Goodbye, Cross Game. Thank you.

I guess I needn’t have worried about the outcome.

First, a question. Mishima is at the plate with a runner on first and two outs. He’s forced Kou to a full count. He takes ball four. This is good for the Ryuuou team, right? Two runners on. A chance not only to tie but to win the game in the twelfth inning.

The laconic Mishima meets his laconic opponent/counterpart Azuma at first base.

“It’s over,” says Mishima.

“Yes, after you let the pitch go by,” says Azuma.

Meanwhile, the Ryuuou coach says “Have you ever seen Mishima lay off a close pitch when the count is full?”

So my question is: Did Mishima not swing because he was frozen by Kou’s fastball? Now that I’m writing this and thinking through it, probably so. Junpei Azuma, in the stands, says to Aoba that Kou’s pitch was his fastest yet. The previous fastest was 158km.

Which brings me to just another moment of beauty in this series: they don’t put that pitch’s speed on the scoreboard. Aoba famously said that she’s only interested in men who can pitch 160km. No one will ever know the speed of Kou’s fastest pitch.

For fifty episodes Cross Game was full of beautiful moments like that. So few of them made you gasp or cry or cheer. There is only one tragic event–it happens in episode one. Everything else consisted of day-to-day events, minor things that happen to people as they grow up. Memory, and uncertainty.

Uncertainty in more than one way. The outcome of the game is uncertain. Akaishi and Mishima (Opponents, but true baseball players) talk at the plate. They both realize that this is the moment. Everything has been leading up to this at-bat. But who will triumph? “That’s precisely what makes it fun,” says Akaishi. At least in a baseball game you get an outcome. One team wins, the other loses. That’s not true in real life, and the series doesn’t fully answer what will happen to Kou and Aoba, though we can make an assumption.

Kou and Aoba summed up in two screenshots.

Early on I didn’t know if I liked the Kou/Aoba pairup. I imagined them later in life being an old bickering married couple. Kou the henpecked husband, Aoba the shrew who can’t cook a decent meal, but I’ve gone past that. Kou knows Aoba. He’s supposed to be the great liar, but he knows Aoba has been lying to herself for years about her feelings, that they equally share a bond, the memory of the long-lost Wakaba. Is such a bond enough for them to begin a relationship? That’s one of the things I don’t like in many series such as this one. The couple get together in high school, for crissakes, and intend to spend the rest of their lives together. The reality is that there’s a whole world for them out there, new people, new experiences, and people grow more. Well, Cross Game, it should be said, makes no such adolescent promises, but it is inferred.

And the fact of their bond over Wakaba is brought home by Akane, who has told them both that they should talk more together about their memories. Kou thinks Wakaba might have brought Akane to them in order to tell them what she wanted to say, implying that she gives Kou and Aoba her blessings. Akane, in a much earlier episode, wonders aloud if she was meant to meet them. As for Wakaba, Kou says that no one is really dead until they’re forgotten. Wakaba isn’t going anywhere.

Also uncertain is Akaishi and Akane. All we know is that the road is clear for him to make his move if he wishes. And I suspect Akane is wise and gracious enough to know that she cannot replace Aoba in Kou’s heart. So why not this burly son of a liquor store owner who’s obviously in love with her? We’ll never know, but I like to imagine it happening.

Some things they actually had to rush. Junpei and Ichiyou’s wedding happens in the closing credits. Also while the credits roll Aoba has one more speech about Kou knowing all along. Kou and Aoba holding hands, both stubbornly refusing to let go no matter what the other one thinks.

One piddly complaint. Wakaba’s dream was for them to play in the Koushien. I never expected to see the games, but I would have liked to see them in their places, Kou as the pitcher, Akaishi as the catcher … Well, it was an impossible dream, wasn’t it, since Aoba would not have been allowed to play. Maybe there’s a point to be made: the dream was just that—a dream. It might help get you places, but it never quite becomes reality. Interestingly, Coach Maeno is seen muttering “This is a dream … No, this is reality!” Or maybe I’m thinking too much.

Indeed, it’s hard for me to put this series in perspective. I’ve watched it for a year, enjoying its quietness while other shows whizzed by–and entertained me as well. Some of them are great shows. You know them. But a few months ago while thinking about my anime of the year list, I thought I might put Cross Game on top. Constant excellence had won me over. (In the end I didn’t rank them). And a reply from Usagijen had made me think. I didn’t just love this series, I was married to it. Much like the relationship between Kou and Aoba had slowly warmed on me, however it might turn out, the series itself slowly took a larger and larger chunk of my anime-fan heart.

