Friday, November 5, 2010

Playing Catch-Up: Bakuman Episode 5

Okay so this is the part where I'm fully caught up with Bakuman. Episode 5, for me, was a good follow to episode 4. It was an entirely different direction, but touched on another of my favorite things in this series -- the relationship between Mashiro and Azuki and the one between Takagi and Kaya. Also in this episode Mashiro and Takagi's bromance just floruishes.

Watching the two of them discuss story ideas is where you can really see it begin. I find it weird that Takagi cries so much, but aybe he actually did that back in the beginning and I just don't remember. He's such a dramatic guy though that I'm completely willing to buy it.

Kaya spends this episode reminding me why she is my goddamn favorite character in the series. Her voice took me a little while to get used to. At first I thought it might be a little too deep, but her energy and emotion is really all there and the more she spoke the more I really felt the voice suited her. Visually, Kaya still feels the most off to me of all of the female characters. Something about her eyes seems really weird, and (as with all of the other girls) I'm still not able to deal with how her hair is drawn. I'm coping with Azuki. Slowly, her anime appearance and her manga appearance are meshing in my head. But Kaya in the anime doesn't seem to suit her at all.

However her acting is great. Even if her appearance seems a little off, her actions are spot on. Her dialog, her reactions, and her vocal inflections are ust completely Miyoshi Kaya, and I can appreciate that even if her apperance feels totally off.

As I mentioned, this episode focuses a lot on the romantic relationships of our to leads. As far as the whole Mashiro and Azuki end of things, it's msotly all in discussion. Mashiro spends time talking with Takagi about the encounter with Miho at the end of episode 4 and how they are on the same "wavelength". Takagi plays with this idea a lot, teasing Mashiro for it at first, but it later comes back and it's hard to tell if he's joking or not.

The beginnings of Takagi and Kaya's relationship (my favorite in the series) is more "active" in episode 5, as Takagi stumbles into it by accident. He had found out about Azuki's dream of voice acting from Kaya, and when Kaya confronts him about talking to Miho about it, he uses the excuse that he just wanted to talk to Kaya. She takes this as a love confession and isn't sure what to do about it. For the rest of the episode, she and Takagi keep passing by and looking back at each other in a more comedic version of Mashiro and Azuki's "wavelength" moment. Takagi mentions it to Mashiro the first time, and Mashiro proceeds to write it off as a joke.

The second half of this episode takes place over summer break and is more focused on Mashiro and Takagi making their first one-shot to submit to Jump. they move into Kawaguchi Taro's old studio to devote themselves entirely to the project. This is where the bromance really blossoms. The first night neither of them can sleep and sit around discussing manga. They talk about Dragonball and then both do the (in)famous Dragonball "fusion dance", which was without a doubt one of the most hillarious things I've ever seen. I was on my semi-daily commute into the city for class when Iw as watching the episode and I was laughing behind my hand in spite of confused looks from other passengers and a conductor.

The truly endearing part of the next two scenes is watching Takagi take care of Mashiro. He's already finished the rough drafts of the story, so there's not as much for him to do. He's watching his friend and partner work constantly and push himself to the point of losing sleep. He watches Mashiro scrap the work he's done on the finished pages to start over entirely. For a while he does his best to just make sure Mashiro is eating and sleeping, and when that's not enough he starts trying to learn how to ink and tone while Mashiro is asleep.

When it comes time to apply screentones to the pages, he asks Mashiro to help and is initially turned down until he states that he was hoping they could "work toward the moment of completion together". When it's all done, the two of them are sleep-deprived and covered in screentone, hoping for the best. The look on their faces was one that I was familiar with after working through big projects.

The episode closes with the Takagi calling Jump to set up an appointment to submit a manuscript. We're about to dive into the really nitty-gritty of the series with the two of them working toward their serialization in Jump. Next week we're being introduced to Hattori, which I'm excited for, and maybe we'll get a little more Eiji? I'd like to be able to form a better opinion of him, but I didn't see him in the preview so I'm not sure if I'll have to wait a while longer to get a better look at him.

Let's all look forward to episode 6!
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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Playing Catch-Up: Bakuman Episode 4

Bakuman 4 might end up being my favorite episode, you guys. This episode was incredibly special to me for a handful of reasons, but most predominantly in how completely nostalgic it was. I've mentioned here in the past that I'm a Cartooning major, and that drawing comics is how I want to make a living for myself. This episode brought back so many memories of when I first decided that, and when I really commited to learning what went into making comics, what tools I needed, how to use them, and how to make a comic page the best that I could possibly make it.

A big focus of the first half of this episode is on Mashiro and his commitment to learning to use a G-Pen. This is a REAL type of pen nib, and one that anyone in comics and pen+ink drawing will be familiar with. It's a long-time standard for manga-ka, and has recently become a standard for American cartoonists as well.

I have to commend the animation tea for their accuracy in the first half of this episode, and for the little things they included that made the first half of this episode so real to me. When Mashiro wiped the edges of his pen on the side of his ink bottle, I actually had to pause the episode for a moment in shock. I knew that gesture. When I worked with a G-Pen, I had done the exact same thing a hundred times. The way they portrayed the motion was so natural. It was perfect.

