Bakuman c2 – The Idiot and The Ace
So Jump was back in action this past week and along with it a whole complement of various manga series one of which I ended up taking a liking to: Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata’s Bakuman. When we last left our heroes Moritaka and Akito, they had brokered a deal with their classmate Miho to achieve success in life together. As an added bonus to their promise, if Moritaka and Akito can somehow put together a smash-hit manga, get it animated, and get Miho casted for it doing voiceover work… then Miho’ll gladly get married to Moritaka! Till then, they swear off direct contact with one another, allowing words of encouragement only over email and text messages. It’s definitely a strange premise, but intriguing enough for me to follow up on how our two favorite wannabe mangaka go about planning their rise to stardom!
So, this week the story picks up the morning after that fateful night with Moritaka getting set to make a dash for class when he gets informed by his mother to hurry up as Akito’s already waiting for him. After they meet up on the street, Akito again tries out his pet name for Moritaka, “Saiko,” to which the latter still doesn’t feel too keen about. Akito tries to buddy-up by telling Mashiro to call him “Shuto” for short, but again Moritaka doesn’t buy in. His reasoning’s simple because while “Shuto” is a cool nickname since it reminds people of “shooting the ball” in soccer, “Saiko” just sounds disparaging (lol, “psycho”). Instead, Mashiro opts to call Akito “Shujin” (criminal) to the latter’s dismay.
Afterwards, Akito inquires for a few more details on Moritaka’s uncle Nobuhiro Mashiro, the late mangaka responsible for only a single successful series. Apparently Akito’s family only knew him by his pen name, Taro Kawaguchi. Furthermore Moritaka adds that by the time Nobuhiro passed away he’d been out of work/not published for seven years, a situation that leads Moritaka to believe Nobuhiro simply killed himself rather than having worked himself to death as his parents say (how could he, since none of his work hadn’t been serialized for so long). At that, the two reaffirm their aspirations to become successful mangaka and continue on to school.
Fast forward an hour or so in the middle of a test and Moritaka finds his thoughts drifting back to the previous night and his promise with Miho, who doesn’t even seem to be fazed by what had happened. Simply put, his hormones and fantasies of marrying the girl of his dreams completely derail any concentration he can muster, so he asks to be excused to the nurse’s office. Ever the faithful companion, Akito quickly turns in his completed exam and follows Moritaka to the nurse. Miho discreetly keeps tabs on the situation and even muses about possibly following them as she continues working on her remaining questions.
Now inside of the nurse’s office, Akito creeps over to Moritaka’s bed and asks him if he’s doing okay. Moritaka allays his fears by saying that his little stunt was bought on because of his apprehension of having to be so close yet so far from Miho. Eventually Akito finds out that Moritaka never even got Miho’s email address! Akito gasps so loud that the two are forced to drop their act of being sick in order to flee the annoyed nurse; instead of returning to class, the two take their conversation up to the rooftop. Here, Akito expresses his admiration for the innocence that stands as the hallmark of Moritaka and Miho’s love; as he puts it, other kids their age put out so quickly and boast about it openly. As a result, Akito declares that not only should they work together on manga, but for the sake of pure love as well. As he sees it, Moritaka doesn’t have anyone else to talk to that understands the situation with Miho. However before Akito can elaborate on the topic any further, Moritaka abruptly changes the subject to why it is that Akito even bothers studying if he wants to do something as non-scholarly as creating manga.
Akito responds with honesty: he’s not even completely sure himself he’ll be able to make it as a mangaka and keeps his grades up as insurance. Moritaka notes out loud how that’s pretty clever of Akito and pushes the point further by asking Akito if he himself believes he’s the smartest in the class. Akito’s a bit flustered at the question, but responds that he believes he’s only the third smartest… behind Moritaka and Miho. It’s Moritaka’s turn on the hot seat and he dismisses Akito’s response; however Akito points out that Moritaka really is smart and the fact that he asked Akito if he himself feels all their classmates are dumb is because it’s what Moritaka really thinks. This show of logic catches Moritaka off-guard, forcing him to acknowledge Akito’s sharp wit.
The discussion then turns to why Akito finds Miho so smart. Akito clarifies his position saying that Miho’s pretty smart in how she pretends to study, a trait she’s acquired by naturally attuning herself to the idea that to be feminine is to be graceful and well-mannered, as well as serious, but not too brainy. Furthermore, given Miho’s dignified upbringing, Akito finds her “smarts” are derived from an appeal only a good-natured spirit freely chasing a dream can exude (lol, this reasoning is kinda convoluted and pretty subjective, but whatever, carry on Akito!). Akito’s raving praise of Miho goes on without eliciting even the slightest tinge of jealousy from Moritaka, a point that Akito uses to further cement his belief that Moritaka is truly smart.
Once more Moritaka finds himself completely impressed with Akito’s reasoning and this time he acknowledges Akito as a worthy partner to make manga with. The school day ends with Moritaka barely being able to finish the make-up test. However, before Moritaka and Akito part ways at the school entrance, Akito wonders if Moritaka’s parents would approve of their son committing to becoming a mangaka… yikes, another crisis!
Moritaka tries his best to convince his mother that trying out the path to become a mangaka won’t necessarily have him end up like his uncle Nobuhiro… but he eventually gets shot down with a single “no”. (lol, who hasn’t been in this situation before?) Moritaka spends the rest of the afternoon waiting for his dad, whom Moritaka has never had a serious conversation with before, and his disapproval as well. Despite his prospects looking grim, Moritaka keeps up his teenage defiance by declaring that he’ll draw manga no matter what his parents think! …But, in a strange twist of fate his father overrules his mother’s denial and declares that men have dreams that women will never understand.
A shocked, but grateful, Moritaka is then led by his mother to his grandfather’s room. Once there, Moritaka declares his dream to his grandfather who then proceeds to give the young man the keys to Nobuhiro’s apartment, which has been virtually untouched since his passing. Moritaka’s a bit overwhelmed as to why he’s getting the keys now since he’s only just declared his dream, but his grandfather maintains that even though Moritaka won’t use it in earnest for a long time, it still has everything even a budding mangaka needs to start. Doing everything short of clicking his heels, Moritaka speeds off and gives Akito a call to meet him at the nearest train station; looks like that studio is being checked out TONIGHT!
All in all, this week’s chapter seemed to indicate that the best parts of the series will come as a result of the kinds of dialogue between characters (lol, another “talkie” like Death Note except without the lol-genius-level-pretentiousness I suppose). It can be a bit hard to follow Akito’s idealistic tirades, but given how he’s very much representative of the lighter side of things in Bakuman (with Moritaka being more sulky and skeptical of the two), that’s forgivable as he’s supposed to be shooting beams of pure sunshine in every panel he’s in. As for Moritaka… his character to me seems to be that of a boy trying to… well, become a boy again. He’s only 14 years old, still a young kid, yet with the death of his uncle all those years ago he seems to have gotten a bit world-weary as that bright spot in his life was extinguished by the weight of societal pressures. Now it’s a different story; he’s find a way to rekindle that part of his lcharacter by embracing elements in his life that up until now he’s been shunning: the bubbly can-do attitude of Akito, the unfelt but very real understanding his father has of him, the joy of creating manga embodied by Nobuhiro’s memory, and the pursuit of true love manifest as Miho. The stage continues to be set for Moritaka and Akito to seize their dream, so till next week: