I’ll admit a bit of a bias here, because I’m a big fan of both Hideout Door and the artist behind it, Nakai. There’s a reason I voted for it in the “Shounen Jump”poll, even knowing it had no chance of winning. The sample art they’ve shown us has been absolutely gorgeous, and I love the type of story it represents – something that straddles genre lines and injects elements into traditional shounen manga that you don’t normally see. Those types of series are rare because they rarely get made, and they almost never rank among the wildly popular ones. In a sense it’s about rooting for the underdog, but it’s also rooting for what this underdog represents.
I like Nakai as a character, too, because he represents something very different from all the other characters in this show. Bakuman is a series about being young and dreaming big, about doing seemingly impossible things just for the love of the doing and being too young and stupid to know they’re impossible. Nakai’s arc is about dreams, too, but it’s darker. It’s about a guy who’s got real talent but never got a break, and who’s dangerously close to seeing his youthful dreams slip away from him forever. That’s a type of story we don’t see in anime and manga too often, and it really stands out here.
I’m not a huge fan of Aoki’s character. She’s spent most of time being arrogant about her talent and treating Nakai like dirt, but there’s no question it takes a writer of substantial genius to create something that would make an old warhorse like Nakai as excited as he is for Hideout Door. I don’t really blame her for jumping (heh) at the chance to go to “Jump Square” and work on a manga with the execrable KOOGY. After all she’d just been asked to add “punching and kicking” to her manga – to change the very essence of what it was in order to try and make it fit in “Jump”. Trying to ride it out with Nakai and make Hideout Door work was the much harder choice, but seeing the dedication Nakai had in the project was a pretty powerful development – as was seeing the dedication his colleagues had to supporting him, despite being rivals. I think his romantic interest in her is silly and futile, but professionally they’re a dream team, and it was nice to see her finally listen to her heart after watching him toil in the cold and snow to make his sublime art even better.
As for Ashirogi Muto, the results are mixed. Third place for the first chapter is pretty good, the same as Baked Cheese but weaker than Otter #11’s first. Worse, Detective Trap slumped all the way to 8th in the second chapter – still better than “Cheese” but much weaker than “Otter” which clung to third. This is nuts and bolts, behind the scenes manga stuff that this series is really good at – and I suspect next week we’re going to delve much deeper into what those numbers mean. Frankly, Miura isn’t much help in this (or any?) regard. He’s either gushing mindless cheerleading or inadvertently crushing the boys’ confidence. Man, I really miss Hattori – and I suspect Mashiro and Takagi do as well…