Welcome to the Cross Game Manga Moveable Feast here at Manga Widget -for your reading pleasure, I have an entire week of writing waiting for all of you. I love Cross Game, and I hope that our reviews, views, and opinions of the series will convince you to read and enjoy it. I know I have.
EDIT: Just to clear up some minor confusion, I am not hosting the Cross Game MMF – that lovely responsibility rests squarely on Derik Badman of The Panelists. Please check out the Panelists website for the archive page as well as content throughout this week.
One of the sites I use from time to time is Manga Updates, which, for better or worse, is an archive of manga and what scanlation groups are currently working on. The site itself is a treasure trove of information, but it also can quickly lead people to scans of manga series, which is something I don’t endorse. I am not going to get into the scanlation debate here, because I think I have said everything I want to, but the reason I bring up Manga Updates is because of its Cross Game entry, and in particular, the use of the word “tsundere” to describe the characters (or at least one character) in Cross Game.
For the non-initiated, tsundere (ツンデレ) is a character trope that comes from two root-phrases: Tsun-tsun (ツンツン) which means to turn away in disgust, and dere-dere (デレデレ) which means to be overly affectionate. Together, they describe a female character who is inititally cold, harsh, or uncaring, generally towards the main male character, who over time becomes warmer or shows her inner niceness to others. It is a cliché that anime and the moe boom have embraced; otaku in Japan can now be catered to at a Tsundere café in Akihabara. It is a fetishized cliché, and using the term tsundere to describe Mitsuru Adachi’s female characters is not only incorrect, but also a grave insult to his work as an author.
Why would I say something drastic like that? Because I believe that the modern tsundere and moe movements represent some of the worst, otaku pandering content that is being produced in Japan today.
First, and foremost; tsundere as a trope is an oversimplification of Adachi’s female leads to the gravest extent. In Cross Game Aoba is a girl and young woman who tries her best to deal with her sister’s death as well as her own feelings for Ko Kitamura. She is an intelligent and passionate woman, a skilled baseball player, and a character who Ko emulates in order become the best pitcher he can possibly be. Over time she comes to realize his strength of character and ability on the baseball field, much as he respects and understands her strengths, even as she begins to overcome the obstacles she has put in front of herself as the result of Wakaba’s death. While it may be Ko’s story that drives the action of Cross Game, it is Aoba’s challenges and her emotions regarding the tragedy in the first volume that make the story such wonderful reading. As Aoba develops as a character, we see her fight with her loss and the realization that life can continue after the death of a loved one. We see her help Ko realize his own talent. We see her mature from a young girl in the opening pages to a young woman.
It is true that Aoba plays the foil to Ko’s placidness. She is often rude to him, and does not believe in his skill as a player. And as we see her develop, it may very well be that she will become less harsh as a character in regards to her relationship with Ko. To label this change in tone tsundere misses the essence of the relationship that Aoba and Ko have with Wakaba and each other.
Secondly (and thirdly, I guess), to call Aoba tsundere robs her of that essential depth of character and development, and makes her only an object of desire for the main character. This is a problem I have with the modern moe and tsundere market, because these shows and comics pander to otaku in a sexual way. They exist for this reason. Superimposing this sexual desire onto Cross Game voids the critical voice of the work, and by labeling a character as a tsundere girl, she becomes fetishized in the eyes of these consumers. This fetishization devalues her, and she is no longer a character written with to have both complex emotional interactions with the other lead characters as well as complex development. Instead of being a strong female character, she is now only a sex symbol and mark of attainment for the main character, and through him as a proxy, the otaku who fetishize the tsundere trope.
My bottom line – using the term tsundere to describe Aoba is a mistake a best and an insult at worst. The strength of Cross Game as a piece of fiction relies heavily on Aoba and her development as a character – to label her in this way also dismantles Cross Game as a work of fiction and converts it into a perverted fantasy. Adachi’s female characters are some of the best written in shonen manga, and to rob them of their strength and complexity in order to service a fantasy is, in my mind, abhorrent.