Bakuman 2 – 25 (Fin)

The manuscript for the first chapter of Perfect Crime Club is ready, but Hattori believes the character names and design needs work, as does the title of the manga itself. Ashirogi Muto misses the New Years party to perfect their work, as does Fukuda with a motorcycle shonen one shot that will appear in the same issue. Ashirogi meet their new assistants, Orihara, Moriya, and Shriatori; the latter two get into a debate about why to draw manga.

Takagi finally comes up with the name PCP (Perfect Crime Party), and the team belts out the first chapter. It takes first place in Jack by a landslide, earning more votes than either CROW or +Natural’s first chapters, an encouraging start. Mashiro shows the rankings to his uncle’s grave, but the real challenge has only begun, as the chief editor vows to cancel PCP if it can’t consistently keep up with CROW or +Natural.

First, lets get this out of the way: PCP (the drug) must not be a bug problem in Japan, otherwise, Hattori or someone else would surely have discouraged the use of that particular acronym to title anew manga. That said, this second season was going to end on one of two notes: either PCP took first place, or it didn’t. Victory or defeat. Hope or despair. Thankfully, it took first place, as it was meant to do. What we didn’t expect was for it to win by such a large margin. Nobody did; not even the setback-fatigued authors.

The battle has only begun. The competition is stiffer than ever, with two Niizuma Eiji drawn mangas, one of which is written by a girl who considers Takagi and now Hattori her nemeses. Hell hath no fury and all that. Not to mention Fukuda, who has a much more straightforward mainstream manga about motorcycles that the kids will love.

They also have to contend with a chief editor who is still not happy about Ashirogi quitting Tanto, and even more unhappy that he was rebuked in the vote to allow PCP’s serialization. Moritaka Mashiro is a step closer to making his dreams come true, and PCP has the makings of an anime…but there’s still at least a third season’s worth of tribulations to contend with before that happens. He sure hasn’t made it easy for himself.


Rating: 3.5

Bakuman 2 – 24

The editors in the serialization meeting change their votes one by one until the chief is the only one to vote against it, and Ashirogi Muto’s Perfect Crime Club is approved for serialization. After recieving the news and being congratulated by Team Fukuda, Mashiro finds a USB in the slice of cake Miho made for him, on which is a recording of her singing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”

The news also comes down that Hattori and Miura will switch places, so Hattori will continue to be Ashirogi’s editor, while Miura takes on Iwase, who is none to happy. After hearing about the initial losing vote to Niizuma, Mashiro decides that Takagi will only give him scripts without layout, so he can better utilize his own imagination. Takagi agrees, and they prepare the first chapter.

Ah, for once, another Ashirogi Muto defeat is turned around at the last minute (or rather, the first minute of this episode), and in an unlikely adaptation of “12 Angry Men” (seven in this case). they get their shot. It’s almost as if the editors had forgotten about the readers and put Ashirogi Muto’s fate in their own hands, rather than those readers, which would have been totally unfair.

But getting those initial doubters to come around will require revision to Perfect Crime Club: enter Hattori, who immediately makes an impact with Ashirogi before officially taking the reins from Miura (who is also impressed with his authors’ professionalism.) When Takagi tells Hattori Mashiro is “saying crazy things”, we worry momentarily, but the drama is quickly dispelled once he explains himself. The ball is in their court.


Rating: 3.5

Bakuman 2 – 23

Miura reads Ashirogi’s manuscript for Perfect Crime Club. While at first he finds its crimes petty, the realistic art and serious tone draw him in. He believes it will be a hit. While at any other serialization meeting, it would easily pass, the editors have to determine whether it will be able to beat Crow and +Natural, right now. Their deliberations go on a long time, as Mashiro has a Christmas get-together with Takagi and Kaya. The resulting vote at the meeting is tied 3-3, and the Chief editor with the tie-breaking vote. He believes it’s good, but not enough to win. With the final vote 4-3, Perfect Crime Club will not be serialized by Jack.

