Cross Game – 21
It appears as if Asami is starting to get the picture! Don’t try to derail the Kitamura x Aoba train, man. You’ll just end up a mess on the tracks.
Much of the episode revolves around an unstated rivalry between Kitamura and Asami. I love that Kitamura is combating Asami almost unconsciously. He cannot admit out loud — for various reasons — that he has a thing for Aoba, but at the same time, he cannot accept that someone else could potentially step in and win her heart (even if the guy has absolutely no chance at doing this). When Kitamura runs by the Aoba/Asami love poster, for instance, he barely even notices it at first, and when he does acknowledge it, Kitamura simply grabs it calmly and tosses it in the garbage. He doesn’t make a big fuss about it. The whole thing comes off like, “Oh, I don’t really know why I am doing this, but I guess I’ll do it anyway!” That is about how seriously Kitamura takes Asami in his mind.
Of course there are many more subtle hints that Kitamura and Aoba are made for each other — again paired with reminders of Wakaba’s spirit hanging over them. In public, the two absolutely need to meet each other head-on as much as possible, because they are both stubborn, competitive people. But neither is really that hyper competitive with anyone but the other. With Nakanishi, for instance, she’s just like, “Hey, there’s Nakanishi-senpai walking with his girlfriend” but with Kitamura, the honorific is just something she can use to needle him a bit. Aoba getting one up on Kitamura by not allowing a single run, while the other team actually scores off Kitamura, is funny as well. Then, of course, there is the movie scene both Kitamura and Aoba recall . . . from one of Wakaba’s favorite movies.
The memory of Wakaba is something that neither Kitamura nor Aoba can escape, nor, really, should escape. You always want to honor the memory of someone you loved dearly, right? But honoring your loved ones should never keep you from moving forward — obviously, those you loved would never want that. But I think there’s an inherent sense of hesitation involved, especially when the romantic element is involved. If you think about it, Kitamura has really internalized the pain he feels from Wakaba’s passing. He is probably past a lot of it (or as past that sort of pain as one could possibly be), but the fact he needs Ichiyo to tell him to not be guilty about finding love with another person means he is being hesitant, although he never really shows this.
This is the type of emotional pain that is difficult to deal with when one is a mature, experienced adult, much less a young, innocent child like Kitamura was. Whether love at that young an age can be true love is really irrelevant in this case; it’s something Kitamura felt from the bottom of his heart, and something that will never disappear. But, what I think Ichiyo is trying to convey to Kitamura, is that it is not something one should desperately cling to when it is not there anymore. Love is something that should be cherished — Ichiyo fondly remembers the days when she loved all the guys she went out with. But, when that love is not there anymore (through break-ups or other circumstances), people need to have the strength to move forward and be happy with life. Wakaba would not want Kitamura to be miserable and deny himself any chance of love just because she is not around anymore. She loved him too much for that. Don’t know whether Kitamura believes he is honoring Wakaba’s memory by stifling his feelings, but it is not healthy.
As for Aoba . . . as I have written in the past, she is definitely hesitating because she does not want to dishonor her late sister’s memory. Aoba loves to needle Kitamura, but she has a genuine respect for the guy, even if she cannot express those feelings to him directly. (I mean, come on, she’s even ragging on her dad to praise Kitamura!) Wakaba is shown to be constantly alive in Aoba’s heart. On the surface, she has tried to convince herself that Kitamura is just a dope and not worthy of serious romantic attention, but deep down she probably sees Kitamura as Wakaba’s love. Right now it is inconceivable to her to take something that “belonged” to Wakaba. It will be a while — and probably take a ton of prodding from her family — before Aoba’s heart can open up to the possibility of loving the same person Wakaba loved.
The comedy and other developments in this episode are solid as usual. Really like how a subtle rivalry has formed between Azuma and Akaishi. (My two favorite characters battling it out? Yes!) Azuma takes a jab at Akaishi by saying it’ll be the fault of the rest of the team if they don’t make Koshien with himself and Kitamura on the team, and then Akaishi is like, “Oh hell no!” and takes a few extra swings to sharpen his batting skills. Damn right you’re not gonna let someone tower over you, Akaishi! Kitamura’s spirited recollection of the movie scene, along with Azuma making his patented, “What the hell are you talking about?” face is gold, too.
And I have to say I am smiling a lot at the way Ichiyo and Junpei’s relationship is developing. They are a really cute couple.