|What’s in a name?|
Bakuman continues to unwind at a deliberate pace, with roughly the entire episode taking place during the boys’ late night visit to Nobuhiro’s studio. The boys, flush with the enthusiasm of youth, pick through Uncle Nobuhiro’s things until 1:30 AM – pissing off Masahiro’s mom, but in the process giving the audience a brief “Mangaka 101” course and discovering something very interesting in a yearbook and a box of letters about the girl who inspired Nobuhiro to pursue manga. In short, she’s Azuki’s mother – a bit of deux ex machina that brings a whiff of fairy tale to this stew, but works as a Adachi-esque plot device. That night at Uncle’s condo/studio also features a very touching phone call between Moritaka and his Dad – an emotional conversation between two males who never talk that’s emotional in a way only a father or son could really understand.
The next day, Masahiro and Takagi go to Azuki’s house to confirm that her mom really is the girl from Uncle’s letters and indeed she is, although – though still a MILF – she now sports grotesquely large blonde hair rolls. The title of the episode is “Parents and Children” after all, and this visit – along with the phone call to Dad – forms the bookend of the episode. One gets the sense that Masahiro’s father and grandfather always hoped he would follow his Uncle’s dream, and that Azuki’s mother never really got over Nobuhiro. The theme emerging is once again the dreams of youth, though in this episode we also see it from the perspective of the parents – how adults live their dreams vicariously through their children, sometimes. We also get the sense in this episode that Nobohiro was a deeply-loved man – by his nephew, his brother, his father, and his middle-school sweetheart. Nobuhiro comes off as a kind of “beautiful dreamer” who inspired – and inspired affection – among everyone he was close to.
“Bakuman” is a manga after all, and in this adaptation it’s easy to tell – it plays very much like a manga on screen. It’s a manga about manga, and about being a boy with a dream – the pure, innocent enthusiasm of Masahiro and Takagi is infectious in this episode. I can recall many a 1:30 AM conversation with a friend talking about dreams of the future – conversations that usually ended with angry admonitions from my Mom – and that sense of wanting to do it all now. Whatever we wanted to do, we didn’t want to wait – when we were so sure of our dreams sleeping on them seemed like a waste of time. I haven’t quite bought Takagi yet – his motivations aren’t quite as fleshed out, and he’s a bit of a comic relief character for now. But it’s early, and Masahiro is obviously the one at the heart of the story, so that’s a small quibble. I’m completely invested in his side of the story and enjoying the relaxed pacing. I know we’re getting a fairly realistic picture of the world of manga writing, despite the boys’ promise to have not just a manga but an anime by the time they’re 18. So if things moved too quickly, that wouldn’t be consistent with the story being told.