First half impressions: Cross Game

Actually a bit late now, since the anime has progressed to episode 29 and introduced the last of the main players. Lots of developments left, right and center, so I’m really looking forward to the next part…but here’s my little look at the series so far.

Whilst I’ve been spamming about Bakemonogatari and the Cross Game manga elsewhere, I’ve also been religiously following the anime adaptation of the latter. It’s very unusual for me to watch a series that’s so distinctly shonen, but Adachi-sensei is such a master of realistic and subtle high-school relationships that I was seriously considering this for anime of the year, even though it won’t be finished until Spring next year. Not so much in terms of romantic relationships (although I can see why Azuma is becoming more content – Ichiyo and Junpei’s relationship is funny and kinda sweet!), but rather for the dynamic between Koh and the people close to him – his parents, the Tsukishimas (especially Momiji) and Akaishi. The development of Azuma, tied to his brother and his interaction with the rest of the Seishu team, especially Koh, is also spot on.

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Little things that can make a world of difference, part 1

I never really thought about this until I ran across someone who mentioned that the Cross Game characters are now into their second year of high school (anime obviously, not manga). The truth? They’re only about 5 months into their first year!

Why the misconception? Well, the answer lies in a difference between the schools in Japan and those of certain other countries. Schools in the U.S., Britain and Australia all begin the school year after the long summer vacation. Students typically do not have any summer homework (because their teachers are changing anyway!), and they happily while away 2-3 months at the beach, shopping centres and movie theaters, or perhaps in a darkened home at room etc etc. Wonderful childhood, really, and of course it makes sense to have arrange the school year such that kids get a nice long rest after all their hard work, right?

Perhaps surprisingly, Japan doesn’t subscribe to that particular philosophy. Instead, the school (and working) year is designed around the seasons. Spring (April) marks the new beginning of the year for all layers of society, from kindergartens to companies. For the Japanese mind (and heart), it is fitting that this bright season, floating in sakura petals, marks the new beginning of just about every stage in a person’s life.

Quick summary: the Japanese school year is divided into three terms, with the corresponding “holidays”: Spring-Summer term – summer vacation (about 6 weeks from late July-early September) – Autumn term – Christmas/New Year break (about 2 weeks) – Winter-Spring term – Spring vacation (about 2 weeks in late March/early April). The exact timing of the breaks differs from region to region. In Okinawa, summer vac is unusually long, whilst the winter break is obviously longer in Hokkaido. edit: and in case there are people who don’t know – lots of subbers change the year level into the respective American grade, after all – the Japanese education system sends children through 6 years of elementary school (小学校), 3 of junior high (中学校) and 3 of senior high school (高校), with normal graduation at the age of 18. I might make another note on this at a later date.

The other thing that might confuse foreigners, especially those from Australia, is the fact that the 3rd year students stopped playing just 3 months into the year, when the preliminary tournaments are over. That’s because the rest of their year will be devoted to studying in order to get into their desired colleges or universities. Of course, those who win the prefectural/regional tournament will be representing their prefecture or region in the national tournament, which is held over the summer. The younger students will either be enjoying their one and only summer vacation (Haruhi and co.) or busting their asses to get to the respective national tournaments in their last two years. There should be another regional tournament towards the end of the Autumn term, where the teams will show the fruits of their summer labours, but the summer prelims around May will always take precedence.

Well, this particular difference probably wouldn’t affect your understanding of any show or manga with a school setting, but it might be interesting to know.