Eights: Star Driver, Bakuman

Okay, I don’t know what the hell happened in Star Driver 8. Well, I do on one level: Takuto and Sugata make up their differences by beating each other up, such is the way male friendship sometimes goes, but how they got to that point is almost a complete mystery to me.

Sugata has returned, but he’s being a dick to everyone. I assume that it has to do with Scarlet Kiss’s kiss, meaning she can control him, but when Takuto finally confronts him about it I don’t see any influence on him at all. He can’t leave the island. We’ve known about this resentment for a while. It’s an odd scene. The argument goes from that resentment to the way he’s treating Wako, to a further thought that Sugata has closed himself off to everyone around him. Sugata accuses Takuto of doing the same thing. So is this simply an argument because the each of them won’t let the other one in? Why do we even need Scarlet Kiss for that?

Fish Girl is presented as a possible contrast to this. She finishes her story to Head: Sam kills the girl and takes the galactic ship, only to find that the galaxy had been around him the entire time. Head lets her go, and she leaves the island, something she could not have done if she was still a shrine maiden. Head says they were free to leave from the beginning, but we don’t know if he’s talking about from him or from the island. Fish girl talks about it as if she had just broken up with her boyfriend, nothing more. And I’m wondering if they’re commenting to Sugata and Wako, who are, remember, engaged.

When we get to the fight we learn that Scarlet Kiss has taken control of Sugata, so they’ve got the power of two cybodies in one. Double trouble for Takuto! Too bad for SK that Sugata takes control of the thing and we get the friends duking it out scene, with explanations and even wisecracks tossed in with the punches, only in this fight they’re controlling giant robots. All I can guess is that the only way they could settle their differences was by fighting in Zero Time, but that doesn’t make much sense. Afterwards, back in real time, after forty seconds of heavy breathing, the boys have made up. Maybe they just used the Scarlet Kiss angle to get us a robot fight, instead of just a boy’s fight. As usual, the fight was great to look at. Maybe I should be grateful rather than bewildered.

After all that it’s something of a relief to get to Bakuman 8 and its unsubtle, straightforward story.

Akito writes, Saiko reads and critiques, Akito writes some more, Saiko reads, and finally, countless notebooks later, finds a story he likes, and they’re off to prepare it for the Tezuka Award. I keep hearing how the manga industry is languishing, but when you see an army of young artists busting their butts for periodic awards, I must say it looks pretty healthy to me. On the other hand, for the purposes of this story, I’m a little torn. I’m glad to see these boys busting their own butts to get their story done, but it’s not terribly dramatic to watch a lot of scenes of them writing to background music.

But there are some tense moments. Another interview with Hattori, quite pleased with their newest effort and guardedly confident in its chances for the award. But after that they switch from working to nervously waiting, preoccupied with the manuscript’s chances, something they have no control over. Like the working scenes before it’s perfectly understandable to include these moments, but again, there’s nothing particularly dramatic about them. And their anxiety just makes me want to get to the results. The scene on the day of the final judging, waiting for Hattori to call, took forever.

Nothing should come easy in this show; it’s part of the reason it feels authentic, so I was satisfied by their manuscript missed the final cut. The final scene, where Ishizawa, the mangaka wanna-be, mocks the little space in the magazine dedicated to finalists, added a good touch. His cheap shots about Saiko’s artwork will goad him further or work on his confidence, and I laughed when Ishisawa holds up a page of what are essentially doodles and says he can do better. It’s a good contrast between those who dabble in something to impress friends, and those who are actually serious artists working to improve their craft. The scene does another thing as well. Now everyone knows Takito is writing manga, including Kaya. It will be interesting to see what happens with that.

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