Bakuman 9

March 28, 2012

Tsugumi Ohba / Takeshi Obata – Viz – 2011 – 16+ volumes

Reading this is a bit of a downer lately. I see why shounen manga have to star unbeatable heroes. It’s boring when they’re struggling and not getting anywhere.

Not that this is boring. It’s still fairly action-packed, in its way, if a series about drawing manga can be said to be that. Akito and Kaya make a promise about getting married, Iwase raises up fairly quickly as a challenger, and Eiji’s star power only increases (at twice the speed!) while Muto Ashirogi struggle along with a children’s gag/comedy series they don’t want to make.

The gag/comedy series poses an interesting problem. It will never be very high in the rankings, because the only people who will vote for it are children, and children are a steadily decreasing demographic who may or may not send in their response card. But at the same time, Jump loves having a series that is such a hit with their young readers, and won’t let Muto Ashirogi quit while they’re still hanging out in the teens, and won’t consider cancelling them either. But they badly want to start from scratch and make a series that caters to Akito’s strengths as a writer.

Eiji is their biggest fan, and not even he reads their series now. But he still considers them his biggest rival, too. Neither Shujin nor Saiko is happy with the state of things, and Shujin especially is struggling, and is throwing off the whole production since he can no longer turn his scripts in on time. Interestingly, this is presented as a flaw of Muto Ashirogi’s. Why are they doing a gag series, if it’s not something they’re very good at? This is despite the fact they fought tooth and nail against this and wound up almost being fired and bowing under editorial pressure, with others saying that their rookie editor was who they had to listen to. Neither of them want to do this, and both of them tried everything in their power to prevent it. And yet, it’s their fault that it’s not working out. I can’t quite figure out why that is, or why everyone who pushed so hard to get them to do the series is now criticizing from afar, saying they really shouldn’t.

Even with a slow and negative volume like this, I think Bakuman is still an interesting read, and I enjoy this as a failed step in Muto Ashirogi’s career. Everyone seems to be gearing up to allow the two of them to choose their own path and lean on their own best qualities, so I’m hoping their next series is a runaway hit, and we’ll get to see how that works next. I still think the “dream” of having their work animated with Miho providing the voice by the time they’re all 19-20 is ridiculous, but I want to see the runaway hit/anime portion, anyway.

Part of me also wonders if they’ll be kicked off Jump. This always seems like a likely scenario. The manga geek side of me wants to see this series somehow hop ship to Shounen Sunday. It would blow my mind then.

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