What They Say:
Cross Manage fans should recognize that name because Kaito Sensei is the mangaka who brought lacrosse to Weekly Shonen Jump! Kait’s great art, sympathetic characters and dramatic storytelling made for a compelling combination that quickly won over fans. And now Kaito’s back with a new story about baseball! Specifically, the magic between a pitcher and a catcher! Get ready for Buddy Strike!
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Ryo Aramaki can pitch—oh man can he pitch. If he can truly throw an 87 mph heater in his third year of middle school, then yeah, he can pitch. The problem is control. If all he could do is throw at 87 mph, then throw him in the outfield and hope he can develop at bat. The “legendary grim reaper” catcher, as they like to call him, thinks he has more than just a strong arm though. He thinks he can become the greatest pitcher Koushien has ever seen. If he can get that fastball under control, then maybe he will be.
The story is this: Aramaki is a pitcher who allowed 30 runs on what I think is a no hitter…that is, he walked or beaned every man that got on base and eventually just gave up 30 runs, once giving up 13 in an inning. It’s kind of a disgraceful performance that the grim reaper catcher says is the fault of his current catcher, Yonekura. He’s a bad catcher that can’t catch what shouldn’t be wild pitches and doesn’t have enough communication with the pitcher.
Because here’s the thing about the relationship between pitchers and catchers : it’s symbiotic. A pitcher can’t pitch if there’s not a catcher and a catcher can’t catch if there’s not a pitcher. It’s true that a great, a truly great, pitcher can thrive with an average or below average catcher, but it’s also true that a great catcher can bring out the best of even mediocre pitchers.
The grim reaper catcher can bring out the best in Aramaki because he can actually CATCH. Kitakata—the ace and cleanup on Kanagawa’s best team (who can apparently waltz into another school’s classroom? I’m very confused about this)—is probably a B-range pitcher by himself based on his attitude and ranking. Aramaki is probably C- or even D-range by himself with potential for greatness. Kitakata, unless he really experiences loss, won’t realize he still has so much room to grow. The grim reaper catcher is determined to prove that Aramaki is better and challenges Kitakawa to a challenge: Get struck out right down the middle of the plate and they win. Anything else—a hit, walk, foul, three strikes that aren’t down the middle—doesn’t count.
The first pitch: nearly wild, but caught by skill alone. The second pitch: a strike straight down the middle. The man who did it: the grim reaper catcher, Kaname Ado.
This was a wonderful first chapter from someone who I already have great faith in because I loved Cross Manage . This manga, so far, doesn’t really reveal if it’s going to revel in the sport of baseball or just enjoy the ride, but if Cross Manage is any indication, it’ll have a lot of inside baseball talk…just not too inside, or at least it’ll be understandable to someone who doesn’t know the sport at all. What I can say is that it’s going to have the same excitement and energy from Cross Manage, and that’s all I really asked for out of this manga.
The artwork is really great in some parts, and kind of lacking in others. The lacking parts aren’t bad though, it’s just clearly inferior to some of the amazing double page spreads that graces these digital pages. And most of them are for comedic effect, which did incite a chuckle or two out of me.
Content Grade: A-
Art Grade: B+