Home > Bakuman, Episode Reviews > Bakuman Episode 14 – Prodigal Prodigies

Bakuman Episode 14 – Prodigal Prodigies

After reviewing some rather lackluster offerings from the new season (curse you, bear, for stealing the best premiere to come out in the last week), I need to talk about a good show again. Fortunately, I have one in Bakuman, which has only gotten better as the series continues.

One of unique things about Bakuman, as I’ve mentioned before, is how it delves into the details of the manga creation process. This is interesting, particularly for those who don’t know how the system works, but it’s not typically dramatic. There is, however, one place where character conflict and production details aren’t just compatible, but natural fits: the relationship between editor and writer. This goes double when the less experienced party makes up for it with a stronger will.

Niizuma gets two assistants assigned to him by the magazine, both attempted manga authors themselves that don't have the talent to make it big and who have to make money where they can. One is twice Niizuma's age

Hattori, of course, comes into instant conflict with Takagi and Moritaka over their decision to try for a more mainstream, combat-oriented manga series. He points out, as Moritaka and Takagi both half-understood already, that their proposed offering is cliche, lackluster, and not up to publication. That his charges are in a rush to reach serialization also confuses and aggravates him.

Hisashi Sasaki, the supposed editor of Eiji Niizuma, has a remarkably similiar set of concerns. Niizuma too has not been writing what he’s supposed to be writing, dropping any work on “Yellow Hit” to focus more on “Crow.” The problem is that “Yellow Hit” is supposed to start serialization in a week, with the publication announced and scheduled, and Niizuma can’t bother himself to start on it.

Even while in a taxi and getting chewed out by his editor, Niizuma doesn't stop drawing. I know his obsession is what drives his success, but I still think the kid might need a psychiatrist

This leads to Sasaki dragging Niizuma into the magazine’s offices while Hattori is in the middle of chewing out his authors. Thanks to the direct intervention of the editor-in-chief, Niizuma wins; “Crow” takes the serialization spot while the magazine will publish an apology for the confusion. It’s a bit humiliating for Sasaki, who has now demonstrated he has no control over his author, but the magazine’s bottom line should still be fine.

Hattori attempts to use this for his own advantage, letting Niizuma draw drafts of his manga with Moritaka and Takagi as a captive audience. While he hopes the experience will break the two of their dreams of defeating Niizuma directly, it only seems to strengthen their resolve. Eventually he works out a compromise: Get a solid offering to him in six months, or choose between abandoning the concept or finding a new editor.

Niizuma promises that he can produce the outlines for two follow-up chapters of "Crow" (totaling close to 50 pages) in an hour. He does it in half the time

While I don’t know if our heroes will successfully pull off a classic battle manga—Niizuma’s compliments for the pair’s “Money and Intelligence” imply that making creative niche titles is where their true talents lie—I’m happy we’ll get at least a couple more episodes of the pair following that track. Another sudden shift of emphasis and I’d be wondering if Bakuman’s writers were are flighty as teenagers themselves.

That said, the show does properly depict teenagers as, well, flighty: prone to sudden shifts in attention and passion, and always sure that their current path, however recently chosen, is the correct one. The outright rage of Hattori and Sasaki at their wayward charges is palpable—and, thanks to the wonders of subtle super-deformity, often quite  funny.

Hattori's anger at Moritaka and Takagi surprises even his own coworkers, who have never seen him get this worked up. Of course, Hattori's never had such good authors to develop either

The show also comes back to Niizuma’s monomaniacal interest in manga itself, not ratings, contracts, or prizes. He’s impossible to contact because drawing is more important than checking his phone. He breezily dismisses information about who else is starting syndication alongside him, not registering that those authors are potential competition. He seems positively disinterested in having assistants to aid in his work, just as he’s not interested in drawing something that doesn’t spark his passion.

He is, however, interested in “Muto Ashirogi,” the author of “Money and Intelligence.” Promptly identifying Moritaka and Takagi as the authors behind the pen name, he complements them on their work, noting that he could never think of something so clever or innovative. Perhaps illustrating that authors themselves are far more discerning than mainstream audiences, he goes as far to indicate that he already considers them equals.

There's plenty of shocked expressions going around this episode, particularly as most of the cast gets a taste of what Niizuma is really like. Nothing floors "Muto Ashirogi" as much as Niizuma's appreciation

It’s the first time we’ve seen Niizuma acts like a decent excuse for a human being toward anyone, serving as a welcome act of characterization for a figure who until now has been more comparable to a brute force of nature. It’s also a sign that the duo, whatever else one can say about them, has some natural talent. That said, it doesn’t cause Moritaka and Takagi from backing down in their attempt to beat him.

The episode also returns to how solid an editor Hattori is, particularly in comparison to Sasaki. The latter can only force his assignment to obey (and then under limited circumstances); while Niizuma is quite the handful, Sasaki doesn’t add anything to the relationship. Hattori, as much as he disagrees with his protegees, is careful not to dampen their spirits, appealing to their reason and brokering compromises when necessary. If the pair ever beats Niizuma, it will be because of his efforts.

The romance went on the back burner this episode, but there were a couple amusing asides with Takagi and Miyoshi. Here Takagi tries to develop a feeling for combat by having Miyoshi beat him up; given how often he puts his foot in his mouth around her, he might want to make those pads a regular accessory

Niizuma isn’t the only colleague the two will have; the updated opening and completely new ending sequences reveal some fellow authors who will no doubt be introduced in the next several episodes. It will be interesting to see what roles they play, and how they complement our protagonists. For it is now evidence that Niizuma is meant not just as a foil for “Ashirogi,” but as a friend. After predicting a stormy relationship between them early on, I’m surprised to be happy to be wrong.

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