Anime Review: Cross Game July 15, 2011Posted by navycherub in Anime, Review.
I am typically hesitant to even begin decently long shonen series. They tend to be filled with flaws that reflect lazy writing for the sake of length, unfortunately. From huge casts of characters, ranging from the barely touched upon yet interesting side characters to the incredibly dull main characters who receive much more than their fair share of exposure. On top of that, there are occasionally long stretches of boring developments or slow pacing to keep the content running. Very often these lengthy series become too stagnant and similar to itself, leading me to feeling the need to take breaks from the show simply because I need to experience something in any way different for once. Last but not least, the ending is very rarely satisfying, leaving me wishing I had spent my time on a series that could end itself without so many bumps in the road.
Cross Game has none of those problems, and that is why it is a series that will be remembered.
To begin with, as most will immediately assume based on what they may see about the show before viewing it, Cross Game appears to be a baseball anime. However, that presumption is a mistake – it is a show that involves baseball, but it isn’t about baseball. Baseball is the lowest common denominator that ties almost every character to each other, and it is the driving force that provides the challenges and rivals that keeps the characters aiming higher. This drive and determination is a theme that is played out in a very classic shonen way, but Cross Game plays its cards just right by keeping the work, successes, and failures relatable to anyone. This is achieved by keeping the focus not on the baseball itself but on the characters and how they react to and deal with the significant baseball-related events as they occur, allowing the story to stay easily understandable and interesting to even non-sports fans.
That isn’t to say that there is no baseball in the series, quite the opposite in fact. However, the games that are focused on are limited to the most important, intense ones that keep the viewer on their toes while being easy to follow for the non-sports fan. The baseball fans in the audience need not be turned away by the comparatively sparse amount of actual playing, though. Since the viewers who aren’t into baseball won’t need to be entertained by antics or extravagant special moves, Cross Game‘s take on the game of baseball is realistic and fun for purists who just want a good game of baseball. Both sets of viewers will easily be able to understand how the game keeps the world of Cross Game turning.
Cross Game also knows where to put its attention when it comes to the characters. The cast is kept decently small and focused, allowing for as much growth and screen time as possible for the most important characters. The people who will be mainstays are made clear early on, allowing for introductions to take as little time as possible to give way for optimal development. Of the main cast, there are no flat characters, and with the diversity of the roster it is a rare moment to become tired of what the series has to offer. On top of their contributions to the story, each character also provides a unique atmosphere and sense of humor to the scenes they are involved in, keeping the show fresh and on its toes at all times. The cast deals with basic themes of life, death, and love, but each in their own different stride, bringing an interesting dynamic of how long it takes individual characters to cope with certain situations while also interacting with each other on a daily basis. This all leads to a small, well-developed lineup of characters that are all memorable, and that cast itself is quite possibly the strongest asset Cross Game has to offer.
As the saying goes, the real beauty is in the journey, not the destination, and Cross Game recognizes and relishes in this fact. In terms of plot twists or surprise advancements in the relationships, there are very few if any. The turns and twists the story takes are, for the most part, what many would describe as unsurprising or cliché. In the case of Cross Game, though, this is definitely not a negative. From the results of games to the status of relationships, Cross Game takes the most natural progression without attempting to insert unnecessary drama or convoluted twists, and it works perfectly without either of those because the story simply doesn’t need them to stay both entertaining and lovely.
The music, animation, and even art are all simple and to the point. The retro-feel of the art with the more modern animation style gives a sort of “remastered” feeling to the viewer, complimenting the traditional standards and themes Cross Game makes a point to keep intact. The opening never changes and, while never exactly fitting the state the story is in at any given point in time, is just ambiguous enough to keep a certain relaxed mood in mind for each episode. The endings are never terrible but simply not memorable. The single exception is the first ending, which incorporates itself into the first episode in a beautiful and melancholy way that successfully set the tone for the entire next forty-nine episodes to come. If nothing else, that moment is one that will stick around in many viewers’ memories as possibly the most emotionally powerful scene of the entire series, and that in itself is worth something significant.
Cross Game is not the most intellectually compelling anime you will ever watch. It doesn’t delve deeply into subjects, and it never leaves a certain comfort zone when discussing more tender subjects. It doesn’t have groundbreaking characters or a surprising story with exciting cliffhangers. It is fully aware, however, that those things don’t matter if the execution isn’t just right, and that shows bright as day. Thus, Cross Game‘s simplicity is also its beauty, standing as an instant classic and a coming-of-age story that will be looked upon as one of the greats someday by the power of its small successes and incredibly human characters.