I’ve heard people complain that the baseball scenes were laughable compared to other such series, and the animation of course was never fancy. I’ve heard that creator Mitsuru Adachi has been repeating himself for some time. But when it turns out like this, so breezy, well-constructed, gentle and touching for an entire year, no one has any real cause to complain. Well done, and thank you.

And thank YOU, Nomo, for all the meows.

7 thoughts on “Goodbye, Cross Game. Thank you.

  1. You seem to be a very opinionated person, and I really enjoyed reading your commentaries/blogs on cross game. I love cross game and it is definitely on top of my anime list. Anyway, I have some questions that I hope you can answer or at least give your honest opinion about.
    1. At what point would you say Kou started to have feelings or (assuming he has feelings for her altready) started to show his feelings for Aoba?
    2. On episode 47, when Aoba sort of confesses her feelings for Kou by asking Kou who he loves more between her and Akane, Kou answered, “Is it okay if I lie”.
    What do you think he meant by that at the time? I know he answered that question (somehow) on episode 49 but it’s quite confusing and not so convincing either. ( at least for me)
    I mean, did he say that because he wanted to hide his feelings for her? or is it because he is still unsure of his feelings for her and did not know what to say? or is it because he loves akane more than her at that time? or maybe he took it as a joke so he said that to play it safe? or he said that just to piss her off. lol.

    I really hope you can answer these questions. I am looking forward as to what you have to say. Thank you!

  2. Glad to hear from another Cross Game fan! It’s been so long since I’ve watched the episode that my memories are hazy, but I’ll try give my opinions as well as I can.

    1. Kou is so hard to read it’s nearly impossible to figure out what’s on his mind. He’s always had a bond with Aoba and he knows it, but maybe it took some time for him to figure out whether the bond was romantic or not.

    2. Frankly, that ep47 lying stuff baffled me, too. But although Kou says he’s good at lying, and is given permission to, I can’t see him lying about such a thing to Aoba. On the other hand, there was still that game to be played, and when I think about it, maybe he had determined that he could not make outright declarations of love until he delivered on bringing them to the Koushien. That was everyone’s goal, after all. So I think he was stating the truth but offering it as a possible lie to a), not lie to her and b), tell her that it was a matter that must wait, and c) play with Aoba’s mind, which after all, is fun to do.

    Or something. Your guess is as good as mine!

    • Probably way late to address this, but I feel like I should point this out:

      Remember, Akane won the Koshien art competition – a picture of ‘Ko’ pitching. Except, as Ko told everyone, that’s actually Aoba’s form being used. They didn’t show it explictly because they weren’t -in- Koshien proper, but I am thinking that’s the portion that would put Aoba in centerfield.

      And the point with Ko ‘lying’ was basically this: Ko and Aoba are -very- much alike. Aoba has been lying to herself this whole time about her feelings for Ko, so Ko asks her if he can lie, and that’s something -she- understands and is comfortable with. It puts her on a comfortable territory.

      It’s not till Ko turns the first two ‘lies’ into reality that she begins to realize that if the first two lies he told were true, then the third one -wasn’t- a lie either.

      And once the lies become truth, she has to admit to herself that her lying to herself is… well, a lie. And that Ko -really- does understand exactly how she’s lied to herself.

  3. (My memories are even hazier now! But here goes)

    As far as the Aoba in centerfield goes, I would say, yes, part of Aoba was on the field that day, since Ko basically uses her pitching style. I’m trying to remember where she and her future brother in-law sat in the stadium. Maybe it was around centerfield, too, though I picture it as along the first base line.

    As for the lies, it’s way too long ago for me to remember exactly, and even back then I obviously couldn’t figure it out. I’m not sure what you mean about the “first two lies,” though. What were they?

    • (Mine’s relatively fresh, since I just watched Cross Game)

      Aoba and her ‘brother in law’ weren’t in Koshien. That was the preliminary ‘win and you enter Koshien’ game you’re thinking of. We never do see Ko pitching in Koshien during the series… I’m just pointing out that Aoba -is- in Koshien as the painting that is being put up in Koshien stadium… it doesn’t need to be shown, but it’s a pretty good inference, I think. It’s one of those subtle little things, like how the four leaf clover changes from four normal colors to three and one different color after Wakaba dies.

      And the two lies: “I’ll throw 100 MPH!” “We’ll win and go to Koshien!”.

      • Yeah, that wasn’t Koshien that we watched, good point. And I wish they had shown us Akane’s picture. I thought we saw it once, a rough drawing of a pitcher, like a coiled spring, as she said.

        Though it’s one of the great delights of the series that we never get the speed of that one fastball. The future brother in law says, more or less, that he did, while Aoba is honestly uncertain …

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