I’ll start with a quick story on how I got to this topic. So this weekend, I went paintballing with some friends in NYC, and on the 40 min subway ride back from Queens, we started talking about Naruto and Geass. Friend A asked me and Friend B what our Top 5 Anime were, and Friend B listed Full Metal Panic (a solid series), Gundam Seed (meh…), H2, then he wasn’t sure and needed to think about it. In fact, Friend B was the guy who introduced me to H2 (also to Ichigo 100%, as mentioned previously), and I enjoyed the series enough to pick up a couple other Adachi manga series – Touch and Katsu!. So I got home Monday afternoon, and after doing some studying, I was looking for something to do to avoid having to watch Allison & Lillia Ep3 (so I didn’t have to write a First Impression page) or struggle through the rest of To love-ru (more on that in its Reflections page when I finish). I decide to wiki our old buddy Adachi and found out he’s currently working on a series called Cross Game, which just finished its second story arc and is on hiatus until spring 2009. 140 chapters later (with more studying and going to work and class in between), here I am trying to get some thoughts down on Adachi-style sports/romantic comedies.

The interesting thing about Adachi’s works (at least the four I’ve read) is that he reuses the character models for the main protagonist and his primary love interest in each of his stories. Here are some pictures of his works:

From top left going clockwise (and also in series creation order): Kazuya, Minami, and Tatsuya from Touch; Hideo, Hikari, Hiro, and Haruka from H2; Mizutani Katsuki and Satoyama Katsuki from Katsu!; Koh and the Four Tsukishima Sisters: Momiji, Ichiyo, Wakaba, and Aoba from Cross Game.

The main character, Tatsuya/Hiro/Katsuki/Koh in their respective series, all play the same “baka, lazy, and unreliable except in their sport and in caring for their childhood friend/love interest” type characters. They oversleep and are late for school, unwillingly train hard during practices, tease and get teased by the main heroine, can never clearly admit that they like the main girl until late into series, and always shoulder some burden (usually of their respective girls) as motivation for their sport. All are pitchers except for Katsuki as Katsu! is a boxing manga, and none were exceptionally good at their sports at the start of each series. Romance is always complicated by love triangles that ultimately resolve themselves very lightly; there is never any gut-wrenching over-drama like in other romances. And although the main girl is always pursued by other characters, the main character never receives an unhappy ending.

In fact, the best way to describe Adachi’s work is “lightness”. His drawing style is simple and clean (possibly a reason why I’ve never found fault with reusing his character models – the recurring basics of the protagonist serve as a foundation for the specific character development in each series) and writing is never long and dragged out. Dialogue is typically light and witty with puns, situational jokes, teasing between the main pair, and self-satire as the main forms of comedy. Often times, Adachi has his minor characters complaining about screen time or characters breaking the 4th wall to advertise other works or refer to previous chapters in the series. Adachi himself appears as a mangaka always trying to meet deadlines or appealing to his editors for more time.

But Adachi does add aspects of sadness and tragedy to his works, and the stark contrast between those moments and the light moments adds great depth to the emotions of heartbreak and disappointment his characters face from time to time. And even in those scenes, Adachi employs a lightness in minimalism, trying to use as little as he can to drive the sad scenes without weighing down the reader. For example, in Cross Game, after the initial tragedy that sets up the story, instead of depicting scenes with everyone crying and hysterically sobbing and going through all of Koh’s feelings, he leaves it simply with Koh sitting alone on a street with some tears starting to roll down his face. As a reader, I was as shocked as Koh by the suddenness of the event and then felt the same catharsis as Koh began to let his emotions out (the first point when I thought, ‘man, that sucks…’). So while Adachi’s works are generally very light and easy to read through, its not to mean that they aren’t as full of emotion as other heavier works can be.

As which series to begin with, H2 is likely the best bet if you want a finished conclusion. His baseball work reads a lot better than his boxing (and Hajime no Ippo is a much better boxing manga to look for) and casual readers may be put off by the old feeling of his earlier animations (Touch began in 1981 and the animation-style isn’t as comparable to his other work until later in the series – the last few chapters of Touch looks contemporary to the beginning of H2). But personally, I’ve really liked Cross Game so far and am happy to have gotten to it just after he ended part 2 and went on hiatus. It still is clearly Adachi’s drawing style, but higher production values add to its more modern sense. The story is moving along well too, as the main girl seems to only be beginning to notice feelings for the main character, while the introduction (or re-introduction) of another main girl has Adachi setting up for more focus on romance in the coming part next spring.