To put things bluntly, western anime and manga fandom’s failure to ever really embrace Mitsuru Adachi is one of its biggest tragedies. The man’s a national treasure in Japan, with an entire generation being raised on his baseball classic Touch. It’s a series that, like a Dragon Ball or Slam Dunk, everyone here has some level of familiarity with. Since then, Adachi’s created a slew of other baseball manga like H2 and my particular favorite Cross Game, manga revolving other sports, and even some slice of life-y works here and there. He’s a powerhouse and has been a synonymous name in Weekly Shonen Sunday for decade; The same magazine that’s responsible for mega-hits like Detective Conan, Inuyasha,and Zatch Bell. His latest work Mix is an indirect sequel to his classic Touch, and it’s delightful anime adaptation just finished up its first season.
I titled this piece ‘Mix Proves Mitsuru Adachi Should Be Given A Chance’ but truth be told Mix could be substituted for pretty much any other Mitsuru Adachi title as by and large, they’re all great. However, times are few and far between when western audiences get a chance to be exposed to his stuff either in original manga or anime adaptation form. The last time the west saw some English language Adachi action was with the aforementioned Cross Game; Viz Media had put out both the anime and the manga as a big push but unfortunately, the undertaking was met with low sales. Now over a decade later, we’re finally once again seeing some official English language representation in the form of the Mix anime which is streaming on both Crunchyroll and Funimation. From start to finish, it’s been an absolute delight.
Off the bat, Mix doesn’t have the pop appeal nor the female audience in mind that’s made series like Free!, and Haikyuu, give sports anime a much-needed boost of popularity among English fandom. For years despite being an integral part of the anime and manga landscape even in the big shonen institutions like Weekly Shonen Jump, a vast majority of western fans would deride sports anime on principal alone; ‘I’m a nerd so why would I be interested in sports anime? I watch anime to get away from that stuff.’ I think in recent times, with anime’s fandom growing so wide and the medium having more casual watchers than ever, the arbitrary divides being a sports fan or nerd no longer exists. With that, people have been more to sports series, which of when it comes to baseball Mitsuru Adachi is the master.
What Mix does have in place of beautiful boys with cool hair, chizzled abs, and pretty faces is heart! It carries on the spirit and style of old school sports anime which were the series that influenced your Kuroko’s Basketballs and Yowamushi Pedals. Of course, Mitsuru Adachi and Touch were responsible for setting the tone for the 80s leg of sports anime development, maybe only succeeded by Takehiko Inoue’s signature Slam Dunk in the early 90s. Mix is a modern take on classic sports anime and having a new series revisit this older but still very important style of story-telling and it really does deserve your attention.
Of course, Mix isn’t only good because it was made by Mitsuru Adachi and repackages classic shonen sports grit with a bit more up to date direction and tone. Even stripped of Adachi’s legacy as the sports manga guy, Mix stands up in its own right. In a previous write up of the series I did after its first few episodes had come out, I noted that show takes time to linger. It’s so full of the small but potent character moments that you won’t realize nudge there way into your heart until well after they happened. A throwaway comment, a split second facial expression, taking the time to make a moment last; These are Adachi’s signature story-telling and artistic techniques that made Touch the hit that it was and 30 years later make Mix when of the most pleasant and enduring anime of the year.
In effect, the show sits half-way in-between being a slice of life and a hardcore sports show. Yes, it centers around a pair of step-brothers who play baseball at their parent’s famous alma mater but the daily minutia of Touma and Souichiro’s lives are given just as much screen time. Maybe only half the episodes feature baseball itself, and that’s counting training. It all happens on this small scale but this lack of being larger than life gives makes Mix more heartwarming and relatable than many of the other series I’ve mentioned above. Their romances, daily struggles, family annoyances, and sense of competition are all in here and come together for a sublime series.
At the end of the day Mix is much more about the joys of playing baseball and dedicating your whole high-school heart to the sport than just relying on who wins or loses as its hook. There are some disadvantages of that; the games in and of themselves are not as climatic and engaging they are in some other series. Of course, Mitsuru Adachi’s original manga is still on-going and the actual competition elements ramp up as it goes on. If Mix does get a second season, I’m sure the anime will reflect that increased intensity.
In my ideal little dream world, swaths of people would watch Mix, be intrigued enough to check out Mitsuru Adachi’s remarkably good and consistent catalogue of manga, and we could finally have our boy’s works translated en mass. That won’t happen, but maybe you’ll at least be willing to give him a shot right? You’ve been reading this so far and if you’ve made it to the end of the article, something here must resonate with you. Now, I’m calling on you to go watch Mix or if you have tried to get your hands on an old beat-up copy of Cross Game. Take Adachi and all of his baseball playing protagonists who look exactly the same into your heart. You won’t be disappointed.
You can watch Mix on Crunchyroll and Funimation.