Cross Game – 17
“You guys have it hard,” Yuuhei Azuma says.
Azuma is one in a group of just about everyone shipping Aoba x Kitamura. It seems obvious to him right away, even though he does not know the whole story — he just assumes the girl in the photo of Wakaba and Kitamura is Aoba. And after Kitamura tells Azuma the story behind Wakaba’s tragic death, Azuma can sense the shadow hanging over the two, even if Kitamura himself is not entirely aware of it (though this episode makes it clear that Aoba is at least somewhat cognizant of its existence). Wakaba loved Kitamura; Kitamura still has great affection for her, but he is not thinking too much about love these days. Aoba has shown time and time again that she regards Kitamura with much more respect than she is willing to let on, but she is also obviously hesitant to do anything about because it would be like robbing her sister’s grave, disrespecting her memory.
But even though they have it hard, not everyone is going to let them off easy. In a hilarious moment, Akaishi admits to Kitamura that he spread the rumor that Aoba and Kitamura are dating. “I won’t forgive you if you fall for some boring girl,” he says. Also, more importantly, he states, “[I am j]ust a bully. For those who would make Wakaba Tsukishima sad, that is.” Like Kitamura, Wakaba still lives on strong in Akaishi’s heart, but he can also see clearly that Wakaba would not have wanted Kitamura to float through life, subtly closing himself off from any possibility of love. She’s right there, man. Go for it!
Also of importance is the confirmation of Junpei’s backstory — he was an ace pitcher in high school, well on the path to Koshien, when an accident at home caused him to tear a ligament in his foot and end his baseball career. Considering the way Azuma acts around his brother, and how he reacted to the little kids screwing around on the stairs, it’s clear Azuma had a hand in that accident, although we don’t know whether it was on purpose or not (guessing purely accidental, because while Azuma is SRS BIZ, he is not that big a prick).
Junpei is a pretty easygoing guy; if there ever was any bitterness in him stemming from the accident, it probably left him long ago. The whole airhead act about, “Oh yeah, I keep forgetting to find a new room for Azuma!” strikes me as intentional on his part. He sees the respect Azuma has for Kitamura, and he also sees how a potential friendship could help Azuma grow. Right now Azuma is OMG OBSESSED with winning Koshien. Good to have a goal, of course, but what comes after that? He needs people to ground him. Thus, Junpei contrives a way to keep Azuma and Kitamura together so that they can form a solid friendship, and Azuma can move on past whatever guilt he feels as a result of his brother’s accident. Being around these people has already humanized Azuma, so he may as well go all the way with it.
Plus, Odd Couple!Azuma and Kitamura is just funny as hell. All the ways their personalities clash are hilarious to me. Someone get on that fanfic post haste!
There are other random things I like about this episode. Good to see the whole team get together, for one. Guess I should have expected nearly everyone from Evil Coach’s team to have transferred out after his empire toppled. But, hey, Azuma and the scrubs will be a team to reckon with, especially when Aoba enters the school. She wasn’t planning on it before, but hearing about Wakaba’s dream has definitely sparked an interest in her to join the team. They will fuck people up. Aoba going on one massive date with all the guys asking her out is also quite funny, and really in line with the way she thinks. The shot with all the guys laying in a collapsed heap, with Wakaba rushing to the next ride, cracked me up. Girl doesn’t have an off button.
Also, one last thing that strikes me as interesting is how Azuma tells Kitamura that he needs to build up his stamina. Kitamura tends to go all out whenever he pitches, which leaves him short of energy for subsequent games. Like a lot of these baseball metaphors, it could apply to life, too: Giving your all is fine, but sometimes you just have to step back and breathe a bit, lest you burn yourself out. There might be a nice connection between that and what Junpei points out later regarding Aoba’s pitching stance being ideal for Kitamura, because it puts less stress on his arm. She could be part of what enables him to settle down a bit, perhaps? ^_^