because teams they cheer for always lose, though this may just be an excuse to get drunk together.
  • The Lost Lenore: Wakaba
  • Lethal Chef: Aoba — cafe regulars know not to order anything from the grill when she's behind the counter.
  • Love Dodecahedron: Start with Ko, Aoba, and Azuma having lots of fans. Of these, Senda and his attempts in vain to court Aoba gets the most screentime. Ko and Akaishi loved Wakaba, and Wakaba loved Ko back. Most everyone expects Ko to fall for Akane. Ko slowly develops feelings for Aoba. Azuma says Aoba is the only girl he would consider dating. Mizuki is also in love with Aoba. Aoba actually loves Ko. Akaishi falls for Akane out of displaced feelings from Wakaba. Ko himself is implied to suffer a case of Loving a Shadow with Akane. Akane falls for Ko but realizes he's grown very close to Aoba. The epilogue shows Ko-Aoba and implies Akaishi-Akane happen.
  • Loving a Shadow: Different characters seem to be coming down with this.
  • Marilyn Maneuver: In the "Secret Weapon" episode, a sudden breeze begins to lift up a schoolgirl's plaid skirt, but she catches it in time. Nothing is shown, but Kitamura snuck a peek up her skirt while laying on hill and mentions her panties are "light blue".
  • Mood Whiplash: First Episode
  • Monster of the Week: Many teams that Seishu plays against only appear in one game and are never heard of again. Also, many have a particular theme.
    • Ineffectual Loner / Jerk Jock: Daimon's Seishu team receives special privileges. With the understanding that they are to win the acting principal the notoriety of raising a Koshien-level baseball team, he diverts funds and kicks the table tennis club out into the rain for them. The varsity team is not above breaking non-starting players to pursue their goal and abusing their position over the farm team. While good on paper, many of the varsity players have reached their peak. Daimon collects top talent but doesn't do much with them. After getting fired, Daimon doesn't learn his lesson and tries the same thing at a new school. Daimon losses twice, both times to a team with better teamwork that he underestimated.
    • Sanno uses a couple scouts to spy on other teams. They find out the team's batting weaknesses and believe Ko's weakness is fielding, so the coach's strategy is to bunt. After Akaishi tells Ko to pitch normally instead practicing his fielding, Sanno's batter can't even bunt his pitches, and the coach tells the scouts they should have just written, "a pitcher only see once in ten years."
    • The Power of Friendship: Sena is the school Miki transfers to after being sidelined by Daimon, where he has a team rather than a collection of glory-hungry individuals. They beat Daimon's new school and are narrowly beaten by Seishu.
    • Born Lucky: Nishikura has won all their previous games by exactly one run. Whenever they start losing, their defense becomes solid and their offense finds holes. However, after giving away 6 runs into the top of the 8th, Ko doesn't give them a chance to rally.
    • Friendly Enemy: Ryuo is Seishu's biggest obstacle to Koshein in their 2nd and 3rd years. However, with the exception of Shimano, the characters on the Ryou team are likeable. Azuma and Mishima are friendly rivals.
  • Nerves of Steel: Ko is rarely outwardly expresses anxiety. See Ironic Echo Cut. When Aoba gets injured, he acts in the way that will help her recover fastest. Furthermore, with the final and Akane's surgery approaching, he puts on a confident face for others. Only Aoba really suspects how much he worries.
  • Nice Guy: Kō
  • Not So Stoic: Azuma's stoic expression cracks when a ball he hits strikes Aoba, hospitalizing her and keeping her from trying out for the National Women's Team.
  • Not Worth Killing: Daimon repeatedly refuses to take the farm team and no-name schools seriously, purposely not starting with his best pitcher and refusing to call plays. He gets his comeuppance.
  • Official Couple: 3 of them at the end. Nakanishi and his girlfriend from the track team, Ichiyo and Junpei and finally Ko and Aoba.
  • One of the Boys: Aoba, definitely. She plays baseball with the boys (except during tournament games, which she's barred from playing in because of her sex), and even her sisters often ask her when she's going to start acting more like a girl. (Wakaba in particular complains about how dirty Aoba's clothes get.)
