Bakuman vol. 2 – Tsugumi Ohba

5 out of 5

And my love for Ohba’s and Obata’s Death Note excellence – the addictive plotting; the clever interplay of characters – just shot right back into prominent memory, stirred by Bakuman’s delightful, inside-baseball approach to manga creation and its business politics. When I’m not distracted by Ohba’s sexist bullshit, this stuff is so good, and allows me to again wonder if the ignorances on display (when they are on display) are purposeful. (…Though, alas, I really doubt they are.)

Volume 2 of Bakuman has Mashiro and Takagi toiling madly to get a one-shot into Akamaru Jump – a non-weekly edition of the mag. Their competition is still young wizkid Nizuma, who will also have a one-shot in the same mag, but as guided by their straight-forward and heart-in-the-right-place editor Hattori, we learn the ins and outs of the voting system that ranks Jump’s contents, and how our creator duo can work it to their advantage. All of the offhand chatter about girls and guys is shunted aside in favor of just getting down to business, with the interstitials filled out with Mashiro and Takagi learning one another’s working rhythms (and learning from Hattori’s feedback), and watching Takagi / Miyoshi’s and Mashiro / Azuki’s relationships develop. That latter bit is actually very charming here, with some great physical comedy from Obata, and the high school naivety of things well paralleled against the seriousness of the manga business, actually showing that Obha can write straight-forward characters who aren’t just extremes on either side of the simple-minded and good vs. calculating and evil morality scale. As such, the whole tankobon is rather perfectly balanced: we’re on edge with our leads regarding the success of their work, in the trenches with them when they’re at work – feeling their exhaustion – and getting to breathe and chuckle at the relationship hijinx. The appeal of the series at this point is undeniable.