The climax of Cross Game: Aoba and her character

Despite its target audience and simple drawings, Cross Game is one of the more complex series of the previous year, and one of the best ones at that. While the baseball parts are done tastefully, it’s with the interrelationships of the characters that this series really shines. Let’s take our two protagonists, for example. (A word of caution: I watched all 47 released episodes in the span of three days, so while everything is quite vivid to me I cannot remember specifics for the most part.)

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The viewer can easily see as early as the fifth or the sixth episode that Aoba has a lot of respect for Ko. It is simply easier for her, however, to hide what she truly feels towards Ko because of her sister. When they were young, Aoba and Ko were antagonistic to one another, and this was primarily because of Wakaba’s love towards Ko. Instead of being able to hog her sister all to herself, she had to share it with Ko and eventually the time they spent together was significantly lessened. As a consequence, she directed her frustrations and hatred to a reason that could be her scapegoat: this reason was Ko. Their bickering continued until Wakaba’s death, and even continued afterward, simply because she was such a palpable presence even beyond her death: the flashbacks were important because both of them treasured the words of Wakaba. Aoba took it to heart when her sister told her that Ko was hers even if he was able to obtain 160 km/h with his pitching. With every move they made, the spectre of Wakaba loomed near. The dreams that she had for her sister and lover surrounded them and pervaded their every move because they both wanted to make her happy.

Aoba was already aware of Ko’s presence and his effect on her life when she blushed heavily when he went near her. It was the only time she blushed throughout the whole show, because his words and approach were out of left field and left her totally open. An observant viewer could also notice the subtle changes in her character, from bickering with Ko less to being able to say her thanks, even to Ko himself. It did not help that Ko himself was quite a gentleman despite her character and actions, and easily saw through her like Wakaba did. On the other hand, hints were also dropped as regards Ko’s feelings towards her. Nothing happened, however, because of their looming memories of Wakaba. Their inability to be honest with themselves also didn’t help the progression of their relationship from merely being friends. I personally believe Aoba is the worse culprit of this, because she is unable to say what she really means. Most of her words either only trail off or transmogrify into something other, something innocuous.

From my palimpsest of memories, I believe that the turning-point of their relationship within the show was during Aoba’s hospitalization because of Azuma’s line drive breaking a bone in her leg. She only secretly admired his ability and his growth before that, but she realized that her sister did not choose wrong with him. When frustration overcame her, it was him who brought her back, who gave her hope, and who made her understand that life went on. This was compounded by the arrival of Akane Takigawa, who uncannily resembled Wakaba to such an extent that it seemed as if a ghost appeared to the people who lost her when they first saw her. Aoba, I believe, slowly came to realize that it was no longer mere admiration for his pitching that got her: it was his actual person.

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To silently prove this she declined an invitation to participate in the Japan National Team practice simply to be able to help both Ko and Wakaba chase their goals. Despite being unable to play, despite staying in the benches cheering, despite being a wonderful pitcher, she decided to stay as a pitching coach solely because she saw what her sister saw in Ko. This was the spark plug for her epiphany. Next, caught unawares by Kou’s kindness, she no longer complained of the quality of what he gave but sincerely offered her thanks for his different gifts. (I cannot place it exactly when, but she also cooked a Napolitan for Ko the best way she could – it wasn’t burnt when he ate it.) Her utter dishonesty with her emotions, however, kept on hindering her progress with him: when it was Valentine’s day, she decided to give him a chocolate secretly only to cover it up as a gift to Azuma when she saw him and Akane together. Her jeers became lesser and lesser, and later on transformed into fluid praise for Ko. Despite Azuma’s proper confession, she never really thought of him in that way, as evidenced by her answer to his older brother: ‘I like him if I really think about it.’ Even in her insults, an undercurrent a lot of people fail to see is that she wants Ko to be happy, going out of her way more than a couple of times to set them up.

The epiphany from her hiding from herself finally came when Akane and Ko himself told her that she can only see the positive qualities of others if she didn’t just ignore them. It came as a surprise to her, then, when she discovered that Ko was as hardworking as her: she was merely unwilling to admit it because her blind jealousy and anger for Ko detracted from that part of her that was appreciating him more and more. When she took off her rage-tinted glasses, she realized that she liked Ko.

But it seemed too late, didn’t it? Akane was just like Wakaba and looked just like her. Akane was also a wonderful artist, an intelligent student, a beautiful and proper lady. On the other hand, Aoba was tomboyish, bad at household chores, and was only really good at baseball. Nevertheless, she had to know. It is a lot easier to accept failure whenever one understands the impossibility of the undertaking, and this is what I believe the reason for her finally asking Ko.

‘Do you like me? Do you like me compared to Wakaba and Akane?’

She barely flinched and formed a knowing half-frown when he said – ‘is a lie all right?’ Her terse ‘sure’ merely confirmed that she simply wanted to hear his words despite everything. What is most wonderful is that she initiated the confession – she was the one who sought to clear things up between them, even despite their fights and bickering. She had to know, because unlike the dozens of boys who had confessed to her she finally liked Ko even if he wasn’t able to pitch a 160 km/h fastball yet. She liked him because she saw herself in him and a lot more.

The climax of the story may be the final baseball game between Ryuou and Seishu, but the climax of the characters themselves is this subtle maneuver by Aoba, asking: ‘do you like her? […] do you like me?’ The difference between most series and Cross Game is that melodrama and bathos are avoided by Cross Game. Aoba doesn’t cry much. She doesn’t even blush much. But one knows in the nuance of her actions that she really likes Ko despite her words and imprecations, and that is the reason that that short scene was the climax of its characters because it was her catharsis. She has finally revealed herself.

