Sunday, May 22, 2011

May MMF: Review: Five Reasons to Read Cross Game

The day is fairly clear in my memory. I walk home after a very good game of basketball with some friends, and upon my doorstep lies an Amazon package containing the first two volumes of Mitsuru Adachi's fantastic baseball manga Cross Game. It was one of those rare days where sports seemed to be a dominant aspect of my life. Cross Game is easily the best new shonen manga to hit this side of the world since Detective Conan/Case Closed, and also the most underrated. Indeed, though I'd imagine the series is doing a lot better financially than Conan, there is no denying that Cross Game has gone a bit below the radar, mostly due to the fact that manga and sports don't have much of a crossover audience (pun intended) here, and no matter how much noise we bloggers make, the blog-free readers don't seem to be listening. But, make more noise we shall, because here are 5 reasons to pick up this amazing title:

5: Good Value for a Short Shonen
 In Japan, Cross Game is a mere 17 volumes long, which in comparison to the 30+ volume narratives of pretty much every single other shonen out there (Might I remind you that Inuyasha staggered to a length of 52 before the powers-that-be let it end?). For a new manga reader, even 17 volumes seems daunting, but never fear! Viz, well aware that sports manga never sell, they began selling Cross Game in omnibus editions, cutting down the volume numbers from 17 to 8! The first volume is a 3-in-1 edition, priced at $20, and the subsequent volumes collect two of the tankobon at a time, and are $15 each.

Takahashi's Lum, as drawn by Adachi

4: Mitsuru Adachi has a Strong Working Relationship with Rumiko Takahashi
 Both Adachi and Takahashi have their works serialized in Weekly Shonen Sunday, and have called each other "friendly rivals." To quote Wikipedia:
 At the end of Weekly Sh┼Źnen Sunday issue 43 in 2006, the authors were asked, "If you could pick one penname to use which was different than your own, which one would you pick?", and Takahashi replied, "Adachi Mitsuru."
The two creators also recently collaborated on a one-shot story for Shonen Sunday's 50th anniversary. Fans of Takahashi may want to give Cross Game a look, as well as any other series by Mitsuru Adachi that ever floats over here.
3: A Strong Emotional Focus
Cross Game may be a shonen manga, but it's not at all about battles; in fact, the story is as emotional as any shojo manga. Its a tale about young love, coping with loss, and how a shared interest in a sport can change you. Many manga boast about the power of friendship, but few manage to feature it in as charming and thoughtful a way as this one. The characters in this series are not cliches, but real people, people I could easily meet in real life, with problems and quirks that can be seen in ourselves.

2: About People, Not Sports
As I mentioned earlier, sports and manga don't really have a crossover audience here. If you aren't sure about reading Cross Game because of a lack of interest in baseball, don't worry! Cross Game is not about the baseball you see on TV. Cross Game is about kids who go to play baseball at parks and at school, and friends sharing joys and woes in and out of the diamond. If you don't play the sport, it doesn't really matter that much, because it is secondary to the real focus: the people who play it.

1: Cross Game is FUN!
Here is something people don't seem know about Cross Game, and the main reason to read it. As much as we bloggers like talking about the "emotions" or "meaning" of the series, there's one thing that I don't think has been said enough and deserves to be known: it's fun! Cross Game isn't some arty book from IKKI, it's in the same magazine as Rumiko Takahashi! There's action, humor, romance, and all sorts of great stuff that brightens up any day. No highbrow forces are at work here, and just about anyone can enjoy Cross Game. Trust me, you'll love it.

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