February 4, 2011
Tsugumi Ohba / Takeshi Obata – Viz – 2010 – 10+ volumes
So I actually read the second volume of this first, and fell in love with it immediately. I could tell that the first volume would have a lot of material I wasn’t going to be interested in (the Jump editorial processes were what I liked best, and that all starts in volume two), and now that I’ve read it, I’m glad I started with the second.
The only thing I didn’t like about the second volume was the relationship between Mashiro and Azuki. They can’t go out until they’ve both succeeded in highly unlikely professional positions? Mashiro wants to be hugely popular before he turns 18 because after that there’s no point if Azuki can’t do a voice in his anime? Before their respective dreams are fulfilled, the two won’t even talk? Yeah… that’s a little hard for me to swallow. All that has rather elaborate groundwork in this volume that’s even harder to swallow. I get that both characters are shy, but that shy? Really? Also, their relationship happens to parallel another one that they find out about later? Sorry, that’s just too much. It made me lose a lot of respect for Mashiro, because while he is great at everything else, this aspect of his character is so primary and ridiculous that it’s difficult to overlook.
And that’s more or less what this volume is about, setting the relationship between Mashiro and Azuki up as motivation for future volumes. There is a lot about manga, too, but it’s mostly motivational groundwork for what comes later, and I’m more interested in process. I did like all the information about Mashiro’s uncle, who is interesting in that his career was neither a failure nor hugely successful. Every time his name appears, something good comes of it. He’s a great character to have around, which is important now that I like Mashiro so much less.
The best thing about this volume is the working relationship between Mashiro and Takagi. Takagi is a fun, eccentric, and very driven character, and the kick in the pants he gives Mashiro almost made me want to draw manga. His reasoning is very logical and L-like (the Death Note references fly fast and heavy early on), only way less creepy than L. He’s also great at nudging Mashiro and saying just the right thing, and conversely, Mashiro is good at smoothing out his rough edges and saying things that get Takagi thinking. The fact that they get along so well and are such a successful team is wonderful, and even if the manga process stuff wasn’t there, the teamwork between them would be worth reading about.
Also, now I understand why people think this series is sexist. I am the absolute last person that should ever enter any discussion on sexism due to the fact gender roles honestly don’t occur to me, so when I notice something, you have a problem. And, quite frankly, the only thing I am likely to notice is something obvious like “Men have dreams that women will never be able to understand.” That is so blatant as to be hilarious. I want that panel blown up on my wall, especially since it is completely serious and a turning point in the volume. Also, because I was looking for it, I realized that Takagi’s explanation of why Azuki was likable borders on “She’s smart because she knows her place as a woman.”
I didn’t like this first volume, and would have hesitated to pick up the second if I hadn’t read it first. The relationship Mashiro is pursuing is over-explained and silly, and not at all the most interesting part of the story, yet takes the center stage here. I worry that it will come back later to bite me. I’d rather just read about Takagi and Mashiro making manga, and the second volume seems to indicate the story favors that, but now I really need to read the third volume to find out if it’s more about manga or the relationship. Or maybe it takes a turn for some Death Note-style weird. I’d be on board for that, too.