Home > Bakuman, Episode Reviews > Bakuman Episode 8 – Going All In

Bakuman Episode 8 – Going All In

I complained continually in yesterday’s review about Amagami wasting months of narrative story time to no purpose, so it’s ironic that I’m about to praise Bakuman for burning through its own internal chronology at a similar rate. There’s a reason for my difference in reaction, however: Bakuman manages to balance the advancement of several different plots developments, often with a single scene or two. Amagami couldn’t even advance one.

In the waning months of fall, Takagi and Moritaka successfully complete their Tezuka prize entry. They then agonizingly wait for a response, only to learn that they stalled out at the final round of judging, missing out on the prize or even a ranked spot. To worsen matters, it’s clear from their editor and their ranking that the fault was in Moritaka’s art, not Takagi’s story.

Takagi produces notebook after notebooks filled with story ideas. Most of them are crap, obviously, but he seems to understand that the best way to defeat writer's block is to keep writing regardless

This is particularly troubling to Moritaka because Takagi has been visibly neglecting his studies, dropping to a third place score on the midterms. This might not seem like much, but in the hyper-competitive Japanese school system—and with a known genius like Takagi—such things get noticed. Takagi blows it off, but Moritaka, Miyoshi, and possibly rival class over-achiever Iwase all seem concerned by the results.

(In what I hope was deliberate irony, Takagi’s story was about a group of teenage fighters rebelling against a corrupt system, where a super computer ranked everyone in the world and the higher ranked members of society could tyrannize those beneath them.  Mere coincidence or deliberate social commentary? I report, you decide.)

Iwase doesn't have any lines this episode, but her eyes stay on Takagi whenever she's on screen

Just to add insult to injury, Ishizawa (the hack artist for a few episodes back) blows open their secret to the whole class, showing the magazine which lists their ranking for the prize. Even revealing the duo’s extracurricular activities would be enough to shock the class, but Ishizawa also calls out Moritaka for being the deadweight in the partnership and asserts that Takagi would be better served working with him instead.

It’s a ridiculous offer, but Takagi doesn’t react by laughing it off and pointing out Ishizawa’s own incompetence. Instead he snaps and decks the guy, in a reaction that stuns just about everybody (including me). Takagi, it seems, hasn’t just committed to working on manga,  even sacrificing possible academic success in the process. He’s also committed to Moritaka specifically, and takes any insult to his partner as an attack on himself.

This probably qualifies as "most unexpected moment of the show"

I have to take back some comments I made in prior reviews about things being too easy for our heroes. Despite being more successful than kids their age should be, they still are facing a proper number of setbacks and reality checks in pursuit of their goal. This episode raised the stakes for Takagi (by threatening his academic success) as last episode raised it for Moritaka (by threatening his love life); such external pressures are probably necessary to make their failure to make it big seem like an immediately pressing problem.

Eiji continues to be a lingering menace to the pair, if only by being so much more successful than they are. However, the request he made last episode (to have the right to cancel someone else’s series if he becomes successful enough) was turned down, and it’s indicated that the request might have been a test rather than a serious requirement. The possibility of direct conflict seems a bit less likely now.

That Eiji takes both the Tezuka prize and the 1st runner up prize shows he doesn't need to directly oppose Moritaka and Takagi to ruin their careers. Seriously, who is this kid?

One last plot element deserves comment. One of the reasons Takagi’s story improved so much (aside from coming up with so many bad ideas along the way) was because this time around he got regular feedback from Moritaka about what would and would not work. Takagi doesn’t yet know enough about the art aspects of manga production to perform a similar role for his partner, but I think the two improving will likely be tied together.

Early on I laid out a list of ways Bakuman could mess up its premise. It could falter on the romance aspect. It could make things too easy for the protagonists. It could focus too much on the minutiae of the manga making process, to the point of bogging down the narrative. Thus far, all of these problems have been handily avoided. The only “weakness” I can think of is the frequent resort to manga writing montages—probably unavoidable given the nature of the show.

The show has been better than I thought it would be about keeping Azuki involved, if only tangentially

Even better, the relationship between Takagi and Moritaka continues to be a major selling point for the show, both in defusing conflict and—as is the case in this episode—triggering it. I can only imagine what the overall ramifications for Takagi both being outed as a manga writer and beating down a fellow student will be, but what those are should be on display next episode.

Our heroes have been making steady progress toward their goal, but it’s clear neither of them will settle for less than outright success, and that’s consistently eluded them so far. I doubt this series will end its 26 episode run with the two of them established and rich (particularly as the manga is still ongoing) but I do hope that they can have one unblemished success before the end of this season. And the fact I’ve come to care that they do is another sign this show is doing its job.

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