I’m not sure we’ve ever had an episode of Bakuman where quite this much happened. It was certainly exciting but it does highlight the conundrum of this series. The day-to-day minutiae of the manga industry are really interesting – the meat of what this such a good show, IMO. Yet there’s also a lot of suspense about what’s going to happen in the future, and as a viewer I’d like to find out as soon as possible. Sports anime often face the same dilemma, and have their unique approaches to it. Giant Killing gave us an extremely detailed but slow adaptation, as did the first season of Oofuri. To some extent that the approach S1 of Bakuman took, but there’s definitely been a gear change.
The meta-reality aspect of this series took another leap this week, as Azuki gets a small role in the adaptation of Sket Dance. Nothing wrong with a little self-promotion, I guess, but the main focus is on the race for rankings in “Jack” and the impact it has on the mangakas. Fittingly, as the pace of events speeded up dramatically so did the sense of just how exhausting it was for them. It’s hard on everybody but it’s always been Mashiro who suffers from the pace more than Takagi, and with high school a never-ending time drain and the quest for better poll results growing ever-more intense with the arrival of Kiyoshi Knight and Hideout Door, things reach a new low this episode.
I do have to wonder how it is that his close friends and editor didn’t see this collapse coming, when it was so painfully obvious. Weight loss, bloodshot eyes, admittedly he barely sleeps – there just didn’t seem to be much concern there in light of all the warning signs. Of course, everyone was on a high from “Trap” rising like a phoenix in the rankings, moving all the way up to a tie for third (with Crow) at one point. I guess mysteries really do take more time to build a following, as the rise occurred even before Takagi began injecting more wit into the dialogue. Meanwhile Otter #11 started to struggle at last – a bit too one-note, perhaps? – Hideout Door started #1 and slipped somewhat, and Knight started quickly as you’d expect a pure shounen action series to do.
With Nakai acting basically as editor and finally having earned Aoki’s creative (if not romantic) trust, “Door” seems likes it’s in pretty good hands. Hiramaru is wigging out as normally, except now he has reason to worry (11th place and pissing blood), and Fukuda is plowing ahead battering-ram style like always. Meanwhile Niizuma continues to show what a freakish talent he is, steaming ahead with both the art and writing on his manga without seeming to break a sweat. Things are a little scary for Ashirogi Muto, though. With their biggest moment yet – a color cover spread and the release of their first tankobon – Mashiro is passed out cold on the floor of the studio. He’s always been a total perfectionist and ridiculously self-driven, but the grim truth is he’s irreplaceable – if he can’t go, there is no Ashirogi Muto. What a brutal life this is, and seemingly for relatively little financial reward too, even with a fair amount of success. It’s not wonder mangaka agree to anime adaptations before they should so often, as it’s an opportunity to bring in a little infusion of cash.