Adachi Mitsuru has never been shy about borrowing from himself. The lack of variety in his character designs is legendary to the point where he mocks himself for it on a regular basis. All of his stories revolve around high school, sports and romance – usually with a hint of tragedy for flavoring. Adachi manga are seinen dramas masquerading as sports shounen, but he’s a writer of such subtlety and wit that no one seems to mind.
For all the self-plagiarism, though, with Mix Adachi is venturing into new territory – the sequel. Here are just a few facts about Adachi’s most successful manga, Touch:
- It spawned a 101-episode anime, 3 theatrical animated films, 2 animated TV specials, two animated TV films, and a live-action theatrical film.
- It was one of the highest-rated Japanese TV series ever, at times exceeding a 30 rating.
- During the 1980s, for a time the names of the two male leads and female lead were the most popular baby names in Japan.
So when Adachi announced he was returning to the world of Touch with a new series set 26 years later, it was big news. Copies of the June edition of Monthly Shounen Sunday sold out across Japan for the first time this decade. My feelings were a bit mixed, truth be told. Adachi has always been a guy who juggled multiple projects, but I’ve been frustrated with his multiple “semi-regular” series of the last few years – of which Over Fence is my favorite. I also wondered if this was a bit of cashing in for Adachi, and worried whether Mix would be worthy of its predecessor. I adore Touch, very nearly as much as I do Adachi’s Cross Game. But in the end I can’t deny that it’s pretty damn exciting to have Adachi writing about Meisei and Watsuki writing new Kenshin in the two monthly shounen giants at the same time. All anyone can do is give Mix a chance, and judge it on its own merits.
So what of it? Well, impossible to say after one chapter. The setting is indeed Meisei – although we start out at the middle school this time, 26 years after Uesugi Tatsuya led Meisei High to the Koushien. At the center of the story are two brothers, Touma and Souchirou Tachibana – 13 years old and second-year middle schoolers. Their sister is Otomi, 12, about to enter middle school for the first time. There’s an added element to the family unit here – the boys are obviously not twins, but appear to be the same age (Touma says they “have the same birthday”). Adachi teases us a few times with this, but the easiest assumption is that one of them (my guess would be Souchirou, who looks least like a classic Adachi design) is adopted. For now, that’s unconfirmed, but if true it might set up some interesting dynamics with Otomi.
Not surprisingly the boys play baseball on the middle-school club. Souchirou is the catcher and Touma the third-baseman – though it’s obvious that he has a much better arm than the team’s third-year ace, a grouchy sort who sets his own practice schedule. Also joining the mix is first-year Natsuno Ichiban, crushing on Otomi and declaring himself “destined to stand on Koushien’s mound”. Natsuno impresses at the first-years tryouts with great control and a wicked slider, but the coach assigns him to be an outfielder – much to his chagrin.
If you know Adachi, you know what to expect here both visually and narratively. And no Adachi series begins to reveal its secrets and charms in the first chapter. It’s a good read – beyond that, I can’t say much yet. Is there tragedy in this story – either in the past or future? Well, that is Adachi’s tendency – but for now, the big unknown is what’s up with the brothers. In terms of personality Touma seems more like the Kou/Tatsuya archetype – easygoing, wicked talented but not cocky about it – while Souchirou is the least “Adachi-like” character in terms of personality as well as looks. He’s a bit testy and seems quite intense. As for Otomi, she’s definitely more Minami/Wakaba than Aoba – the helpful, cheerful good soul more mature than her years would dictate. We even have a dog joining the cast – a pet being another Adachi required element.
Of the original Touch cast we can’t say much. Meisei is apparently still living off it’s Koushien run of 26 years earlier and hasn’t been back since, and practices are “always easy around here”. I get the sense that the shots are being called by someone other than the coach, at the junior high anyway. We don’t see any common family names with Touch that I recall – Touma and Otomi certainly look as if they could be Tatsuya and Minami’s kids, but that could be the famous Adachi “one size fits all” character design.
So, far now, the jury is out – it’s a solid start. The big key for me is simply this – is Adachi going to update this regularly? Will it be a true monthly manga, or slide into the same irregular schedule as all his other works of late (Touch was a weekly, of course, but that was a long time ago)? It’s probably a guess guess that a new Touch manga would immediately become Adachi-sama’s “A” series, but I’m not going to assume anything until I see those chapters hit the streets on a regular basis. After the impact the first chapter has, it is safe to assume his publishers very much want that to happen.