I never expected Bakuman to have this kind of rival dynamic. Normally, trying to work as an assistant for your rival is a recipe for disaster, but Niizuma here turns out to be a nice guy who happens to be a manga genius, and not the stereotypical genius snob. He even likes Mashiro’s work! So much for infiltrating the enemy camp.
Fukuda believes that Crow would get canceled in less than a year, and even hopes to take advantage of it. But a few pages later, he tells Niizuma straight to his face that he’ll be in trouble if he keeps on drawing Crow like he’s been doing. Remember that Fukuda here is working as Niizuma’s assistant. Anyone else would’ve exploded due to that, but Niizuma takes it well and asks Fukuda to pinpoint the problems, so they could fix them.
As they sort out the flaws, Mashiro and Fukuda go beyond being assistants to give their own critique as fellow mangaka. They really get into the bones of it, and they don’t fuck it up. They even convince Niizuma to start writing names, which he’s never done before. Then they give him a ton of brotips to streamline his creation process.
Eiji Niizuma got turned upside-down by his rivals, and leveled up in ability because of it.
And it all pays off. A few years later in the story, Crow is still going strong and even got an anime to boot. But if it weren’t for that fateful day, if it weren’t for Mashiro and Fukuda’s input, Crow would never have gone far. Isn’t that awesome? Bakuman’s rivalry is constructive–when someone gets pumped up, it’s contagious, and they all end up improving. Imagine if life worked like that all the time!
This was probably the turning point of the manga for me–I learned that these rivals aren’t antagonists, they’re bros. They all love manga and want nothing but the finest output from the competition, even if their help could indirectly lead to their own downfall. There’s a ton of honor and respect between these guys, and they’re way more mature than most folks I know. Never before have I seen this kind of camaraderie in manga or anime!
This is why I love Bakuman. It’s shounen manga where people pull each other up, instead of push each other down.