Home > Bakuman, Episode Reviews > Bakuman Episode 22 – More Heat than Light

Bakuman Episode 22 – More Heat than Light

I wasn’t very happy about the direction Bakuman took last episode, and nothing this time around has done much to change my mind. While the initial surprise of Koogy’s attempt to hijack the latest manga competition has worn off, the show still needs to do something productive with the plotline, and it really hasn’t.

Granted, there’s some decent characterization, particularly of the secondary characters, and our heroes are only inspired to improve on their work as a result. But regarding actual plot advancement or development of technique, basically nothing happens.

Fukada leads the shouting match with his editor, but despite looking angry doesn't wring out the slightest concession

The protest Moritaka and his fellow manga authors were planning to drop on their editors? A bunch of shouting later and the situation is exactly where it stood at the beginning of the episode. Basically, Moritaka decides to trust that the editors will recognize a story worthy of syndication even if the polls are spiked by fangirls, and instead wants to make Muto Ashirogi’s entry all the more worthy.

This does lead to the group getting together with Niizuma for an impromptu critiquing session, but this also goes nowhere. Neither the brash Fukada or the opinionated Aoki get along with each other or appreciate the other’s artistic styles, and the two basically refuse to accept commentary from the other.

Fukada is a diehard defender of keeping shounen titles juvenile. His personality matches his style very well

The one hope for reconciliation is Niizuma, but he refuses to offer detailed commentary. He just says that they are all good, but that two are basically tied for being the best with a third clearly behind them. Out of courtesy he doesn’t identify the weaker offering, but Moritaka is certain that it’s his.

This inspires him and Takagi to redo their draft, finding new ways to improve the manuscript. Of course, the feedback they’ve received on it has been precisely nil, so I’m not certain what they are going to revise. Takagi comments after the fact that their review meeting was basically useless, and that’s a good summary for the entire episode.

Aoki possesses an unflappable self-confidence. Nakai's slavish devotion to her probably doesn't help—and neither does his apparent glasses fetish

Perhaps the only thing the episode was useful for was to show exactly how different Takagi and Moritaka are from their competitors. We’ve already seen how Niizuma’s undisciplined style combines with his longstanding love of the medium to produce popular, yet somewhat uncreative works. What he is and what he does are practically the same thing.

Aoki and Fukuda are similar, each producing works which are as much expressions of their personalities as they are profit-making endevors. Here Muto Ashirogi stands out: each work Moritaka and Takagi has done has been different from the last, and each shows a constantly developing style. Of all the authors, they are the most versatile, and the ones maturing fastest.

Moritaka and Takagi are very aware of how good the other writers are. What they don't realize is that the others think the same about them

And, frankly, they are also the most pleasant. Koogy might have come off as arrogant and pretentious last episode, but all of the other authors in the competition have serious ego problems. This is why they don’t get around to offering criticism of each other in the first place; all believe their own work is the best, so why offer advice to others to make theirs better?

Niizuma, of course, is the exception to this, cheerfully taking criticism just as he gives it. It’s from politeness that he refrains from speaking, not self-certainty. This is partially because he’s the one person in the room with nothing to prove. But he’s not the sort of person who cares about proving things anyway.

While the other competitors read their competitors works with a critical eye, Niizuma just lets each work enthrall him. Once again it's clear he does what he does for the love of it

What else? We also get a taste of what Azuki’s been doing, as she and some of her fellow actoresses give a live performance of their closing song for their series to a crowd of enthusiastic, creepy guys. This isn’t completely unusual for actresses, but it’s still rather disturbing on a meta level to see a crowd of otaku eying miniskirted teenage girls dancing in front of them.

Miyoshi, also present, is impressed by how dedicated the normally shy Azuki is, giving a performance far outside her usual comfort zone. But why is she encouraging Azuki in the first place? Why did Azuki want to become a voice actress in the first place, when such a role requires outspokenness and a high threshold for embarrassment? The answer, of course, is because the plot says so, and given how disappointed I’ve been when the series tries to give Azuki character development, maybe I should leave it at that.

Miyoshi and Azuki's sister Mina are the only women present at the performance. Three guesses as to why

So, yes, Bakuman still seems to be stalling. I’m guessing they are trying to time the end of the series on a high note (probably winning the contest and/or syndication) before setting up for the next season. It just so happens they need to waste our time with pointless filler for a few episodes to hit the right mark.

This arc has a solid job with characterization, but needs to think seriously about pacing. There are shows out there which are good at making people doing nothing consistently entertaining. This is not one of them.

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