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.

Cross Game 49, Nodame 10, Letter Bee 23

Cross Game 49 is indeed excruciating to watch. You may think, well, it’s a sports show, so it has to end with victory, but this series has as many letdowns as triumphs. There would be a certain beauty to it if Seishuu loses, and Kou, Aoba and Akaishi don’t realize their dream of playing in the Koshien. There’s no guarantee that they’re going to win the game, and in fact, the game doesn’t end this episode, so we have another week to wait.

While almost every scene concentrates on the game, we get some thoughts about the past. Not only Wakaba’s tragic death, but what happened last year when the two teams met, and Ryuuou won in extra innings. The slugger Mishima remembers it well. So do Kou and his team. But Wakaba is there as well, and later, when the game indeed goes into extra innings, Cross Game eases on the pressure pedal and we get a few moments of memory. Aoba remembers Kou crying. Kou takes out a batting cage token. We see the river Wakaba died in, the spot where Kou and Akaishi always train. At this point we really need to see these moments, because the game, as I said, is excruciating.

We can see the strain and wear on the Seishuu players. The uniforms get dirtier, the faces marked with grime and sweat. There are lucky hits, errors as well as great plays, strikeout after strikeout. After eleven innings both pitchers are still in there—which shouldn’t be permitted. These are still young, still-developing players. They shouldn’t be allowed to extend themselves so much and risk injury. But in the interest of drama I’ll let that pass. Besides, would you want to be the one to tell Kou he’s being relieved? The way he’s pitching?

There are little battles, some laced with irony. Azuma tells Kou that he can do anything today. Moments later a Mishima homer goes foul by centimeters. His subsequent line drive is caught by Azuma. Kou apparently homers off of Oikawa, the opposing pitcher, well, they don’t really officially say it, and the episode ends right there, but I assume from the camera angle of where the ball went that it was fair; they used a similar trick to show that Azuma’s was foul.

Through it all the players on both sides don’t lose their focus or get too optimistic. They are competitors. They know how good the other team is. They won’t let up. A moment or two of jubiliation is all they’ll permit themselves.

But he winds up stranded on third.

And the other characters? They watch and comment. Aoba and Junpei Azuma have some terrific moments as they watch. When Yuhei Azuma hits a triple, his brother is ecstatic. Aoba looks at him, enjoying his happiness. Akane and her parents watch from the hospital. There is nothing any of them can do. And neither can we. And the game isn’t over.

Next episode is the finale. How they’re going to handle the game and all the romantic angles in such a short time is anyone’s guess. It’s not like this series to cram too much into one episode.

Nodame Cantabile Finale ends next week, too. They too have a lot to cram in, like what the hell is Nodame going to do now?

This episode is all about the fallout from Nodame’s debut in London. It quickly got posted in YouTube and now music lovers the world over have seen it. Word quickly spreads to Japan and Paris, to the delight, bewilderment and consternation of the other characters. But the effort seems to have drained her of all passion. She had vanished from Paris, and now she vanishes again—to Egypt??

While people look for her, Auclair runs into Stresemann and admonishes him, but I’m not sure what his point is. Auclair says she was nearly at the point where she was living in music, and that Stresemann screwed that up. But how is getting Nodame to perform with an orchestra screwing anything up? She’s playing music, after all. Perhaps such a big scene was too much for her in her current state, and Nodame’s behavior certainly suggests he could be right, but surely wanting to hide afterwards is a normal reaction for someone new to this. She’s just recharging. Meanwhile, Chiaki can do nothing but brood on what he did wrong and wonder if he’s been dumped, romantically, and professionally.

Therapy, or something.

Nodame returns, after discovering she has fans in Egypt, and a weird moment happens. Tanya and the others start barraging her with questions, and she can’t even look them in the eye. However, kids of Chiaki’s orchestra members have come over, and seeing them she perks up and begins to play with them. Chiaki has wondered if she would have been better off in Japan, away from the stresses of professional music, or maybe this is just he way of recharging her batteries. It does leave a lot to resolve in one more episode, even if Chiaki has decided he will say yes to her proposal.

