It’s ironic that Bakuman is a series that was constantly criticized for having a slow pace in it’s first season, because so much happens in just about every episode that it’s leaving me exhausted now.
If there’s anything that stands out as a consistent theme in this series throughout all its arcs and mood swings, it’s that being a mangaka is an incredibly difficult life. Of course the premise springs from the story of a man who worked himself to death as a mangaka so that’s hardly a surprise, but one way or another that theme seems to run throughout everything in the story. There’s just never a break – failure is always a few bad surveys away, and there’s always someone clawing at your back, trying to steal your place. And especially for a mangaka as young as Ashirogi Muto, the absence of good leadership from an industry veteran is hard to overcome.
That makes Niizuma that much more of an aberration, of course. He seems immune from all of it – the stress, the exhaustion, the imminent threat of failure. He just keeps churning out chapter after chapter without the need of a break, each as well-received as the last. Unburdened by sentiment he rebuffs Fukuda’s entreaty to help Ashirogi out in their struggles – as long as the playing field is level, it’s a fight to the death for Niizuma. It was hardly a surprise that Crow would be the first Bakuman series to get an anime, and in fact we got to see the OP (part of it anyway) this week. Unfortunately all that does is remind Mashiro and Takagi how perilous their own status is, as Trap has faded considerably after a strong debut (with a color cover spread) in their return chapter.
Looks like Mashiro was right that a hiatus would be death for the series, and not just for the reasons he expected. Of course the series lost fans when it was away for months, but to compound matters two new detective series jumped in to fill the void, both by veteran detective mangaka – one in Shounen Weekly (presumably Shounen Sunday) and the other in “Jack” itself. Noted author Kyotaro Hibiki started “Phantom Cheater” because Trap was supposedly on hiatus until April, and it appears that “Jack” was hedging its bets here. Alas, all these similar series are now cannibalizing each other’s audience – which makes none of the authors happy – and Ashirogi have dropped all the way to the teens in the surveys. Trying to incorporate suggestions from their fan letters is no help, which Mashiro knew instinctively but allowed himself to be influenced by Takagi anyway.
I continue to be struck by just how useless an editor Miura is. He fails as an editor in that he almost never offers sound creative advice. And he fails as Ashirogi Muto’s editor because despite the fact that he’s dealing with kids, he’s terrible at leveling out their mood swings and trying to channel their energy and creativity in a positive direction. It would be wonderful if Hattori could get back in the saddle with Ashirogi as they try and find their way to a new series, but that seems very unlikely. Factoring in the editor switch, the bungled hiatus and the decision to add another detective manga, I think a strong case could be made that “Jack” has served Ahsirogi Muto pretty damn badly. Perhaps we know now why Sasaki was so reluctant to shorten the hiatus.
In the end, this was a pretty depressing episode on all counts. Ashirogi watching Trap slowly die, Miura flopping around helplessly like a fish on land, and Hideout Door was cancelled too, despite all of Nakai’s efforts to save it. I hated to see that but I must say it was almost inevitable, as the series never should have been in a shounen weekly in the first place. Even the seemingly good news – Takahama’s clever one-shot being published in “Jack” – served as a reminder of Ashirogi’s downward trajectory. That’s the circle of life, I suppose. Meanwhile we’re left with Mashiro and Takago trying to pick up the pieces and come up with their next project, which from the looks of the preview Takagi would like to be a gag manga. Sooner or later, all this has to work it’s way to Death Note…