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 – 12

Miura wants Ashirogi Muto to do a gag manga, and brings a wealth of data to back up his preference. The data entices Takagi, but Mashiro still refuses, angering Miura, who suggests Takagi get a different artist. Takagi walks out, enraged. Eventually Miura apologizes for suggesting the split, but his immense package of gag manga and notes convinces Mashiro that it will be okay to do a gag manga after all. Meanwhile, Aoki struggles with writing Shounen romance when she has no experience, then meets a successful author who’s very much like her.

Every once in a while we find ourselves caring more about the supporting characters, and this was one of those times. Mashiro and Takagi are basically stuck the whole time, either waiting on Miura or butting heads with him. Nothing is getting done, and they remain unserialized. But while we’ve never much liked Miura, we do appreciate that he’s new to editing, and he’s showing signs of improvement. Using data to try to convince his guys was a good idea; his main flaw was letting his own emotions form that roadblock. Also, suggesting best friends to split up? Bush league, dude.

But who really tickled our fancy this week was Aoki Kou. She used to be so stoic and wooden, but we saw a fair amount of her this week, and got inside her head, and it’s not an absolute icebox in there. She lies to a potential future editor about her experience with love, because she’s as unsure about writing that kind of stuff as Takagi is with humor. In both cases, there’s nothing for it but to do it and see. Meeting Aiko, an author she likes, seems to intrigue her. When asked “Why Manga?”, Aoki answers simply because she loves it. Whatever insecurities she harbors, there’s no doubt of that.

Rating: 3

Bakuman 2 – 11

Mashiro and Takagi are working on two different works, the humorous TEN and the serious Future Watch. They want the latter to beat the other out, though Miura wants them to do a gag manga. The editors leave it up to the readers, who choose Future Watch by ranking it 9th after TEN was 10th. Takahama warns them about Miura’s changes lowering his rank, so their doubts about their editor only increase. Nakai gets over Aoki’s rejection right quick upon meeting Kato.

It’s a pretty tough week for Ashirogi Muto. Not only to they have to at least make an appearance at college, but they also have to work on two series as if they’ll both be serialized, despite having chosen a clear favorite. Worse still, they’re at odds with Miura, and get outside criticism of his editing that may lead to them dropping him in the future. After all, they expected both of their works to rank at least fifth, and neither got close.

Regardless of their percieved lack of quick success, they’re in pretty good shape. Every episode they’re not serialized feels like an episode they get further behind the eight ball, and at least they had their work published, and it ranked fairly high for new material. But their lack of faith in Miura could prove poisonous. By the end of their manuscript, they weren’t even sure themselves what was funny or not, and relying on Miura’s sense of humor proved harmful. It’s telling that Mashiro, Niizuma, Fukuda are all on the same wavelength as far as what Ashirogi should be doing.

Rating: 3.5

Bakuman 2 – 10

As Mashiro, Takagi and Miyoshi balance studying for college entrance exams with coming up with ideas for their next work. Mashiro wants to do a cautious one-shot first to test the waters, and he wants to maintain the harsh/serious tone of previous works, but Miura clashes with him on both counts, wanting a gag manga manuscript for serialization. Ashirogi goes over his head and submits a work in the monthly amateur contest. Hattori helps mediate the warring sides until they reach a mutually acceptable deal.

After spending so much time with Shady Detective TRAP, we had almost forgotten that it wasn’t the end-all, be-all work that would make or break Mashiro’s dreams. When things don’t work out, as they didn’t with TRAP, you move one. You have to…so they do. But things don’t start out smoothly, as Mashiro feels deep in his gut that Miura is just…wrong. So wrong. The thing is, artists need to trust and listen to their editors, or else they can’t work together.

A compromise is found after leaping over his head: whereby Ashirogi Muto can’t win the monthly contest, but they’ll be able to compete. Even if it does well, they’ll have to wait for the next serialization meeting for a final decision from Jack, so they have to give the gag manga – Hitman 10 – their all. From the little that we saw it looks like it has a nice contrast going between a harsh, gritty style and a story loaded with gags, owing to the scenario’s farfetchedness. At this point though, we have no idea what their next serialized piece will be. TRAP’s demise taught us nothing is ever certain in this business.

Rating: 3.5

Bakuman 2 – 04

TRAP drops from third to eigth to ninth, worrying both Mashiro and Takagi. Takahama confirms their suspicion that Miura can be overoptimistic at times, and when another manga that kept sliding is cancelled, panic nearly sets in. Back at the editors’ office, Miura gets five different opinions by five other editors, and is initially unsure on how to proceed, but he ultimately warns against big changes to the manga. Mashrio agrees, feeling Takagi’s position hints of desperation. They’re all convinced that TRAP needs to be loud and proud about being a decent mystery, which sets it apart on Jack.

This week doesn’t let us forget that Ashirugi Muto aren’t out of the woods just because they’re serialized. One bad week could spell cancellation; there’s a crapload of manga waiting in line to be published. Case in point: both Fukuda and Nakai/Aoki’s manga are approved for serialization – on the same day. The pressure is truly on for TRAP. This episode was a quick succession of splashes of cold water, and also exposed not only the inexperience of the still very young author and artist, but the relatively green editor Miura as well.

Being inundated with multiple contradicting possible courses of action is always going to happen. Someone who’s good will take the course that is closest to matching what their gut instinct is telling them. One cannot operate without instinct in this industry – take Hiramaru: he’s loathing drawing a manuscript every week; he has all the talent and instincts, but the motivation and passion are lacking. Niizuma is pretty much pure instinct, an unsullied natural talent. Nakai and Fukuda have kept themselves going with hard work determination, and of course luck, like Takagi and Mashiro. What they really need next week is a jump in the rankings: something to reignite their confidence.

Rating: 3.5

Bakuman. 2 – 01

Everything picks up where the first season left off, with Mashiro and Takagi getting serialized. Hattori hands them over to a new supervisor, who immediately delves into the logistics of serializing a manga. He hires three assistants for them, sets the deadlines, salaries, and expenses of the enterprise. They are also treated to VIP service as they attend Yoeisha’s New Year’s party, where they meet rivals Hiramaru and Niizuma as well as Mr. Torishima, board of directors. Mashiro sets high goals that impress both him and the Editor-in-chief.

This was a great continuation of the story we’d left last fall, and introduced a lot of new characters and challenges for Ashirogi Muto. It cleverly begins with the OP of Detective Trap, as seen in Mashiro’s head. None of the trials he and Takagi have gone through have jaded him from his ultimate goal. “Hard work, confidence (or conceit) and luck” are the weapons of any successful mangaka, and so confident is he (at least on the surface), Mashrio promises the editor-and-chief and (a very subtly hilarious) Mr. Torishima that he’ll do what his uncle couldn’t – make a living off manga – and do what he left undone – winning first place in the Jack survey.

Lofty goals, but after witnessing the professionalism of his new team – Editor Miura, Chief Assistant Ogawa, Kato the Girl, and Takahama the Quiet – he has cause to strive for them. The party is the perfect vehicle to introduce Kazuya Hiramaru, who some have claimed is even more of a genius than Niizuma – but when they meet him he insists he’d rather be a NEET. The charisma at the party is palpable, as is the cautious optimism. I love how this show doesn’t merely have course enemies as the leads’ rivals; their relationships are often more complicated. Punctuating the episode with a brief cut to Azuki getting Mashiro’s vow via text was also well done.

Rating: 3.5