I’m about to say something deep about Bakuman. Ready? You’ll either like it or you won’t.
OP:”Dream of Life” by Shouhei Itou
What’s this, a sequel without any extra punctuation marks or exclamation points? Indeed, it’s just “Season 2” and while I debated whether to call this episode 26 or not, we’ll go with 01 for simplicity’s sake. And if you liked the first season, I can’t imagine you’d have found anything in here that wasn’t to your tastes – it was more of the same. A little zipper in the pacing, maybe, but not too much else was different.
There were a lot of complaints about the first season of Bakuman, though opinion generally seemed to warm as the series progressed. Some felt it was too slow, some felt the animation was sub-par. The animation wasn’t especially good even by JC Staff standards, but shounen manga are notoriously slow starters – and this is a shounen manga about making shounen manga! And that’s where that like/dislike divide is going to come in, because if you’re not interested in the nuts and bolts of how manga is made, I really don’t think this is going to be for you. Folks complained about the romance not being gripping and the lack of action, but this series isn’t about those things. It’s basically a story about boys and dreams genetically spliced with a documentary about manga publishing. If that sounds good to you (it does to me) I think you’ll be pretty happy.
As things pick up, the bombshell dropped at the end of S1 is played out – Hattori is dropping Ashirogi Muto. Or rather, his bosses at
Jump “Jack” have forced him to do so because of his workload. That’s pretty traumatic for the boys, naturally, as they’re already stressing about serialization and Hattori was their best friend as writers. He passes them off to young editor Miura Gorou (Kirii Daisuke) a hyper sort who seems to have a knack for saying just the wrong thing for the boys’ confidence. He does however set them up with three assistants – a super-efficient veteran, Ogawa (Shimoyama Yoshimitsu) and a couple of young kids – talented artist Takahama (Hamada Kenji) and shy Kato (Honda Youko) who’s – gasp! – a girl!
My favorite part of the episode was the fancy-schmancy New Year’s party Jack throws for all their serialized talent. There, we get to meet old friends like my favorite Niizuma, and some new ones – like the odd and morose genius behind “Otter #11”, Hiramaru (Morita Masakazu). “Jump” mangaka Oishi Koji shows up as himself, and the boys meet publisher Torishima, who was an old colleague of Mashiro’s Uncle. The two of them have a wonderful short conversation that recalls all the themes from the very start of the series – why Mashiro wants to do this in the first place, and the impact Nobuhiro had on everyone around him. Seeing the boys as fish out of water at the party works because their discomfort is played quite naturally, especially in the tendency of the young to obsess over the least important things so as not to have to think about what’s really worrying them.
We’re certainly going to see a fundamental change in the sense that Mashiro and Takagi are in a very different place. They’re serialized authors and businessmen now, in a sense the quest of the entire first season having been realized. Underneath though, I still see Bakuman as being about the same thing – making manga, and trying to be an artist in an industry dominated by businessmen and bean-counters. Stacked up against S1 – which I liked – I think this episode would hold up very well, and that’s a good sign.
ED:”monochrome rainbow” by Tommy heavenly6