Cross Game – 22-23

AobaHitting

Another Cross Game double play! This pair of episodes highlights an awesome all-girls baseball game that is definitely the best game yet in the series.

The first episode does a nice job of emphasizing the frustration Aoba has to deal with on a daily basis. Midori hits the nail on the head when she says Aoba probably never considered playing women’s baseball — which is exactly the same mindset Midori once had. It makes sense, too. Many societies have such a male-dominant view, particularly where athletics are concerned, that everyone just takes it for granted that men are going to be the best in any sport, and therefore offer the best competition. But that does not mean the women are going to be pushovers by any means, as Midori found out and Aoba discovers in this pair of episodes.

Aoba is the type of person who really thirsts for competition — she has talents, and she wants to put those talents to use. Why would she not? But the rules prevent her from playing with the men’s team, so there is next to no chance that she will be able to play in Koshien with the Seishuu team. (Whether those rules are “fair” or not is a huge can of worms that I would rather not open here, haha. Suffice to say there are logical arguments for both sides.) The one line that really gets to me is when Midori apologizes for not being able to get Aoba to be the starting pitcher against Ouka, but Aoba replies, “At least I am able to be on the bench here.” A simple sentiment, but it says a lot about what Aoba has had to swallow, being supremely talented but limited in having means to express those talents.

A touch I also like is that the Satomi High School team is not immediately receptive of Aoba, even after seeing her amazing pitching. It seems right to me that the captain would want to stick to her regular squad, not because she believes it is the most talented, but because they have been to war together so much that she just trusts them. Like with Sora being shunned initially at Kaleido Stage in Kaleido Star, the Satomi team being slightly frosty (mostly on the captain’s part) to Aoba just works. Of course I want Aoba to succeed to the best of her abilities, but I cannot fault Satomi for not immediately welcoming her with open arms.

SawaAngry

But enough of that. Let’s talk about the game itself — I really got into it, haha. It was as if I was watching my Los Angeles Dodgers in a white-knuckle postseason battle against the hated San Francisco Giants. (By the way, the Dodgers have pounded out five runs against Giants ace Tim Lincecum as I am writing this. Suck on that.) The game starts off as a rout with Ouka’s scary ace, Sawa, mowing down hitters left and right with a bevy of crazy pitches. And there is also Ozaki, Ouka’s cleanup hitter, who is also revealed to be a pleasant, humble person as the game goes along. I like her. Hopefully she shows up again later in the series.

Anyway, eventually Aoba is put into the game after Satomi’s center fielder is injured, and almost immediately Aoba fires a laser of a ball to get one of Ouka’s players out at home plate. (That play reminded me of Matt Kemp, the Dodgers’ amazing center fielder.) That is the point where the game turns and becomes really interesting. Sawa is annoyed by Aoba and refuses to back down from a challenge, so she buzzes Aoba with an inside fastball on the first pitch. I kid you not, I was legitimately pissed off when it was called a strike. “WHAT THE HELL, UMP,” I shouted. “THAT WASN’T A STRIKE. GET SOME GLASSES, ASSHOLE.” Of course, Aoba’s aim in that at bat is not to get a hit — though that would be nice — but to get a good look at Sawa’s repertoire.

If there is one thing this pair of episodes really does well, it’s to show how fantastic a baseball mind Aoba possesses. She exploits every advantage she can see, jumps on every moment where Ouka underestimates Satomi and makes excellent counters to Ouka’s adjustments. When Aoba sees that Sawa is a hothead, she deliberately picks at Sawa’s mind to ruin her concentration and get her to commit an error on an easy play to first. When an Ouka base runner drifts too far from first, Aoba blazes a ball there to pick her off. And when Ouka catches on to the predictable game Satomi’s captain is calling, Aoba takes over and mixes up her pitches beautifully. After everything great Satomi does, I basically reacted like, “OH HELL YEAH. IT’S ON.” That pick off is particularly badass. A good pick off is one of the most underrated plays in baseball. Baserunners all feel like HUGE losers if they get picked off, haha.

No matter where Aoba plays, whether it is with the men or the women, Aoba will be great, but one day she will be a hell of a baseball coach. She is just a natural thinker on the diamond. Seriously, she effortlessly brings out the best effort of the Satomi team, and they nearly beat the premier high school women’s team in Japan. That is damn impressive.

OzakiBatting

Wonderful, exciting pair of episodes here. Aoba has an interesting dilemma on her hands — she knows now that women’s baseball can offer a legitimate challenge to her, both physically and mentally. But her baseball instinct is a HUGE advantage to the Seishuu team. She can basically be an assistant coach for them and lead the team to the Koshien . . . except that she probably would not play, of course. If I were Aoba, I would give serious thought to joining one of the women’s teams. It would just be too frustrating sitting on the bench all the time when you are better than nearly everyone playing. (lol @ the guys at the end who are like, “We need to be careful and not hit you, Aoba!!” and Aoba replies by blazing a bajillion fastballs past them. xD)

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