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This is easily the weakest season of Bakuman of the three, and I think a good part of that has to do with what I've regularly found to be the major weak link of the series: Mashiro and Azuki's promise. The whole relationship was ridiculous to see occur in the first place with the two not having any direct contact with one another for much of the show until both are successful with anime and manga, on top of Azuki existing more as a "goal" for Mashiro instead of being a character one can connect with. Sadly this story element gets greater focus in this season, which adds more to the messy plot threads added into this season with Mashiro and Takagi dealing with a rival manga-ka as an antagonist and all the Jack mangaka teaming up to try surpassing Eiji's rank in the magazine before he ends his hit manga "Crow". The show still has its redeemable moments in exploring some challenges faced by Mashiro and Takagi with their manga making such as how to approach the content they make for the questionable themes of their manga series when it gets linked to a real-life incident and the challenges of making two manga series at once. But still, the greater focus on Mashiro and Azuki's relationship and the mentioned plot threads really killed my enjoyment of this season to Bakuman. Fans of the series will definitely feel the need to watch this final season. But your mileage could vary on how you enjoy this particular season.
Last updated Saturday, March 30 2013. Created Saturday, March 30 2013.
(23 episodes watched):|
The first episode of this third season was slightly disappointing to me, because it focused on Mashiro and Azuki, whereas I would have preferred more time with the wacky supporting characters. Also, it seemed much like the earlier episode in which Azuki is pressured to pose for sleazy photographs. Still, I have been looking forward to this continuation of my beloved Bakuman as much as to the rest of the Fall season combined. It seems that in this episode a minor problem has arisen and been solved, so the true debut of season three, and the continuation of the longterm plot, will be in episode two.
Basically, while Mashiro and Takagi have demonstrated themselves to be competent mangakka, they have yet to score a really fantastic hit, and the trouble they have caused Jack magazine has resulted in the chief editor's patience running thin. With a deadline approaching, they decide to take a chance with their currently running series, 'Perfect Crime Party'. Somehow this show keeps me intrigued about how the manga business operates, plus the colorful characters, interweaving plot strands, and good jokes combine to keep the long running story entertaining. All sorts of interesting problems crop up, and Mashiro and Takagi deal with them. You would think that the show might become episodic, but it doesn't; perhaps the little problems are more interesting than the big one, i.e, their careers as a whole, which is by no means uninteresting in itself. In episode four the condition set by the Chief Editor is dealt with surprisingly easily, but the show immediately takes off in a new and as always interesting direction: as well as PCP is doing, is it really the sort of manga that Mashiro needs to keep his vow to Miho?
What the supporting charaters do is as much fun as what Mashiro and Takagi do. Episode seven focuses on Hiramaru, a strange, not very handsome mangakka who has a sort of inborn talent for manga, yet quickly lost interest in it and now does it only because he's deeply in debt. For ages he has been in secret love with Aoki, a female mangakka, and at long last he dares to take a step forward. This guy has always interested me, perhaps because he subconsciously reminds me of myself. The OP and ED sequences (and the image above) suggest that some new characters are on the way, and we get a hint of two of them in this episode. It is also suggested that characters that seem to have dropped out of the story long ago will be back, and that has happened before. Bakuman is a rich tapestry of interweaving plots about numerous interesting slice-of-life characters that almost always manages to remain fresh. Everything that happens is pretty much plausible and believable. Each week, after I have burned the latest episode of each series that I watch onto a DVD, this is the first one that I watch.
In episode eight the red-haired guy, Tooru, finally appears. He's a seemingly brilliant new mangakka, and might be a major competitor to Mashiro and Takagi for space in Jump magazine. Privately, however, he makes it clear to the boys that he has a questionable work ethic, to be modest. If the Ashirogi pair were to expose him, their self-interest would make their claims suspicious; so they'll probably have to outdo him by working honestly and harder than ever, in order to overcome the dishonest advantages that Tooru shamelessly employs. Another new character is Tooru's manager, Kotsugi(?), a nice guy who is devoted to manga, but who Tooru secretly despises. How will it all work out? I can't wait to see.