Letter Bee 23 offers one half of boredom and the other as bewilderment. Connor and Niche are captured by the mob. Lag escapes thanks to Hunt, the monstrous guy who isn’t really a monster, blah blah blah. He’s led off by Ann Graad, who feeds him a backstory I don’t fully understand, but she suggests that Gaichuu are attracted to the sealed hearts in letters, which would explain a lot. Oh, Sarah and Hunt are scam artists, but we knew that.

There’s an equally confusing talk between Connor and Hunt. Normally I would just mutter to myself, but this is the first time I can remember that Connor is good for something. He gets Hunt to talk out, and his completely useless dog turns into a superb burrower. About time those two got to do something besides be fat and lazy.

A gaichuu shows up and starts attacking. The townspeople, thinking the Bees and the government are responsible for them, prevent Lag and Connor from fighting back. So, naturally, they throw in a completely unrelated character …

What is HE doing here?

Strolling into town like Clint Eastwood, Zazie clobbers the gaichuu. While I’m glad to see him, don’t ask me what he’s doing here. Don’t ask me what the backstory is. Don’t ask me anything about this episode. It was dull and senseless with a little action at the end.

Cross Game 48, Yumeiro 19

Cross Game 48 brings us the finals, with some annoying sidelights. When it actually concentrates on the game, since we’ve been waiting for months, it’s an exciting episode, but when they switch over to Mizuki NOT watching the game and wondering what the fuss is all about, I wanted to throttle the kid and force the camera back to the stadium.

Mostly, though, it’s the game. It starts with great energy in the music, the most sustained slam-bang noises Cross Game has done to date. Kou starts a little nervous but regains his control quickly. The other pitcher, Oikawa, seems unfazeable. Some of the show’s fun watching him smile ruefully when something goes wrong, possibly because very little does, or simply thinking to himself. He’s obviously having a great time out there. But that’s only one of the little asides we see from the players. There’s also Azuma and the enemy slugger meeting up at first, each one battling to see who can be the more laconic. More importantly, Kou tells Akaishi about the successful surgery during a mound conference just before the game begins. Akaishi is not happy. We see the game from fans’ perspective as well. Aoba and Junpei analyze from the stands. The fathers get drunk watching at home. Even Risa takes an interest. Akane’s parents watch from the hospital while their daughter sleeps.

Game face.

The most interesting subplot in the episode concerns Akaishi. When he tells Kou he’ll advance Azuma (who has Seishuu’s only hit) so Kou can drive him home, Kou says “Don’t defer everything to me,” which means two things. For one thing, it makes Akaishi realize his true value to the team. He’s a slugger (the manager mentally says the same thing). He should use his strengths. But of course it might also be referring to him, Kou and Akane. By saying this it might mean Kou is telling him to follow his heart and not assume Kou’s going to be Akane’s boyfriend. And it is very interesting indeed that Akane wakes up just as Akaishi celebrates at first, having driven Azuma home. She says “Good.”


And frankly, Akaishi with Akane would be a great thing. Akaishi’s deserves some happiness for all he’s done in the show, having stuck by Kou almost since the first episode. Rarely does the show give him anything more to do but give advice or add commentary, or train Kou. He deserves better.

Of course the game doesn’t end this episode. Did you expect it to? Seishuu has a one-run lead in the seventh. Expect the next episode to be full of crises. It’s going to be excruciating.

The fansub group whom I’ve depended upon to procure Yumeiro Patissiere decided to drop the series, and the other group likes to wait awhile and then bring out three episodes at a time, which meant there’s been a hiatus in Yumeiro reviews here. I could always watch on Crunchyroll, but I doubt I could get decent screenshots that way. During the wait I wondered if maybe I should just drop the series, but now that a new episode has come out (plus two others I’ll get to soon), I realized I missed the silly series.

Not ready to get back to the contest yet, we get Ojou again trying to take Ichigo down a peg or two by challenging her to a valentine chocolate challenge. It’s not hard to get Ichigo to agree to things like this, just piss her off.