Bakuman is full of foolish promises. The idea that Mashiro and Miho cannot possibly be together unless they achieve their dreams is getting to be a major problem. Huge chunks of their youth have been spent away from each other. Yes, they love each other, but the idealism of their promise is starting to strain credulity. Case in point: Takagi and Kaya have Mashiro over for their first Christmas as a married couple. Why isn’t Miho there? Because of that silly promise, made when they were still kids. We know this issue has been covered exhaustively and they both seem to be committed to keeping the promise, but these constant drawbacks make the dreams they seek to achieve seem more like mirages; impossible to ever reach. Time will tell, we guess.

That’s beause of another dumb promise: to create a manga that can defeat Niizuma Eiji, or leave Jack for good. Ashirogi Muto has been through the pressure cooker enough; there was no need to gamble themselves into a corner. We held out hope Perfect Crime Club, which is the most original and best-thought-out manga Ashirogi’s created to date – would at least be given a shot to compete, but the Chief Editor took their gamble to mean that they the editors – and they alone, not the readers – would be the arbitors of the manga’s fate. With that, it seems like Ashirogi Muto’s Jack days are finished, unless Hattroi and Miura have any other tricks up their sleeve.


Rating : 3.5

Bakuman 2 – 22

Hattori advises Ashirogi Muto to play to their strengths: Takagi should try to find “serious humor”, which Ashirogi could enliven with his serious art. A clear direction fires them up, but coming up with a storyboard proves difficult, so Takagi suggests he and Mashiro tail Hattori in secret for a day. They witness him go about his business, learn new and unexpected things, and get further encouraged. After their adventure, Takagi knows what he wants to do: a ‘perfect crime’ manga. They swap Kaya’s present for Miho with an identical one to further experience the thrill and accomplishment of pulling small crimes off. They whip up a storyboard and deliver it to Miura…

After quite a few failures in a row and their careers on the line, finally a little optimism and excitement. Hattori’s “serious humor” advice really caused a light to go off in Takagi’s head. Both he and Mashiro are certain this is their best idea yet. We especially like how Takagi makes sure they’re on the right track by literally acting out the idea by tailing Hattori, then making the ol’ switcheroo. The whole episode was brimming with positive energy and discovery.

There are lots of nice touches: Takagi and Mashiro finally find out about Hattori’s “Iwase Problem”, when she meets him in a restaurant in a come-hither outfit – that Takagi has his back to her is an even better touch. We also like that Aoki and Kaya remain in touch, and how Aoki innocently leaks that it’s Ashirogi’s last chance. A concerned Kaya calls Miho, but rather than feel betrayed for Mashiro keeping something from her, she takes the high road and tells Kaya to chill out and believe in them. The dress-for-drawing swap was also pretty romantic. Of course, next week, we can expect this Perfect Crime Club manga


Rating: 3.5

Bakuman 2 – 21

As Tanto winds down, Ashirogi Muto struggle to find a new idea, until Miura suggests they bring back Money & Intelligence, but add “Appearence” to make it KTM. Takagi is fired up and has loads of ideas, butwhen they submit the manuscript for serialization, it fails. Rather than improve KTM, Miura orders them to do a mainstream fantasy in the vein of One Piece, but the resulting manuscript doesn’t even make it to the serialization meeting. Miura arrives with Hattori, who wants to help in anyway he can. Meanwhile, Iwase reiterates her ‘interest’ in him, and he gives her a set amount of time to win his heart.

When we learned there’d be three serialization meetings, we imagined three episodes in which Mashiro and Takagi come up with three manga ideas, and naturally the first and second would be rejected. But things went faster than we expected, with them breezing through two manga concepts in one week, leaving them with one more shot: if they fail again, they’re through with Jack. One annoyance of this series is how it’s paced: earlier in the first season, an episode would only cover a day or two – now weeks can pass with nary a label to indicate it.

