Yes, an anime of a manga about manga really can be this intense.
I was wrapped up in the action right from the beginning, as the anime shrewdly gave is a long introduction to Perfect Crime Club by a kind of animated manga preview. This manga is an odd idea, and it doesn’t impress me all that much initially – but it had the same impact on me that it had on Miura, the deeper I “read” into the story the more I was drawn into what was happening. There’s something strangely compelling about this idea – I can’t exactly explain why it’s so fascinating, but it is – at least for me (and we finally have Mashiro using Miho as his main heroine). I was actually disappointed when PCC ended and “Bakuman” began.
But not for long, as we were treated to another one of the classic episodes that marked most of the first cour this season – alternately funny, nerve-wracking and infuriating. This is still a show that can get me to rage against the machine like no other, and that was certainly true this week. As is so often the case with the really tense episodes, the focus was on the serialization meeting – and this time the stakes were even higher, as it was the last chance for Ashirogi to meet the ultimatum they’d worked out with Sasaki. In most only circumstances a submission as interesting as PCC would have been plenty good enough – it was good enough to discourage Takahama from even submitting his own work to the committee – but when you’re dealing with a man like Sasaki, that kind of logic doesn’t hold up.
I feel badly for Takahama, who continues to be ill-served by the incompetent Miura and unlike Ashirogi, he has neither the prodigious talent nor the surreptitious aid of a good editor to get him over the hump. I’ve said it before, but Aida is the other editor on the staff besides Hattori who’s really impressed me. He and Hattori are the only ones who seem to have the authors’ interest foremost in their minds – it’s as he says himself to Miura, it’s not about whether he gets the credit or blame – it’s about the career of a young author. That’s the tragedy of a boob like Miura or a corporate toad like Sasaki.
In this light, it’s really no surprise that Aida is the one who champions PCC to the serialization committee. And indeed, everyone on the committee admits it’s by far the best submission they received and wholly worthy of serialization. But Sasaki being who he is, he’s going to hold them to the standard of “will it definitely beat +Natural and Crow – a preposterous measure, as there’s no possible way to definitively know if a new manga can beat an existing one. But this is Sasaki’s M.O. – he tries to apply some kind of twisted personal vision of the samurai code to the comics business, and ends up screwing the authors who work for him and the magazine that pays him. It’s the stupidity of the hospitalization fiasco repeated all over again – Sasaki backs himself into a corner with his stick-up-the-ass rigidity, and leaves no way to do the right thing without sacrificing a little of his pride (and he’d sooner die).
It was only because Mashiro is equally as strong-willed – and because Ashirogi have a great set of friends – that Sasaki was forced to compromise back then. But I don’t see an easy way out now. Clearly, Sasaki hoped he’d avoid having to take the responsibility by having a majority vote on the committee, but he got the worst possible result – a tie, forcing him to actually make a decision. I actually think it’d be a wonderful thing for Ashirogi to take their services elsewhere and work with a better editor and a magazine that appreciates them – ironically, as PCC is actually one of their rare works that suited for Shounen Jump – but I know that’ll never happen given where Bakuman is published. So something has to give, I just don’t know what – but my suspicion is that PCC is too damn intriguing and has been given too much exposition in the story to be tossed aside, and one way or another it’s going to get published by “Jack”. Jack Square, maybe – would that satisfy Sasaki’s idiot pride? Who knows, but I can’t imagine we won’t find out before the end of the season one way or the other – I don’t think the anime will leave this hanging until the fall.