Wow, that was eventful, but in a totally different way than episode 5 was. Instead of a breakneck high-speed train ride through a few months in the manga industry, this was an emotional roller-coaster that upended a lot of the foundations Bakuman has been based on, and asked some difficult questions. People will always want to to look for yes or no answers, but I’m not sure there’s a right or wrong to Masahiro’s situation. The trend among fans seems to be to call Mashiro an idiot – as it usually has been throughout this series, it seems to me. But as usual, I think the folks calling him an idiot are missing the point.
In the first place, I’m sort of curious as to what ailment would cause a 17 year-old to need to have part of their liver removed. Whatever it is, three months in the hospital is a pretty huge deal indeed. Exhaustion and malnutrition were certainly major contributing factors, and I think the point I raised last week – that it was pretty callous that no one in Masahiro’s inner circle saw this coming – was totally accurate, and borne out in their reactions this week. It’s a fundamental failure on the part of an editor when any serial writer works their way to collapse, never mind a teenaged boy, and while I give Miura credit for realizing it he still sees (as usual) irritatingly indecisive about what to do next.
I think it says a lot about Hattori’s character that he immediately disregarded protocol as soon as he heard the news, and rushed to the hospital at Miura’s side. I also think it’s totally valid to ask whether this disaster would have happened if he’d still been their editor. We’ll never know, but Miura’s problem probably isn’t so much that he doesn’t care, but that he’s basically a kid himself. Mashiro and Takagi (especially Masahiro) live in a world where they’re swept along on tides of exhilaration and exhaustion, soaring high on good news and cranking out bursts of productivity, then crashing emotionally down to Earth. It was Miura’s job to be the adult in the room, because someone needed to do it – do pierce their adolescent bubble when it needed piercing and to buck them up when they were discouraged. Hattori did that, but Miura played right into their fantasy, getting caught up in the same adrenaline rushes and crashes that the boys did. In my view, he’s an abject failure both as an editor and as a surrogate guardian.
That all being water under the bridge, the question is what happens next. Takagi isn’t helping with his waffling (Miyoshi punch FTW), but I forgive him as he’s still a child himself and too close to the situation to see it clearly. As usual no one seems to come clean with Masahiro – for whatever reason everyone (even Hattori) tries to emotionally manipulate him rather than confront him directly. In Takagi’s case, it’s calling Azuki in to try and emotionally blackmail Masahiro into not writing while he’s in the hospital. Cowardly but well-intentioned, it was a surprising move and a bit shocking to see their pact come to an end just like that. Of course I don’t disagree with her coming to see him, that makes perfect sense under the circumstances and trumps their romantic fantasy, and I was glad it happened. But I wasn’t so pleased to hear her say she’d “hate” him if he continued to write. Recognizing this as the cheap stunt it was, he responded in kind – telling her than manga was more important than she was. A bluff of his own to match hers.
I was pleased for their relationship, as I think it took some real strides forward. Recognizing the silliness of their pact under the circumstances, they ditched it. Recognizing the silliness of the game they were playing, they moved past it. But the question of what Masahiro should do still remains. With the dream of a lifetime in his grasp, I can’t blame him for wanting to keep drawing. I also can’t blame his mother (Masahiro’s parents have been sadly absent for most of this season) for being furious that the topic is even being discussed. Nor can I blame the editors at “Jack” for immediately calling for a hiatus. But whose decision should it be, in the end? It’s Masahiro’s life, and in a supervised hospital environment where he’s going to get enforced nutrition and enforced sleep, is it totally unrealistic to think he could draw at least on a partial schedule? What the hell else is he going to do – lie in bed for 16 hours a day, staring at a TV? It might be easier to meet a deadline in the hospital than trying to balance his manga with going to school full-time.
What I do know is that the decision shouldn’t be left to Takagi or to Miura, who are clearly incompetent to make it. And that Masahiro can’t be excluded, because it’s his life and future on the line. What he have now is Masahiro taking the GAR approach, supported in principle by Eiji and Azuki, with his mother and “Jack” opposed and Takagi and Miura incapable of sticking to a decision. It’s easy to dismiss this as insane, but this driven, almost maniacal intensity is such a part of who Masahiro is that I don’t think it can simply be dismissed. In the end I think it’s the chief editor at “Jack” who needs to analyze everything with the benefit of emotional distance, and enforce a decision that’s best for everybody – and judging by the preview it looks like that’s exactly what’s going to happen, with Sasaki headed to the hospital for a showdown. Whatever happens, there’s no denying that the drama and excitement on Bakuman have been kicked up to eleven this season, and it’s become one of the best anime of the Fall.