As usual, the odds are stacked against Ichigo, as Ojou imports expensive gourmet chocolate and makes a fountain out of it that people can dip candies and fruit in. But of course Ichigo, using more routine ingredients, comes up with an idea: actually remembering what Valentine’s day is all about. It’s about girls giving boys they like chocolates, at least in Japan. So Ichigo makes chocolates inspired by the boys on her team, rose tea chocolate for Hanabusa, black sugar for Andou, and …

This is one thing I like about the series. It tempers its sweetness with sly jabs. And, actually, not only does the black pepper chocolate go well with red wine, but Kashino actually likes it and wants more. And as the girls compete to a draw, the point is made that you don’t need to use expensive ingredients to make outstanding chocolate. It all happens during a fancy-dress ball, and in a cute little scene Ichigo gets to dance with all three of the boys. Glad to see Yumeiro back, glad I decided not to drop it.

Fairy Tail 20, Cross Game 47, Baka to Test 10

After a story arc that took forever, Fairy Tail 20 brings us filler, and that’s all right. It’s mostly a flashback on the birth of Happy, with a side dish of Natsu’s emotional growth, what little of it there is.

It’s routine. Young Natsu, who at that time wanted to do nothing but beat up Erza and Gray (which is pretty much like he does now) finds an egg and decides to hatch it. A girl we haven’t met yet named Lisanna volunteers to help, and on the way, gives Natsu a new role to play: father, with her as the mother. Now, you may ask who the hell is this girl and where did she go? We see her as an adult, but not in the present day, and she seems to be a painful memory for Natsu, which means naturally we’ll get a story arc on it eventually.

So Natsu gets a little family and calms down slightly. We see the guild members when they were smaller, and see what little rivalries they had at the time. Enough for a filler. Hopefully the next story arc begins next week. Let’s hope it’s a little more compact.

Cross Game 47, instead of making Akane’s surgery concurrent, with the team having to play wondering how it would turn out, eases up on the pressure-meter, slightly. The surgery is over before the game begins, and Aoba, who was at the hospital, texts Momiji to tell her to give Kou the V sign, which surely means the operation went well. But what if she’s lying?

There is a lot of lying in this episode, all to spare people worry or pain. Kou is the only one who knows that the surgery is even happening, until he tells Aoba, in a quiet scene at Wakaba’s grave. They mustn’t tell Akaishi, or he might fall into another slump. Other people aren’t to know because they’re lousy liars. But that does nothing to relieve the pressure on Kou and Aoba. It doesn’t matter for the latter, of course, because she’s not playing, but calm, easygoing Kou is obviously feeling it. Whether it’s about Akane or the big game is anyone’s guess.

It doesn’t help that there’s still the love stories that have to get worked out. Azuma tells Aoba again that he’s interested in her. And Aoba actually asks Kou how she compares to Akane. “Can I lie?” is his response, and it’s a good one. Besides, with all the pressure around, asking Kou a question like that the morning of the game isn’t the most sensible thing to do. What’s Aoba thinking?

In fact, the pressure was getting to me, too. I worried about Akane and I worried about the game. The scene would shift to the hospital where Akane’s parents and Aoba waited for the surgery to end, and I worried about Kou’s state of mind. Then it would shift to the stadium and I worried about Akane. There’s little worse than worrying about things you can’t control. It’s unlikely that anything will happen to Akane, especially since they prayed to Wakaba to protect her. Wakaba’s always come through. On the other hand, Wakaba died, didn’t she? Being a pessimist, I can’t rule out a bad ending.

But then Cross Game pulls out another lovely moment. Momiji, in the stands, gives Kou the V sign (before Aoba texts her), the music picks up, and Kou seems to get a burst of energy. As Kou once said, worrying doesn’t solve anything. The game is about to begin! Let’s put the surgery aside and play some baseball!

