「似てると思わないか？」 (Ni teru to omowanai ka?)
“Don’t You Think They’re Alike?”
For the second time this week, I’m wrapping a Kaji Yuuki series where I feel like I should be writing “Season Finale” when protocol calls for “Series Review”. A sure thing is a sure thing, and no announcement means no sure thing. With Mix, the popularity of the series would make another season a foregone conclusion, but that’s not the issue. There simply isn’t enough material yet and with a monthly manga, it accumulates more slowly. And Adachi Mitsuru is in his 60’s, which is old for as physically demanding a job as being a mangaka. We’ll get our sequel and hopefully our conclusion, but only if his
pitching drawing arm holds up.
Speaking of… As I noted last week, watching this unfold a big part of me was just wishing for it to be over in whatever way possible. I know this is fiction, but it physically pains me to watch high schoolers – especially a 16 year-old like Touma – abuse their arms in the manner he and Mita are here. 14 innings is something no pitcher of any age level should ever have to “shoulder”, and in real life it likely wouldn’t only be Souichirou’s father who suffered serious injury in a crucial game. Haruka’s questions to her father were on-point, but irrelevant – whatever the cost, the cost of depriving a boy of his potential livelihood and the game he loves is a much greater one.
This finale was an interesting combination of very familiar and somewhat unique elements, which calls out how Mix is a bit different than the typical Adachi baseball manga. I would call out the author for being too predictable, but that reliability is part of the appeal with him – he’s the ultimate sasuga storyteller. It was pretty much a given that Touma and Meisei would lose this game, those are just the rules – he and Sou are first-years. The only question would be how it happened.
As to that, it happened in pretty much the same way it happened to Kitamura Kou in his first run at Koushien (though that was actually his second year), and if that’s not familiarity I don’t know what is. I don’t remember two errors leading up to the fatal moment in Cross Game though. Poor defense is part and parcel of this Meisei team – and poor hitting, and generally poor baseball apart from the battery and the odd big hit from someone else. To lose on a throwing error by the pitcher is an anti-climax, but it being an anti-climax is kind of the point. And I think it’s symbolically important that neither Touma nor Kou lost because of their pitching.
Where this ep diverted from the predictable is reflective of what makes Mix distinct among Adachi’s series. It’s backward-looking by design – more so than even a true sequel would be, because of the mysterious and sentimental way Adachi links Mix with the people and events of Touch. And appropriately, the surprising part of this episode was the way it was Eisuke (Touma’s dad) who was central to most of the ep’s emotional nexus points. While he wasn’t part of Touch per se, that was his generation – and his experience on that day when Sou’s father was injured has defined his life in many ways.
It isn’t Adachi’s way to give us sweeping emotional moments between characters, but Mix has been devilishly ruthless with the flashbacks – and this week was no exception. What we see here is that Touma, to a large extent, is doing this for his father. He’s seen what Eisuke has lived through and how much he’s sacrificed for his son first-hand – and how much he loves Meisei, too. We all owe a debt to those who came before us, be they living or not, and no Adachi series has focused on this theme as much as Mix. One could almost call this a ghost story, because the phantoms of those long-ago moments on that decaying VHS tape linger like afterimages as the children at the heart of the story get on with their lives.
For all that, now Mix by necessity becomes all about the future on both sides of the fourth wall. There the matter of another 10th-grade phenom for Toushu to deal with – though whether Mita would in any shape to offer anything is doubtful. More importantly there are the next two years of Touma and Souichirou’s careers – the genius pitcher whose also a “thief“, and the catcher who makes no mistakes (where baseball is concerned). And the affairs of the heart that always go arm-in-arm with the baseball in any Adachi series like this one.
And now the wait begins – a chronic ache rather than the acute pain (it was rugby to blame) of a week’s delay after the penultimate cliffhanger of Episode 23. My choice here is whether to return to the manga or not, and at this stage I’m leaning towards doing just that given the uncertainly over when Mix Season 2 might come. This ending feels especially unsatisfying because I’m not much used to Adachi anime stopping in the middle – maybe it’s time for another Cross Game rewatch, as it’s been a few years now. Mix may not be quite on that level as a series, but one gets the sense that everything we’ve seen thus far has been the prologue, and that the series’ best is very much still to come.