As expected, the back-half of Cross Game saw the series exiting the stadium bathed in sunlight with its head proudly held high. This is a series not to be missed and is among the very best of what anime has to offer.
Much more than the first half, the final 25 episodes all but cement the fact that the characters in Cross Game are so lovable because they are steadfastly anchored to reality. After Seishuu's narrow defeat at the hands of Ryuou, for example, there's no sudden spate of angst strangling our protagonists from the inside and sending the plot on a leave of absence. But we are also spared from the corny kind of pep-talk that kindles a burning desire to prevail in the future. Rather, Seishuu accepts defeat with the humble bow of “there's always next time” as the stadium doors close and simply moves on.
And then there was the return of Wakaba in the form of Akane, which provided yet another golden opportunity for whipping up a hurricane of angst. And again, the series graciously declined and opted for a subtle peppering of pathos in the form of a soothingly bittersweet festival episode where Kou, Akaishi, and the Tsukishima family are reunited with their long-lost childhood friend.
But fret not, because if a thick glaze of emotions is more your cup-of-tea, the ending will leave your taste buds thoroughly titillated.
One of Cross Game's crowning achievements is its staunch refusal to adhere to the perishable underdog, feel-good formula, which feels far too much like coasting to victory on cruise control. With pitching-phenom Kou and show-stopping slugger Azuma leading the charge, the Seishuu team is hardly underdog material and the opposing teams are merely that and far from a group of bigoted bullies begging for a David-and-Goliath-style trouncing.
Cross Game is not about the weak overcoming the strong nor is it even about making to the big leagues on the back of Cinderella's carriage. No, Cross Game's message is elegant in its simplicity: staying true to one's promise as much as to one's self.
Once all is said and done, it becomes apparent that not only has Wakaba's dream been realized, but the mere memory of her has ultimately left a profound impact on the lives of anyone and everyone connected to the Tsukihima's. By fulfilling Wakaba's final request, Kou's heart finally becomes untethered from the past as Aoba's finally opens enough to accept him, just as Wakaba would have wanted. Azuma similarly learns to put his heart into the game instead of simply playing detachedly to honor his brother's sacrifice. It's not just Wakaba's dream that has been realized, but also the dreams of Kou, Aoba, the Tsukishima's and those closest to them.
And it's because the series speaks so openly, humbly, and honestly that the series emerges heartwarmingly triumphant in the end. Cross Game is a modern day classic for all ages; an extraordinary, emotionally-refined journey that's truly as once-in-a-lifetime as Kou's prodigious pitching skills. And you'd best believe that this is a fastball that will leave more of an indelible imprint than one that soars over the plate at 160 km/h ever could.