“It’d be interesting if 2.0 surpassed the original, but unlike Ashirogi Mutou, I can’t see the author’s face!” (Niizuma Eiji, Bakuman. 3, “Confidence and Resolve”).
I find the ideal workshops–be they writing, music, or other–are the ones with lower seat counts. As valuable as an outsider’s opinion is, it’s important to never lose your sense of self. There’s a balance that must be struck between pleasing the audience and creating a piece unique to yourself that warrants the attention paid to it. The current arc in Bakuman. 3 questions this argument, that a work created by the input of many deserves to stand on the same stage as a work produced by one. And given the popularity and seeming perfection of the group work gathered by Nanamine, who’s to say that his methods and final product are not every bit as justified as the old standby collaboration of artist and editor?
Part of what supports Nanamine’s manner of work as a mangaka is his legitimate questioning of his fledgling editor, Kosugi. When comparing the feedback given by Kosugi with those of Nanamine’s online friends, their past serialization and several years of experience in editing overshadow Kosugi’s lack of practical knowledge. Were I to stand in Nanamine’s shoes, I, too, would feel apprehensive of an editor fresh out of college. It’s no surprise that he chooses to take the advice of those with experience over that of Kosugi.
Yet there’s the troubling consideration of size and time: taking in the directions of fifty different opinions under short time constraints doesn’t leave much room for the mangaka’s contemplation on what should and shouldn’t be changed for the audience. When I was first preparing for my audition for a college piano program, I chose a piece and listened to one artist’s recording of it repeatedly, even falling asleep to the music. I molded my performance to his, hoping to achieve his level as a pro. What resulted was a movement utterly devoid of my own personality and interpretation.
Similarly, I later taught introductory English composition courses and held writing workshops for the students’ preparations for various assignments. One workshop divided them into 4-man groups. Each student took home copies of his or her peers’ papers to comment on in a later class. The best groups took the time to carefully consider certain aspects of a paper that were good or had to be changed, while the worst attempted to assimilate every single suggestion thrown into the discussion. Those who mindlessly incorporated feedback turned in papers lacking individuality.
When a work is presented as a whole under one name, I expect that single name to present itself. If I wanted to hear the words of many, I’d visit a forum, or choose a compilation. I want to see the performer’s face.
“Some writers confuse authenticity, which they ought always to aim at, with originality, which they should never bother about” (W.H. Auden, Anglo-American poet and writer).
Nanamine’s problem is his misunderstanding of the “pride” about which Ashirogi Muto speaks. Ashirogi’s pride stems from their expectations of authenticity. Their works represent them and they represent their works. While the base ideas may not be original, the manner in which they present them is distinct to them. It’s those very quirks that make me passionate about artists and encourage me to follow them. I didn’t drop reading Jeanette Winterson after college, but explored some of her other texts, including Sexing the Cherry and The Passion, due to my own admiration for her particular style and themes. Even editor Kosugi misses the ball by focusing on Nanamine’s lack of originality instead of on the true problem of identity. Pride in a completely original work is a pipe dream; pride in conveying oneself is both desirable and attainable.