Anime Review: Bakuman Episodes 2 and 3

(Originally published on Livejournal on 12/12/10)

Anime Review:
Bakuman Episodes 2 and 3

What this is about: I have reviewed the first episode of every subtitled anime show of the Fall 2010 season. For the shows that received an initial ‘thumbs up’, I am going back and looking at the second and third episodes — which ones will survive to the next round?

Series Premise: C-student Mashiro Moritaka has a secret crush on classmate Miho Azuki. One day Takagi Akito catches Mashiro furtively sketching Mashiro in his notebook, and proposes a plan: Team up to create the world’s best manga series, and convince Miho to become the lead voice actress when it is adapted into an anime. Mashiro, caught up in the enthusiasm, blurts out that he wants to marry Miho once that happens, and to his utter shock she accepts. Now Mashiro embarks on a journey to become a manga artist, following in the footsteps of his uncle, a once-popular manga creator that died from overwork.

ep.2 tl;dr review: It’s the next morning and Mashiro is filled with regret; Pops the question to his parents and shockingly receives the thumbs-up.

Click on the thumbnails below to view the picture in full size in a new browser window:

Episode 2 Summary: Like waking up the next morning with a one-night stand in the bed next to you, the next morning rolls around and Mashiro immediately regrets his rash actions the night before. Akito is full of enthusiasm, wanting to be his best buddy, but Mashiro can now hardly stand to be in the same room as Miho before his chest tightens. The next major roadblock is to get permission from his parents, a seemingly impossible task given the fate of his uncle. When Mashiro asks his mother, she immediately rejects his idea of becoming a manga artist; but Mashiro pushes her to bring it up with his father. To his great surprise, Mashiro’s father gives his approval, and he then has to give the news to his grandfather. Mashiro point-blank says he’s going to become a manga artist, and his grandfather hands him they keys to his dead uncle’s studio as a sign of his approval as well.


ep.3 tl;dr review: Entering otaku heaven in the uncle’s studio; Twist of the generation as Miho is connected to Mashiro in ways he never imagined.

Click on the thumbnails below to view the picture in full size in a new browser window:

Episode 3 Summary: Like giddy, giggly schoolkids Mashiro and Akito enter the artist studio that has been left untouched for three years. There, they find otaku heaven with rows and rows of toys and books, and countless boxes of scripts and sketches from Mashiro’s uncle’s career. As Akito becomes increasingly hopeful and excited, Mashiro begins to doubt himself and worry about the path upon which is about to embark. While exploring, they discover that the girl that his uncle has a lifelong crush on, turns out to be Miho’s mother! They boldly go to meet her when Miho is away and confirm their suspicions, and receive a bit of a pep talk from her.


My Thoughts: I do like a good “underdog” story as the young neophyte fights against impossible odds to rise to the top (it’s how I managed to complete otherwise unexceptional shows like Angelic Layer or Stellvia or Saki), and the idea of a junior high school student with zero experience becoming an award-winning manga artist (or “manga-ka”, as they say in the show) has a certain appeal. That’s probably why I’m still watching this show that otherwise I would probably be dropping. While not really a poor show, Bakuman doesn’t really stand out for me either. I find the story a bit forced, the humor a bit grating, the characters (another Kyon-clone and Mr. Annoying Sidekick) unappealing. Now that everything is set up and in place, hopefully they will move forward quickly towards their goal, since that’s the hook for me. If they dick around with the Odd Couple humor routine, however, don’t expect me to stick around.

A few quick thoughts:
– Talk about a generational twist! Mashiro x Miho is a direct analog to Mashiro’s Uncle x Miho’s Mother. An unbelievable coincidence? Sure, what would an anime show be without an unbelievable coincidence, after all. It also adds a whole new dimension to Mashiro following in his fateful uncle’s footsteps.
– I have no doubt that Akito can hold up his end of the bargain; even though he has no clue what he is doing, Akito is the type of fast-learner that is fueled by enthusiasm.
– Mashiro, on the other hand, entered into the pact based on a *single* sketch. At first it was a whim and impossible dream, but as they have now taken several steps forward to putting the plan into action, Mashiro is becoming increasingly uncomfortable, doubting his own ability to hold up his half of the pact.
– I wonder if Mashiro’s family is especially strict, or if all Japanese families are like that. Asking Mom in a formal meeting for permission to do something, Mom approaching Dad as an intermediary, Dad reports back to Mom, Mom reports back to Son. Is this a traditional Japanese family model, or is the Moritaka family an outdated anomaly? In America, just about every kid would say screw my parents, I’m doing whatever the hell I want.
– I can see this show becoming the darling of otaku everywhere, as the creation and production process is laid bare; every otaku that has ever dreamed of becoming a popular creator (and it seems, in America at least, that would be every single one) can put themselves in the shoes of Mashiro. Added bonus: Going after the girl of your dreams at the same time. Otaku heaven indeed!

The Verdict: – On the cusp, but I gave it a weak thumbs-up…for now.

For more info:

My review of Episode 1: http://matthigh.livejournal.com/559846.html
Random Curiosity review of Episode 2: http://randomc.net/2010/10/11/bakuman-02/
Random Curiosity review of Episode 3: http://randomc.net/2010/10/17/bakuman-03/

Returning back to the second episodes of the Fall 2010 series coming up next: Otome Youkai Zakura (2-3), Kuragehime (2-3), Arakawa Under the Bridge x Bridge (2-3)

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