When Cross Game initially aired, the small handful of western Mitsuru Adachi went to work, attempting to spread the word of a bestselling Japanese artist who was an unknown in the west. Touch, a domestic phenomenon in Japan, was cited in tandem with Cross Game as his most influential and greatest work. Although Cross Game is more accessible — especially for western anime viewers — and modern, Touch is Adachi’s magnum opus. Mix: Meisei Story is Adachi’s latest, set in the same universe as Touch, decades later.
It’s impossible to talk about Mix without mentioning Touch, but not for the reasons you may think.
The opening of Mix pulls on any existing heartstrings that an informed Touch or Adachi fan would have. Viewers relive Tatsuya Uesugi and Meisei High School’s Koshien victory from Touch through a 3:4 aspect ratio as if they’re watching game film in coach’s darkroom, a visual reminder of how many years have passed. Bridging the gap between old and new, Mix focuses on a memento honoring that Koshien win, widening the screen while further saturating the colors. The transition is seamless and poignant, letting us know by the trophy’s solitary status that this was the only time in Meisei’s history that they won the tournament. We see a time lapse of Meisei students in front of the school until the series finally rests on the three Tachibana siblings as children, playing catch at the Meisei entrance.
Aurally accompanying us on this journey down memory lane is a narrator: the voice of Touch heroine Minami Asakura, Noriko Hidaka. She is another bridge between past and present, chiding the Tachibana brothers in a familiar tone to Minami’s scolding of Tatsuya and Kazuya Uesugi.
In what seems like aeons ago but was really only 2012, I wrote about the idea of a universal nostalgia in Shoji Kawamori’s AKB0048 — the idea that pop music like the entire AKB48 discography would stand the test of time to be sung by several generations of AKB women decades later sounds preposterous in theory, but could somehow work in practice, given the way our brains engage with media, especially music. If Adachi’s works have a similar universal nostalgia, it’s for that liminal space between junior high and high school, where you discover that the person you grew up with might be the love of your life, come to terms with or live through a tragedy, and pour your heart into a sport like baseball with eventual success.
This space doesn’t exist. It’s transient and fluid, only coming into existence years later. Yet Adachi stories bring it to life. It’s a powerful and emotionally-resonant corner of our minds, especially in hindsight, when we look back and kick our childhood selves for not realizing how good we had it.
Mix works on both of these nostalgia levels: a continuation of a specific cultural touchstone in Touch, and on a more universal level, of fleeting and ephemeral school days.
Adachi’s stories aren’t comfort food as much as they are a specific meal, reserved for a special occasion from time to time, that makes your eyes well with unshed tears due to a deep emotional connection. They’re familiar but in a fathomless way that’s both refreshing and binding. Even if Mix wasn’t a continuation of Touch, set at Meisei High, Touch would inevitably crop up in Mix discussions, as it did when Cross Game aired in 2009. Every work in the Adachi oeuvre walks a similar path and builds upon the same nostalgia. Adachi’s stories make “formulaic” a compliment rather than an insult, and Mix is no exception. It’s why, despite knowing that the episode will end with Toma Tachibana on the mound, his pitching — visually-framed exactly like the opening film of Tatsuya Uesugi — still makes for an electrifying moment.