story by Tsugumi Ohba; art by Takeshi Obata
published by Viz; $9.99 US
As this book opens, the young creators are learning the difference between getting reader support and selling lots of books. Although their first graphic novel is doing well, rival Eiji’s book has 900,000 copies in print, many more than theirs. That follows the pattern of their previous series, where they sold 500,000 a book while he sold 1,500,000. In addition to highlighting the difference between reader praise and those willing to actually put down money for the work, this story point is another example of how different the manga market is from the American comic industry. Those numbers are outstanding, the kinds of figures comics haven’t seen for decades.
It’s unfortunate that the guys decide that the route to popularity is dumbing down their work. It’s probably practical to choose simpler storytelling with less difficult words, but it’s disheartening to see it advised and accepted. Looking on the bright side, it’s refreshing to see that even with a certain amount of success, they keep striving to try new things. As an artist, you can’t rest on your laurels or coast. That part is highly realistic, and one of the reasons I enjoy this series so much — there’s always a new challenge.
Not so realistic, but perfectly suited to a competition manga, is the way the guys take everything as inspiration. When they meet Eiji at an award banquet, he swears he’s going to keep beating them… which they take as a sign that he’s actually convinced that they will eventually overtake him. At least the free food allows for some funny moments, as Eiji keeps stuffing his face and demanding more delicacies. The series has always done an excellent job of making conversation-heavy scenes visually interesting, either with exaggerated character reactions or interesting settings.
The main quest here remains the goal of getting an anime adaptation of their manga, a struggle complicated by internet rumors. For some reason, a voice actress can have her career destroyed if her shut-in fans think she has a boyfriend, so Moritaka is torn between trying to help his girlfriend Miho get a role and keeping their unusually chaste relationship a secret.
With one volume left to go beyond this in the series, the characters are starting to get sappy. They celebrate New Year’s together, talking about how much they want to stay happy like this and looking back on their eight-and-a-half-year career and philosophizing about how manga is like life.