I’ve constantly amazed by how small things can just change the way my life goes in small, but meaningful ways. There has been a lot of them, but I think the biggest one I’ve made recently is making the small jump to acquire the Shonen Jump + app. I’ve never been that much of a manga reader, but having access to some manga on my phone without having to buy paper book or digital volumes at each particular stage and price has allowed to me jump in and read some manga that I’ve been wanting to for a while. (Yeah, I know the Crunchyroll service does this too, but that service sucks.) That’s the reason why I read Cross Manage. Something I knew nothing about until I was suggested to read it and I’m glad I did. Can’t wait to find some other things that I haven’t heard of before.
Something that I am learning more and more is that sports anime and manga are more then just “characters playing sports”. The sport itself is played, but it’s the avenue in which we see these character’s feelings, struggles, heart breaks, successes, and losses personified using the sport in question as the medium to have all these feelings conveyed. So basically what I’m saying is, sports anime and manga are massive, relatable character dramas with some good sports action on the side. With that out in the front now, the Cross Manage is one that I think has that sort of A League Of Their Own sort of twist to it. It’s not an original story, but it’s a very good story.
Cross Manage starts out as not much. Sakurai is a former soccer/football middle school prodigy player who trained himself so hard to fix his failings that Sakurai injured one of his legs. Unable to play at the level he wants in high school (Fujioka), he searches for a different club to join. Youi know like Shogi, which he gets very good at in a short amount of time. Of course, fate has a way of intervening right? That fate appeared in the form of Misora Toyoguchi failing at just making a simple Lacrosse pass, but she didn’t care because she was just playing it for fun. That was something that ticked Sakurai off and she taught her how to quickly make a pass. After that, Misora became more and more obsessed with making Sakurai the coach for the female lacrosse team and eventually he gives in.
When Sakurai joins as Fujioka’s female lacrosse manager, the team was a bunch of nobodies who didn’t know a thing about the sport and there was no budget for the team so they had no uniforms or equipment either. They also didn’t trust him at all. Not that I blame any of them because this one random guy appearing who seemingly knew nothing about the sport at first. That same guy sometimes seeing you change in a locker room would just add more fuel to the fire. Still, Sakurai worked hard to show them he meant business through studying the specifics of the sport, working hard to obtain resources and tools for them, and showing them how to train and become better. Him finding passion in something again and helping this lacrosse team find theirs makes him grow as a person.
Plus, there is the rest of the cast of players. The problem is that Toyoguchi is the massive stand out player in the group of twelve. Cross Manage is about her finding something she loves enough to work hard at master as well. I’m not saying that some other characters don’t get a focus because they do, but their arcs are very short and resolved very quickly. In the beginning of this manga, Fujioka has a little game with Choran high where Toyoguchi’s sense of passion and love for Lacrosse are questioned by the number one lacrosse player in Japan, Namine. The final match in Cross Manage is the great rematch between Fujioka and Choran which is also a rematch of ideals between playing for fun and skill or just playing as hard as one can. It ends how you think it does, but Fujioka did improve a lot.
That leads to some problems I had with Cross Manage’s story. I could say fanservice, but honestly there isn’t that much of it and certain scenes (like the locker room) never focused on any of the girls in particular to show off their features. Also, there are some more character motivated fanservice moments because they want to reveal some parts of themselves to Sakurai. In general, not much complaints there. Also, In general Cross Manage’s story is pretty great and the meat of each story set up is absolutely solid. The problem is how the manga starts it’s premise and introduces a character to get more focus on.
How does Sakurai get stuck as the coach for a female lacrosse team? Because he accidentally grabs Toyoguchi’s boob which she immediately black mails him with. That’s almost completely out of character for her. It’s like the mangaka didn’t know how to start everything and just needed one quick moment that reader will forget to start it. Then there is Sakurai’s meeting Namine in the middle of the manga. I know this is my point of view, but I can’t help but think about how that meeting was almost pure fanservice. It wasn’t bad, but they were moments that seemed out of character for her too. Also, Since Toyoguchi and Namine already know each other from earlier in the story, those chapters came off as pointless to me.
I suppose there is the manga art too. I’m not much of a manga reader yet so I’m bad with this aspect, but I thought it was generally pretty good. I like a lot of the character designs because they seemed pretty distinct and I like looking at the awesome impact action shots at very important moments. Still not too sure about the simulation of movement in action because it seemed kind of compressed in smaller panels that didn’t flow naturally. Maybe that is something I need to get used to by reading more manga because I am used to action scenes being consistently the same size. Or maybe the mangaka doesn’t understand how to make the characters move easily. I know that manga are comics, so maybe getting used to different panel sizes is my next goal for all this manga reading.
So in conclusion, I really liked Cross Manage. It’s kind of sad that it was cut short by being cancelled at 43 chapters because a lot of characterization seems like it was cut out, but at least it told a complete story. There was an arc about Choran highschool’s team which is the great lacrosse team series in Japan and Fujioka, some upstarts that want to prove themselves. They met in the field of battle in the beginning and the last lacrosse match was between the two school yet again. It was a personal battle with personal stakes on the line. Not just physically, but through ideology too. I like that sort of thing because it doesn’t have to be the most complex thing positive to be interesting.
I also like how Toyoguchi and Sakurai bounce off each other and hopefully become a couple in the future. Especially since these two are very different in terms of personality (Sakurai is intellectual and Toyoguchi is an air head), but their drive for working hard drove them together. Plus, the manga treated every character with respect. Well, most of the time at least. There are still those moments that I talked about earlier which still irritated me. But yeah, even if a character didn’t always get the most amount of page time, all of them at least felt like real people. That’s just all in the up and up for me. I really do wish that it was a little longer then it was. That feeling is just going to attack me for so long now. I guess it’s onto the next manga.