  • Pet the Dog: Shido Risa doesn't get much screen time to determine whether she is a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, but she remembers the team that helped her out enough to not disrupt their practice with a photoshoot and watch their games.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Senda
  • Posthumous Character
  • Promotion to Parent: Ichiyō Tsukushima
  • Recap Episode: Episode 30 of the anime, titled "Wakaba," recaps Ko/Wakaba/Aoba's relationship and Ko, Aoba, and Akaishi's motivation. Oddly for a Recap Episode, most of the footage comes from Episode 1, though some flashbacks to that time period from other episodes are added. Takes place immediately after climax of the summer tournament of Ko's 2nd year in high school and the appearance of Akane.
  • Replacement Goldfish: DeconstructedAkane seems to be open to the idea of becoming this, which some characters seem okay with while others don't accept the idea.
  • The Resenter: Aoba toward Kō. (Why does my sister like this baka more than me!)
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: Nomo. In the anime, he nyans in response to other characters' comments and events.
  • Right Behind Me: When Nakanishi learns that Ko and Aoba have gone to Wakaba's grave together, he says to keep it from Azuma, who is of course standing right behind him. Not that Azuma had to be that close, as even Senda overhears 100 meters away.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: The Azuma brothers. Yuhei is The Stoic and has made baseball his life, while Junpei is a Handsome Lech and is pretty mellow about life ever since an injury killed his baseball career.
  • Sleep Cute: Kō and Aoba — and if Aoba had woken up first, Kō would have been a dead man.
  • Smug Snake: Coach Daimon, whose arrogance keeps his talented teams from reaching their full potential. His mistakes and arrogance end up losing him his job at Seishu when he loses to the Portables.
  • Tareme Eyes / Tsurime Eyes: Almost all of the sympathetic characters are tareme and almost all unsympathetic characters are tsurime. An important exception is Azuma due to his Heel–Face Turn and revealing his The Atoner backstory.
  • Tempting Fate: Oikawa brags that he hasn't given up a homerun all year. Leads to Kou hitting a game-winning home run to earn Seishu their trip to the Koushien.
    • Aoba insists that she doesn't need a safety net when throwing practice pitches to Azuma. Azuma later hits her with a ball, fracturing her leg and preventing her from participating in All-Japan baseball team tryouts.
  • Title Drop: Happens Once an Episode. Each episode's title is taken from a line of dialog, usually one that sums up the thematic issues at play.
  • Theme Naming: The four Tsukushima sisters all have names involving leaves, which ties in with the 4-leaf clover motif (Clover is also the name of the family cafe).
  • Througha Face Fullof Fur: In the episode, "Secret Weapon", Senda gets blue-faced in reaction to eating a meal that Aoba prepared for him.
  • Through His Stomach: Aoba, of the non-romantic kind, and Kō, also of the non-romantic version.
  • Tomboy: Aoba
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Mizuki is introduced as a pretty nice guy when he begins to court Aoba, but becomes more and more of a jerk to her friends as the show goes on.
  • Training from Hell: downplayed but Aoba put herself on a strength training regimen while in elementary school and has kept it up daily since then. Upon reading her list of exercises, Ko wonders how on earth an elementary kid was able to do all of it every day. But then he himself starts doing it too.
  • Tsundere: Aoba, of the more classic and restrained type.
  • Vicariously Ambitious: An interesting case where the supporter is the one actually visibly succeeding. Ko begins the story noting that his interests aren't consistent and he doesn't really know what he wants to do with himself, while Aoba has known from a young age that she wanted to be a world-class baseball pitcher, and works extremely hard at it. However because Aoba is female and therefore barred from participating in men's baseball tournaments, she can't achieve her dream of pitching in Japan's Koshien tournament. Ko eventually starts asking Aoba to teach him how to throw pitches like her, stating that they can think of it as her using his body as a proxy for her own to achieve her goal. His form comes to mimic hers with surprising accuracy.
  • Wham Episode: The first volume/episode
  • Yamato Nadeshiko: Wakaba is one in training. Until she kicked it. Ichiyo is another.