I happened to glance at one of the Bakuman discussion boards, something I try not to do before I’ve watched the new episode of a series, so I knew there were quite a few negative reactions to this episode floating around. It’s the age-old divide between the viewers who know the source material and those seeing it for the first time, and I can’t really put myself in the other pair of shoes even if I want to – I haven’t read Bakuman and I can’t unread Jormungand – so I can only give my honest reaction from my own perspective. And for me, this episode worked very well – it was certainly brisk, but to be honest I wouldn’t have known anything of consequence was skipped if I hadn’t read those comments.
In a way, I think this was the episode that Bakuman has been building to since the beginning – Mashiro finally trying his hand at creating a story on his own. This series is a chronicle of his dream more than anyone else’s, and even if it simply acts to fine tune his role as half of Ashirogi Mutou I think this was something that had to happen sooner or later, for the sake of the partnership if nothing else. As I said last week I was really kind of disappointed when Takagi jumped in and offered to write the one-shot because I was intensely curious to see what Mashiro would come up with, and as it turned out Mashiro was just as curious as I was.
The ultimate question, of course, is whether he’d be any good. And I think the answer is yes, based on the fact that he was able to create something good enough to pass Hattori’s muster on his own, with zero help from Shuujin. As Takagi himself said, there are very few true romantics like Saiko – I’ve commented here many times that as infuriating as his relationship with Miho can be, it’s also charming because it’s so incredibly old-fashioned and principled. If he was going to write his first manga about anything, it was either going to be his romance with Azuki or his love of manga (for a moment, I almost thought he was going to write Bakuman as a one-shot).
All isn’t beer and skittles of course, that’s for sure. Takagi is struggling with Rabuta & Peace, and the writing process still isn’t coming naturally to Mashiro. I firmly believe there was a definite hint of jealousy on Takagi’s part at the notion of Mashiro doing a solo manga, and it’s undeniably a more threatening thing than Takagi’s work on Rabuta. The tension is certainly thick – Kaya seems to get the worst of it – and that tension mostly comes from Takagi. What becomes increasingly clear over the course of the episode is that Rabuta really is Shun’s manga – he’s the one who feels the passion for it, and he’s the one who understands the dog as a character even if he lacks the experience to express it properly. I hadn’t anticipated that Takagi’s absence was actually a secret training camp for Shun, but it makes sense – it was clear that Takagi was already drifting away from the notion of working on PCP and Rabuta at the same time.
As it turns out two of the three possibilities I suggested in my final paragraph last week came to pass already – Mashrio did try a manga on his own, and Shun did end up taking over R & P. And the Super Leader’s Fest ending up being a Leaders Love Fest (“Can’t stop the love!”) with everyone from Eiji and Fukuda to old pro Arai taking a one-shot, and the results – Aoki on top and Hiramaru second – aren’t at all surprising. Aoki is naturally inclined to this sort of story, and Hiramaru is used to having his heart broken – I’m quite ready for him to stand up to the sadistic Yoshida already. 4th place for Mashiro’s first try (with a little help from Takagi in the final stage) is pretty good, considering he beat Eiji and Fukuda – and happily, Iwase finished dead last. The story surely shifts now, and the question of Ashirogi Mutou getting an anime hasn’t been resolved, only delayed. Will it be PCP after all, or – their wild oats having been sowed with Rabuta and A Small Time – will Ashirogi get cracking on a second manga, one better suited to eventual adaptation?