Like many of us, I have a laundry list of anime to watch. So this past week, I dived in. For whatever reason though, I decided to try a show that wasn’t on my checklist. And so, I began Cross Game, not knowing much about it and in fact confusing it with a much older show, Touch (I found out several episodes in that Mitsuru Adachi created both). I’m late to the party, but I’ll still declare it an amazing show. It’s become one of just a handful of my very favorites (most episodes are available on Hulu and Viz Anime).
Created and used with permission by nuriko-kun
Although oozing with baseball at every turn, the story is, of course, more about relationships than sport. And as the story barrels toward its conclusion (though in an understated way), the emphasis is on romantic relationships. As a married man with children, who has been in relationships that were both in tune with American culture and east Asian culture, and with Christian emphasis and without, I felt that I could give a slightly different perspective on a few themes (two today and two on Friday) that popped up in the show. Warning: spoilers ahead!
Quit Playing Games with My Heart
One thing I enjoyed about Cross Game was the subtle way it approached clichéd ideas like love triangles, childhood friends, and budding romance. For instance, the leads didn’t try to make each other jealous – how could they, when both Aobo and Ko aren’t fully honest with themselves (more below) about each other? Another series might have one or more characters “playing games” with love – you know, playing hard-to-get and doing other actions to attract a lover.
I’m so thankful Cross Game didn’t go that direction. But if the show had gone that way, it might have strangely been more realistic. Let’s face it – when we were in high school, like Ko and Aoba, most of us just weren’t that mature. We were young, most of us lived with relatively little responsibility beyond schoolwork and chores, and we just didn’t have much experience with the world. And so, love, the most valuable of all things, is played like a game by players who don’t realize its value. I remember conniving with a good friend to try to get her best friend to fall for me. We would twist her arm as I sent signals and emotional emails that my crush would in turn rave about to her best friend. I wasted a lot of time playing games with this girl as I chased after her on and off for several years, right through my sophomore year of college. Today, I’m very happy that I never dated her – only heartbreak would’ve been in store – but at the time, I was doing everything I could to manipulate her feelings.
Listen to Your Heart
Ko and Aoba, however, are far from perfect when it comes to love. Aoba, particularly, is dishonest with herself. It takes words from her sister’s doppelganger and a confusing confession by Ko turned into reality for her to admit to herself what she truly feels.
(Aside: By the way, the scene in which Aoba breaks down at Ko’s chest? So much said in so few words…amazing scene.)
Of course, we’ll give Aoba a pass. The hurt from losing Wakaba and the connection between that pain and Ko has blinded her for so long. Luckily, most of us don’t have such a difficult backstory. We are more able to be honest with ourselves and with others. But whether we choose to be honest or not is another story.
And I think this goes beyond “playing games.” Honesty also should do with seeking what’s good for our hearts, instead of focusing on infatuation. It’s taking off the rose-colored glasses and wanting to be with the person who is truly in front of us because we love that person for who he or she is, and not just the idea of him or her. I’m reminded of my beautiful wife, who for the longest time only saw me as a friend (my first confession ended with a “let’s just be friends”). Eventually, she saw me as the person she not only needed, but wanted to be with.
My wife and I were best friends before we started dating. I’m a huge fan of relationships between best friends, because you already love that person. Chemistry? Even physical appearance? These things don’t end up meaning a whole lot when you truly love someone (in fact, I think chemistry is TOTAL hooey). Finding someone to love us, to support us, to share with – these are what’s truly important.
This is what Ko did in Cross Game. Instead of choosing Akane, who reminded him of Wakaba in almost every way, he took off the blinders. He was honest with his heart. He saw what was important to him. And he chose the one he was made for. (Speaking of fate, I’ll discuss that on Thursday’s Part II posting).
And so, what do you think? Do you play games? Is it okay to play games in a relationship? What do you think of friendship and romance? I’d love to hear your opinions.