Bakuman – 16

Did someone call for a plot twist?

After a pretty steady progression – well, slow but steady – in a uniform direction, we have one of our biggest tectonic shifts in episode 16. Some of the seeds planted in the last several episodes are finally being sown, and things are starting to feel quite a bit uneasy.

Angst was pretty much the theme of the episode. Things start out well enough – Takagi comes up with an idea for a name about killer angels and Masahiro finds inspiration in the notion of drawing Azuki as his ideal heroine. They come up with a name that even Hattori praises – but in a surprise, it gets turned down for both the “Golden Cup” competition and the new edition of “Next”. The editorial comments are full of priase, but praise doesn’t get you a TV adaptation and the boys are feeling the heat. Finally, Takagi makes the decision to go off on his own during summer break and try to write, but he ends up completely blocked and feeling guilty about slowing Masahiro down.

Meanwhile things are going better for the girls – which puts even more pressure on the boys. Azuki is well-received in her first anime appearance (yuri!) and even starts to get some press. Miyoshi decides on her dream – in order to fit in with Azuki and the boys she decides to become a cell phone novelist. Worse, she’s basing her first novel on Azuki and Masahiro – and wants Takagi’s help writing it. This causes even more tension between the boys, but that’s just the beginning. One of Hattori’s fellow editors wants the sudden hot commodity Masahiro to team up with another writer, a request Hattori turns down flat. But when Eiji’s editor asks to have Masahiro work as an assistant for his difficult client, Hattori agrees as long as both boys accept it – which they do. But when Masahiro sees Takagi smooching with Miyoshi in the park when he’s supposed to be writing, dark thoughts surely occur to him…

Surely our pair aren’t going to permanently split over this, which admittedly diminishes the tension of the cliffhanger somewhat. But this is the first real dark energy between them, and it should prove interesting to see how Masahiro’s experience working with Eiji turns out. In the first place, if I were Masahiro I’d be a little pissed that Hattori asked Takagi first – but even without that factor he’s still probably seething. Azuki is getting ahead, Takagi appears to be slacking off after not contacting him for an entire summer, and for the first time, Masahiro appears to have eclipsed his partner in marketability – I could see where he’d think Takagi is holding him back. As someone who really likes Eiji as a character (I said last week that the Eiji-Masahiro relationship had a chance to be one of the best on the show) this is a great development.

I find myself wanting to shout at the screen when the guys keep spouting mainstream manga ideas. Of course they don’t come off as original or surprising – because that’s not what you’re cut out to write! Now give it up already and go write “Eden” or “House of Five Leaves”. No, of course you wouldn’t be able to write those stories at 15 years old – maybe in 15 years. But you could surely write something wild and original from the perspective of really smart kids. And that would be way better than trying to copy what less talented writers are doing.

Lastly, I’m sure that for manga readers the best part of the episode was the PV. They know why – the character they’ve been talking about for four months is finally showing up next week. All I can say is, for all that buildup he better be worth it!


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