Home > Bakuman, Episode Reviews > Bakuman Episode 10 – Niche Audiences

Bakuman Episode 10 – Niche Audiences

The show has fallen into something of a groove now, alternating between the personal and professional life of Moritaka and Takagi. Since last episode covered the revelation and resolution of Takagi’s impromptu love triangle, this episode is all about the pair moving forward and finding a way to reach syndication.

Not that the personal life parts completely go away: Miyoshi remains a presence this episode, and of course Moritaka’s drive toward success is due to his love for Azuki. But professional pressures are also a factor, and Moritaka starts treating the prodigy Eiji as more and more of a rival.

Takagi continually rams his foot in his mouth around Miyoshi. While her violent responses are all more the funny for being appropriate (most girl on guy violence in anime is excessive for the offense), it still would make more sense for her to dump him

Eiji’s about to be syndicated, obviously, and Moritaka learning that only drives him to push harder. He’s relived to learn that his art wasn’t what killed their submission’s chances (the comparatively low scores were just to encourage him to improve), but Eiji’s entries did. The guy started drawing in childhood and has a decade of experience by now; Moritaka’s art isn’t ready to compete with him yet.

Despite this, Hattori is still convinced Eiji can be beaten. While a natural talent, his works aren’t showing the maturity to appeal to the older ends of the magazine’s demographics. His writing is just a bit too childish for high schoolers. Takagi’s problem has typically been the reverse, and Hattori urges them to create something better suited for general audiences.

Hattori is stunned by how much worse their work gets when they try to fit the usual Jack mold. Based on how he looks the following day, he spent a sleepless night trying to figure out a way for them to succeed

When they come back to Hattori with more “traditional” ideas, the latter finds that they all suck. Takagi can’t dumb down his subject matter and still produce the same level of quality that his previous works had; he’s just plain unsuited to writing stories which fit the traditional mold of the magazine. Following the Eiji route of general success won’t work.

Faced with this, Hattori develops an alternative plan. The two can’t produce a work that will appeal to a broad audience, at least of the readers of Shounen Jack. But they might be able to produce a work that will strongly appeal to a smaller set of those readers, and as long as those readers were passionate enough in their support, the two of them could be kept in syndication.

I'm not quite certain why the show uses pseudonyms for the magazine and production company, when its fine with advertising specific manga the company publishes. It's rather selective product placement

Of course, a more sensible idea at this point might be for our duo to take their work elsewhere; there are other magazines that aim for an older and more mature demographic. But since both Moritaka and Takagi are teenage boys themselves, this is the magazine that they read, so it’s natural that this is the one they’d want to be published in. Both of them also have formed a connection with Hattori, and finding an editor you can trust implicitly is no small thing.

Besides, that way the series can keep up the mildly self-serving flattery toward its own publisher, Shounen Jump, on which Shounen Jack is very obviously modeled. The staff at Jack, from Hattori all the way to the editor in chief, are depicted as competent, serious, and yet surprisingly friendly to newcomers. The assurance that “good” work will be published indicates that they think highly of their own taste and discernment, at least for what sells.

It's a bit unusual for a senior editor to give the time of day to two kids starting out in the field

The “what sells” proviso is crucial. The editor in chief mentions that one of the reasons their work was “bad” was because it lacked a proper protagonist—by which is meant a super-strong protagonist with some form of supernatural power. That’s something of a signature for the magazine, and the stories Takagi was making involved mostly normal people (at least by comparison) getting thrust into action-oriented roles.

The irony, of course, is that Bakuman is published in the real life equivalent to Shounen Jack, and the series breaks just about every rule this episode lays out for how to get published there. Granted, Bakuman followed promptly on the extraordinary success that was Death Note (also published in Shounen Jump), so it’s fair to say that the creators of that could do whatever they wanted, and the editors would be willing to at least play along.

... but the guy still feels somewhat guilty for laying off Moritaka's uncle, so perhaps some of that is coming out in his concern

The success of both Bakuman and Death Note (which, while it did have a supernaturally-empowered protagonist, was decidedly more high-concept than action series like Naruto and Bleach) are perhaps personal examples of what Hattori suggests here. Given certain suspicions about who Bakuman author Tsugumi Ohba might really be, it’s possible that Bakuman is meant to be semi-autobiographical, both regarding Moritaka’s story and his uncle’s.

Armchair psychological analysis aside, I’m still pleased that Bakuman is toeing the line between sheer wish fulfillment and never-ending quest with some skill. Moritaka and Takagi don’t have a guaranteed path to success, but they do have a plausible one. And plausibility is all this show can be reasonably expected to have.

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