It’s hard to know just how closely the experience of RL mangakas Obata Takeshi and Ohba Tsugumi parallels that of Ashirogi Muto, but the choices the fictional pair have to face are generally typical of the choices artists have to make all the time. It’s fair to say that none of the three most famous manga the RL pair have worked on – Hikaru no Go, Death Note and Bakuman – meet the classic Shounen Jump profile, and in fact I’d argue that only HnG was shounen at all. So it isn’t difficult to imagine the pair, separately and together, dealing with skeptical editors and having to be patient in winning over audiences.
The age-old dilemma of whether to stay true to the essence of your work or intentionally change it to try and conform to a more “accessible” style has been around since commercial artistic enterprise, and manga is certainly no different than any other medium in this respect. The frustrating thing in watching the episode was seeing Miura flail like a fish out of water, unsure of himself and unable to offer helpful advice and support to the boys. And every editor jumped in with their own two cents except the one who really could have helped – Hattori. It was easy to see Hattori wrestling with himself, trying not to interfere because he knew what that road would lead to. It looked like it was as hard on him as it was on the audience, but he let Miura come to his own conclusions, with a little shove from the senior editor.
I won’t say Miura passed with flying colors, but he did at least come to the right conclusion – though in the end it was Mashiro who elaborated it much more eloquently. And that was because of his brief conversation with the always-truthful Eiji, who told him that “Trap” was interesting and very good as it was. Eiji is one of those characters (like Kawashima Ami from Toradora for example) that I’ve completely done a 180 on since their introduction. He’s not generally on-screen for long but he makes a huge impact nonetheless, offering a skewed but somehow invariably correct take on the craft of writing manga. I don’t have a world of confidence in Miura and I really wish Hattori were still editing “Trap” but Mashiro has enough wisdom and knowledge of the business that he should be able to keep Ashirogi Muto on the right path. He has the right idea that rather than conform and be like all the other “Jump” series they need to grow their audience by word of mouth, finding new readers. But I’m very curious to see how they go about it.
As of now, all of the participants in the famed “Change Shounen Jump!” meeting have met their goal of serialization, as Hideout Door and Kiyoshi Knight were both chosen for serialization at the latest meeting. This highlights another dilemma of the manga industry, because all of these friends are now officially rivals. With Niizuma established and Otter # 11 becoming a hit despite its ultra-neurotic author, the new generation are going head to head for every possible spot in “Jump”. If anything “Door” seems like an even odder fit for “Jump” than “Trap” does, but Kiyoshi Knight looks like a very traditional shounen series. I think a manga like that has a much easier time surviving the first year, because it makes a much more immediate impact on the target audience. For Hideout Door or Trap, it’s a matter of slowly building an audience by sucking them into your story – but will the editors have enough patience to let that happen?