I think more than with any other mangaka, familiarity is a vital component of Adachi Mitsuru’s appeal. Frankly I’m not sure there’s another who could get away with what he does – both creatively and visually – without coming off as hopelessly repetitive and predictable. And yet, somehow, he manages to make what seems incredibly recognizable feel fresh enough to matter, largely because his stock and trade is so effective to begin with but also because he manages to get the emotions just right. Slipping inside an Adachi manga is like donning a comfortable robe and slippers and settling down in your favorite chair.
I don’t think Adachi manga would work very well if they didn’t feel like the Adachi manga we know, but he does obviously have the capacity to surprise, and in big ways. So far at least the surprise in Mix is that there haven’t been any huge surprises – the tragedy in the lives of the main cast is all in the distant past, at least so far, and no one in the top echelon of Touch has been introduced yet. It’s been mostly about setting up the scenario and establishing the Tachibana brothers, and especially Touma. When he blurts out “Nan-chan” to the new transfer student it’s a moment we’ve seen many times, and one that stamps Touma as a classic Adachi lead on an elemental level.
It’s the arrival of the Kyushu kids that marks the major plot development this time, with the formal introduction of Ooyama’s daughter Haruka. It’s too early to say just where she fits into the Adachi pantheon of heroines, but her most interesting moment came when Otomi – in a delightfully direct moment of her own – asks Haruka which of her brothers is her type. “Are you worried?” Haruka replies – giving a clue that she’s got some snark and wry wit, though not a clue as to her direct answer.
One suspects that the answer is likely to be Souichirou, both because he’s shown the most interest in her and because Touma and Otomi seem already to be written in the stars. But there’s a wild card on both the baseball and romantic fronts, and it’s another transfer student from Kyushu about whom we’ve been given no foreshadowing, Nangou Shirou. He’s huge, a slugger on the diamond, and terrified of cockroaches – and seemingly obsessed with Haruka to the point where he’s followed her from Kyushu to Tokyo.
Prologue all this may still be, but it’s been very entertaining, and while this chapter wasn’t flashy it was classic Adachi in all those quiet ways that are hard to describe, but that you know when you see. The baseball part of the story is about to kick into high-gear, both at Meisei High and over the fence at the middle school, where Ichiban is still working to impress Otomi and now the ace. And besides the intense curiosity about those two from Touch, there’s always the lurking sense that Adachi could drop a bomb – something he’s earned with a track record of doing just that, making it an effective dramatic device even if it never actually happens here.