UPDATE: Rewatching the episode, maybe I misread the situation between Kou and Momiji. It seems like Momiji’s V sign might be a secret signal between Aoba and Kou that the operation was a success, which would explain why Kou was so desperate to find where Momiji was in the stands. On the other hand, Momiji obviously didn’t know about the code or Akane’s surgery when she flashed it, or she wouldn’t have. Which would be wonderful, in a way. Momiji, part of this long story where many things are unexpressed but understood, reassures Kou without knowing the reason.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Kaname, going into surgery, flashes the V sign.

Can I say once again that I love Cross Game?

Baka to Test 10 sort of meanders around for the first third before deciding on a plotline: the kids want to rescue some lost items from the school vault. But first we have a scene with Akira and Akihisa Yoshi (breakfast, lunch and dinner in a can). And Yuko, Hideyoshi’s sister, stop by to insult him for no reason.

Things pick up when Kyouji, who must have been responsible for the chaos last episode, offering to help them break in. He’s there to steal the mock exam questions. Class F, the dumbest class, is dead-set against it—they’re dumb, but they’re honest–but it’s too late now.

It must be in the school handbook that everyone must insult Class-F at least once.

Still, they manage to turn the tables on him in the end in a satisfying fashion. Not much more to say about this episode except, after the first ten minutes, it got a little more coherent than some.

Ookami 8, Cross Game 46, Hanamaru 6

Ookami Kakushi 8 continues to answer a questions only to raise a couple more. We learn that the hospital is trying to develop a vaccine for the curse, and they want Sakaki to help, but he’s got his own agenda, basically revenge for the killing of Miera, I believe, but isn’t it really Kaori who did it? And why did she almost cheerfully take on the title of Lady White Wolf? Don’t even get me started on this whole wolf thing.

We do get some interesting internal action. Not only is Sakaki working for his own interests, but Nemuru, the White Wolf Kannon, is beginning to rebel. Cold and laconic to her friends, she continues to spare them when they “fall,” or like Kaname, ask the wrong questions. Nemuru frees Kaname, stops whoever-they-are from abducting Hiroshi, and remember she had also spared Isuzu a couple episodes ago. Though Isuzu hasn’t been seen since. Her family and the cult they’re in do not approve.

The episode ends with Sakaki, having managed to capture both Nemuru and Hiroshi, chuckling to himself about “the truth.” Maybe the two captives can swap a little more information in that shack. Not that I’m convinced at this stage that Hiroshi is capable of acting on his own. He spends most of the episode moping and thinking. On the other hand you can’t blame him too much. He reached out to Sakaki, who then betrayed him because he’s, I dunno, “tempting” to the wolves or whatever they are in this town. He talked to Kaname and she vanishes (though we’ll see her next episode). He has no way to get through this alone, and no one he can trust. But I’m still rooting for him. He’s a powerless wimp, but all of us are powerless wimps in certain circumstances. Hiroshi, don’t let us powerless wimps down!

I should have seen it coming, even in a series as leisurely as Cross Game, that they would line up two momentous events to occur at the same time: the finals game to get to the Koushien, and Akane’s surgery. I’m a little disappointed. I suppose we are getting close to the end and we need a big finish, but Cross Game has never been too interested in big melodrama, just small, inconsequential ones—that is, after we got past ep1.

Although we don’t know when the surgery will happen until the preview for next week, word gets around that she’s going to have it, and it affects everyone in different ways. Akane suspected it would, and she’s insightful enough to deliver the line above to Akaishi, therefore making it impossible for him to continue his slump. Aoba is visibly the next most worried, as she thinks about Wakaba. Kou, annoyingly, shows no concern unless he’s asked, and then says the right things to Azuma. Meanwhile, everyone interacts with each other and little things are spoken. The question of Aoba’s worth comes up, Akaishi considers making a play for Akane, telling Kou, who seems just fine with it, even delivering the game ball to her on Akaishi’s behalf and calling him the hero of the game (in an 8-1 blowout, well Akaishi did hit two homers).

I lost count of how many times he says this. Finally Deebu has to hit him.