A characteristic of Bakuman is that sometimes characters drop out of sight for a good while, but eventually return nevertheless. That's just what happens at the end of episode ten, when a talented mangaka that Mashiro and Takagi once knew turns up on Tooru's side, which needless to say livens things up. How does improving a manga which we never read more than a few pages of ourselves become exciting and interesting? When stuff like this happens. The story moves quickly forward, in spite of how long it already is. It doesn't take long for Kotsugi and the mangaka to learn things that were supposed to be kept secret from them. As a result, they aren't just being fooled, instead they know what's really going on and must choose whether or not to go along with Tooru's unethical plan. Neither one embraces it wholeheartedly but neither one stands firmly up against it either, at least so far. That is, they do what an average person probably would, and this makes it easier to identify with them. Tooru challenges Ashirogi that they and he should each compose a new manga based on a common premise, and have the finished results run in the same issue of Shounnen Jack. This should determine which team is best once and for all, the two-man Ashirogi or Tooru's collective internet editing team. Mashiro and Takagi gladly agree.
The threat posed by Tooru faded away surprisingly quickly, and without much of a lesson about the morals of manga writing. Surely Nakai didn't return just for this, did he? Tooru is replaced by a new problem: some copycatter has commited a crime based on a story in PCP. This problem is (apparently) resolved quickly as well. On the one hand it seems a little rushed, on the other I'm grateful that this vast tapestry of subplots keeps moving at a good clip rather than getting bogged down. It looks like Nakai will hang around for awhile; I bet he creates an original manga of his own someday.
Niizuma's condition long ago that if he became the most popular contributor to Jack he would be allowed to end one manga that he hated is revived in episode 14. We finally learn which manga he wants to get rid of, and why--and it makes perfect sense. Bravo. Clearly the long term plot of Bakuman had largely been figured out even in the early days of the first season. Niizuma is ending his long running and highly popular series, 'Crow', and this marks Ashirogi's last chance to outscore him in the ratings at least once, as they vowed to do long ago. You would think that you know how this will work out; surely they'll accomplish their goal at the last minute, like a home run in the 9th inning. But that wasn't exactly what happened. One thing I like about Bakuman is that it stays fairly unpredictable, and the boys experience as many disappointments as triumphs, if not more.
In episode 17 Mashiro and Takagi come up with an idea for a new manga which might just be the one they've been looking for from the start. If all goes well, it would be highly popular, be made into an anime, and finally accomplish the conditions for Mashiro and Azuki to be married. The bad news, to a viewer, is that it might portend the long running series finally coming to an end as well. Bakuman is a long, drawn-out story; something like a decade has passed since it began, when Mashiro and Takagi were in middle school. A year can easily pass in the space of a few episods; a little math says that seven or eight is the average. Let's hope that progress moves fairly slowly and a fourth season is needed to wind up the story!
I like the way supporting characters sometimes get the limelight; like the seeming loser Hiramaru making progress with his romance, or the girl who has always been Takagi's rival suffering a major setback when her manga is threatened with cancellation. These people have developed heart and soul and it's fun to see how things work out for them.
Yet another problem develops for Mashiro and Takagi around episode 21: their new manga 'Reversi' is doing very well, but should they aim for it being a masterpiece, which might require it to be fairly short, or a longer story which would be less exceptional but more likely to be made into an anime? Interesting questions without easy answers like this one come up repeatedly and keep the show intriguing. Word of Azuki and Mashiro's extremely restrained romance leaks out in episode 22. Azuki is pressured to deny the rumors, because being 'available' makes her more attractive to male fans. The way things worked out was kind of cute and moving, even if it was a bit predictable. But again. I fear that this might be the final season of bakuman. Niizuma is up to something.
In episode 23 another piece of the conditions for Mashiro and Azuki to be married falls into place, which is bad news since if that happens within the next two or three episodes, Bakuman might wrap up after three seasons rather than four. I've got my fingers crossed.
Last updated Tuesday, March 26 2013. Created Tuesday, October 09 2012.