Bakuman S1 – the final word
April 3, 2011
Episode 25 of Bakuman has aired, bringing the first season to a close. Here I survey reactions from around the ani-blogisphere before concluding with my own perspective. To the studio!
First for my tour of the ani-blogging commentariat. The general impression seems to be that the show was at least a bit disappointing, but most people have something positive to say. Specifically the show has been criticized for directorial decisions, especially poor pacing, and emphasizing a romantic sub-plot that didn’t deserve it.
“The slice of life show of the season.” … “Nothing really stands out for this show aside from a few select episodes.” … “Overall Bakuman should have used its time a bit more efficiently.”
“I haven’t liked a show this bad for some time.”
“This laid back series has a slow pacing that probably isn’t for everybody, but it does have it’s fair share of genuine moments and a nice cast that can keep things interesting.”
“What if this season hadn’t been 25 episodes, but only 13? It would have rushed some things, but for a show that’s generally been plodding and padded in all the wrong places, it might not have been a bad thing.”
“It’s been an enjoyable ride so far aside from the odd mis-step here and there.”
Kickin’ it, Abandoned Factory style
First, I completely agree with those who criticize the pacing on this show. I like slice of life, but I am far from convinced that that is what the production team set out to achieve. As proof I would point out that the series was much more effective when it turned its attention to the rivalry between Ashirogi Muto and the others competing for the Golden Future cup and the opportunity to be serialized. Competition is not the stuff of slice of life stories (observing natural cycles is a better subject for the genre); competitions are shounen, and I think this is what the show was trying to be all along. At the very least I would say that it was most effective as a shounen story, which generally involves the struggle to get better, compete with rivals, and become number one.
On the other hand, it is difficult to dismiss Bakuman, because there is obviously something there, but what is it? The “adult world” of Jack seems to have many unique characters, but, oddly, the main characters all have a blandness to them. Perhaps this is mainly the character designs, which, for younger characters (including the leads) always seems to include an ice cream cone shaped face. This artistic laziness seems to have extended into the depictions of the environments the characters inhabit, with the notable exception of Ashirogi Muto’s studio.
For me, that something that I don’t want to dismiss is that there were glimpses of people pursuing their careers. As I have written before, “For some reason, the anime and manga aimed at boys and men that gets translated into English never addresses this aspect of our existence. Oh, sure, if the job is piloting a giant robot to save the world from aliens, or if the male lead is a spy with super powers, we get to see some workplace drama.” In a comment, Sapphire Pyro mentioned Bakuman as a series with this sort of setting and focus. These glimpses of office life with Hottori and the others were brief, and bunched towards the end of the first season. Is this a harbinger of good things to come, since a second season has been announced?
Simply put, if you have no interest in the life of a professional artist, I can not, at this point, recommend Bakuman. For those looking forward to a decent (if generic) shounen series that aired this season, check out Cardfight!! Vanguard. In fact, I kind of wish the director of Bakuman had checked out Cardfight!! Vanguard, before working on this. The one thing Cardfight!! Vanguard was lacking was that it was a completely generic story (the one thing you can really credit Bakuman for). Even Cardfight!! Vanguard‘s romance was better than Miho X Moritaka. I, however, will undoubtedly watch the announced season 2 of Bakuman, in the hope that the glimpses of professional life will become
more prevalent the substance of the story [edit: after RP’s comment below].