Pacing aside, clearly there’s plenty more material to come – there’s a third season coming later this year – and that makes us wonder, just how long is Ashirogi Muto going to continue these cycles of small victories followed by failures. When will they finaly surpass Niizuma Eiji, like Hattori and others believe they can? As viewers, we’re starting to get a little antsy. Is Bakuman merely stringing us along, or will there be some eventual gratification? We know, for one thing, Mashiro’s goal of getting an anime with Miho voicing it is still a long way off, and their marriage with it. So until then Bakuman has to make a case for itself. Something good’s gotta happen.


Rating: 3

Bakuman 2 – 20

Tanto’s rank is steady, but low, and Takagi is nearing the limit of his jokes, pulling all-nighters days before his wedding to no avail. At his and Kaya’s wedding reception, Mashiro confronts Hattori to tell him straight up whether Tanto is good; he says it isn’t. The final straw is when Niizuma calls Ashirogi Muto his rivals on live TV. Both Takagi and Mashiro ask the chief editor if they can quit Tanto and work on something that will surpass Niizuma – if they can’t, their Jack days are over.

First Trap got cancelled. They liked it, but the rankings fell to far. Now with Tanto, the rankings aren’t falling enough to risk cancellation, and it’s important to Jack as a kids’ manga – but both Takagi and Mashiro feel it’s holding them back. While it may seem unwise to put so much faith in the opinions of a few peers – in this case, Niizuma and Hattori – the way they see it, they would rather try and fail to surpass Niizuma with everything they’ve got rather than continue to dabble in obscurity. If they truly have the talent and it’s a matter of proper utilization, then Tanto has to go.

It’s a big gamble, because, well, what if they truly can never surpass Niizuma, and burn themselves out in the attempt? They’re already known as “troublemakers” in the industry, and there’s apparently no better publication to be in than Jack, so they’re really limiting their options. But continuing to eke out Tanto would be limiting them even further. Would Mashiro really be okay marrying Miho after getting a late night anime deal like Hiramaru? I doubt it. He wants the primetime, and he wants to be the best. And so they roll the dice.


Rating: 3.5

Bakuman 2 – 19

Meeting her father so he can ask him permission to marry Kaya, Takagi learns that her father was best friends with Mashiro’s uncle Nobu. After meeting with both Takagi and Mashiro, he gives his approval. At the Jack party that night, all eyes are on Iwase and Niizuma, further firing up Ashirogi. Natural+ gets of online buzz and on its first day Jack is sold out everywhere and it hits first place. When the next issue comes out, Tanto #1 only gets fifth, then descends from there, levelling out below both of Niizuma’s manga. At their new flat, Takagi and Kaya are visited by Iwase, who comes to ‘congratulate’ them, then suddenly names Hattori as her next ‘interest’. Niizuma stops reading Tanto, apparently bored with it.

It’s a mixed bag this week, with good news, bad news, and some serious coincidences. This anime program would have you believe, for instance, that Kaya’s dad was best friends with Mashiro’s uncle who pined for the mother of Kaya’s best friend Miho, who Mashiro has promised to marry. Small world, yeah? But while it’s good news that Takagi and Kaya can finally tie the knot (I guess Takagi’s parents are dead, or something), there’s still the matter of making a living with manga, and Hattori, Niizuma, and Iwase aren’t making it easy.

In fact, Ashirogi is shown no mercy whatsoever, as the cool indie Natural+ screams past their comparitively childish gag manga, which Iwase says proves Takagi doesn’t have talent anymore and therefore she doesn’t love him – because that’s what loves all about AMARITE? Hinamaru even has his Otters 11 turned into an anime, albeit a late night one, while Crow already has one and Aoki’s manga has a shot at adaptation too. With all the mounting hardships, Takagi is even finding it hard to come up with ideas, never good when you’re already behind. And apparently their manga is so uninspiring, Niizuma, their #1 fan, has stopped reading. Really not good. This week almost seemed like piling on.


