First Date: Cross Manage
Shonen isn't just a boys club. The girls know how to play, too.
The First Date was a concept once used to on Anime Vice to discuss a brand new series. I originally thought it was sort of a silly name, but I finally understood it when I wrote an introduction on Anime Vice for the TRIAGE X series. It just seemed to fit. Like a first date, you're feeling each other out and getting to know the other person. I originally purchased my subscription to the digital English edition of WEEKLY SHONEN JUMP to follow series such as ONE PIECE. Along with this series came several others. One that has caught me completely by surprised is CROSS MANAGE created by KAITO.
I'd never so much as heard of it before, but it's really won a place in my heart.
" Talented but aimless Sakurai just can't find a place to belong. After trying - and failing at - one extracurricular activity after another, his life changes thanks to a chance encounter with lacrosse fanatic Toyoguchi, who thinks Sakurai has just what it takes to propel her girls' lacrosse team to victory! "
- VIZ Media
Most people seem to think shonen manga is little more than a boy's power trip fantasy, ala DRAGON BALL Z. However. last year SHONEN JUMP , the highest selling shonen magazine, released information that their readership is 50% male and 50% female. That seems to have effected the sort of series they publish. In fact, CROSS MANAGE only began in Japan back in September of 2012, and I came in at chapter fifteen. The cast is primarily all girls since the story is about a girl's lacrosse team. This isn't a romantic-comedy or filled with fan service. This is straight up a sports drama with some honestly funny comedy mixed in.
Basically, Sakurai was a young soccer prodigy who got injured, and even with surgery would never be back to the way he was. He gave up on the sport that he loved and seemed to lack a direction in his life. One day, he spotted Misora practicing lacrosse under a bridge and found himself offering her a tip that helped her improve. Since then, she was intent on getting Sakurai to be the manager/coach of the team she founded for school. Long story short, he kind of gets tricked into the job and discovers he enjoys it.
The girls of the Fujioka Lacrosse Team aren't what you'd call your average athletes. They're an assortment of all kinds, but what they have in common is a love of the sport and playing with their friends. They each bring some unique talent to the team. Misora is incredibly agile and full of energy, Nachi has strength and endurance, Junko is level headed and excels at making snap decisions, and Yurika is great at reading people's movements like a book. They're hardly the best, but Misora has the goal of winning the high school lacrosse tournament and defeat the Choran Girls' Lacrosse Team, who have held the title for the past ten years.
This is an inspired goal, but not hardly seems plausible. Currently, Choran has Namine Chihara on the team. She's the most skilled player in the nation and even earned a spot on Japan's national team. She has never lost a single game she's played in. The girls of Fujioka are really aiming for the top.
CROSS MANAGE has quickly become a favorite to read each week for me. It can be really entertaining to watch the friendship of the characters as they interact on and off the field. One of the best things about the series is that you don't need to know anything about lacrosse. The way the series is structured, the author slowly spoon feeds the audience the positions, rules, and tactics as they're needed. I sometimes wonder if these manga authors who make these sports series are already fans of the game, or do they just do an insane amount of research before beginning.
I really believe female comic readers who are tired of how women are treated in comics would find this refreshing. It's not about their dating life, and ever girl doesn't have the looks of a super model. It's about their bond as a team and supporting one another to try and do something big. Also, the only spiked heels you'll find in this series are on the cleats. A sports series about a girl's lacrosse team is something you'd never see get so much as a chance in a Western comic series.
Unfortunately, the only way you can currently read this series legally outside of Japan is on the subscription to WEEKLY SHONEN JUMP. A $26.00 subscription gets you a year of this weekly series translated into English. You can find more details and even read a free sample of this and many other at www.shonenjump.com. CROSS MANAGE is currently among the series that are being published same day digital with Japan.
If you're curious, you can still learn about the cast. I've been building up the cast in the wiki database on both Comic Vine and Anime Vice. You can't even find this level of information on Wikipedia. I hope you've enjoyed this first date with a brand new manga series that is well worth your attention.