Home > Bakuman, Episode Reviews > Bakuman Episode 11 – Courting Success

Bakuman Episode 11 – Courting Success

Following the pattern of alternating between the personal and the professional lives of the protagonists, this episode returns the focus to the budding romances of Takagi and Moritaka. Of course, Moritaka’s romance consists entirely of wistful fantasies buttressed by occasional handwritten notes; Takagi’s involves being idolized (and occasionally thrashed) by Miyoshi. This is hardly a ordinary romance series.

I am happy to say, however, that in both cases the characterization is slowly improving. In particular, we’re beginning to see meaningful rationales for why the couples act as they do, and why it makes sense in context. It’s still arguably too idealized (particularly between Moritaka and Azuki), but at least it makes some sort of sense.

The latest manga concept is a futuristic world where thoughts are sold to the highest bidder. It's always amusing when the "fake" parts of the show have greater artistic detail than the actual story

Azuki’s original proposal of restricting contact with each other seemed like an out-of-the-blue parallel of her mother’s relationship with Moritaka’s uncle, which was both unlikely (as she never heard the story from her mother) and unpromising (the romance failed). But it wasn’t out of imitation that Azuki made the suggestion; or even out of a desire to be won, as I suggested a few episodes back. Rather, it’s for her own sake.

Azuki, Takagi notes to Miyoshi, is completely in love with Moritaka, just as Moritaka is head over heels for her. And if they were actually to get together in a normal relationship, they wouldn’t have time for anything else. Their dreams of professional success—and particularly Azuki’s, because in the more traditionalist culture of Japan there is still some stigma with married women working instead of supporting their husbands—would collapse entirely.

Their love is pure, selfless, patient, and completely reciprocal. But where did they get it from, exactly?

This stance requires far more foresight (and self-control) than I would normally attribute to ninth graders, but at least it manages to make some sense of their bizarre pact. Takagi’s insight also reflects how good he is at understanding the human condition, at least whenever he isn’t personally involved.

The episode also makes clear why Miyoshi is so devoted to Takagi even when he doesn’t care nearly as much about her. She’s clearly in awe of everything about him, and finds his sense of superiority and aloofness merely one of the things that makes him cool. In contrast to the extraordinarily mature relationship between Azuki and Moritaka, she has exactly the sort of over-the-top crush that one might expect for a girl her age. The difference is that she actually gets to act on it.

Takagi's self-confidence is one of the many things that Miyoshi loves about him. Moritaka is less than impressed at either of them

Bakuman continues to move at an accelerated rate, which keeps the show from getting bogged down in the months-long process of creating, editing and drawing manga. This frequent recourse to montages might make the audience think the work is far easier than it actually is, but I think the show has given enough background about the process to avoid that. Constant mention of deadlines helps too.

Going at such a speed also lets the episode hit two of the major “romantic” holidays in Japan, Christmas and Valentine’s Day. As Japan is almost entirely non-Christian, Christmas exists only in a secular and commonly romantic context, serving as the romantic date night of the year. (Amagami SS revolves around this.) Many of the holiday staples—Christmas lights, snow (a “white Christmas”), gift giving, etc.—also receive a romantic tinge. Both Christmas and Valentine’s Day serve as the frame for the episode, without feeling too overt.

While Miyoshi thinks almost everything Takagi does is cool, ignoring her is one place where she makes an exception. At least her abuse is fairly playful this time around

Takagi and Moritaka also, with Miyoshi, make it into their high school of choice, and then the real payoff hits: Hattori calls to tell them that the gamble paid off. Their latest story will be published in Jack’s spinoff magazine for new writers. The catch is that the same magazine will have Eiji Niizuma receiving top billing with a new series.

Hattori notes that they may have been serialized just to provide another “young” author; Eiji’s talent will be easier to spot when there are other authors of similar age doing worse than him. Having admitted this, he urges the two of them to not just prove the editors wrong, but to actually beat out Eiji. It’s clear he believes they can do it, too.

Suffice to say, the two are happy enough to be syndicated regardless of the circumstances

What Hattori believes and what it true might be entirely different things, but this episode confirms how sold Hattori is on the pair, and on making them successful. Given his own career is tied to the success of the series and authors he champions, this is no small commitment.

By contrast, Eiji’s editor is promised continual success and advancement, but that entails putting up with his charge. Eiji is undisciplined, spoiled, unadjusted to city life or considering the  needs of other people at all. He can be counted on to make deadlines, however, since manga is the only thing he takes seriously. He needs a mother more than an editor.

Eiji produces manga reflexively. The only time he stops drawing to look at his editor is when the latter tells him to draw some pages in color

Hattori has already indicated that discipline wins out over raw talent in the end—if Moritaka and Takagi are willing to work for it. As the pair has the commitment, what is left is the long, hard slog. Bakuman’s primary achievement is not its romantic plot. It’s making that slow career progression interesting.

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  1. July 29, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    Brilliant review; I remember having friends that thought at a deeper level akin to Azuki during class 9. However, I identify with Miyoshi and I’m wholeheartedly rooting for her 😀

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