Home > Bakuman, Episode Reviews > Bakuman Episode 3 – Raiders of the Lost Art

Bakuman Episode 3 – Raiders of the Lost Art

Last episode ended with Moritaka, freed from any parental obstacle, rushing to his uncle’s old studio. Moritaka thinks he knows exactly what he’ll find there: a collection of manuscripts, drafts, and other material he and his partner Takagi can use for inspiration. But there are two surprises waiting for him that he isn’t quite prepared for.

Nobuhiro’s apartment, it’s fair to say, is an otoku’s treasure trove: filled with action figures, manga, and other memorabilia he utilized for reference. Nobuhiro knew that he had to stay informed of the state of the industry to be competitive, and the new partners exploring his material have equal reason to jump in wholeheartedly. They want to make a mark, and fast.

For all his passion and effort, Nobuhiro doesn't seem to have been very talented. His massive amount of research for competing for a prize only got him an honorable mention in the end

To do that requires work, and lots of it. There are boxes and boxes of drafts and manuscripts, and Moritaka quickly realizes that only a small fraction of it was even accepted into the editorial stage by a publisher. Nobuhiro drew constantly to achieve even the small fragment of success he worked out before his death.

It’s also in considering this that Moritaka realizes that Nobuhiro did in fact work himself to death, and not commit suicide as he suspected. That revelation is enough to cause Moritaka to call his dad, Masahiro, with whom he speaks on only the most serious of matters. Moritaka apologizes doubting his dad and his uncle, but his father waves it off. Instead, he wants to confirm Moritaka in his dreams, and shows a personal knowledge of his son’s interests in encouraging him, citing a line from a manga Moritaka loved.

We never get a clear shot of Masahiro's face, but as he puts the phone down we see he is smiling

It’s a touching conversation, even if it makes you wonder about how healthy Moritaka’s family dynamics are. His father obviously loves and watches over him, but for whatever reason has left any normal communication to his wife, whose primary modes of interaction are scold and nag. With paternal silence and maternal oppression, it’s no wonder that Moritaka felt so oppressed and isolated.

If I didn’t know better, I might think that the internal workings of the Mashiro family might be meant to critique the absentee nature of many Japanese men from their families, focusing on their work rather than their children. The spoken encouragement Moritaka receives over the phone is what should have been said years ago, and might have saved him no small amount of anguish.

That Bakuman really intends to communicate this in a subtle fashion is, of course, ridiculous. There are many things you can call Bakuman, but subtle is not one of them. Another plot revelation this episode conclusively demonstrates that.

The pledge Moritaka and Takagi spontaneously take before raiding another man's private life is inadequate, but still funny

Nobuhiro has already been established as a cautionary tale, showing the the path to becoming a manga writer is neither easy nor certain to provide success. From the first episode, Moritaka has been given the task of succeeding where his uncle failed, both in work and in love. The bizarre pact that he and Azuki make is just too much like Nobuhiro’s ultimately failed romance of his junior high sweetheart for it to have been anything but a deliberate allusion.

Apparently, those parallels were not enough for the story, because the connection goes deeper than just a similarity in story. Having gone through all of the letters Miyuki sent to Nobuhiro, Moritaka and Takagi find an old school album, and discover Miyuki bears an uncanny resemblance to a certain girl the two of them know. Miyuki Haruno is now Miyuki Azuki; Moritaka’s crush is her daughter.

I have seen daughters take after their mothers this much, but that it happens here also falls into the pile of "too good to be true" coincidences this show seems fond of

Had this been carefully hinted at over several episodes only to revealed halfway in, it probably would have qualified as a fascinating plot twist. As it is, it seems like a far too convenient coincidence, a narrative shortcut. Like cutting the suicide speculation short, it reflects a tendency to resolve conflicts before they can truly be established in the first place, which makes me wonder when our protagonists are finally going to face a setback it will take longer than an episode to resolve.

Thus far, the major challenges Moritaka has faced include: shedding his ennui, confessing to his lady love and getting a positive answer, overcoming any parental resistance to his work, and co-producing a successful manga. The last is the only one he hasn’t resolved yet, and that’s because he hasn’t started drawing. Even if the actual manga writing part proves a long, hard struggle, I don’t think it will be an interesting one absent some secondary conflicts. Which of those are left?

Miyuki (who is way too attractive to be in her forties) has no problem encouraging Moritaka in his pursuit of success and her daughter. One would think that with the implied tragedy of her first love, she'd be reluctant on both counts. Is everyone here a hopeless romantic?

The only real secondary challenge I can see left relates to Moritaka’s relationship with Azuki. While the two lovebirds haven’t started their correspondence yet, the unstated challenge is for the two of them to do a better job conveying their feelings to each other than their elders did. Nobuhiro could only convey his love through a subplot in one of his manga, long after Miyuki had married.

Of course, the reason we are starting the series here is that Moritaka will of course ultimately succeed; that’s what the narrative will demand. The only question is whether Bakuman will keep being interesting along the way. At the moment there’s about one or two events per episode—a conversation here, a clever plot advance there—that make me want to keep coming back. That’s not as much as I might like, but for the moment it will do.

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