Bakuman Episode 12 – The Waiting Game
With both high school and syndication looming, Moritaka and Takagi are on uncertain ground, but are still reasonably on track in their goals. “On track” isn’t what Moritaka wants, however, or what he is willing to settle for. He wants to beat Eiji and beat him now.
If previous episodes have focused on either the romance or the manga creation elements of the show, to the diminishment of the other, this one tries to tie them back together, and reveal how one can progress only as long as the other does. Of course, this isn’t true—compared to Moritaka’s relationship with Azuki, his manga career is going at a breakneck pace—but its the impression this episode seeks to provide. Accuracy problems aside, the episode does a decent job driving home that connection.
Moritaka might like manga, but his reason for pursuing his career has always been Azuki; he’s tied his romantic success to his professional accomplishments. Azuki might have suggested this for the benefit of her own career, but the bargain both inspires and haunts Moritaka.
And so he is driven, far more than Hattori can understand. Hattori obviously cares deeply about the success of his charges, and is doing his best to shepherd them along. But he’s instinctively opposed to anyone of their age trying for syndication, which requires a massive degree of time and commitment. Even Eiji, he thinks, is being rushed by the higher-ups.
Moritaka, however, needs to succeed. The sooner he reaches his goal, the sooner he and Azuki can be a proper couple (Azuki has to reach her goal too, but it doesn’t seem to occur to him that she won’t.) And, like any teenager in love, he wants to be with the one he loves.
I’m not certain how much worse it is for him now that Takagi is in a relationship. Moritaka offers his support and even makes sure Takagi and Miyoshi can spend time together amid their busy work schedule, but the knowledge of what they have only highlights out what he lacks.
And behind all of this is fear. The only example he’s had of this relationship is with his uncle, and that ended in total failure. Moritaka is understandably worried that he might not succeed, but he’s also worried if he doesn’t go fast enough, Azuki will find someone else first.
This fear is compounded by the fact that Azuki is going to a different high school than the rest of them, and will be moving out of the neighborhood to live closer to her school. His more subtle forms of contact—the classroom, hallways, even chance encounters on the street—will all be denied him. And who knows that will happen in the interim?
Of course, Moritaka can’t succeed as quickly as he’d like, not just because he’s too inexperienced, but also because that would end the series too quickly. But as far as he knows, early success is his only sure bet; he doesn’t know how long he’ll have before she follows her mother’s example and marries someone else.
So, when they finally graduate from junior high, Takagi and Miyoshi arrange for the two to have one last meeting. There Moritaka, breaking the rule, asks how long she’ll wait—to which she, in the over-the-top earnestness that characterizes their relationship, responds “forever.”
I’m sure this is the moment where my coblogger, who had trouble handling the first episode, would start barfing due to the schmaltzyness. Whether you have the same reaction will probably depend on how you’ve been taking the series thus far. My guess, however, is that if you’ve stuck with this show from the beginning, this will seem like a touching moment, rather than a cheesy one.
Ultimately it comes down to whether the extremely idealized version of love Azuki and Moritaka display for each other can be taken seriously. For those who have had to put romance plans on hold, or last through periods of separation, or have ever had to wait to be united with their beloved, there’s quite a bit to resonate with here. The almost and not-yet aspects of the relationship are palpable.
None of this means that this couple having this sort of pure, unfettered love, when both are barely the age of Romeo and Juliet, is particularly common or realistic. While the latter pairing had the “pure love” one would expect of teenagers (impulsive, blind, and self-destructive), Azuki and Moritaka have something far deeper and more lasting, as evinced by their very ability to hold to their agreement in the first place.
Should they? Ultimately it’s a moot question, as they do, and watchers can either accept that or walk away. For those willing to accept it, Bakuman continues to tell an engaging story, and (gasp!) even improve on its shaky early characterization. That should be worth something.