Bakuman – 9

The see-saw this week goes back to the romance side of the ledger, as manga creation takes a back seat to awkward middle-school courtship. And at that, it’s not Masahiro and Azuki but Takagi and Miyoshi who finally get center stage.

Takagi has been suspended a week for the fighting incident of the previous episode, while the prick who started it got off Scot-free. Some justice, there. But in any case, the upside is he has some time on his hands – which he of course uses to create a veritable avalanche of names, only the very best of which he plans to let Masahiro look at. He, meanwhile, is wrestling with his own demons, still thinking himself unworthy of Takagi’s partnership and blaming himself for the suspension. However, he gets some midnight encouragement from Grandpa, who also spills the beans about how it’s Masahiro’s father that’s paying the bills at the studio.

It’s when he goes to Takagi’s place to apologize that things start to get really interesting. Not only is Miyoshi already there, but so is another girl, Iwase. She finished second to Takagi in class rank in 7th grade and apparently thinks that, due to a handshake, he’s now her romantic property. Quite the stud, Takagi, to have two girls fighting over him – but he’s unfortunately completely in the soup about what to do. Proving that, he tells both girls he likes them – which even Masahiro knows is a dumb idea – and it’s only when Iwase demands he quit manga that the quandary is settled. Alas, Takagi compounds his mistake by telling Miyoshi that he only spoke to her in the first place to help find about Azuki for Masahiro. This earns him four punches to the face and his first girlfriend. Finally, he confides to Masahiro that Hottori wants another meeting at Jack, and we see Niizuma for a frustratingly brief moment at Kichijoji station, apparently going crazy at the sight of a crow.

Falcon PUNCH!

One thing I really enjoy about this series is that it does a great job portraying just how clueless middle schoolers generally are about romance. Neither unrealistically sophisticated or prone to silly fanservice moments, these characters just interact awkwardly. Azuki and Masahiro can’t even speak, and Takagi and Miyoshi interact by physical violence. Yet somehow you know things will progress – this is a manga, after all. I also enjoyed seeing Masahiro interact with his family again – I really enjoyed those man-to-man moments in the second episode and they’ve been absent since. As for Niizuma, if the creators intent was to rouse my curiosity about him it’s been well-accomplished – but it’s starting to border on frustration. He’s an odd one, and these 30-second snippets with him and raising the level of expectation to perhaps unrealistic levels.

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