Yes, the above could certainly be applied to our heroes in this episode – it was a good time indeed to be Ashirogi Muto. But I selfishly speak of myself instead, as it’s one of the rare occasions where one of my predictions was absolutely spot-on correct. The episode had me fooled for a bit with the direction it seemed to be headed, but by the end God was in his heaven, “Reversi” was in its magazine and all was right with the world.
I wonder – does this count as Ashirogi “beating” Niizuma Eiji? Because, truth be told, their one-shot “Reversi” never went up directly against his one-shot “Zombie Gun”. Breaking its record for one-shot votes (possibly the shortest record ever held at Shounen Jack) by a mere 2 votes is a huge achievement, no doubt – but until the two series go head-to-head I consider that challenge unmet. Still – to have finally achieved that #1 ranking is huge, especially with “PCP” a very respectable 4th. Ashirogi Muto is officially a star now, I think – one of the top guns at Jack – though the rivalry with Eiji is really just getting started.
The irony is certainly not coincidental – just as Mashiro and Takagi are finally embracing “unconventional battle manga” mode, so is Bakuman – it’s a true battle with Eiji on even terms at last. I was a little surprised, frankly, that Eiji took his “loss” as hard as he did – it was the closest I’ve ever seen him to having self-doubt. This week was also the most down we’ve ever seen Hattori, I think (was it my imagination or did drunk Hattori slip into Kansai-ben a little?) and the cause was the decision to send “Reversi” to Hisshou Jack (nice misdirection there – I was fooled). I thought some consideration might have been given to letting Hattori edit both series as a concession to the challenges Ashirogi would be facing doing two serializations, but apparently not. And it wasn’t a huge surprise that Jack would be reluctant to let them take on two weekly series after Mashiro’s brush with death. It seemed a sad but necessary concession to reality that they’d have to break in a new editor for “Reversi”, but they could hardly do worse than Miura.
It’s only a little surprising that it was Hattori #2 that stepped up with the ultimate answer – moving “PCP” to Hisshou Jack and leaving “Reversi” to go straight-up against “Zombie Gun”. It could be argued that it was selfish – certainly he knew that was the best way to motivate the suddenly listless Eiji – but it was also clearly the best thing for Weekly Jack. Whether it’s best for Hisshou is highly dubious – it seems to me that they got the shaft here, losing out on a hot new title for a new magazine desperate to make an impression – though “PCP” is a nice consolation prize. In any event Hattori B’s solution brings things around right to where I predicted – “Reversi” (though it didn’t have a title yet at the time) at Weekly Jack and “PCP” at Hisshou – thus allowing Sasaki to continue to do what he promised Nobuhiro, that he’d watch over Mashiro’s career.
It’s clear that the decks are more or less being cleared for a sprint to the finish on all fronts. Mashiro has decided to buy his Uncle’s studio, and we finally get a look at his family after what seems like forever. His Grandfather gives him his Uncle’s middle-school diary – its unfinished pages yet another reminder of the sad story of Nobuhiro’s life, but also an inspiration to Mashiro to achieve the dreams his Uncle never did. Part of that is greater success as a mangaka, of course, but there’s also the “one that got away” from Nobuhiro. Azuki has finally landed a starring role in an anime (a soccer series) and it seems as if “Reversi” may finally be the vehicle that carries Ashirogi Muto to an anime at last. Debate if you will whether that element of their relationship is silly, but it’s clearly established reality at this point – and it seems very likely that “Reversi” will ultimately bring about the happy romantic ending for Mashiro that eluded his Uncle.