Cross Game – 25-26

“Where do you want it?”

That says it all right there — not too much drama in this play-in round, because even though Seishuu is still an “unpolished” team, it still has the balls and the talent to play possum with another team that scouted it for a week. When you have a pitcher like Kitamura and a hitter like Azuma, I guess you can afford to hang back for a while until you work out all the kinks.

I like the side story with the Ryuuou baseball team and the alpha dog battle between Shimano and Mishima. There has already been a strong connection made between Mishima and Azuma; he is a lot like Azuma so far, especially the aspect of his personality where he seeks only the greatest possible challenge for himself. Mishima knows he has the talent to turn pro, so a battle with Shimano — whose talents are best suited for high school ball — is meaningless to him. (With the way Shimano’s character has been so far, I’d probably agree with that. He seems like the kind of guy who goes for flash over substance — like those guys during the late ’80s through the ’90s in the MLB who hit a ton of home runs but also struck out a lot and had a low batting average. Shimano is the Japanese Rob Deer. Plus, his ego is incredibly fragile. The guy knows Mishima is better than he is.)

Mishima is OK with hanging back and letting Azuma have the spotlight for the time being, because he doesn’t see any real challenge for him right now. But seeing Azuma watching Ryuuou has to be hanging in the back of Mishima’s mind right now. And Kitamura, a new pitcher who is suddenly taking the high school baseball world by storm, has admitted to being wary of Mishima and confident he can overcome Shimano. That must leave an impression on Mishima — a guy who knows enough to fear Mishima, even though Mishima has been sidelined for a good while. We know Mishima will play eventually (if he doesn’t, there is no point to introducing him), and with the kind of challenge Kitamura offers, I doubt Mishima will sit idly by and let Shimano hog the spotlight for much longer.

In other news, Asami has basically fallen by the wayside now — Aoba will go to him for help with homework, and she’ll hang out with him on occasion, but that’s about it. She is totally focused on Kitamura now. In practice she ribs him, she helps him look good for interviews, and he is the one player who most captures Aoba’s attention on the field. All along, Aoba knows Kitamura is playing a cat and mouse game with the other team; she sees how Kitamura slowly gets better with each ball he fields and correctly deduces that he is simply getting some more in-game fielding experience before that lack of polish will really hurt Seishuu.

The one sour note that remains is Aoba’s inability to play with Seishuu on the field. Each episode makes it clear that she has superb instincts and an amazing eye for detail on the field. And Aoba’s final memory of her sister is the dream Kitamura has been carrying from the beginning — when Aoba asked Kitamura about the dream in more detail, she is not simply fishing to see if there is a possible spot for her on the team. Instead, Aoba is trying to figure out how much Kitamura knows about the dream. What would Kitamura think if he knew Wakaba dreamed about Aoba in center field, I wonder?

With the real games about to begin, I hope Cross Game pushes forward just a bit more. Kitamura and Azuma both need more of a challenge, and hopefully Ryuuou is the team to supply it. And hopefully Kitamura and Aoba’s relationship is also able to move forward a bit, because while I do enjoy how they interact, it can also feel slightly repetitive at times.


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