Mashiro demonstrated the difference between the Kabura pen line and the G-Pen line to Takagi (also later breifly mentioning Maru pens), and it was such a surreal experience for me, having lived this, knowing what he meant, and feeing the same as he did. He was explaining to Takagi all of the things I've learned over the years. The degree of accuracy in the drawings of the nibs, the gestures made when Mashiro uses them, and the lines they create was just phenominal. I have to commend them on the attention to detail. I guess with this series you have to be accurate or it just seems dumb, but even just slight details of this seires that a causal watcher wouldn't know were accurate or not are perfect. And that makes this seires so much more special for someone like me, who's had to learn these things.

There's also something to be said for the "Kawaguchi Taro School Of Thought", which is Mashiro's uncle's three rules for becoming a successful manga-ka.

This rang true in the manga and it rings true now. You have to believe in what you're doing and put all your effot into it, but a lot of actually getting out there is being in the right place at the right time. You need to know people.

So, in order to get better, Mashiro spends the weekend drawing and learning to use the G-Pen and Takagi sits down and reads as much manga as he can in order to come up with a good story. They show Takagi surrounded by piles of manga, and all of the are actual series that have run in Jump! I'm actually amused by how much "Death Note" (also done by Ohba and Obata) and "Hikaru no Go" (which Obata did the art for) show up in this. There are glimpses of them everywhere, and Takagi keeps making "Death Note" jokes.

The latter half of this episode is about Mashiro and Takagi committing to being manga-ka and planning their futures around it. They make decisions about school and make the decision to try and talk to an editor at Jump. They begin making plans to do a one-shot over their summer break to try and get in to talk to an editor. The first stages of Mashiro and Takagi's fanstastic bromance begin to emerge, especially around the key to the studio that Mashiro gave Takagi.

And then we have a breif encounter between Mashiro and Azuki. This is the whole "on the same wavelength" scene, which, admittedly, Iw as worried wouldn't translate well to the anime. It was a very slow, still scene that was about reactions more than anything else. But it actually came out very well.

And finally, episode 4 gives us our first glimpse at Nizuma Eiji in the last 30 second of the episode, on the phone with his editor about moving to Tokyo todo manga. We onyl get close ups of his mouth and a shot of him from behind, and all he does is make bird noises, but it's a good sign of what's to come.

Man, this one sure was image heavy! But this episode has been my favorite so far and there was just so uch I wanted to cover!! I'll be looking at episode 5 tomorrow, and then I'll finally be caught up!

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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Playing Catch-Up: Bakuman Episode 3

So, I finally got my dumb ass caught up with Bakuman.I regret putting it off. I'm going to do separate posts for eahc one and finish off the week with them. I want to start off saying that when I fired up episode 3, and when I hit the end of it, the themes made me start bawling again. I really don't know why that is, butman something about those songs...

Episode 3: Parents And Children was, more than anything, about the drive to make comics. It's about the fact that it's hard work, but even if you can handle that you have to have the heart for it. Reliving Mashiro and Takagi first exploring the studio that would become such a vital location for the rest of the series was such an intense feeling. Though some of the more touching moments came after they'd done their exploring, the first of which being Mashiro calling his father to talk about his Uncle's death. Mashiro's father reminds him of a moment in "Ashita no Joe" (an old manga about boxing), and it clarifies for Mashiro that his uncle didn't kill himself or die due to stress. He just burned himself out on the passion of making comics for someone he loved.

Another moment that just seemed really special to me was when Mashiro and Takagi were reading the last letter to his uncle from Azuki's mom and Takagi was the one who started crying. It's a very Takagi thing to do. Mashiro isn't exactly the emotional one of the pair, but it just seemed a little more speical than normal because this is something that, to Mashiro, would be very personal. Takagi on the otherhand was just stepping into this situation, knowing nothing about it, and felt such emotion for someone he had never met and what his feelings must have been that it brought him to tears.

I'm still bothered by the appearance of all of the girls in this series, and I think I realized part of it during the scene in which Mashiro and Takagi visit Azuki's mother to talk about what happened between her and Mashiro's uncle. The hair on all of them looks somewhat plastic and fake. I think I discussed this before, but it seems like there's not as much detail in the hair int he girls as there is on the guys. It's really starting to bother me.

But the scene itself was wonderful, and also hillarious. The banter between Azuki's mom and Takagi on "nerds vs. bad boys" was one of the more hilarious moments so far. Satoshi Hino voices him spectacularly. I unfortuantely haven't heard the other roles he's played, so I can't compare them, but at least for Takagi, he is brilliant. Both parts are brilliantly played, actually, but Takagi's performance was just exceptional.

This episode reminded me of why I'dbeen so excited about the Bakuman anime. It was nice to relive my first experiences with this seires. Even though I knew everything that would happen, it was all in a way I hadn't seen so it was like living it for the first time all over again! That was a wonderful feeling, and it's what I love about this adaptation.

On to episode 4!