I have a confession to make. I'm not a fan of American Football. My real sports passion comes from the American pastime Baseball. So when Aestevalis recommended Cross Game to us in the first episode of the Ani-TAY Podcast, I went ahead and stuck it on my "medium priority" list. It was promptly finished in a week.
Cross Game is a slice-of-life baseball drama based on a manga by Mitsuru Adachi. There's not much in particular aside from the fact that it's going to be fun avoiding the first episode spoilers.
First and foremost, this baseball anime actually gets the baseball right. In reality baseball is more of a game of wits, strategy, and endurance instead of a pulse-pounding race against the clock. So many sports anime make their matches high drama and almost action-y, but Cross Game makes its games either entire episodes or multi-episode arcs. There's a lot of waiting, staring each other down, and demonstrating a degree of strategy. Just because the main character is an awesome pitcher doesn't mean that anyone is going to win anything.
Other than that, the animation of Cross Game has a simple look to it. It's pleasant to look at and has a reasonable amount of detail, but it's otherwise unremarkable in most ways.
As Aestevalis said, the slice-of-life aspect of this series is quite excellent. The daily life of Ko (our main character) is actually rather intriguing. His relationship with Wakaba's family and the rest of his baseball friends makes for an interestingly dynamic relationship plot. Especially because of the first twist of the series, there's a lot of complex drama and emotional turmoil that follows our main characters around in the series.
It's a very effective set-up for the slice-of-life that is helped along by the generous helping of good characters. They aren't exactly the most deep bunch of characters, nor the most emotional, but they're an interesting bunch to follow around in this slice-of-life drama.
But no show is truly complete without at least a little comedy. There's plenty to be found filling the show in all the little places. From the funny bits of romantic comedy to the deadpanning that goes back and forth during a couple of the baseball games. It's natural and it got a good chuckle out of me.
At the end of the day, all this comes together to make the slice-of-life an excellent part of the anime.
It's a huge tease. We spend fifty episodes building up to what one would expect to be "the big game", but Cross Game decides to cut out right before the big game happens. It's a perplexing thing to be sure.
This is especially jarring because the pacing tends to be mixed. The baseball games tend to drag on and the slice-of-life does the same. Sometimes you have to wonder if it's doing anything but treading water most of the time. Many characters don't necessarily grow at all in the series and it's unclear how things will end for the characters by the end.
Speaking of, for a series that started off pretty boldly with its romance, it's kind of ridiculous that there's no romantic resolution. It's really weird. We spend fifty episodes slowly building this up and it's only the final episodes before the show starts acknowledging the fact that there's actual romance in this romantic comedy. It's especially odd, at least to me. Maybe I'm overreacting, but I find this to be a jarring aspect of the anime.
Cross Game is a great show for fans for slice-of-life and it's even better if you like baseball. That said, you'll have to shoulder the mixed pacing and somewhat non-committal ending. It's not a mess by any means, but it leaves you wanting more. A lot more in fact.
Despite this, there's a lot of heart here in how it explores the complex relationships and emotional turmoil of the characters following the early episodes of the show. I won't peg the romance of this show as one of my favorites by any means, but I will say that was a very sweet and, I daresay, realistic take on the genre. It's a lot of treading water and uncertainty, but eventually they start to get somewhere.
If there were just a little more explicit closure to Cross Game, I would have zero problems with calling it one of my favorite slice-of-life shows in history. It had everything it needed up until that one thing, then it ran into a wall for me. I'm still half-convinced that there's secretly an OVA out there that ended the show.
Other than that though, a great baseball-themed slice-of-life from Adachi. It's got twists, characters, and heart.
P.S. FINALLY! An anime that doesn't spoil anything with its opening.
You can watch Cross Game on Hulu.
This is part of Anime Marathon 2014, a continuation of Anime Marathon 2013 by popular demand. I'm on a mission to review every anime I can for the TAY community and anyone else that wants to read. I can never guarantee when these reviews will be posted, but I'll do my best to keep it consistent.