Love has been glorified through eons by various outstanding artists, authors, and poets, all of whom had deep and accurate reflections on the philosophies of human life. However, as far as the present world of anime and manga is involved, I feel that the situation is a bit tragic.
Post content contributed by Daryl Reed
Most of the anime that I see around me revolve around teen romantic comedies or tragedies. They can be summed up in one line: “there was a boy and there was a girl who used to dress in high school dress, and supernatural/loli shit happens throwing them into mental or physical tantrums and inevitably bringing them closer to a common point of struggle.” As a natural course of action, they grow admiration (sometimes respect) for each other and then fall in love. Sometimes the end is ironic with both the candidates being separated from each other; but sometimes they just live happily ever after.
Enter Cross Game – an anime which really made me rethink my above-mentioned point of view.
The way that I got to know about it was quite unusual too, not your usual quiet suggestion from an otaku friend.
One fine afternoon, one of my friends snatched me by the neck (in the midst of a multiplayer game in college, I missed my chance and got killed) and shoved me in a corner chair, with a computer screen before me displaying animation figures that looked like they were poorly sculpted out of shapeless dough.
Needless to say, I was a bit annoyed. I reckon he was trying to convince me about how he had found a diamond in limestone. However, back then, my mind was completely preoccupied with thoughts of headshots with a Kalashnikov. I remember the conversation to be extremely brief. He did most of the talking; my answers being mostly brief and monosyllabic, and at the first opportunity I got, I tore myself away. He wasn’t the man to give up so easily though.
Later that night, he caught me off-guard when he came to my room with an even greater enthusiasm. He repeatedly assured me that there would be nothing in Cross Game that I dislike, be it a mushy feel or a “moe” charm. He forced my hands; persuading me to watch the first episode under his strict vigilance, and then reassess my sentiments. It was drastic.
If I be honest, the animation is nothing to write home about – remember my comparison with wheat dough? However, as I think back on the stuff now, I could see a reason for it.
Real life people are completely different to how anime portray them. Begging forgiveness, I daresay that the girls in anime look like a human and an over-sized (if you know what I mean) elvish woman with rainbow-colored hair came together to breed; propagating evolution through history, and making anime girls look as they are. Likewise, similar things can be said of the other sex in anime.
In Cross Game, I was pleasantly surprised: the characters look decidedly real. There is nothing absurd about their contours. It’s just as if, on a sunny morning, if you take a jog along a street, and avoid stepping on the tail of a sleeping dog, you’ll see people just like those in the show. Not human avatars of Apollo, Juno, or Aphrodite, but men and women in flesh and blood – with their quirks and peculiarities. Even the hair and eye color they have kept as black and blue (with blue for the eyes), not some magenta or caribbean palette which is an absurdity in itself.
I am a great proponent of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. One of the chief reasons was the music. I feel that music should not exist just as a placeholder for opening and ending songs – to spend a few extra minutes, merely out of practice – but as an integral part of the story.
Something about OSTs: it may just be me, but beyond Sket Dance, there was not a single OST in any anime that I took any distinguished attention of. Not even the revered Steins;Gate (among many others, including the likes of Black Lagoon, Initial D, Cowboy Bebop, D. Gray Man, Fairy Tail, Shigatsu Wa Kimi no Uso; all of whom had brilliant songs as opening/ending) could simply toy with the songs as FMAB did.
In that respect, I would say that Cross Game comes pretty close. Giving credit where it’s due – it has great songs. Beyond the effects in the first and around the halfway of the total episodes, I watched the opening and ending in every episode.
Marathoners would have missed a world of subtlety, especially in the openings, had they skipped any portion of it. As a sincere request to any who watches Cross Game, don’t skip the opening or the ending of any episodes. Believe me, this anime is one where things happen when you are not looking for them.
If you ask me about the story, I’d say it’s one of a kind. For one, the story is unfolded pretty nicely. There is one major issue that even the greatest anime producers become susceptible to. That is, sometimes, they rush the ending, painfully or subtly. It really puffs a lot of disappointment in the viewer, as if they were deprived of a grand ending verse of an otherwise perfect orchestra merely due to lack of time.
That was not the case here at all. The story unfolded in its due pace, everything was arranged in its due time, and from the beginning till the end, you’ll be confounded in a tense deadlock of trying to guess the ending.
This is primarily a sports anime, but I insist that this is not just a sports anime.There’s more to it. It is also an anime about how a girl fell in love with a boy, and that sport (baseball; very popular in Japan) was what brought them together and entwined their future. If you want an analogy, think about food (for the lack of a better one). The meat and the wheat may make the main dish, but it is really the spices and sauces which balance the whole dish and bring harmony to the taste.
Relatively, assume that the boy and the girl are the wheat and the meat, and the sport is the secret sauce which binds their lives and brings them closer. Truly a real-life, believable story. I’m of opinion that viewers will find themselves uncontrollably comparing them with the male or the female protagonists.
In the pretense of it all there lies a deep sorrow which binds both of them, the pain of losing a person dear to both of them. Throughout the course of the story, there are some instances where it may seem like this sorrow is being forced upon the viewer, made painfully obvious. I say, don’t heed them with excessive importance (they never go overboard like in Grimgar, Ashes and Illusions) and just kick back and relax the blossoming story.
In the end, I’ll return to where I started. I’ve grown positively disapproving of the immature, impossible, and improbable love stories that mar our world of anime – and the realism and maturity that this story portrays is like a wasp of fresh air in the midst of an ashen, almost bleak smoke that has filled the world of teenage romantic anime.
In the end, I quote two lines from a song that you’ll soon grow to be familiar with if you ever happen to watch Cross Game.
It just makes me want to run away, just run far away
After all, losing you was far easier than it seemed to be …