Bakuman – 12

That was one of the stronger episodes of the recent run for me. Focused, well-paced and strictly on-topic, it packed a lot of good development into 22 minutes.

The Masahiro/Azuki relationship seems to be pretty effectively splitting the fan base down the middle into love and hate camps. As so often happens I find myself somewhere in the middle. I enjoy the simple fact that their relationship is so unusual – a courtship in the old-fashioned sense, and so demure that not even texts are exchanged. What I like even better is how it’s so effectively contrasted with the very typical teen relationship between Takagi and Miyoshi. However, I do understand where the frustration comes in. When push comes to shove, where’s the harm in just talking to each other? Exchanging an email or holding hands? Is the principle behind this Taliban-level abstention really worth it?

So, since this ep was largely centered on that relationship, your view of the episode probably mirrors your view on Masahiro and Azuki. But lots of stuff happened – middle school graduation for starters, and the revelation that Azuki is moving. Those are the catalysts that send Miyoshi off on a quest to bring the two together now – something Masahiro doesn’t necessarily appreciate. We also get the news that “Money and Intelligence” is definitely going into Jack Next, along with an excellent sequence where Hattori explains what’s at stake and gives them some detailed editorial advice. He’s a good man, Hattori, and a good editor – he wants the boys to wait until they graduate high school before they try to serialize (he even thinks Niizuma should wait). Hattori’s weakness seems to be his obsession with defeating Niizuma, which may have sound professional reasons but isn’t the healthiest thing to be dragging the boys into.

Against all this there’s also an awful lot of Takagi-Miyoshi development, and it works. She’s really growing on me – yes, she’s a fairly obvious genki girl but she also has a pretty steely set of nerves and seems to genuinely care for her friends. With so much that’s subtle and deliberate to it, this story needs Miyoshi – her straightforward hyperactivity brightens and lightens every time she’s on screen. Her relationship with Takagi is as typically adolescent as Masahiro and Azuki’s is arcane and unique – she’s selfish and immature, physically affectionate and impulsive. He’s susceptible to her feminine wiles and clueless about her mood swings. It’s fun to watch the two of them on-screen together.

With the resolution of the relationship between Masa and Azuki – for now, sort of – she’ll wait for him as long as it takes – the focus next week shifts back to the manga production. Niizuma will be back, and it looks as if we’re to get a taste of the early results from the Next publication. But the main romantic relationship still has the potential to frustrate the viewers, as Azuki waiting for Masa doesn’t sound too interesting. With a full second season on the way those two are going to have to start actually interacting sooner or later.

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