I’m happy about the way the committee mess was resolved, but sort of conflicted too. I really hate to see Sasaki let off the hook by his subordinates, who really saved his ass from being a victim of its own stupidity here. Sasaki really deserves to lose Ashirogi over this and have his reputation sullied and his staff pissed off when it becomes a hit for “Shounen Sunday”. On the other hand, though, this is what they want – to write for “Jack” – and they do have good friends there who like them and recognize their talent. Big kudos to the rarely heard-from Oonishi (Suzuki Tanuma) who changed his vote and set the process rolling. The good thing is that he told it like it was, which reflected horribly on Sasaki in front of the group – “It’s ridiculous to decide this by a vote. We should take better care of out authors!”. Once the majority had shifted, the other rats began leaving the sinking shift and Sasaki could take his graceful exit and be grateful that a little humiliation in front of six other guys was the only price for his inflexibility.
Of course fairness dictates that I give him some credit, too, because once the decision was made that Perfect Crime Club was going to be serialized, he undid his horrible mistake and put Hattori back in charge of Ashirogi Muto. Just how deeply he realized Hattori’s stamp was all over PCC is hard to say, but he likely saw that Miura would never have come up with the idea on his own. And the fact is, Hattori was also struggling for a change – for all his skills as an editor, he’s lousy in dealing with stalkers and I have no doubt it was showing up with +Natural. So this was really a win-win for everybody – except Miura and Iwase, but he’s an idiot and she’s a psychotic, so who cares?
Did I feel sorry for Miura, you may ask? Maybe briefly, just for a second, when he saw the joy on Ashirogi’s faces at seeing Hattori and when Iwase was torturing him (not even Miura deserves to have to deal with that terrible woman). But no, I didn’t really – because he might have wrecked Takahama’s career and only Ashirogi’s talent and Mashiro’s stubborn idealism saved theirs. Miura does have to deal with a crazy woman but he also inherits a highly successful serialization, and the main reason why it’s so successful – Eiji – is actually an incredibly easy author to deal with, and pretty much idiot-proof. +Natural and Crow are probably the two series not even Miura could screw up, and he’ll end up looking better by nature of +Natural continuing to succeed.
And then there’s our bromance, our dream partnership. Simply put, it’s a joy to watch Ashirogi – especially Mashiro – and Hattori working together. Whoever the model for Hattori is it’s pretty clear he’s an amazing guy and had a huge influence on Ohbata and Ohba. The chemistry is great here, and it’s a blast to watch the creative sparks fly when Ashirogi and Hattori get together. As clever as Hattori is at feeding ideas to the pair, I think they’re at their best when they simply free-associate, bouncing thoughts off each other and letting their imaginations run wild. I’ve said it before, but Mashiro’s face is the best barometer of how things are going in Bakuman, and the key expression this week was when he simply closed his eyes and let his imagination run wild. That was the result of Hattori showing him the script for +Natural, and it gave Mashiro the idea that I suspect will transform the way Ashirogi works and elevate their game to the next level – no storyboards from Takagi. Mashiro is the one with the encyclopedic knowledge of manga, and with his imagination totally freed of everything but Takagi’s words, he can transform them to the page in whatever way his mind takes him. It works for Eiji, and it’ll work for Mashiro, and it’s exciting just to think about the results.
It’s been a long, roller-coaster of a season, but now we’re more or less back to the most natural setting for Bakuman – the authors competing for series they believe in against each other, trying to come out on top. Fukuda realizes Miyoshi Knight probably can’t be #1, so he’s easing his way into following Ashirogi’s path of bailing on the series they know can’t win. Eiji is Eiji – unfazed and unbothered, cranking out his ingenious stuff effortlessly, and more motivated than ever by having Ashirogi back in the game (and having guessed their new direction just from knowing them better than anybody). Hiramura is getting more and more successful, and more and more miserable. I worry for Takahama, though he’s not officially in Team Fukuda – I hope he overcomes Miura’s incompetence and gets back in the game. And what of the wayward son of the team, Nakai? Have we heard the last of the lovesick artistic genius who gave up on his dream?
I also have to say that I like where the romantic side of the story has gone lately, though it hasn’t been in much focus since the wedding. Takagi and Kiyoshi are a very natural and likeable couple – better than I expected, to be honest, though I still don’t see that much evidence that he thinks about her all that often. Mashiro and Azuki continue their romance by gesture, this time a fairly decent rendition of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” (though the worst Engrish pronunciation of “year” I’ve ever heard) she smuggles inside a cake on a flash drive as if Mashiro was trying to escape from prison. I would like to see some actual development between these two, though I suspect that’s still a good long way off – there’s that promise to consider, and I don’t see an anime of PCC happening anytime soon.