Bakuman has been on a pretty nice run for a long time. In fact, starting with the final arc of S1 I’d say it’s been remarkably consistent – and consistently good – for almost two full seasons worth of adaptation, and that’s an admirable track record. And while I don’t necessarily take a couple of less than superb eps as a meaningful sign, there were a couple of elements that seemed quite out of character for the series.
I’ve seen Nanamine referred to as “Bakuman’s first real villain” and while I’m not sure I agree with either part of that statement, he does seem to be taking things in a different direction than what I’m used to. I think the Nanamine storyline has a lot of potential, because he’s tapping into something that has the ring of validity to it – he’s just going about it in a completely asshat way. He’s an unethical and small-minded little man, but what he’s begun may not be so easy to put back in the bottle. And frankly, I’m not entirely sure it should be.
Where I’m a bit disappointed is that some of the potential weight of the arc has been undercut by the fact that Nanamine has gone the “It puts the lotion in the basket” route pretty thoroughly and quickly. Has he become Bakuman’s first true villain? Well – if he has, he’s had a lot of help. I find it pretty hard to stomach that first Ashirogi, then Kosugi, then Hattori learned what he was up to and allowed it to continue. Ashirogi is young and there’s a certain guy code involved, and Kosugi has the spine of a nematode, but Hattori really should have known better – and somewhere along the line, someone should have put a stop to this. Passing off someone else’s work as your own is not kosher in the manga business, and in the final analysis that’s exactly what Nanamine is doing.
Some things have been quite realistically handled, and the developments quite believable – most especially the trouble with the “Gang of 50”. What happened with them is eminently predictable – once the money starts pouring in, jealousy flares and the competitive juices start to boil. And quite frankly, there’s no way you could ever have a group that big involved in something like this without somebody spilling the beans – if anything I’m surprised it lasted as long as it did, especially after Nanamine started his petty tantrums and dropping ideas out of the story. Nanamine’s youth really undercuts him here – he was smart enough to figure out how to launch this scheme, but not why it wouldn’t work.
It’s unfortunate that Nanamine became such an outlandishly reprehensible character so quickly, though, and that’s where it feels like this really isn’t Bakuman’s best side. For me the arc would have been much more interesting if the grey areas would have been explored more than the black and white. Another issue is that it really isn’t that pleasant watching two characters I neither like or respect – Nanamine and Kosugi – interact on-screen. I’m sure there’ll be some sort of redemption in the cards for Kosugi (maybe Nanamine too) but I find him a pathetic excuse for an editor who’s deserved everything he’s gotten. In real-life he’d be fired when the word of this got out, and he’d have no basis on which to complain about it.
Speaking of stomachs, it was pretty depressing to see Nakai in such a state. I figured he’d be back but was hoping it’d be under better circumstances – I know he’s not a fan favorite but I felt a little sympathy for his agony in watching a dream slowly dying as younger mangaka flew by him. I don’t like to see the way he’s portrayed here – made even more obese to the point where his gluttony is played for laughs. Again, that doesn’t feel like Bakuman at its best to me – love him or hate him Nakai had a story to tell, and it was a very realistic portrait of some in the manga industry. I hope he’s allowed to realize his mistakes and extract himself from his devil’s contract with Nanamine with some shred of his dignity.
Lastly, I find the storyline with Ashirogi agreeing to compete against Nanamine with the same story rather silly – and the idea that Sasaki would approve it even more so. They’ve already beaten Nanamine fair and square – PCP is rock-steady 4th and “What You Need” has plummeted to 15th even with Nakai’s still-superb backgrounds. Nanamine chose his own course – why throw him a lifeline now – for the sake of some sort of shounen showdown? It makes no sense for the magazine to risk tainting the very successful PCP by linking it to a troubled series on the brink of cancellation, especially one about to be tainted by controversy. Sure, PCP will win and then Nanamine will have no choice but to abandon his evil ways – but the whole thing feels pretty contrived.
Yeah, these were definitely a downer couple of episodes – oh by the way, Rabuta and Peace was already cancelled, which gives the Shiratori arc a bit of a “never mind” feel, in retrospect (not to mention we got a sad reminder that Hideout Door only lasted long enough for two volumes). I’m hoping we deal with the Nanamine business in the next episode and move on to more fertile ground – like touching base on Mashiro and Azuki’s relationship, which hasn’t gotten a sniff in weeks. Hiramaru’s antics were never more welcome than this week – his scenes are pretty one-note, but the humor was a real breath of fresh air in the context of everything else that was happening.