Rating: 3.5

Car Cameo: In front of the venue for the Shounen Jack party
sit a trio of stately Toyota Crown Majestas.

Bakuman 2 – 18

The good news: a revised Tanto passed muster and will be serialized, so Mashiro has a Christmas present for Miho and Takagi and Kaya can now move forward with their marriage plans. The bad: Akina Aiko and Niizuma’s manga +Natural is also serialized, and will be published the week before Tanto, putting Takagi in direct competition with Iwase. Fukuda gathers everyone together to talk with Niizuma. This includes Iwase, who has no intention for sharing her opinions with other authors. Niizuma dismisses everyone’s concerns as whining, and they should focus on making manga that’s better than his.

Bakuman finally gives Ashirogi Muto something to celebrate, only to sour their jubilation with the knowledge that not only is Iwase, at this point THE WORST HUMAN BEING IN THE WORLD, will be competing with their manga, but Niizuma has heartily agreed to lend his all-but-unbeatable art to her story. It’s a tough pill to swallow, especially when Iwase does her best to live up to her all-caps title by subtly taunting Takagi. This girl is seriously messed up, and in this case I think Niizuma is being a little too simple-minded by working with her on a whim. Yeah, we know he likes to draw, but enabling a budding psychopath is a bridge too far.We can only hope Iwase won’t turn dangerous if things don’t go her way. For his part, Takagi warns her nothing she can do will change his and Kaya’s plans.

Beyond all that unpleasantness, it was good to see the whole gang (save Nakai) back together, thanks to Fukuda of course. Niizuma’s comparison to Iwase as Aoki two years ago was not only a funny observation, but also underscored how much Aoki has grown as a person and how pathetic Iwase is right now. Niizuma was on a roll this week, urging everyone to lay off him for taking on two simultaneous serializations. While we fault him for giving legitimacy to Iwase’s vendetta (which goes way beyond a friendly rivalry), we can’t fault him for this. If they don’t like it, they need to make better manga.


Rating: 3.5

Bakuman 2 – 17

The results of the serialization meeting are a mixed bag: thanks to Fukuda and Ashirogi’s help, Aoki’s manga gets serialized, but Ashirogi’s isn’t, and Takahama’s is cancelled. Katou rejects Nakai, and Aoki is hiring all-female assistants, so Nakai gives up and returns home, after apologizing to Aoki. Takahama goes behind Miura’s back and asks the chief for a new editor, but the chief reproaches him in front of Miura and Ashirogi. Impressed by Iwase’s story, Hattori meets up with Yuujirou, telling him she’s Takagi’s rival. Hattori wants Niizuma to do her artwork, which would make him the first Jack mangaka with two simultaneous serializations. Niizuma agrees to draw under a pen name for when the work is submitted.

As long as they’ve known each other, how in the heck has Takagi never even met Kaya’s parents? I guess her father isn’t around much. Well, it’s moot for now, as they can’t even ask permission to get married unless Ashirogi Muto gets serialized. If they fail, there will be no dreams for anyone. Yet another setback befalls them as their submission lacked the intensity of their NEXT one-piece. They complain about Miura once more, but witnessing Takahama get reamed out by the chief forces them to give Miura a break and focus on making their work better. As the chief says, complaining about one’s editor is just trying making excuses for one’s own shortcomings.

Speaking of talent, Nakai is throwing his away, after a hat trick of unfortunate events: Takahama’s manga being cancelled, Katou refusing to enter into a “special relationship” (despite the fact she still seems to like him), and Aoki refusing to let him come crawling back. As usual, his friends swoop in to try to mend fencs, but he leaves. At least the guy acknowledges he was a dick. Back to talent, Hattori and Yuujirou may have just built a dream team in Iwase and Niizuma. One can’t forget just how amazing a talent Niizuma is, and when he’s fired up by quality story, his rivals had better watch out. Mashiro and Takagi really need to dig deep, or Takagi may find the girl he scorned surpassing him.


