It didn’t take a genius to figure out what the solution to the impasse at “Shounen Jack” was. The serialization going on hiatus until Mashiro’s release was the perfect compromise in that, like all good compromises, it pleases no one. But it gives everyone a chance to think they won something, and walk away without losing face. But when you’re dealing with stubborn and proud men like Chief Editor Sasaki, that was always going to be easier to suggest than accomplish.
The irony, of course, is that Mashiro continued to churn out manuscripts and meet deadlines for the entire time he was in the hospital, so there was absolutely no health benefit derived from Sasaki’s decision. On the contrary, it probably made Mashiro’s health worse by putting him under unnecessary stress, and certainly complicated the lives of all the authors and editors at “Jack”, not least himself. While a case could be made that a hiatus until Mashiro’s release made sense – just as the contrary case could be made – the same can’t be said about the graduation timeline. That was simply about Sasaki’s guilt, and once established it was about his pride. It was never really about Ashirogi Muto at all.
Naturally it was Hattori – GAR, fearless father-figure Hattori – who was the first to suggest this compromise as a means of breaking the boycott, though Sasaki spat it back in his face. In fact the magazine went to press for a week without all five manga and Sasaki still didn’t budge except to tell his flunky assistant to threaten everyone’s jobs is things weren’t resolved. Though everyone tried to keep news of the boycott away from Mashiro, naturally he found out when the relevant issue of “Jack” came out, and naturally he urged everyone to go back. It wasn’t until he agreed to the shorter hiatus that Fukuda agreed to conditionally end the boycott, but even then Sasaki wouldn’t budge.
What of Miura, the boys’ actual editor? Well, for most of the crisis he was every bit as useless as usual, holding onto Ashirogi’s completed chapters and never presenting them to Sasaki. About the best that can be said is that he at least didn’t cave and tell Mashiro about the boycott early, and he did redeem himself in the end – sort of – by finally presenting the manuscripts on Mashiro’s release and going to bat for Trap to be restored to print. To be honest, this conclusion was the weakest part of the arc, as I’m still not really sure what caused Sasaki to cave in the end. He could just as easily have said, “Great, these are nice – they’ll come in handy in April.” Of course he’d have had a bloody rebellion on his hands with the other authors who assumed he’d agreed to their deal, but I can’t imagine that would have stopped him. And he can’t have been surprised to see that Mashiro had ignored him and continued to draw. He certainly wasn’t too impressed with the Ashita no Joe verbiage that Mashiro threw in his face…
The standouts of the moment were Fukuda, whose militancy finally paid off, and Niizuma, who offered all of his savings to keep the assistants on the payroll until the boycott was over. And obviously Hattori (both Hattoris actually) who as usual proved himself both a voice of reason and a deeply committed friend and supporter of Ashirogi Muto. As for our happy couple, Mashiro and Azuki’s relationship continues to be an odd one. She says she’s never had the urge to kiss him (although she probably didn’t mean it that way) and they generally spend most of their time sitting around like an old married couple, not saying anything – which Azuki points out might be an ongoing part of their relationship as they’re both doormice. Still, I find that oddness rather endearing – those two are a weird combination of youthful shyness and idealism and an “old soul” quality they both share. I think the fact that they can remain committed even when apart and don’t need to fill their time together with small talk is a point in favor of their relationship, not against it – although sooner or later, biology will have to be heeded.