After the long journey taken to get to this point, it’s over. I can’t believe it’s over! I don’t want it to be over!! Cross Game, please say hello to my permanent re-read list.
Story: Mitsuru Adachi
Art: Mitsuru Adachi
Translation/Adaptation: Lillian Olsen
What They Say
The Seishu Gakuen baseball team is one win away from fulfilling Wakaba’s final dream of seeing Ko pitch in front of a packed crowd at Koshien. But they’ll have to beat powerhouse Ryuou Gakuin in the North Tokyo Tournament final in order to get there. Meanwhile, Akane Takigawa’s health takes a turn for the worse, and she’s scheduled to have surgery…on the day of the big game.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
This 8th and final volume of Cross Game collects the final two volumes as released in Japan (volumes 16 and 17). As par for the course with this series, Viz’s release treatment is a wonderful collection that provides terrific paper quality with a print quality that really brings out the best in Adachi’s art and story. It’s just a beautifully done package that gives the best treatment to such an amazing series without going the full hardcover route. The translation and lettering is again top notch in giving readers a quality product that is easy to read, easy on the eyes, and conveys the best possible translation to allow the author’s intentions to fully suck the audience into the story and become fully absorbed. This is a terrific, quality release that has been consistent over the last two years in doing this series justice while being worthy of taking up shelf space.
I just spent the whole first paragraph talking about the packaging for two reasons: 1) since we will never get to visit this story again after this book, it was worth bringing up one final time to emphasize just how great of a release this really is. 2) The entire book, with the exception of the final chapter, is baseball. Since the book has such a singular focus, there is not a whole lot to discuss in terms of the content of the story without getting into spoiler territory. So with that…Holy Crap!!
In reviewing previous volumes, I’ve constantly commented on how exciting and involving the baseball games are in this series. Every time I said it, I meant it. Adachi is a master at sports suspense. The way he constructs and frames his panels may seem like an ordinary layout to someone not paying attention, but to the watchful eye it is nothing short of spectacular. He understands how to pace these sports matches to draw the biggest impact from the reader, how to get them excited in the game even if the may not particularly care for the sport in real life. Understanding how to space apart the actions to generate tension, interspersing reaction shots from other characters not currently involved in the action, and his panel layouts transform the sport of baseball into the most nail biting event you will have ever witnessed! It is nothing short of a miracle and that innate talent is on display in full force in this book.
What adds the extras elements to the story however, is the fact that THIS IS THE GAME! Ko is now in his third and final year in high school, the team failed to make it into the Spring Koshien, and this is the last game standing in the way from fulfilling all of the team members’ dreams and goals as well as Wakaba’s actual dream the she had right before she died 10 years prior. To top everything off, Akane is ill and going in for surgery on the day of the game which has two members of the team particularly on edge…kind of. See, the other thing that has made Cross Game hands down one of the best manga I have ever read, sports or otherwise, is the characters. We have seen these characters since childhood. We’ve seen them grow, change, and evolve. Throughout this whole series, Adachi has made it his number one priority to make sure that we care about the characters first and foremost; and we do. Oh dear God, do we ever! Sometimes while reading the series I have subconsciously forgotten that these were fictional characters in a fictional story. I’ve broken down into tears (many times), I’ve vocally cheered for my favorite characters when particular life events were in the balance, and, most of all I think, I’ve wanted to physically hug the characters during their victories and their losses, both on the field and off. They all mean just that much to me and it’s all because of Adachi’s deft writing capabilities. With the introduction of Akane a few volumes back, a new uncertain element was introduced that took the “well we know how this personal journey will eventually end” thought and turned it into “well damn, I have no idea how this will turn out now!” That suspense is maintained throughout these final pages. Who does Ko really care about? How does Akane fit into the mix? What’s up with Aoba!? All these questions and more continue to sit in the back of your mind while the drama unfolds over 400 pages of baseball glory.
What makes these final chapters stand out above the rest of the series is the way it executes both of the above mentioned strengths in parallel. Previously, the two have always been separated. We got amazing baseball game action, and then we got involving, pitch perfect character stories. Back and forth, back and forth; with such a careful eye for balance so that one never overpowered the other and we were able to just coast through the books with ease. However, during this final game the two elements of Cross Game merge into one. We get both elements in equal portions from start to finish. The game begins to tie into the personal relationships and vice versa. It all become such a meshed work that they are inseparable and truly feels as if this is what the series had been culminating towards this whole time. It works! It pays off big time!! There were no less than 4 or 5 instances where we were in the middle of an inning, stakes are high, tensions astronomically huge, and all of a sudden there were two or three panels that cut through the action that just hit my soul like a ton of bricks. Now this particular moment in the game had more weight, more impact; and I would be sitting there with tears welling up and a pain in my chest while I’m furiously looking at the panels needing to see the next pitch, catch, hit, whatever.
This is how Cross Game ends. Not with absolute resolution, not with a whimper, but rather the biggest goddamn celebration of everything the series has been up to this point turned up to 12! That’s right, forget turning it up to 11, this elevates matters so high through the roof that a new numbered metric must be used. It’s everything; it means everything. Once the final chapter begins, you have such a wholehearted satisfaction within because you have effectively been through everything the characters have and more. However, the greatest achievement Cross Game manages is how it ends the story, the final pages in the final chapter. There could have been a sequel! We do not know how everything will eventually turn out for the characters; the best part is we don’t have to know. While many series need to tie up all loose ends, while many fans demand to see the story played out to its ultimate conclusion; Cross Game just says “that is the end of this portion in these characters lives” and moves forward. I would definitely read a sequel if there ever was one, but this was perfect. It ends with just the right amount of resolution and longing mixed together that I have no complaints. Just…wow.
If you had been waiting for the series to finish before picking it up for yourself in fear that the ending would not be satisfying or good; boy do I have good news for you! Go out there right now and purchase all 8 volumes of this absolute masterpiece! Not only is the ending completely and utterly perfect in its construction and execution but it acts as the perfect end cap to how the series began. This is how the series had to end but with just a dash extra thrown in to raise it above the rest of the crop out there. Viz has given the series the best possible treatment they could have to match this flawless story, that if you have any interest in what the series has to offer, there is no reason to hesitate. Granted, there may be some people out there who may not take to the story. This is just who they are and what they like. There’s nothing wrong with that but if you are the kind of person that will get taken in by the story and characters (I recommend blowing through all of Viz’s Volume 1, which is the first three Japanese volumes so it’s plenty of story for a low entry price to know if it’s for you or not) then you could not have asked for a better series. Cross Game is amazing in every detail, it shows just how much of a master Adachi is at what he does, and it grips like few others can making the experience pleasurable beyond your wildest expectations. Highly Recommended.
Content Grade: A+
Art Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A-
Text/Translation Grade: A-
Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Viz Media
Release Date: November 13th, 2012