Rating: 3.5

Bakuman 2 – 16

When Aoki comes to Ashirogi seeking help drawing panty shots, Kaya suggests she meet with Ishizawa, but that proves a bad idea, as he turns out to be worse than Nakai. When Fukuda hears that Aoki and Nakai were in a fight, he drops by Takahara’s to confront Nakai, who tells him he’s “comfortable” where he is, and working with Katou. Rather than leave it there, he decides to coach Aoki himself, giving her pointers while he draws and having her fax him work to look over. Her resulting work gets her a shot at serialization in the same time Ashirogi’s Tanto is up for it. Meanwhile, Iwase meets with Hattori, vowing to draw a manga based on her novel that will surpass Takagi.

Fukuda can be loud and obnoxious, but he’s also kind (in his own way), and fiercely loyal to his fellow mangakas. We see a lot of him this week, juggling his own Kiyoshi Knights manga with the new task of helping Aoki essentially loosen up. This isn’t just about inserting panty shots; it’s about showing the right imagery at the appropriate time. It’s not simple. Fukuda’s direction really perks Aoki up, as she’s put Nakai and even Takagi past her and is going for it. We like this new, more emotional, more assertive Aoki a lot; she’s just got this spark right now, and her heated conversations with Fukuda are very fun to watch.

Fukuda isn’t just doing this for her. For him, doing what he does just isn’t fun if Niizuma, Mashiro, Takagi, Nakai and Aoki aren’t doing it too. He wants everyone trying to outdo the other, because that will result in everyone putting out their best work. Friends are the best critics, because they can communicate feedback to you in a way someone else may not be able to. Takagi and Mashiro may have had a better chance of being serialized if they put Aoki’s request on hold, but they didn’t; they helped her because she was a friend in need, and because Nakai really was a bastard. We’re not sure what to make of Iwase yet; she’s just starting out like Ashirogi Muto did with Hattori; but she’s a bright cookie, and it’s not unrealistic to think she’ll rise fast.


Rating: 3.5

Bakuman 2 – 15

Mashiro and Miho get in a fight and reach an impasse when he won’t spill the beans on what he knows about Takagi. Since they’re both impossibly stubborn, both Takagi and Kaya feel guilty for letting things affect them. They get first place in NEXT with “Tanto”, but Mashiro cannot concentrate, so Takagi calls Kaya, who agrees to meet him at the zoo to explain things. He bumps into Aoki again, who is distraught over Nakai demanding she date him in exchange for his services. Kaya sees them embracing and runs off, but Takagi stops her by proposing, and he and Aoki explain everything to her. They then tell Miho, and everyone makes up.

There’s one pretty glaring contrivance that’s hard to overlook about this cathartic, reconciliatory episode, and that’s that Takagi tells his suspicious girlfriend to meet him at the exact same spot where he met up with Aoki previously, and where he was ambushed by Iwase. Sometimes I wonder if this guy has a self-preserving bone in his body. If we overlook the second coincidence that Aoki was there, it did end up serving Takagi quite well to have Aoki there to help explain things. Although we’ll say one thing: we’re not entirely satisfied with Takagi choosing Kaya over Aoki. Sure, Aoki is an extremely naive person, and hers may only be a crush on her ideal of who Takagi is, but the fact remains they could well be a good match.

Takagi jokes about changing his mind about marrying Kaya, but there’s a kernel of regret in that joke; Aoki is more his intellectual equal, and Kaya admits she’s prettier, though Kaya’s self-esteem kinda sucks. Of course, numbers, statistics, commonalities and surface traits can very often mean nothing at all when it comes to love. Clearly Takagi loves Kaya more than Aoki, so Kaya it is. As for our haughty friend Nakai, our respect for him just dropped quite a few notches. His demand would be inappropriate no matter who he was talking to. That it was Aoki, who had grudingly accepted him as a friend and colleague, is inexcusable. That slap was well-deserved. Grow up, Fatty.