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11 Responses to “The climax of Cross Game: Aoba and her character”

  1. one piece man Says:

    i like this serie ,,, 😉

  2. Peter S Says:

    Aoba is indeed a fascinating character, one of my favorite females in anime, but I don’t know if I would put her behavior in such a negative light. She comes off in this blog entry to be much nastier than she really is. She has a general kindness to people if you don’t cross her, and I liked how she became good friends with Akane.

    That hospital scene is amazing, because almost nothing is said. Kou delivers her ball and glove (as if officially declaring her ready for the next step in her therapy, waits for her to wake up, falls asleep. She wakes up, sees the ball and glove, plays around with it. When she looked at the sleeping Kou, in that profile shot, I KNEW what would happen next. Plonk! She throws a couple barbs and he amiably leaves. End of scene. Kou and Aoba know each other so well.

  3. Michael Says:

    She does bicker with Ko and insult him more often than any other character in the show. I’m not painting her in a negative light; I simply believe it’s one of her coping mechanisms with Wakaba’s loss. Since she can’t fault Wakaba for her heroic death, she tries to fault the lack of time they spent together to the person Wakaba was, really, closest with. This person was Kou. As the series progressed, however, this merely became a coping mechanism that she forced upon herself to honor her. But the heart is quite powerful, even sometimes more so than the mind.

    Kou never crosses her. He jokes around, but the insults and barbs mostly come from her. I’m not taking this against her, I’m just saying that it’s her way of trying to cope with Wakaba’s loss, until she realizes later on that the person currently most dear to her is the person she ‘hates’ at the surface. Even with Azuma’s progress, he never knew Aoba all that much, whereas Kou, despite his surface actions, really cares for her and her family. She knew it back then. She knew why Wakaba liked Ko. She just couldn’t accept it, because it created internal dissension in her: she wanted to keep honoring Wakaba and not touch the person she once loved, but she also in time realized that Kou was the only person she could love as a man. I love how her armor slowly had chinks appear in it, from Kou’s failed predictions regarding her actions to her overpouring praise for Kou and Kou alone. It doesn’t have the dripping bathos of most romance series; and I admire her a lot for holding in her emotions for the sake of Kou. Even she had her limit, however, and it came out during episode 47.

    In the end, she also wanted to be happy. And I don’t fault her for that. She cares about Kou a lot but she doesn’t want him to even know it, and that’s really something sweet: I admire her sacrifice from joining the girls’ national team for the sake of Ko and Wakaba’s dream. Had she really only honored Wakaba she wouldn’t have given that up – but she also trusted Kou.

  4. EdwardTheGreat Says:

    Nice post, btw do you have any kind of contact form? wanted to ask few questions over e mail but cant find it anywhere

  5. Michael Says:

    Edward:

    It’s in my about page – Michael.David.Sy AT gmail.com.

  6. Baka-Raptor Says:

    Great show, but no comment on this post until the series is over. Don’t worry though, I’ll be making fun of the show soon enough.

  7. Michael Says:

    >making fun

    What?

    Well, you made fun of Kara no Kyoukai, right? D:

  8. Edward Says:

    i sent you e mail, please respond as soon as you can

  9. Charlie Says:

    I am writing this after the series has been completed. I LOVED Cross Game. The first episode caught me TOTALLY off guard with the death of Wakaba. By episode 3 or 4 i was hooked and i pretty much marathon’d the other 46 episodes in a couple of days. Iet me start by saying that aoba is my favorite part of this show along with kou. Both those characters amazed me by the end at how they had developed. especially aoba. Kou’s development was more physical than mental, and aoba was the opposite. Kou goes from barely being able to play catch to firing off 95+ mph fastballs. but im here to talk about aoba. I dont know how many people were fooled by the false face she set up by i saw through her instantly. She had always liked Kou. But since Wakaba seemed seemed so perfect for him, and the fact that Wakaba up and told her “you cant have him” (abeit nicely), she kept her distance. on top of that, she had a close relationship with Wakaba, which was always being interrupted by Wakaba spending time with Kou. so she directed her hurt as anger at Kou. She was very jealous of the attention Wakaba got from Kou, which only added to her reasons to be angry at him. I dont go LOOKING for Tsundre (Tsundre meaning one that starts out cold or even hostile to another character but that warms up as time goes on) animes, but i LOVED watching Kou’s kindness and joking prodding crack her hard shell throughout the anime revealing that bruised soft center of hers in the last episode, where she broke down completely and cried after Kou gave her that tight hug after winning the final match before Koshien. i was happy with the ending. I wonder if Wakaba’s 20th birthday gift of an engagement ring would be given to Aoba instead. does he stop buying off that list Wakaba gave him?

  10. Chillie Says:

    good post. I finally watch Cross Game and finished them in couple of days. I started to like his manga’s after watching Touch movie and the manga. definitely the best work, and Cross game to my surprised another awesome baseball story. I think the only sad thing is the whole story stopped when Seishu is heading to Koshien and didnt show the Koshien match! and Aoba still didnt play in an official match like how it’s in Wakaba dream nor Japan national women’s league. I thought that the newspapers and press will post more about Aoba, coach for Kou. well…. guess all these will go to suspense and our own imagination. =)
    Aoba and Kou definitely been thru a lot after wakaba’s death. I love the part when Kou’s reply in anime “if I pitch 160km ball then I will love tsukishima aoba the most”. Cross Game!! Awesome!!!

  11. Will Says:

    i love this series so much. it is one of my fav anime of all time. i like the originality of it all, the facial expressions make the characters seem so easy going and likeable.
    I agree with you guys. Aoba is also my fav character. shes so mysterious in a way but in a way shes not. i just need someone to clarify again the scene after seishu defeated ryuou where aoba cried against Kou’s chest. whats the significance of that? i reckon i understand like 60% of it. but anyone care to explain in depth?

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