Bakuman 2 – 11

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There’s no series currently airing that makes me feel as pissed off as Bakuman does.  That must mean it’s doing something right.

It’s not all about being pissed off, of course.  This season is also pretty damn exciting and suspenseful, with so much happening and so much emotional investment in it.  Another thing it’s becoming is pretty depressing, because while the first season was a generally upbeat story about the pursuit of a dream, this season is more about being slapped in the face by cold, hard reality.  Maintaining a goal isn’t nearly so much fun as achieving it, especially if you’re only 18 years old.  Rather than the quest, this season is about the obstacles – health issues, corporate indifference, incompetent bosses, and, most disturbingly, a failure to connect with the readers.  And my sense is that things are going to get worse before they get better.

I feel quite comfortable in my assessment that Miura is a tone-deaf editor – wrong about where the talent of his writers lies, and wrong about what will appeal to the readership.  I certainly wasn’t surprised that Hitman 10 fared poorly as a one-shot (10th) though I was a little worried that the story was setting us up for a shock by having it beat Future Watch.  It was clear Takagi and Mashiro didn’t have their hearts in it, and if you don’t believe in your project it’s hard to expect anyone else to.  And when Niizuma confirmed it with his own opinion, that pretty much cemented mine.

The real surprise, for me, is that Future Watch didn’t do better.  Ashirogii clearly believed in it 100%, and Niizuma was totally wowed by it.  But 9th place isn’t especially good, even for a one-shot going up against two new serializations.  So what’s the problem – has Ashirogi Muto lost their touch?  I don’t believe so.  It could be due to Sasaki’s odd decision to run the two one-shots in back-to-back issues, causing reader burnout with Ashirogi’s work.  More likely, I think it’s something Niizuma hit on (and the judging for the monthly contest anecdotally confirmed): their style is perfect for him, as a super-smart guy and connoisseur of manga.  But they don’t write protagonists that the average kid can identify with – as Eiji put it they could be seen as if they’re “weak, cold, or have no heart”.  In short, they’re not typical shounen protagonists – and in fact, I really wonder if Mashiro and Takagi’s talents might be better suited for seinen.  Money & Intelligence is really more of a seinen than a shounen manga, and Future Watch sounds like it could be one, too.  Not to mention that Death Note isn’t exactly your classic shounen with your classic MC either.

My suspicion at this point is that if either of their one-shots are chosen, it’ll be Hitman 10 – because the results are close enough that Sasaki can claim it actually did better considering it was up against Takahara’s gag manga.  And really, I think the final decision will be more about supporting Miura than choosing the best story.  Or it could be that both are rejected for serialization – the story is gloomy enough right now that I could see it.  And I think the shit is really going to hit the fan, as Takahara is now blaming Miura for the relatively (6th place) mediocre performance of the first chapter of “Business Boy Kenichi”, Miura having insisted he insert more jokes.  I don’t know enough about that situation to judge that charge, and I have no doubt Takahara was influenced by listening to Ashirogi Muto complain about Miura while he was assisting them.  But the fact is, Miura has done absolutely nothing so far to inspire a whit of confidence in me, so as far as I’m concerned he’s guilty until proven innocent.

Speaking of Takahara, you have to feel for Nakai.  Having been serialized, he’s now forced back into being an assistant for a teenager who just got serialized himself.  As bad as things are for Takagi and Mashiro they’re worse for Nakai, who’s clearly running out of chances.  But he’s not helping his own cause by mooning endlessly over Aoki, and he’s compounding the problem by seemingly falling for his new co-assistant, Natsumi.  If Nakai keeps thinking with the little head instead of the big one he’s going to keep sabotaging his own career.  Given how talented he is as an artist, it makes me wonder if this sort of weakness has hindered his success all along.

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  1. T

    There's a reason why I disliked Miura in the original manga storyline.

    He isn't a bad guy in terms of personality, but he's a god-awful editor who doesn't have a good grasp on Mashiro and Takagi's strengths.

    Slight spoiler here, but his editing for others is just as bad. I wish Hattori was back already.

    As for Nakai, well, he certainly needs to get his act together soon. Not like it seems like he's doing that right now.

  2. I get the feeling every time there's a closeup of Hattori's face as he sits across from Miura (which is often) he's thinking, "Man, is this guy a tool or what?"

  3. K

    I think the boys should try and kick Miura's ass to the curb. He is killing their future.

  4. n

    actually I think it was Takahara who was first to doubt Miura to Ashirogi Muto, while their assistant, rather than the other way around

  5. M

    As nadavu pointed out, it was the other way around: Takahama was the one who instilled doubt into Ashirogi Muto about Miura (he had him as an editor before them).

    I don't quite agree with your opinion on the editor-in-chief. I see him as a person who has his priorities straight, the authors' health and Jump's success being the top 2 and in that order. This is also the reason he didn't refuse the Trap chapters once Mashiro was out of the hospital: his health no longer being an issue it would be pointless and bad for Jump not to publish them. He sticks to the "if it's interesting, it will get serialized" philosophy and I don't think he'd play favorites just so one of his editors doesn't get hurt.

    I've got to say those are some very interesting theories you have there, though. 😉

  6. I did forget that Takahama had Miura as an editor already, but I don't think that was what poisoned Ahirogi against him. I think it was simply that they weren't happy with the job Miura was doing for them – although obviously you're right that Takahama would have already made up his own mind.

    Sasaki was wrong about the hiatus, IMO – he was doing it to assauge his own guilt over what happened to Nobuhiro, not the specifics of ths situation. Even the doctor told him it might be more stressful for Mashiro not to draw. Besides, it's only because Mashiro stubbornly fought back (and his colleagues backed him up) that Sasaki's disastrous "wait till they graduate" plan was scuttled. He ended up accepting the manuscripts because he was effectively backed into a corner. Even his own editors were against him.

    I guess I've just known too many corporate types not to recognize one a mile away – they're not inherently evil, just short-sighted. I don't see Sasaki ever backing a writer over an editor, whether it was better for the magazine or not.

  7. M

    I may have worded that wrong. I didn't mean Takahama is the origin of Ashirogi's problems with Miura, just that it was him having some influence over their view on Miura rather than Ashirogi having an influence over Takahama, if that makes sense. Miura's way of handling the duo is certainly the main reason have problems with him.

    Sasaki was of course wrong about the hiatus (didn't mean to come off as if I agreed with him). During the hospital arc, the fear of having a guilty conscience took the better of him. Maybe it's just my opinion as a manga reader but I get the impression he decided to drop the hiatus more because he was "touched" by Ashirogi's little speech about his uncle (and it made no sense to have completed chapters gathering dust) than because he was cornered.

    On a side note, I was skimming through the manga and I just realized they skipped a side character completely. Quite surprising since he was supposed to have a role later on. I also noticed they are skipping lots of details (Future Watch and Two of me notably get more screentime in the manga) to the point that in hindsight these episodes even feel rushed.

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