Cross Game 1 (vols. 1-3) by Mitsuru Adachi, translated by Ralph Yamada and Lillian Olsen
How cool is this? You can read the serialized version of this manga by clicking here. Or, you can watch the anime version online by clicking here. Although, I’ll have to admit that I much prefer having it all right here in one book (the first three volumes anyway; definitely looking forward to more!).
Even if you’re not a baseball fan, I think you’ll still find much to appreciate in this adorable, touching series. While it’s the sport that binds the characters together, those characters are what will keep you turning the pages.
Ko Kitamura (that’s him on the left) is the only child of parents who run a sporting goods store. He’s in the fifth grade, and is a bit of a salesman for the family store, especially when it comes to team uniforms. A few doors down is the Tsukishima Batting Center, owned by a boozy-but-not-unkind widower and his four daughters – from kindergartener Momiji to first-year high-schooler Ichiyo – who each help (in their own way) to run the place. Ko has grown up with all the girls, but is closest to the second oldest Wakaba (that’s her on the right), who is exactly his age. She’s got their whole life planned out, birthday by birthday as they share the exact same date!
In volume 1, Ko gets recruited to the local team – he did make them all buy uniforms, after all – and even though he’s “never played a game of baseball or even catch … [he’s] been swinging the bat since [he] was three” at the Tsukishimas. With all that practice, he turns out to be pretty good; ironically, his biggest competition proves to be fourth-grader Aoba (Wakaba’s sister)! Along the way, he makes friends with the local bully, Akaishi, who has quite the soft spot for Wakaba (but who wouldn’t; she’s quite the peace-making charmer).
Jump four years to ninth grade in volume 2, when Ko and Aoba are both on the Junior High baseball team, but that doesn’t mean they get along. Akaishi has shaped up since elementary school, even becoming the team captain. In spite of the game, in spite of his friends, in spite of the Tsukishima girls, Ko’s heart is still heavy (can’t tell you why, but you’ll get teary for sure) as he matures into a thoughtful young man.
Senior high school starts off in volume 3, and Ko and his baseball buddies are low, low boys on the team’s totem pole. The less-than-forthright “interim principal” with his spoiled brat daughter and his expensively recruited take-no-prisoners-championship-promising coach are grim additions to the school. The school’s senior varsity team are populated by overprivileged, grimly thoughtless players who will do anything to win. Will Ko and his freshmen friends be able to hold their own and get in the game??!! You’ll have to read (or watch) to find out …
Readers: Middle Grade, Young Adult
Published: 2010 (United States)
CROSS GAME © Mitsuru Adachi
Original Japanese edition published by Shogakukan Inc.