There’s been a meta quality to the whole “Reversi” storyline ever since it started, really from the moment Mashiro started talking about unconventional battle manga being Ashirogi’s ticket to the top. There have always been serious nods to reality in this series – Hattori himself is based on a real person, as are many of the cast – but the thinly veiled parallels between “Reversi” and “Death Note” are where we began to see reality and fiction blend together.
One key difference in the current storyline, I think, is that there’s an element of wish fulfilment to it. I think it’s no secret that Obata and Ohba wanted to end “Death Note” when L died and were forced to continue by the suits as SJ (after which point the degradation in quality seems to prove they were right, though there may be a “chicken and egg” scenario at work too). In Bakuman, though, their editor goes to bat for them despite the fact that the anime adaptation of “Reversi” is about to start and the Chief Editor is dead-set against it. We even get an inspirational memory of Hattori being told by the company president that “when authors and the company clash, a true editor always sides with the authors”. I can’t help but wonder what happened in the case of “Death Note” – did the editor go to bat for the authors and get shot down anyway? Did he decline to even try (given the obvious admiration for the real-life Hattori, that seems unlikely)?
Unless someone decides to come clean, we’ll never know – and I suppose in the context of Bakuman it doesn’t really matter. This is Mashiro and Takagi’s story, and they’re allowed to end it when they want (though not without a fight) – at a mere 49 chapters, and going out with the top ranking at “Shounen Jack”. In comparative terms the entire “Reversi” storyline has flown by – really only about 8 or 9 episodes when all is said and done, when the “Tanto” arc received more than that. The result is pacing that’s brisk to the point of breathless, some very exciting stuff – but I certainly wouldn’t have minded seeing this allowed to play out over several additional episodes. “Reversi” is what Bakuman has been building towards for 3 seasons, after all – both in terms of the manga storyline and the romantic one.
It seemed to me that Mashiro was getting a bit irritated with everyone (even with Takagi and Kaya) assuming his proposal to Azuki was a foregone conclusion when he hadn’t even formally offered it yet. Still – when you set the kind of rules they did a bit of anti-climax is inevitable I suppose. I was highly amused by the back-and-forth over the specifics of when the dream is officially considered to have come true – and especially when Takagi pointed out that by Mashiro promising to rush over and pick up Azuki as soon as she voices Naho’s first line on TV, he’d be missing the first episode (because that was what I thought, too). I’m not sure why he would have needed to borrow money from Takagi to afford to buy a house – presumably they make exactly the same and it’s not as though we’ve seen Mashiro show any expensive tastes – but perhaps it’s because of what he spent on buying the studio. In any event there was never really any doubt that Takagi would say yes, since he’s about the best friend one could possibly hope for, right down to his dreamed-of wedding gift of making Mashiro the #1-selling artist as “Jack” by the time he gets married.
If the Mashiro-Azuki romance is one of the pillars around which the ending is being constructed, the other is the Ashirogi-Eiji “rivalry”. With sales of 1.202 million, the final volume of “Reversi” seems to have finally surpassed “Zombie Gun” in sales. Thus we have one of the great milestones of Bakuman achieved – Ashirogi has finally beaten Eiji – leaving the finale to fulfil the other (the proposal and marriage). If anything one can bank on the fact that Eiji will make good on his promise to take “Zombie Gun” back to the top and reclaim his crown, but the point is that for the first time in the series, Ashirogi Muto is a true rival for Eiji – someone that can fight him with a chance to win. Of course Eiji wouldn’t have it any other way, as that’s what he’s wanted since the very beginning – he’s a rival in the very best sense, as he – like Ashirogi – really wants both sides to succeed more than anything else. I can’t help but point out that Obata and Ohba haven’t announced their new series yet, so I suppose it’s unlikely Bakuman will tell us what Ashirogi will do as a follow-up to “Reversi” – but then again, with “PCP” still running maybe it’s time for the two of them to take a well-earned break for a few months. I’m sure Kaya, at the very least, would be thrilled to death.