Bakuman vol. 18 – Tsugumi Ohba

4 out of 5

It is, of course, immensely satisfying to see Muto Ashirogi triumph in Bakuman, and especially when its been so earned: the construction and execution of their Reversi strip is based on all they’ve learned up to this point, and it’s not for naught. It was also nice to see Ohba remain consistent with his characters – Moritaka pushing himself to absolute exhaustion – but not repeating old dramatics related to that, and instead providing a rewarding solution. Even leading up to this point, the juggling of Reversi versus Nizuma’s new strip is tense, exciting stuff – again showing off how Ohba and Obata sneakily turn this manga about two normal dudes into something resembling a battle manga, with returning “villains” and antiheroes and whatnot. This part of the book is perfect – rife with emotions and payoffs, all within a realm of believability.

And then we get distracted. I love Hiramaru, but Ohba has really just been using him as joke material for the most part, and two chapters dedicated to a little mini-arc concerning his relationship with Aoki is surely cute, but come on: he’s not a real character, and trying to make him into one at this point is just page filler. Similarly, Ohba tries to work Azuki into this a bit more – at least Moritaka texts her and references her more – but it’s another reminder of how little her presence has actually mattered for several chapters.

The next focus seems a little weaksauce – comparing trade sales with Nizuma, trying to understand why their titles, doing equally well in Jump, have different sales when collected into books – but Ohba has certainly surprised me time and again by turning that kind of stuff into gold. So it’s not really a great cliffhanger for this volume, but we’ll see where it goes next.

Thankfully, these weaker points – and again, the stuff with Hiramaru is fun, just rather pointless – are all in the latter chapters, with the rise to Reversi’s dominance taking up a good 3/4ths of the book.