For there was also the game. Their opponents have a knack for scoring late and edging the other team by one run, and it’s indeed tense for some time. And the show teases us by pretending it’s still close only to reveal that Seishou had actually built up a big lead. Even the opposing manager seems unaware of this. But it’s the way they merge the play on the field with what’s going around around it that makes this one so exceptional. Akaishi remembers Akane’s warning and hits a dinger. From the hospital, Akane watches on TV and falls asleep immediately after they win. Aoba thinks back to Wakaba’s death, young Kou at the grave, a framed photograph, and then a blazing fastball slices through the image, and she’s watching the game again, as if the past is giving way to the present. Lovely moment.

And Kou and Azuma find four leaf clovers by the river. Someone should tell the Honey and Clover gang about that spot.

Hanamaru Kindergarten
6 begins with a fun day at the pool. Anzu wears a sexy swimsuit to dazzle Tsuchida, but her plans are foiled when Yamamoto shows up.

I know she didn't plan to wear that swimsuit, but still, for a kindergarten class?

… So much for Anzu’s initial plan. But she doesn’t give up. With Koune and Hiiragi’s help she tries alluring him with syncrhonized swimming, and then a life-or-death situation.

Which only makes him angry. On the other hand, he was paying way too much attention to Yamamoto in her bikini, so Anzu’s distress later on is justified. This half of the show works better than the second half, because much of the show’s humor lies in the kids’ imaginative plans. Although the second half has its moments. Mayumi, Tsuchida’s tsundere sister, has come to visit.

Apparently she and Haruhi Suzumiya go to the same school.

And because it relies less on the kids and more on the adults, a fun edge has been taken off. On the other hand, Mayumi’s reaction to her brother’s work was amusing at times, though we could see the end a mile away: Mayumi’s harsh opinion of Tsuchida will soften when she sees he does mostly good things with the kids. And so it happens. And there’s a fun closing credits sequence.

Cross Game 45, Vampire Bund 6, Hidamari 6

Cross Game 45 has a record three games in it, but they’re background for the personal dramas and do little more than reflect them. Besides, they’re all wins on the way to the big games coming up.

The first half mainly concerns Aoba and what’s been bugging her for a while. Kou has surpassed her as a pitcher. Although she would never admit it, she’s beginning to think she’s become expendable, which is ludicrous, of course. The team needs her, and Kou still takes her advice to heart (perhaps too much. After taking her advice on his pitching motion he momentarily loses his control and allows eight walks). On the other hand, it means she is sacrificing some of her own happiness for them. Again, she would never admit it. Meanwhile, Kou is getting close to the 160kph mark, and Aoba once famously said she was only interested in boys who could reach that mark. Hmm …

This scene has to represent something, but I can't figure out what it is.

Akane is featured in the second half, though she doesn’t actually appear much except for one scene. She winds up in the hospital for tests and Akaishi immediately goes into a slump. Meanwhile, Kou doesn’t seem to care, saying that worrying isn’t going to help her. Kou’s like this, of course, though it starts to come off as cold-hearted. Akaishi, meanwhile, obviously worries too much.

So the relationships continue to fluctuate, even if the characters don’t realize it. Kou shows more sympathy and gratitude to Aoba than usual, and seems indifferent to Akane’s problems, though he probably isn’t. It’s Aoba and Akaishi who do, Aoba because she remembers Wakaba, and Akaishi because he’s in love with her. This late in the series, we still don’t know who’ll wind up with whom.

Dance in the Vampire Bund 6 gives us Akira’s growing dissatisfaction with Mina and her vampire hoarde. Kidnapping the Prime Minister’s grandson and turning him into a vampire is simply too much for him. Not that Mina cares.

And thinking about it, it was inevitable that it would come to this. He’s disapproved of a lot of her actions ever since he got his memory back, as do we all, come to think of it. What makes me wonder is what his attitude was like back before he lost his memory and he was her willing servant. What changed him? Yuki? Just living like a normal student? The fact that vampires are getting more numerous and aggressive within the school? At any rate, he teams up with some classmates intending to drive them out, something I never imagined would happen only a couple episodes ago when it was all “Can’t we all get along?”

