Bakuman vol. 5 – Tsugumi Ohba

4 out of 5

The Detective Trap team get a new editor!

It says something quite positive that Ohba and Obata can hype the day-to-day stresses of, essentially, an office job, into a page-turning, expressive, and emotional ride. Yes, there’s the cool inside-baseball feel of peeking behind the curtains of what goes in to getting manga into Jump every week, but absolutely fueling that are the personalities of the people involved – Mashiro and Takagi, for sure, but now their completely-different-from-Hattori editor Goro Miura, who causes the boys all sorts of anguish in determining if, like, he’s a good editor or not. The “office job” part of this is how grueling and relatively strict the process is; how little choice the duo seemingly have in things once their series has been greenlit. The quest for (or question of) artistic purity is already muddled by our artist and writer doing this mainly for the purpose of getting an animated series, but then the confusion of weekly reader scores are thrown on top, alongside confusing and conflicting direction from friends and Miura as to whether or not they should be playing to the readers, or stick to their storytelling guns. Meanwhile, it’s certainly Mashiro’s and Takagi’s under-the-surface desires to work on something they want to work on that has actually made for their best decisions, but it’s hard to see that clearly – or trust in it – when the business of paying assistants and making your weekly pages comes into play.

It’s intense stuff, and Obata is doing amazing things with defining space and characters, giving the huge – and still growing! – cast fully lived-in sense of selves while allowing for cartoonish stylization where appropriate, and making the repeated settings of Shueisha and studios seem realistic (occupied by head-down creatives, day in, day out) and yet keeping the presentations fresh.

Mashiro’s relationship with Azuki inches forward interestingly, here, but I do knock a star for how quickly Ohba resolves some major life questions, where a sudden crisis just takes a single sentence and it’s all good again. Yes, it’s high school and things are dramatic, but even a sentence or two or a panel indicating some lingering feelings or doubt would’ve made the impact of this sequence’s resolution a bit more believable, even within the context of the series’ tone.

Also, DAMN do I want to read Otters 11.