Bakuman Episode 19 – How to Save a Friendship
What makes for a lasting friendship? One that can survive disappointments, hurt feelings, mutual recriminations, and the changing circumstances of life? Bakuman doesn’t provide an explicit answer to this question; rather, it presents one solution by showing a lasting friendship at work.
Is that solution presented well? Mostly. I’ll have some points to nitpick here and there, but overall the interplay between Moritaka and Takagi seems properly thought out and reasonably engaging. And it’s always a plus for a story to avoid hammering home the particular life lessons inherent to the plot.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t lessons to be learned. As an alternative to a basic narrative review, I’ll talk about them in the context of the episode.
The first part of keeping a friendship alive is to be honest and upfront in communication. When Takagi fails to meet his self-imposed September deadline for getting a story draft together, he admits his fault and doesn’t complain when Moritaka severs their professional relationship as a consequence. He only defends Miyoshi, arguing that his burgeoning romance with her was not the reason he couldn’t get a draft finished.
Because he doesn’t act defense and offer excuses, Moritaka doesn’t have to go on the offensive. Their parting is as friendly as is possible under the circumstances, and the two even agree to collaborate again in potential freelance situations. There is a parting, but no bridges are burned.
The second part is to have a similar vision of the world. When Moritaka and Takagi independently bring up the idea of a detective story to him, Hattori is understandably shocked and impressed. Although Moritaka and Takagi are officially split, they still think in the same way and with the same goal in mind. If anything, they only come closer in their time apart.
Hattori’s initial frustration at learning of their split, alongside Miyoshi’s guilt about the same, points to a third part: have mutual friends who want to keep you together. Hattori eventually concocts a plan with Takagi to get the two of them back together, with the latter spending two years getting a carefully crafted mystery series together (with not just a few chapters, but a series worth plotted out) while Hattori keeps Moritaka from finding another collaborator or getting syndicated.
Takagi reneges on the plan, revealing to Moritaka what he’s been working on after just a month of prep work. Hattori has always been against high schoolers being syndicated, so it’s not surprising that his plan conveniently puts both of them on the back burner until they are about to graduate; Takagi, by contrast, wants success almost as much as Moritaka does, and knows full well why Moritaka is hellbent on becoming successful as fast as he can. His natural sympathy for his partner means he sides with him over Hattori.
It also, of course, shows again how the two of them think alike, and how they need to be honest with each other. And one month is all Moritaka needs to learn how hard it is to come up with a story idea and plot it out from start to finish. He’s still struggling with his first story draft in the time it takes Takagi to produce five.
Thus we see the fourth part: have skills that the other person needs. Without Moritaka, Takagi would be paying off artists to illustrate stories for which they didn’t have any personal attachment; without Takagi, Moritaka could only serve as a illustrator to a series of authors needing a freelancer. The two only can work as a team together; only they understand the other’s vision, and drive, and passion.
And the fifth part is just sort of obvious: be good friends in the first place. Although Moritaka “ended” the relationship, he doesn’t stop missing Takagi’s company. Maybe it’s stronger for him because he can’t see his beautiful girlfriend and Takagi can, or because it was Takagi who originally gave him his purpose. Either way, the moments of bonding they’ve had over the past year (and which I’ve had cause to write about) make it hard Moritaka to contemplate being alone.
So, by the end of the episode the two are back together, deciding to work on getting a solid mystery/detective series together over the next half a year before presenting their work to Hattori. This will be faster than their editor wants—and will be a challenge for the two to accomplish—but still should give them the time to put the groundwork in to make their submission work.
That does leave the question as to how fast the series will go through those six months; this episode only covered one, and it still felt rushed. I’m not certain if they’ll fit some character development episodes into that “period” while waiting for the plot to catch up, but I doubt they’ll have more than one episode devoted to actually writing the story. At least, I really hope they don’t.
Complaining about the show’s internal chronology is minor compared to the overall success of the episode. I might have liked it if the conflict stretched out a bit longer, or didn’t appear as easily resolved as it was. It’s still done with solid characterization, decently realized emotion, and—most importantly—without pulling an easy out that would have cheapened the original conflict. If the issue was resolved as “easily” as it was, this is only because the show laid the groundwork in advance to make the conflict surmountable.
So, ultimately I have few complaints with the episode. With a half a year wait, Moritaka and Takagi will be nearly juniors by the time their work hits Hattori’s desk. And, as much as I like the fact that the pair has hit numerous roadblocks and setbacks, I think I’m ready for them to succeed just this once.