Bakuman Episode 20 – Flash Forward
I publicly wondered last time if Bakuman would take more than an episode to cover the half year process of Takagi and Moritaka preparing their detective story for their editor. As I expected, the answer was no. But I wasn’t expecting this episode to take the timeline even further, heading all the way into the summer as the duo prepare the series for publication (and hoped-for serialization), in a twenty minute span.
Granted, Bakuman does a decent job of showing you the passage of time, and of providing some hints about the effort the pair put into their work. But it looks like Bakuman is beginning to leave behind its early practice of taking its time showing the process of manga writing. Now its getting straight to the point, and the point is no longer seeing pen put to paper.
Moritaka and Takagi give themselves the goal of making five storyboarded chapters for Hattori in six months, and actually pull off eight. All the while, they keep Hattori in the dark about their resurgent collaboration, trying to present him with a finished product before he can talk them out aiming for serialization. They succeed perfectly.
We don’t see how they succeed, however, or what clicked this time that hadn’t before. There are occasional exchanges between the two where Takagi refines Moritaka’s story ideas, and supposedly Miyoshi furnishes both with ideas gleaned from marathoning through mystery series. But for the most part we don’t see it.
We do see the two present the finished project to Hattori, along with their request to get it serialized. Hattori agrees under certain conditions, namely that the first chapter is popular when field tested as a one shot, and that the two of them prove they can keep up with a serialization schedule by producing chapters on a regular basis.
The pair agrees, of course, and they accomplish that too. This apparently runs them ragged, but no deadline is missed and their determination does not flag. Hattori concedes the issue and submits their work for the latest contest.
While I suppose breezing through this part of the plot makes a lot of sense from the perspective of the narrative, it also reminds us what Bakuman is good at, and that is developing relationships between the characters (specifically the male ones). Seeing how Takagi and Moritaka develop as artists, friends, and adults as they strive for professional success is the main draw of the series.
But they don’t develop here, at all. Granted, it wasn’t reasonable to assume that the character development and relational drama of the last few episodes would be matched here. But the show doesn’t generate new challenges or points for growth now that the last arc’s challenges have been resolved. This leaves us with an episode where nothing happens save rushed plot progression. And that’s just not particularly interesting to watch.
I mean, we had to have an episode where things like this happened. But it could have been spiced up a bit, maybe even lengthened to two episodes, with a struggle introduced about the process of making the material for Hattori (some creative hurdle), or about keeping up with the faux-syndication schedule that Hattori imposes (a physical one). By trying to rush through this section as fast as possible, the show missed an opportunity to make it interesting.
Still, if something is going to be boring, then just rushing through it is probably the best option available. And “Muto Ashirogi” needs to finally succeed at something. Now, having jumped to their junior year of high school, it looks like they might be ready.
Success, and even serialization, will not be the end of Bakuman’s story. The two need an anime, after all, and I doubt it will come quick. Moritaka and Takagi have to not just be successful, but make it big, against very talented opposition like Niizuma. I don’t know if turning the show from a fight for serialization to a fight for ratings will maintain the same level of appeal, but the external plot, as I’ve said in this review repeatedly, is not why I’m watching in the first place.
If nothing else, there’s a second season already slated for later this year, so there’s obviously content to match. With less than two years left in high school its now a race for the pair to get an anime series before they turn 18. I just hope we’ll see our protagonists mature a little more in the process.