Anime Reporter brings you my take on Bakuman manga Volume 04, (that’s chapters or “pages” 26-34). Naturally, this review will contain a few plot points developing from earlier volumes so be wary of spoilers. If you want the final verdict, just scroll to the bottom of the review for the final summary or take a peek at my Volume 1 review here.
If you’re confident that no number of Volume 1-3 spoilers can hurt you, then by all means, proceed.
Well, when Volume 03 rolled to a close, we’d just found out that Azuki was the masked stranger behind the series of jewel heists and that, for two months, Saiko has been an imposter so… no, not really. Of course none of that’s true, but there’s always someone who doesn’t heed the spoiler warning. See now what could have happened? If you don’t want storylines spoiled, skip to the bottom or check out an earlier review
Well, when Volume 03 actually ended, Akito and Saiko had taken a bit of a break from their collaboration, working separately, each determined to write a cool detective story and each unsure how to tell the other that they weren’t interested in battle manga anymore. Tensions rise as the summer break progresses and the boys on other projects with other partners. Things come to a pretty cold impasse as the boys seem to outlive their partnership, but good old Mr. Hattori has one last idea for them to work together on. The boys are unwittingly tasked with the same project, geared towards the Gold Future Cup, a serialisation competition with several other budding mangakas vying for the chance to make their stories into series’.
The boys will have to face off against some familiar faces in the manga world as well as a couple of new rivals. This volume gives another sterling, if somewhat dramatised, look at the manga publication process and just what goes into making your publication dreams come true. All of this is bursting with drama and it’s all told in an entertaining and suspenseful way… you may have felt a “but” looming from the beginning of this sentence and you’re correct. The drama and storytelling applied to Akito’s and Saiko’s journey is somewhat overshadowed by the sheer lack of development on the part of their female counterparts. I have mentioned in earlier reviews that these characters receive little to no development and seem to be props, but it has reached a point now where it’s just too much. While Azuki is the more glaring example of this, I’ll start with Miyoshi.
Miyoshi began the series as a fairly temperamental, brash girl, who wasn’t afraid to speak her mind or go after what she wants. Volume 03 saw her trying to come up with a dream of her own and basically aping Akito’s love of writing and more or less entirely copying Saiko and Azuki’s relationship for her story. In this volume, she re-evaluates her dream as actually just wanting to help the two boys succeed. It’s official, all of her defiant attitude has led to her declaring that she basically wants nothing more out of life than to become the cheerleader for her boyfriend’s ambitions and, aside from giving the series its quota for panty-shots, she’s now also at the beck and call of the protagonists.
Azuki, whose facial expression has generally been a little lost, a little scared of the world, has begun to make strides in her voice acting. She’s acted in a few roles and apparently has the potential to be an idol. Despite the level of importance that he relationship with Mashiro apparently plays, we’re given almost no glimpses of her actual personality and during this volume her life is given no more attention than to establish her as something a perverted old man might drool over and to narrow her life choices down to “what Mashiro wants”.
It’s disappointing that this series, which excels at attention to detail in so many ways and has a strong, self-referential style, has fallen so short in portraying two of its four protagonists as even decent supporting characters in over thirty chapters.
Bakuman volume 04 has a strong plot, establishing tension between its two primary protagonists and open up the world of manga publishing and the tension to be found there. It’s unfortunate that the series fails to represent its female characters as a significant or prominent part of that world, (when a female manga creator is introduced, she’s essentially replaced by her male partner for most future scenes), and it’s getting hard to overlook.
Bakuman volume 04 is currently available in English and has been for quite some time now.
Plot Development: 7
Character Development: 5.5
Manga Insight: 8
73% – “One Step Forward, One Step Back” – Bakuman Volume 04 provides an intense look at the world of manga creation and steps up the drama for Mushari and Akito. Unfortunately, the two female protagonists are reduced even further to mannequin-like props and seem to be less developed the further the story moves.