Well, a friend warned about the sexism in chapter 2 of Bakuman, but I didn’t realize how strong it was until I saw it for myself today. I’ll keep reading the series, and I’ll buy the books when they come out, because I’m a Takeshi Obata fangirl and there’s nothing to be done about it. But, wow.
In most ways, it’s nothing we haven’t seen in Tsugumi Ohba’s work before. Death Note was filled with the same stuff–smart boys congratulating themselves on their superiority, that sort of thing. But Light Yagami was a despicable character, and it’s easy to brush off sexism in a sociopath. It’s harder to get by in Bakuman, when the characters are just regular kids.
This chapter features a scene in which the two boys talk about how smart they are (and how stupid everyone else is, of course), which is pretty normal for boys their age, I’m sure. The disturbing part is their discussion of two of the girls in their class, one who they deem “smart” for realizing that appearing too smart isn’t “cute” and only pretending to study, and one who they think is disgusting for being proud of her good grades. Still, this too is probably typical of many teenaged boys, and I might not have bristled so much if it had ended there. Later, however, the main character’s mother balks when her son tells her he wants to be a mangaka, fearful that he will meet the same fate as his dead uncle who “worked himself to death” (even the kid knows he really committed suicide) trying to get published again. Her husband contradicts her, which I’d be happy about if only his reasoning wasn’t that “Men have dreams that women can’t understand.” Ugh. I can hope that these views don’t reflect the views of the author, and that eventually we’ll find that out, but after reading this, I’m not optimistic.
Maddening sexism aside, this is a fun chapter, with an awesome kid fantasy moment at the end, where Moritaka’s grandfather gives him his uncle’s old studio, and Moritaka rushes over there to start his life as an aspiring mangaka. My inner 12-year-old leapt with joy at that moment. I’ve always loved stories where kids get to run their own world, and when Moritaka’s grandfather handed over the keys, it was a truly intoxicating moment. Also, I am glad that this isn’t going to be a standard tale of a child having to battle with his parents over wanting to be an artist. I’ve seen that played out too often over the years, and while there are young people all over the world still fighting that battle, I admit it’s refreshing to see something else for a change.
I said before that I’m a Takeshi Obata fangirl, so probably you can assume I like the art, but I’ll tell you why. I love his gift for expression in character’s faces. These characters really live in every frame. I love his attention to detail in clothing and hairstyle for each character. This comic looks like a cross between the somber meticulousness of Death Note and the incredible freshness of Hikaru no Go, and it’s a pretty good mix. I admit I prefer the writing of the latter, but I’ll take what I can get.
My dog is giving me sad eyes, so I’ll stop here for now, and take her into the glorious-looking sunny day outside. Later!