Rating: 3.5

Bakuman 2 – 14

Miyoshi stays away from the studio, and when Takagi calls her she blows him off. Busy with their gag manga manuscript, they continue working. When Miyoshi tells Miho about her suspicions, Miho worries that Mashiro is in on the deception as well. “Tanto” is well recieved in NEXT, but Fukuda, Niizuma, and Hattori all believe Ashirogi Muto’s talents are wasted on gag manga. Meanwhile, Aoki’s manga draws heavily from her experience with Nakai and rips off Mashiro and Miho’s romance. Miho finally calls Takagi wanting an explanation from both of them. When Mashiro can’t give her one, she hangs up.

Yikes…the hole just got deeper for Ashirogi Muto, as both are caught up in Takagi’s multi-girl carousel…and for what? While “Tanto” looks to be serialized, everyone who knows them best are disappointed they’re not doing more serious work. To that, we’d argue they already tried that and failed, and right now they just need a hit; and to us it seems looking down at gag manga is akin to novelists looking down on mangakas. But as they hunch over their desks working on “Tanto”, all kinds of things are being set in motion in their real lives. It kind of sucks that the letter Iwase put in Takagi’s book is such an obvious plot device for romantic conflict, but it was really a catalyst for bigger problems.

Takagi and Mashiro have been taking advantage of Miyoshi’s kindness. And with Aoki exhibiting signs that she may be falling for Takagi, and the fact her manga so closely mirrors Mashiro and Miho’s story, compound the problems quite a bit. We’re as disappointed as Miho when Mashiro conceals the truth from her. If all four people simply sat in a room and unraveled everything – without omissions or lies – everything would be cleared up. After all, it started innocently as Takagi seeking the advice from someone who better understood girls. As for Mashiro failing to tell Miho that her mother and his uncle exchanged letters, well, bad move. And more ammunition for Miho’s assertion she can’t trust him.


Rating: 3.5

Bakuman 2 – 13

Ashirogi decides to do a new gag one-shot in NEXT, something suitible for all ages unlike Ten. A discussion of animal characters leads Takagi to the zoo, where he bumps into Aoki. She agrees to help him understand girls if he helps her understant boys. They proceed to have two long phone conversations two straight nights, leading Miyoshi to become suspicious. When Aoki asks Takagi to meet her at the zoo again, he’s surprised to find Aiko there as well, who wants to confront him. They argue about the merits of manga verses novels, and in the end, Aiko decides she’ll do a manga that will surpass his own. While cleaning the studio, Miyoshi finds a note from Aiko hidden in the novel she gave him, and she runs out in tears.

Ohoho, Takagi, you dawwg. He’s never been that respectful of his tomboyish girlfriend, but this week he digs a hole he may not be able to climb out of. Nightlong flirty phone conversations with cute girls who aren’t your girlfriend must unfortunately be discouraged, as are secret meetings with said girl. Though not everything that unfolds is his fault. It’s Aoki’s newfound aggressiveness that leads to them exchanging advice in the first place, and there’s nothing wrong with doing so, but Aoki is operating under the impression he’s single. Similarly, the Aiko meet was a total ambush (what’s wrong with you, Aoki?)  and probably isn’t aware of the note Aiko left him in the book, but the damage has been done. Miyoshi can and will weave any number of narratives of his perceived unfaithfulness.

Meanwhile, we must flick our foreheads in apology for forgetting that Aiko Iwase was a classmate of Takagi’s, whom he rejected. She remains extremely bitter and confrontational, though that could just be her outward persona. Her true feelings may indeed be in that note. As Aoki and Takagi discussed, love can come in many forms, one of them being outward disdain and rivalry. Ideals and reality are rarely in synch. None of Aiko’s enmity would exist if only he’d agreed to date her back then. But even if she was – and is – the ideal gorgeous intelligent girl for him, he chose Miyoshi. Just like he abandoned higher pursuits and chose to be a mangaka. Were these choices mistakes?


Rating: 4