Cross Game Book 8

Cross Game Book 8 is the last volume of the baseball manga that’s really about growing up. Ko’s team is about to play an important tournament game while Akane, who resembles deceased and inspirational Wakaba, is scheduled for surgery. That’s the summary given on the book back, streamlined, but really, Akane doesn’t figure much in this book. It’s all about the game.

I liked the way this volume opened with two of Mitsuru Adachi’s artistic strengths. First, there’s the gorgeously drawn scene setting, various panels of the neighborhood waking up to set the stage and the mood. Then, we get the core pair of the series, young pitcher Ko and his trainer (and neighbor and Wakaba’s sister) Aoba throwing the baseball to each other. Under it all, that’s what this series has been about, how those two grow up together, challenging each other to achieve.

As we’ve known from the beginning of the series, it will all come down to the big game. Since we all know that, Adachi can take his time with the details, from family members making their way to the stadium to the team on the bus to the crowds assembling. Even if you didn’t know much about the game of baseball, following the series to this point will have given you enough experience to appreciate the slow build of anticipation. In that way, Cross Game is much like the sport itself, rewarding patience. The enjoyment comes from not just who wins, but their experiences to get there.

Adachi interweaves team chatter among the players with well-drawn illustrations of perfect sport moments, from preparation to delivery. The end could be foreseen, given what we know about the players, but the journey was worthwhile all the same. (The publisher provided a review copy.)

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