Cross Game is an amazing watch. Within the frame of its 50 episodes, Cross Game delivers one of the most likable, engaging, and developed cast of characters in recent memory with some of the purest chemistry that I’ve ever had the fortune to witness. There are too many memorable personalities to count, but how these characters interact with each other is what makes these dreamers stand out. Even some of the most minute characters with a mere episode dedicated to their lives pop and enrich the main cast. However, every rule has an exception and here there’s a big one: Asami Mizuki.
Throughout the latter half of Cross Game, Mizuki denounces baseball, prays for the failure of Kitamura Kou, and tells Tsukishima Aoba to quit the game. Although he never actually succeeds, he clearly takes away from the cast more than he gives. He loves Aoba, but he has zero chemistry with any of the cast members. So what’s the secret, the purpose, to his character? Well, the answer lies within Azuma Yuuhei.
Asami Mizuki is a foil used to highlight Azuma’s growth as a character. Although Mizuki is Aoba’s cousin, he’s far from family. Mizuki is the furthest detached from all the members of the casts, including the Tsukishima clan. Mizuki just floats around the Tsukishima household and while he mans the shop every now and then to help out Aoba, he never allows her to follow her dreams. This is extremely negative for their relationship, especially since Aoba is an incredibly independent spirit. He’s not a bad guy, in fact, he’s one of the warmer cast members, but he doesn’t understand the connection to baseball that the characters have.
Mizuki sees Aoba as a personification of his perfect woman. Mizuki fell in love with her at a young age, and now wants Aoba to conform to his pristine image of her. He wants Aoba to become his perfect hiking buddy, but neglects her dreams of Koshien and baseball completely. Aoba isn’t the girl she was years ago (and even then, he didn’t understand her), but Mizuki is still in love with that ideal young girl’s image (read: Daisy Buchanan).
Much like Mizuki, Azuma is at first isolated from the inner circle. At the beginning, Azuma seems especially cold and dejected, and unable to warm up to the rest of characters. However, through his love of baseball and the introduction of his brother Junpei, Yuuhei gradually becomes like family to Kou and Aoba, symbolized through him moving into the Kitamura household.
Later, when Mizuki confronts Azuma as rival in romance, stating that cousins too can get married, we’re forced to deal with the reality that Mizuki is the furthest character away from Aoba and that Azuma, aside from Kou, is the closest. At that point, they have already gone beyond close friends and have changed into close family members, hammered in by the progressing relationship between Azuma’s brother Junpei and Aoba’s sister Ichiyo. Although Azuma’s romantic interests in Tsukishima Aoba aren’t returned by the end (elaborating on anything further than that is a complete sin), he comes a hell of a lot closer than Mizuki, who’s constantly ignored.
To Kou, Aoba, and the Azuma brothers, baseball itself carries the meaning of family and togetherness. It’s their way of bonding together as a family and reaching out to those outside. Through this single event, the boys and girls of Cross Game gradually open up to each other and become friends. It’s how Kou met and became friends with Adaichi, how Yuuhei makes up to Junpei, and how Aoba can reach out to Wakaba, even from beyond. To these people, baseball is a way of coming together as a community, something that a secular mountaineer could never come to understand. Even though Azuma was never related to Aoba, he was more family to her than Mizuki ever was.