5th grader Koh Kitamura lives next door to the Tsukishima family, owners of a batting cage and the Clover cafe. His girlfriend, Wakaba, is the 2nd Tsukishima daughter; the 3rd daughter, the baseball prodigy Aoba, can't stand him. Wakaba dreams of Koh pitching at legendary Koshien Stadium, site of the national high school championship finals. However, tragedy strikes, and it is up to Koh, with the help of Aoba and his other teammates, to make Wakaba's dream come true.
When it comes down to it, the appeal of this show is how subtle it is. Lately, I've grown to really appreciate slice of life anime that doesn't focus entirely on outlandish hijinks. Cross Game develops its characters' relationships subtly and deftly. Mitsuru Adachi is a master of making his characters feel real. I'm interested in seeing Touch, which is another baseball series by him.
Truth be told, I tried this show a long while back and I dropped it. Back then, I was very skeptical because I didn't care about baseball at all, so I thought, man, this isn't worth my time. But my tasts have changed and I've grown very fond of slice of life shows. There's something very human at the center of series like Cross Game. And honestly, as the series went on, I found myself actually getting into the baseball, similar to how Hajime no Ippo actually got me pumped about the boxing, a sport I never really thought about before.
The games are paced really well and can be genuinely thrilling, but they're not the centerpiece here. The central theme of the show is dealing with loss. Very minor spoiler (it happens in the first episode) but one of the characters dies and the rest of the series is a four years later type of deal where those closest to her are going through life the best they can without her. It's similar to Anohana in that respect, but I think that Cross Game actually portrays the theme a lot more realistically. These characters are not utterly destroyed by the loss, but they've all changed and grown as a result.
And really, that's one of the best things about Cross Game is watching the characters grow. Yes, it's really gratifying watching people be REALLY good at something (in this case, main character Kitamura is a fucking AWESOME pitcher) but it's even more gratifying watching them develop relationships and unlikely friendships with each other. And Adachi does it in a way where you barely even notice until you look back and go, holy shit, they've grown so much.
The first arc of the show is a sort of underdog against an overwhelming enemy type deal, and it does pump you up. But after that, the show wisely decides not to try and up the ante every single time. The more absurd "villain" type characters fade away, and the opponents become much more sympathetic and relatable.
The characters are really special. They're all extremely relatable and likable in their own ways, but they're also so subtle in their portrayal. You won't see over the top screaming and crying angstity angst angst here. When the characters are sad, you really feel for them because they have a reason to be. No one feels one-note, except for one character I particularly disliked, but he manages to be so unimportant that I can look past it. Characters I were particularly fond of were Ko, Aoba, Akaishi, and Azuma.
The character designs are unique in that they are very simplistic. Admittedly, your mileage may vary. I was actually very fond of the designs because they had a very "old fashioned" look to them, like something you'd see in an early 90's anime. At the very least, they're not HORRIBLE designs, although at its worst points, some of the minor characters can be hard to tell apart because of how indistinct they are.
It's just a pleasant show to watch. Maybe not as INCREDIBLY pleasant as a show like Bunny Drop was, but it's just entertaining and just the right amount of emotional. If you're a baseball fan, watch the shit out of this show. If you're not a baseball fan, keep in mind I wasn't one either. But this show is presented in a way where the baseball supplements the great characters and storytelling. And if you're like me, you'll find yourself surprisingly engaged in the baseball because of how much you like the characters.
Here's the opening: