Because of the oath I took when first starting out as an anime fan, I am obliged to continue watching the second series of Bakuman ‘til the bitter end. However, I shall not be watching the third series; I would like to take this opportunity, as the second series begins to draw to a close, to justify my decision.
Bakuman revolves around two teenage boys, Mashiro and Takagi who decide to work together to create manga and fulfil Mashiro’s dream of marrying Miho, the girl he loves, once one of their works get an anime adaptation. Now, quite possibly the best thing about Bakuman is its story- I think it was very clever of mangakas Obata and Ohba to choose a story such as this that is bound to fascinate all anime viewers alike. Indeed, the show shines brightest when focusing on the creation of manga and the manga industry itself. The more ‘romantic’ aspects of the show, however, are much less satisfactory, which brings me to my first gripe.
OK, perhaps it is a tad strange for me to complain about how unrealistic any aspect of any particular anime is given that it’s, you know, anime! In anime, it’s possible to have hair any colour of the rainbow, and things such as gravity and underwear seem not to exist. Yet, I just can’t get over how unrealistic and idealistic the relationship between Mashiro and Azuki is. I do not believe in love at first sight, nor do I believe a lifelong commitment such as marriage should be entered into before you’ve even had a proper conversation with the person in question, let alone hold hands with them, go on a date with them or do any of those things couples usually do! The fact that the pair hardly know anything about each other, Mashiro is hardly ever there for Azuki and he openly prioritises his career over her, make their ‘love’ seem even more shallow. I’ve read about more modern, sincere approaches to love in Victorian literature! Considering Mashiro’s ‘love’ for Miho is presented as being his biggest drive, it really bothers me that it’s so weak and artificial.
However, it is not just the idealistic nature of the show that bothers me but, you got it, its rampant sexism. Within the first handful of episodes alone Mashiro’s mother’s wishes for her son are overruled by Mashiro’s father who insists she simply doesn’t understand men’s dreams. Stupid woman, how dare you show concern for you son, whose uncle, a mangaka himself, worked himself to death! Why shouldn’t you wish for your son to jeopardise his education to enter into an extremely competitive industry where success is never guaranteed and all your hard work can be undone by a single word, “cancelled”? Takagi also suggests smart girls are unattractive, a point reinforced by the fact that, one of the few girls in the show, a driven, intelligent girl, is made to seem wholly unlikeable. Let’s face it, Iwase’s a giant bitch!
This sexism isn’t simply confined to the first series however, during the second series Azuki is criticised for bothering her boyfriend with her problems when he obviously has more important things to worry about, Mashiro’s reason for not wanting Miho to pose in a swimsuit for a photo-book was something along the lines of not wanting others to see her like that, objectifying her and Hiramaru’s dream is having “a pretty woman” to look after him. I could go on. Some may argue this is merely my interpretation of the events of the show but, to that I would say, it is highly coincidental that my own, personal, ‘incorrect’ interpretation is one that is shared by hundreds, if not thousands of people who have watched the show! Why should I, or anyone else have to accept this sexism simply because the show is from the perspective of two boys?
I could go into the more aesthetic aspects of the show, e.g. its ‘derpy’ animation and the ridiculous faces some of the male characters pull, which seems unsuited to Obata’s art but, I feel as though I would just be nit-picking, especially as these aren’t the aspects I most value in a show.
In any case, I have had just about as much as I can take of Bakuman’s sexism and idealisation of relationships, (I’m surprised I started the second series, to be honest) I shall certainly endeavour to devote my time to more worthy shows in future.