Upcoming 1/19/2011

One of the common complaints about shônen manga centers on the set pieces, particularly lengthy battle sequences where the hero demonstrates his resolve for the better part of a volume. This can be a fair criticism, especially when these long story beats don’t really reveal anything new about characters or advance the plot. I mention this objection because the second book of Mitsuru Adachi’s Cross Game (Viz) has shipped, and, while most of the two volumes collected there are about a single baseball game, it’s the opposite of a long and pointless set piece.

Adachi did the hard work of assembling a totally winning cast in the first volume. He’s also a wonderfully economical creator. By that, I don’t mean that he moves with unnecessary speed; what I’m saying is that he makes best use of his pages. So while a single baseball game can take a volume and a half, that single game is packed with humor, evolving relationships, growth, and, I say this as someone who could not be forced to watch an actual baseball game, excitement. The volume reads like the wind, but it’s fully satisfying, and the pacing is terrifically quirky.

For bonus points, Adachi takes pains to expand on the character of Aoba. She was already likable as the most clear-eyed skeptic when it comes to series protagonist Ko Kitamura. This time, she gets to demonstrate her considerable smarts, providing running commentary on the game while grudgingly realizing that her opinion of Ko may have to evolve. She’s no less formidable for that attitude adjustment, which is great.

It’s just a terrific comic. Adachi does every single thing right in creating a splendid, accessible entertainment that displays both sturdy craftsmanship and singular style.

So that’s a little more on my pick of last week, and here’s my pick of this week. It’s a slow one.