As I suspected, Bakuman veered slightly off the path of manga 101 this week, turning its attention to the “romance” between Masahiro and Azuki.
I don’t use those parenthesis to indicate disdain – it’s just that this may be one of the most innocent and low-key romances you’ll ever see. Seriously, ever for middle-schoolers these kids take shyness to a whole new level. Yet there was something undeniably charming to the scenes in school, with he communicating via doodles on his notepad. I thought the bit where he made her cry was a little overwrought, but at least he got an email address out of it. Not that Masahiro actually used it – even emailing is too forward for this boy.
Still in all, this is a story about dreams – and while the manga is the most important, the romantic dream Masahiro shared with Azuki is vital to the story as well. While the fact that it allows him to placate his shyness is a nice bonus, there’s no doubt Masahiro is a romantic at heart. Still, his desire to speed things up a little with Azuki finds its way into his manga career. All of a sudden he’s the one pushing things with Takagi – desperately arguing that they should draft a new story in less than a month so as to qualify it for the Tezuka award. Takagi, now the voice of reason, argues (quite sensibly) that it’s more important to write something interesting than fast. But, when the boys find out that “The Two Earths” just missed the finals, he relents – swept up in his friend’s romantic fervor.
The other interesting and long-awaited development this week was the arrival of Eji Niizuma on screen at last. He’s important enough to “Jack” that they send the Editor-in-Chief himself to persuade the family to let him move to Tokyo. He’s quite a freak, this one – with goofy hair and mad eyes, as he writes his hands flail wildly and he provides a running commentary of sound effects. His condition for moving to Tokyo? If he becomes the #1 selling author at Jack, he gets to cancel one manga he doesn’t like. I’m worried about this one – I realize he’s being set up as the rival of our heroes, but in a series basically grounded in reality I’d hate to see Niizuma serve the story as a cartoon villain. So far he seems completely unrealistic and completely unlikeable, and that’s a very bad combination. Of course, he’s been on screen for all of 30 seconds, so there’s still hope there.
Next week it looks as if the manga process is back in focus. I’m looking forward to more of the editor Hattori, who seems to be a very thoughtful and clever guy. While he’s clearly in trouble and in need of a hit, he knows talent when he sees it – and how to develop it. Looks like the boys lucked into a valuable ally on the inside.