It Came From the NYPL
Cross Game v. 1
Written & Illustrated by Mitsuru Adachi
Translated by Ralph Yamada & Lillian Olsen
Published by Viz
Mitsuru Adachi is, I suspect, one of the two dozen or so best comic book creators in the world. The acclaim I’ve read of his work in Japan is astounding, and the two series I’ve so far encountered in English have only exceeded the hype. Viz previously brought American readers Adachi’s Short Program, a two-volume collection of melancholy and humanistic short stories. Now, Cross Game arrives in the States.
Cross Game tells of Ko Kitamura, his friends on the high school baseball club, and his relationship with the sisters who’ve lived next door to him for his entire life. While it’s a romantic comedy at heart, Cross Game features notable amount of baseball action and its fair share of early tragedy. But what really sets it apart is Adachi’s (with assistance from his translators) ability to capture the nuances of his characters, the humor and the pathos, via their witty dialogue and his casual pacing.
Adachi doesn’t rush to get to the next plot point or emotional beat – he allows the story to breathe, giving readers time to spend with the characters, deepening readers’ understanding of the various relationships. Solid character designs and layouts move the story forward, but most impressive in the artwork is how Adachi captures the tense, anything-can-happen moments of baseball: the crack of the bat on the ball, the streaking pitch, the towering home run flyball that holds the moment in the air longer than you think possible. Using speedlines, striking angles and moments of artistic silence, Adachi manages the near impossible: capturing the essence of a fast-moving sports contest in static images.
Add terrific action (it also helps that Adachi clearly knows baseball; as a baseball fan, nothing’s worse than seeing a rendering by a comic artist who clearly doesn’t know the game) to warm and humorous character work, and you understand quickly why Adachi’s a legend in his homeland. Cross Game is superb; it’s upgraded from library to buy.