Have you ever played lacrosse? Heck, do you even know what lacrosse is? If you said, “No,” to both of those questions, then you have plenty in common with Sakurai, the male protagonist of Weekly Shonen Jump’s series, Cross Manage.
(And if you said, “Yes,” to either of those questions, then this manga is most definitely for you!)
Sakurai is a down-and-out soccer player who—after a chance meeting and some questionable blackmailing—takes on the formidable task of managing Fujioka High’s female lacrosse team.
Why “formidable,” you ask? Well, not only are they some of the worst athletes he’s ever seen, but each girl also has her own unique personality and insecurities that he has to learn how to channel and deal with. And that’s on top of just learning the sport itself!
Sakurai faces many challenges on and off the field: learning the lacrosse rules, pulling together club funds, fixing up the field and equipment, coming up with plays, and of course, handling the eclectic group of ladies who make up the team.
It’s an uphill battle to win over these girls’ trust and discover what hidden talents they possess. Think of it as a type of role-playing game: It’s all up to Sakurai to build up enough trust points in order to unlock the girls’ true potential!
So now…introducing the Fujioka Lacrosse Team! Let’s take a look at who he’s unlocked so far:
The Plucky and Passionate Leader, Misora
Equal parts klutzy, comical, and determined, Misora is the team captain and the reason that the lacrosse team even exists. When Sakurai first met Misora, she was an absolute disaster. Misora appeared to have no aim, technique or even aptitude for the sport. To Sakurai, she looked uncoachable.
Sakurai is won over by her passion though, and with his help she slowly but steadily improves. As the main female protagonist, she is one of the only girls on the team who immediately gives Sakurai her full trust and support. With his help, she becomes less of a hot mess on the field and more of the spunky leader that the girls so desperately need.
Misora and Sakurai now work together to lead the team to victory…and perhaps maybe find a little romance along the way?
The Tough-Talking Tomboy, Nachi
Nachi's problem wasn't so much that she was a disaster on the field; rather, it was her fiery temper that Sakurai had to grapple with! From the outset, Nachi made it clear that she couldn't stand Sakurai. She was uncomfortable with a man managing a female sports team—a concern that several of her teammates echoed. She even went so far as to give Sakurai the nickname "Useless Perv." Sakurai struggled to pacify her ferocious personality—and also dodge some of the punches she threw his way!
But eventually, she realizes that Sakurai is a good manager who has the team's success in mind. As her playing improves, so does her attitude. She lets her guard down a little, and Sakurai is finally able to see the soft side of this dragon lady.
The Rowdy but Girly Ganguro, Shinobu
Skilled with a mascara wand and hair curlers but a disaster with a crosse (lacrosse stick) in her hand, the slang-talking, ditzy Shinobu’s problem was that she had little athletic ability. Lacking endurance and the same athletic fierceness as Nachi, Shinobu was all over the place as a goalie. She seemed as hopeless a case as Misora.
Despite her complete lack of grace, Shinobu shows an intense willingness to learn that some of the other girls lack. With some one-on-one coaching with Sakurai, she quickly becomes quite the formidable defender. Even the powerful Nachi has trouble getting a shot past her!
The Fearless Flirt, Aya
Sakurai couldn't seem to get a hand on the playfully seductive Aya. Despite having willingly signed up for the team, she seemed more interested in playing the field rather than playing on the field! Her flirty ways even caused some tension with her fellow teammates.
With proper coaching though, Aya becomes a versatile middle fielder. Her naturally playful personality comes in handy when feigning which direction she'll run in. Her wily ways become power plays on the lacrosse field! Now if Sakurai can only find a way to make her keep her hands to herself...
The Shy, Pudgy Player, Noto
Noto just couldn’t catch any breaks! Because of her size, she struggled immensely with the endurance training. Nachi beleaguered her for her poor aim. And her incredible shyness meant that she seemed incapable of fully trusting Sakurai. With all these factors, she appeared poised to just quit the team.
Sakurai and Misora don't allow that though, and with their encouragement and help, Noto soon becomes a valued teammate. Her aim and precision make her a worthy attacker on the field. She even sheds some weight! She’s still shy, but who knows what the future holds for her…
The Belligerent Bookworm, Yurika
Studious and cold, Yurika enjoyed turning her nose up at Sakurai. More interested in feeling superior than actually working hard, Yurika attempted to quit the team when the going got tough. Embarrassed at not being athletically inclined, she was quick to take it out on Sakurai.
It's only with Misora's help that Sakurai is able to convince Yurika to stay. With the support and encouragement of her friends, Yurika eventually comes to love the sport. Despite having no athletic inclination at first, Yurika finds herself becoming a fierce competitor on the field.
She even manages to reconcile her differences with Sakurai. In fact, she finds herself thinking about him as more than just a team manager….Is he the fairytale prince she’s been waiting for all along!?
There are six other girls who Sakurai has yet to unlock. Can he open up their hearts to him and harness their individual skills in time for the next game?
Read Cross Manage every week in Weekly Shonen Jump to watch these girls go from “goofy” to “glam” and from “floundering” to “FIERCE”!
by Gretchen Smail