After episode one of Mix: Meisei Story, a worry crept in. Despite all I knew of Mitsuru Adachi, and how much I treasure Cross Game, would this newer series rely too much on nostalgia and skirt over the more important aspects that make his manga incredibly special? As if answering my concern, episode two came roaring in to say, “No, this series is going to be special as well. Just wait and see.”
The episode begins with Otomi bringing home a puppy named Punch, whom the boys take an immediate disliking to. But the dog isn’t only a new pet—it helps frame the entire episode, most of which is focused on the relationship in this step family. As Soichiro, Otomi’s biological brother, goes out on a “double-header,” Toma and Otomi are left home, where they disagree about the character and dignity of his father / her step-father. Toma leaves to play games with a friend, and runs into his older (practically by the minute) brother who is incensed that he’s left Otomi home by herself, saying that the older she gets the more vulnerable she is. Toma sees as much to be true and joins his sister again at home, also remembering when their families initially came together.
The montage of Otomi accepting Toma is so sweet and lovely. It helps hammer home how protective Soichiro is of her sister, while establishing how much Otomi means to Toma. His effort to get close to her is rewarded in a beautiful little scene where we awakes to find Otomi curled up next to him, holding the doll he had bought her. The tears in his eyes at being hurt are a nice contrast to his gruffer-but-still-heartfelt attitude toward her now that he’s older. And the comparison Toma makes to Punch, who only took a day to used to him, rather than the month it took Otomi, is like the hit that brought it all home.
Cross Game and Touch, both, were focused on character development and relationships first, with baseball used as the backdrop in which they grew, rather than the other way around, which is more typical of sports anime. Mix is headed the same direction. There is some important backstory given here regarding baseball, and the first challenge the brothers must overcome is defeating both their team’s “ace” pitcher and his father, but those scenes are relatively quick. The story instead takes its time with the siblings outside the baseball diamond; this is where the show must be fought and won, in getting your heart to care about the characters so that when the games are played, it matters to you deeply what happens.
It also helps to have characters that are easy to root for. With seemingly more faults on display than strengths, Soichiro and Toma are already developing that sense of “realness” that will help us care for them. The differences between are also being clearly defined, and most of the confusion I felt from episode one and into the beginning of two have disappeared.
I will say, though, that I’m a bit impatient. Nikaido is a small fry in the breadth of this series, and the battle to oust him and his father’s control is pretty par for the course in Adachi’s works, so I want to hurry up and move past it. In fact, I want to just skip to episode 20 or 30, if we’re lucky enough to get that far. But I’ll try to be patient and enjoy a slower pace—after all, that’s part of what makes Adachi’s work so wonderful, the time he gives us to sit and soak up the story, scenery, and relationships, and breathe in all he has to tell us.
Mix: Meisei Story can be streamed on Funimation.