by Mitsuru Adachi; adapted by Lillian Olsen
published by Viz; $14.99 US
It’s difficult to know what to say about a consistent series. “More of the same” sounds like an insult, but if you’re enjoying the story so far, that’s exactly what you want.
Things do pick up with the introduction of a new character. Aoba’s cousin comes to live with her family, and he’s an oddball. His father is a famous mountain climber, so he’s traveled the world and has a fondness for high places. The girls like his sense of mystery, but he only has eyes for Aoba. This provides some useful complication for the love/hate relationship between Aoba and boy-next-door Ko.
The cousin’s presence is changing her life, but so far, only in small ways, like making her put on more suitable clothing when hanging around the house. The teenage crushes balance out the competition aspects of the baseball games. Serious play becomes the focus only in the second half of this double-sized volume, as the tournament begins.
Aoba’s one of the best athletes on the school team, but she can’t officially play for the team because she’s female. The coach appreciates her value, in the meantime, as inspiring the male players to do better so they don’t “lose to a girl”.
The sense of pacing is my favorite part of the book, demonstrating Mitsuru Adachi’s mastery. Readers need to slow down and let the art guide them, with the wonderfully illustrated scene-setting moments creating beats. Inspiring images provide mood indicators and say a lot, wordlessly. They also allow for flashbacks to the memories that underpin so much of the series, as everyone remembers Aoba’s deceased sister and the way she changed their lives.
An early scene features conversation among several characters about another guy that’s told mostly from behind them. It’s a rare confidence that would choose to show many backs of the heads, but it’s a great choice that demonstrates how blase the characters are pretending to be, looking over their shoulders at each other and never making eye contact. So true to teen boys, trying to be cool! (The publisher provided a review copy.)