Anyone who’s read enough Adachi manga knew that Mix was a ticking time bomb – something bad was bound to happen (or already be happening) to someone, and Nikaidou seemed like the likeliest candidate. I’m not convinced Nikaidou’s heart surgery is the last Adachi is going to be heard from in the misfortune department – he’s still around, and wasn’t one of the main characters anyway. If I was Souchirou I wouldn’t be buying any green bananas, but that’s just my guess.
Before we got to Nikaidou though, there was the little matter of another appearance by Nishimura-kun, who really resembles his father even by Adachi standards. He’s interested in recruiting the Tachibana Brothers to Seinan High – apparently aware of the raw deal they’ve gotten at Meisei but unaware that Touma is a pitcher like he is. On the way, we get an interesting “Hmmm…” moment when they pass the former Sumikou (Sumi Tech) High, now called Kenjou and a baseball also-ran – but remembered by Touch fans as the alma-mater of one Nitta Akio. Hmmm, indeed.
The visit at Seinan is notable because it brings us the first confirmable sighting of a Touch character in Mix – Nishimura Isami. He knows what his son doesn’t – that Touma is a pitcher – but it isn’t until Touma knocks over two of his catchers than he sees just what kind of pitcher. Souchirou quickly puts the kibosh on any possibility of attending Seinan – as he says, they’ve had enough of fathers favoring sons – but not before Isamu gets Touma’s fire started my bad-mouthing Meisei for their descent into mediocrity. And for Nishimura to make is clear that he’s got his sights set on the third Tachibana sibling now that he knows he’s not getting the other two.
Chapter 12 brings us the first real answers we’ve gotten from Adachi so far. As suspected, Nikaidou was sick when he was pitching for the middle-school club – a heart condition. In fact, he was expected to die but survived the surgery, much to his surprise and the relief of his father, the business tycoon and former Meisei bench warmer who always dreamed of seeing his son wear the ace #1 for his alma mater. The coach, being an old friend, didn’t have the heart to take Nikaidou out of the role under the circumstances – though he did tell Nishimura Sr. that Touma was the best pitcher around.
Frankly, I don’t think any of these revelations change the fact that what happened at Meisei was a travesty. Tanking a middle-school program for two years out of sentiment and denying opportunity and development to players who deserved it is a terrible thing to do no matter the reason, and while I have sympathy for Nikaidou’s condition I don’t think it excuses the behavior of any of the parties involved, including the son. The only decent thing the coach did was resign once the season was offer and he’d done his “duty” to Nikaidou, as he saw it – if he hadn’t, his ass should have been fired.
This seems to clear the decks for the Tachibana Brothers to stick around at Meisei – Touma is even given the #1 by Nikaidou’s father (who still insists his hack son is a baseball genius) – not that there was any real doubt. There’s a burning question, of course, of who the new coach will be – though I suppose we’ll get our answer very soon. There’s another story of a bench-warmer at Meisei who dreamed of seeing his son wear the #1 – Touma’s Dad – and this one is a lot more emotionally compelling. The last panels of the chapter are classic Adachi work, sentiment done right.
Things are definitely heating up now. It’s always been tough to take Adachi – the master of the slow build-up – in monthly installments, never mind when the English releases take longer, but for me Mix is clearly the most involving Adachi manga since Cross Game ended. One might reasonably argue that he’s treading well-worn ground here, but Adachi has pretty much always walked in his own footsteps. No one else really does what he does, so no one does it as well. He incorporates his light fan-service and gentle humor – like the scene where Otomi appears to be talking to the narrator while at the pool – as seamlessly and effortlessly as any mangaka every has, while packing his stories full of emotional blast powder that you’re always aware could go off any second. I’m guessing the Mix anime will arrive on the scene in 2015 or so, but for now it’s nice to have a legendary mangaka returning to his roots – and meeting his deadlines.