Akira and Yuki TOLD you not to open that door ...

Leading to a plan to expose the vampires. But in a delicious turn of events they are undone by the vampires’ first victim—the class president. And there the episode ends. I would say that it’s a rather good episode, but I’m getting a little sick of the quick cuts and blackouts that seem to happen every five seconds. I don’t think they’re helping the mood of the story; they’re just distracting.

Hidamari Sketch 6 has a lot of cuts, too, rather too many (Do we really need so many set cards thrown in there?), but it’s a show to be digested in little nibbles, so it doesn’t bother me as much. And again, we get two little stories.

In the first, Yoshinoya seems troubled and keeps checking her cell phone. Naturally, the girls assume it’s love. Turns out its a drippy cell phone novel she’s reading. In the second the girls spot Nazuna with a number of different boys. Naturally they assume it’s love. Actually it’s because she comes off as so helpless she inspires people to help her out. This one works a little better; the conversations flow normally until someone adds a non-sequitur and the others react … and we get another set card. But I don’t mind too much. It’s when the show throws in a little eccentricity that it shines the most.

This episode was all about the love ...

Cross Game 44, Railgun 19

Cross Game has always excelled in weaving little scenes into a larger tapestry, but now it seems like everything that happens off-field is an annoyance. At least I thought so, until the meaning of the early parts got woven into this week’s game.

After Aoba's attempts to help.

The off-the-field part this time comes from Aoba, who we see trying to help the team staff in cooking (a disaster), sewing on buttons (which come undone the next day). She’s beginning to wonder what on earth she’s good at, besides baseball. Kou dodges the question, Azuma tells her she’s attractive, but this answer isn’t much help, and besides, the thought of it doesn’t seem to reach her noggin.

It takes the game, against Miki and his scrappy team, Sena High School, to answer the question for us, if not for her. It’s a pretty good one. Kou is almost unhittable, and Sena’s philosophy is to bend but not break, which is why, going into the ninth, it’s scoreless, Kou has a no-hitter going, and Seishuu has stranded eleven runners.

The second-years await their chance.

Now the Aoba effect happens, to her complete ignorance. The second-years are all madly in love with her (or scared of her, or both) and want to win her affections (or have her not kill them), so they manage a three-run rally. That’s nice enough, I suppose, but I can’t see that as much comfort for Aoba, even if she was aware of it.

What adds to the fun is Sena, Miki’s team, almost literally. He pretty much runs it, with his social studies teacher coach’s permission, and is the reason why they turned it around in two years. He absolutely loves baseball and is having a great time. So even though his team loses, he gets a moment of glory, a home run. Though it’s a meaningless run, he breaks up Kou’s no-hitter and shutout. So after the game it’s Kou who has to face Aoba’s fearsome disapproval. Heh. Disapproval is one of the things Aoba is terrific at.

Railgun is definitely getting on my nerves. Ep19 is the third straight filler, no-story arc episode in a row, and it’s mostly the weakest. All the time I was expecting some sort of disaster or attack to happen, but no, it’s open house at the academy. That’s about it.

Scene after scene it went like this. Misaka guides Uihara (who’s beside herself with happiness) and Saten around the school to see various exhibits. “When’s the big thing going to happen?” I kept thinking. Then they tour around some more. Minor characters show up. And we learn that Misaka is going to give a special presentation, one she doesn’t want to do.

But no pressure ...

This is the big dramatic thing, a Misaka presentation. I thought “Okay, cool, she’s going to blow something up. Maybe part of the school.” This would certainly liven up the episode. And she’s nervous about it, which means maybe she’ll screw up and blow up too much!

No! The show won’t even give us that! Her big presentation is a goddamn violin solo! When did she learn to play violin? And who cares? Blow something up! But the closest we get to that is backstage, where stage fright is getting the better of her, until she meets someone unexpected.

She feels much better after chasing Touma with a chair, she does her solo, everyone’s enchanted by it. The End.

Aw, please! Look, I don’t mind a filler episode or two, but three in a row is too much! Well, next episode I think we’re getting some action again. Please!