Bakuman vol. 15 – Tsugumi Ohba

3 out of 5

I’ll try not to go on too much of a “shaking my head at Ohba” rant this time, but we do have another case of a bold step forward… and then, like, fifty steps back. It’s all about Nakai. I was pleased when Ohba more clearly outed Nakai as a scumbag who just does stuff to be around pretty girls, and then incel-angers his way around when they won’t date him; whether a retroactive kinda-sorta apology or an actual pre-planned arc, it ended up feeling damned true to the character’s actions, and gave some credit to Tsugumi’s abilities at crafting a character-based manga. He continues down that path, here, while also maintaining the series’ grounding in humor, until he totally backpedals on it. It’s frustrating as heck, because he almost gets to some interesting points about this all-too-common personality type, having Hiramaru face up to his similarities to Nakai, even if he’s “more gentle” about it, but then it flip-flops into a buddy comedy, and gender roles get further screwy when Aoki is seen as being a strong character by, essentially, saying she’ll just put up with it. So one knock for taking us on that runaround. I’m fearing this will lead to a redemption arc of sorts, which will be disingenuous. However, should this also be part of some longer-form plotting that ends up better balancing the scales (or attempting to view the scales honestly), I’ll definitely offer retroactive praise.

The other runaround comes from an interesting concept that feels like it’s dealt with too indirectly: some PCP imitators break into a bank, and this very much upsets Akito’s ability to continue scripting, unsure what tone to take, despite support from Jump and Moritaka to continue writing PCP as he has been, i.e. not concerning himself with the influences it might make. This would’ve been a very cool, very heavy thing to dive into, but Ohba treats it more as just a temporary distraction, and Akito moping and no one able to have a good sit down with him about it. The “we don’t talk about our feelings” m.o. is somewhat the norm, so I wasn’t expecting a big therapy session, but I think this could’ve had some more existential dives to it than it did.

The volume leads off with the resolution of the Nanamine issue, for now; this was a pretty good example of what I was asking for in the above paragraph – taking us through the full tour of emotions surrounding these roadblocks and speedbumps to staying the manga-writing course. I guess I can understand not wanting to follow up a longer arc with another of similar heft, but it’s broken up by the Nakai nonsense, so I think it would’ve been fine.