the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.
the imaginative ascribing to an object, as a natural object or work of art, feelings or attitudes present in oneself: By means of empathy, a great painting becomes a mirror of the self.
I won’t claim that Bakuman is the best anime on the air, or that it has been at any time in either of its first two seasons. There are shows that are better in terms of animation, plot development, humor… Almost any individual aspect you could name, really. But what this show does better than any other is entice me to put myself in the place of the characters, to feel what they’re feeling. This is especially true with Mashiro, which is only natural as he’s the POV character for much of the series, but it shifts to others sometimes too. When they rage at injustice, I rage at the screen. When they feel despair that their dreams are on hold, I get depressed. And when they get charged up about something like they did this week, I get charged up too. And that’s really the essence of the series for me – I said way back at the beginning of season one that this was a show about young men chasing their dreams, and it definitely takes me back to a time in my life where I was more idealistic and optimistic and yes, stupid. It’s the privilege of youth, though we’re usually not smart enough or experienced enough to realize it at the time.
I’m not quite sold on Perfect Crime Club yet, because it’s an idea that makes you think about it for a minute before the potential really hits you. I wonder if that’s the right sort of track for a shounen magazine. But then I realize, this is what Ashirogi Muto is as a writer – someone whose appeal will always grow over time, rather than bowl you over in the moment. As such, they can never play it safe with their premise, because it simply doesn’t suit their style – as authors, they’re always going to be dancing close to the edge and taking chances. Miura was far too stupid and useless to realize this, of course, but Hattori had two qualities that made him perfect for Ashirogi Muto – he was smart enough to understand the nature of their talent, and courageous enough to encourage them to stick with it. Both are rare in the corporate world, but I think the second much more so than the first. The question now is what’s going to happen at that serialization meeting, where someone is going to have to argue, in effect, “We have no shortage of authors who play it safe. That’s fine, we need those – but how many do we have that are willing to risk failure in order to try and be great? Can we really afford to let this one go?” And even if someone (Aida?) is willing to do that, is Sasaki smart and humble enough to listen?
There were lots of interesting little elements in the story this week. The notion of “serious humor” is an interesting one, and the example Hattori used from Otter #11 an interesting one to illustrate it. The real message wasn’t to emulate that scene, but that Ashirogi has the talent to better it – by making it truly effortless rather than just ironic. I actually think Mashiro grasped the nut of this idea before Takagi did, but once Takagi embraced it he was able to conceptualize something that would work for both of their creative styles. I still think PCC is a pretty esoteric idea even for Ashirogi, but when both of these guys are on-board with the story side of a concept, they’ve proven they can do wonders.
I also enjoyed the behind-the-scenes look at Hattori’s life that Takagi’s surveillance mission resulted in. We see his human and fragile side – as confident as he is in his comfort zone, when confronted with a yandere like Iwase he’s rendered (literally) a drooling idiot. It was also interesting seeing him interact with Hattori #2 and Miura at the bar – there was no false reassurance when Miura said he wished he’d never become Ashirogi’s editor (don’t we all), simply a matter of fact “It doesn’t matter who their editor is”. Screw Miura’s pride – Hattori was saying flat-out that Ashirogi is talented enough that Miura can’t hold them back forever.
Finally, there’s the matter of Azuki’s birthday. Again, Takagi’s fact-finding scenario proves insightful here, as it leads to an extremely romantic gesture by Mashiro as part of the “perfect crime”. As weird as their relationship is (maybe because of it), there’s a real sense of storybook romance between those two. And perhaps this is the key to the success of Perfect Crime Club, if it allows the reader to picture it playing out in their own lives. A last thought – I know it’s played for laughs, but I’m getting a bit tired of Yoshida’s abuse of Hiramura. I really hope Hiramura turns the tables on him at some point, because what’s happening right now borders on the sadistic – I think Yoshida really enjoys it.