Home > Bakuman, Episode Reviews > Bakuman Episode 25 – Cutting through the Tension

Bakuman Episode 25 – Cutting through the Tension

Last week I made some predictions about the direction I thought Bakuman would take for its finale. One would think I would have learned by now to stop making myself look foolish.

Specifically, I predicted that Moritaka and Takagi would get syndicated, that their two major competitors would get syndicated, and that there might be a romantic climax at the end of the series. I got two out of three right, but the episode brings in two shocking plot twists (in the context of the manga business, anyway) that I did not call.

This is, in fact, a good thing. I would hate for Bakuman to be so predictable as to fall into cliche.

Speaking of unpredictable: I would have never thought I'd say this at the start of the series, but I think the show would be improved if Niizuma got more screen time—and more chance to grow as a person

Let’s start with what I did predict. After a long, hard meeting with the senior editorial board, Detective Trap is cleared for syndication. After making it through the initial approval hurdle to be considered worthy of publishing, it is then placed against the other six series that cleared the hurdle (including Hideout Door and Kiyoshi Knight) for the four slots that are actually open.

It says something about Bakuman that the show can make a boardroom conversation—where the potential weaknesses of each series are discussed, where editors fight on behalf of their writers, and where the financial bottom line is always under consideration—so tense and interesting. This goes double since the syndication of Detective Trap is basically required by the narrative, making the suspense even more difficult to generate.

One potential criticism of the process is how much it is dominated by the editor-in-chief, who also seems to have infallible opinions. Maybe this is an example of the writers of Bakuman sucking up to their editors

Here is where the first surprise hits; neither Kiyoshi Knight nor Hideout Door get the nod. Instead, the second newcomer slot goes to a complete dark horse, Kazuya Hiramaru. The same faceless suit who has haunted the past two episodes, he quit his office job as a result of overhearing Moritaka and Takagi’s conversation and produced a syndication-worthy work in a month.

Putting aside the ridiculous nature of it, Hiramaru is presented as an anti-Niizuma, brilliant not through a lifelong pursuit of the medium, but rather an intrinsic genius. It’s implied he’s syndicated as much to ensure that his newfound passion for manga is given a boost before he decides to switch to something else.

We still don't see his face in the episode proper, but Hiramaru gets an appearance in the closing ad announcing the next season this fall. Perhaps the writers were concerned about how creepy he looks

That being said, Fukada, Aoki, and Nakai don’t feel like they’re left completely in the lurch; there are some narrative hints that their turn, too, is coming. But this episode, like the rest of the series, is about Moritaka and the pursuit of his dream. And that pursuit doesn’t just improve on the professional side.

As a result of the syndication news, and because of her own growing courage, Azuki finally calls Moritaka, with the two of them having their first conversation since middle school. Face to face encounters are still a long way down the road, but they are growing closer together bit by bit. And it’s clear that it’s not just Moritaka’s recent publishing success that prompted the call.

Azuki and Moritaka's relationship is still arguably the weakest link in the show, but that doesn't mean that the writers can't pull drama from it at the right moments

Whether this increase in communication will turn out to be a good mood in the long term depends on if the series can learn to write female characters convincingly. Regardless, Bakuman ends its first season on a note of triumph that, while it clearly doesn’t end the story, depicts a major advance in Moritaka and Takagi’s dream. And how it ends makes you ready for more.

Series Review: Overall, Bakuman is a solid series with occasional hints of brilliance counterbalanced by a few obvious weaknesses. Its skill is found in taking a traditional story line (a boy in pursuit of a dream, who becomes a man in pursuit of it) and applying it to an unusual topic. In a demographic filled with over the top action shows and harem set-pieces, having a story about ordinary teenagers pursuing a real career is something entirely new.

The last official scene is Hattori introducing his protegees to Miura, who will be taking over as their editor. Moritaka and Takagi's shocked expressions match those of the audience

The obvious genius of the show is picking out a topic (becoming a successful manga writer) with which those who love manga would naturally identify. The less likely followup is that Bakuman translates the drama of the unconventional journey in such an engaging fashion. Boardroom discussions and artistic analysis should not be this interesting.

The show’s primary strength, however, is in the realism of its male cast, who feel like real people with genuine passion. This might be written off as the creators simply relating their own personal experiences through the story, but—aside from the fact that even that this is a surprisingly challenging thing to do—that same care is extended to Hattori and the rest of the editing staff. The men of Bakuman feel real.

Nakai and Fukada agree to become rivals and fight for syndication together, suggesting that both will eventually succeed

The same cannot be said of the show’s female cast. Azuki is still a blank slate, Miyoshi is still a doormat (if a potentially violent one), Aoki a walking stereotype, and the other female cast members even more forgettable. The show has been making some strides to humanize them (particularly in the last few episodes), but only with limited success thus far.

Another weakness is a far more common, yet still very ironic one: the transition from a print to animated format has been rather problematic. The series run of Bakuman was designed to fit in a natural climax at both the midseason point and finale, but to pull this off the show had to stretch some individual manga chapters into entire episodes. When the natural pacing would dictate two to three chapters per episode, that can lead to some serious lulls in the pacing.

Moritaka's father, the workaholic that he is, gets his third scene in the show. As far as we know, he's talked with Moritaka less than Azuki has

Still, that also means that Bakuman ends its first season with both a solid conclusion and something of a cliffhanger, making me happy for the announced second season. Like many shows based off ongoing shounen manga series, Bakuman might wind up outstaying its welcome, continuing to milk the cash cow of the franchise long after it should have been put to pasture. Right now, however, Bakuman is still in its prime. It’s not a show of the year, or even of the season. But for anyone not allergic to teenage males dreaming grand dreams and achieving them, it’s a show you should watch.

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