Home > Bakuman, Episode Reviews > Bakuman Episode 13 – Nothing Less than the Best

Bakuman Episode 13 – Nothing Less than the Best

Moritaka’s closing encounter with Azuki last episode, where the latter affirmed that she would wait for Moritaka to fulfill his promise “forever,” was certainly uplifting, but seemed potentially dangerous to his career. Without the threat that Azuki would eventually grow tired of him and move on, Moritaka technically doesn’t need to rush to his goal of making a series successful enough to get animated.

Doesn’t need to and doesn’t want to, however, are very different things. If anything, knowing that Azuki loves him as purely and completely as he loves her makes him all the more eager to reach the finish line. He wants success now so he be assured of an anime series by age 18, meaning he clears his requirement for getting married as soon as he is legally able to get married. A string of partial successes, which he has been having right now, isn’t going to cut it for him.

Niizuma, as near as I can tell, doesn't care about success or ratings at all. He'd make manga even if he had to pay to do it

Unfortunately, Niizuma stands in his way, constantly reminding him of what a real genius-level talent can do. Moritaka desperately wants to beat the guy, because as long as he is in Niizuma’s shadow, the latter will acquire the praise Moritaka needs to succeed.

That’s partially why Hattori suggested that Moritaka and Takagi take the outside-the-box plotlines as a route to distinguish themselves, gaining a particularly hardcore fanbase while all the more mainstream titles competed with Niizuma. It seemed to work at first, as the three come out first in the informal polling that the company did of the various stories printed with theirs in that month’s magazine.

I've never picked up a manga mangazine, but I'm guessing the survey cards they include look exactly like this

The official survey results, however, put Niizuma in a commanding lead, with the duo placing third in a nail-biting lose with another mainstream title. They still were remarkably successful for their first time out, and managed to impress almost everyone on the magazine’s staff. Publication options—and paychecks—are still coming their way. But they are clearly not “the best.”

This is all the more crushing for them because, based on their ranking in the early survey, they had put together drafts for an initial syndication run, hoping to use their success with the stand alone original to jump start a full series, just as Niizuma is. Hattori opposed to the very idea of high schoolers being syndicated, and the pair knows they can’t convince him with their current showing.

Moritaka makes an excuse not to show Hattori the chapters intended for syndicaiton, then tears them up in overly dramatic fashion once he has the chance. It's a gesture that manages to convince Takagi about attempting a more mainstream release

In response, Moritaka convinces Takagi that going mainstream is the only way to succeed. Aiming for a niche appeal already sacrifices the possibility of blockbuster success; only by the two learning to compete with the big dogs can they ever be one of them.

I’ll admit to feeling some whiplash from this reversal; it was only a few weeks ago that the pair was convinced by Hattori to avoid the mainstream in the first place. And their initial success was such that they could easily keep up that approach and be successful at it for some time. But Moritaka isn’t willing to be settle for being successful anymore. He wants to be the best.

Takagi himself, I'm sure, would be fine with the niche market approach as long as it sold. Moritaka both is and is not shocked about how brazen Takagi is in asking about their payment for their first publication

As I’ve said, Moritaka wants to succeed for the sake of wooing Azuki; it’s now clear that beating Niizuma has become another, perhaps equal priority for him. He says that he wants the two of them to be the best in Japan, but I don’t think the fact that surpassing Niizuma would be part of this has escaped Moritaka’s notice. Beyond the motivation of love, now professional pride is compelling him to move forward. And that’s probably a healthy change overall.

That’s not to say that Moritaka has stopped caring about Azuki, or that the show has either. The first part is actually a rather amusing excursion on the two of them learning to communicate via text messaging and email, now that they are going to different high schools. Moritaka makes the mistake of starting his first one after having pulled a few overnighters getting the story drawn up; he suffers through another overnighter drafting a novella-length email to Azuki. She responds with a couple sentences.

I'm sure all of us have at one point carefully gone over an email or letter to make sure everything is worded exactly right. Moritaka takes it to a bit of an extreme, though

It’s a fun little bit of comic relief, buttressed by some similar moments in the middle and at the very end of the show. But the comedy is clearly in the backseat now. Bakuman is as serious as a show about teenagers trying to be successful manga creators can get. And that’s far more serious than one would initially expect.

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