Total Volumes: 34
Author: Mitsuru Adachi
Genre: Sport, Drama, Romance
Hiro and Hideo have been best friends since middle school and have always played on the same baseball team forming the most formidable battery the Tokyo region had ever seen, winning every regional game they ever played. Hiro and Hideo were both highly desired high school recruitees for their pitching and batting respectively. While Hideo went on to be recruited by the greatest high school baseball team in Japan, Hiro was diagnosed with a "glass elbow" which would almost certainly break if used for more than 3 months, effectively ending his baseball career and his dreams. To remove himself from any painful reminders of his crushed aspirations, Hiro opts to attend a school with absolutely no baseball team. In an astonishing turn of events, Hiro learns the doctor he visited was a "quack" and had completely misdiagnosed him. With renewed confidence he sets out to create a Japanese-national-title-level baseball team from scratch. In addition to Hiro's athletic aspirations of going pro, he also wishes to earn the love and respect of his childhood friend and first crush, Hikari, whom he feels never got the chance to see him for his true self due to his late "blooming" as an adult. Unfortunately for Hiro the biggest hurdle to his baseball fame and Hikari is his best friend, turned rival, Hideo, who has been in a relationship with Hikari for 2 years as a result of Hiro setting them up. What follows is a three year struggle for the japanese national title and a final confrontation between these two baseball warriors for fame, love, and friendship.
This is an Adachi work so the first thing you can expect is a very complicated romance. This should go without saying when referencing Adachi's work. I was unable to put it into the summary, but the romance is actually a four way romance involving one other female character named Haruka. With four leads, it is guaranteed to be a mess of love triangles that will have you second guessing the outcomes for the end of the series. I personally like this story best out of all Adachi's other stories because it felt like there was a very good balance between the sports and romance aspects. I will say there is definitely more sports than romance, but it is so neatly intertwined since the battles on the field are also battles of the heart from the perspective of the main characters. In one other important note, the author never draws out battles longer than is necessary or uses boring "training" intermissions as Shonen-Jump-type comics do. The battles and other scenarios last just long enough to get the point across; in some situations you may find it a bit terse and wish he had fleshed it out a bit more. The plot is very well-paced and never strays from the path with useless filler. The story does not have an explicitly definitive end, but through a small amount of interpretation it can be concluded. I personally felt satisfied with the end with only a few questions that I felt were rather open ended.
These characters are amazing. They feel like real people. Every character acts like you would expect a real person to in similar situations. There are no exaggerated personas in my opinion. All the characters are likeable and enjoyable to see interact. Although there are two main characters Hiro and Hideo (technically 4 if you want to count the two females Hikari and Haruka), you'll find yourself rooting for Hiro the underdog as he fights his way up the ranks and be intrigued by his interactions with others. Especially complicated are the relationships between the characters. Hiro and Hideo are best friends, and yet a thin layer of tension exists between them which threatens their friendship. Hiro and Haruka have the most complicated relationship of all that simply can't be categorized but must be read. If nothing else, you'll love to see Hiro's complicated character grow through flashbacks, games, and various other situations.
I really admire Adachi's style, but the biggest setback to his style is that virtually every character looks alike (which is why I give art an 8). As if it weren't hard enough already when the characters are in baseball uniforms they are completely indistinguishable. Overall, though his style is very simple and clean using very bold, controlled lines to illustrate the very obvious down to the minute detail.
I really enjoyed this work. It has just the right amount of personal turmoil without becoming depressing, romance without becoming sappy, drama without becoming preachy, and sports without becoming juvenile. The ending is done nearly perfectly leaving just enough things up to interpretation to make it discussion worthy without being completely guesswork. It really is a complete package.