Bakuman 5

August 20, 2011

Tsugumi Ohba / Takeshi Obata – Viz – 2011 – 14+ volumes

In all honesty, I take a perverse amount of pleasure in dissecting this series and its plotline. It invites it. Especially now that the characters have been massively downplayed, and all the fun goes into talking about how to make manga better. I love that one moment of dramatic character tension lasted all of one chapter. The characters are terrible, honestly, when they’re not talking about manga, so I’m happy that we are only getting occasional updates about anything else they might be doing.

This volume’s all about rankings, rankings, rankings. Now that Detective Trap is running, Mashiro and Takagi can’t help but be obsessed with its rankings. Chapter after chapter feature Mashiro, Takagi, Nizuma, Miura, and others talking about Detective Trap’s rankings, comparing it to other series, and the implications of the week-by-week rollercoaster ride. Possible strategies for raising the ranking are discussed, as are ways to pander to the readership, how Detective Trap differs from other Shounen Jump series, and why its rankings are so different week to week. I have a hard time believing that it wouldn’t put most English-language readers to sleep in about two pages, but for the hardcore manga nerd in all of us, this is geek porn.

There’s also a chapter about the Shounen Jump New Year’s party. Nothing awesome happens, like a meeting with Eiichiro Oda or anything, but the description of the event itself was still fairly fascinating.

There’s also some discussion about the pressure on Mashiro, who has a full-time job drawing manga while trying to finish his final year of high school and take his college entrance exams. Along with this, we see how assistants are deployed to Jump artists and the specifics of their jobs, but even with three people helping him, Mashiro can’t get more than about three hours of sleep a night.

As I said, there’s not much in the way of character development, which is fine by me. The creepy situation with Azuki is resolved in one drama-filled chapter, which was fine by me. I still don’t like very much about these characters outside their interest in manga creation, so again, the less said on that subject the better.

Still, it’s addictive. I wonder about later volumes, since eventually, certainly it will run out of things to explain. When Muto Ashirogi is reduced to doing the I”s-ish series in Shounen Jump, we’ll know it’s time has come, but until then, I’m along for the ride.

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