With Eiji the way he is now Yujiro begins to seriously consider his proclamation and just as he’s about to head out, Fukuda decides to confirm with him that the order in which the titles are lined up in the magazine is based around their popularity, with the most popular titles coming first.
When it’s confirmed with a few exceptions and without any real reason, Fukuda goes on to tell him that it’s probably because of that that the popular titles stay popular and the unpopular titles stay unpopular, meaning that if the order was rotated instead it should have an effect on the questionnaires. Continuing on to say that it means that a story can’t start slow and get better as it goes if it doesn’t want to be canceled, meaning that they all end up feeling the same. Yujiro still doesn’t have a real answer to this and turns it on how he isn’t serialised again as he leaves.
Suddenly Eiji speaks up on how he liked the points that he brought up so Fukuda goes on to tell them that his favourite manga is a real man’s manga, To Love-ru and while it doesn’t do to well in the questionaires he believes it’s due to how kids would be uncomfortable ranking something like it when their parents are the ones sending them in. As he himself had been uncomfortable about voting for the likes of Ichigo 100%. With this they’re all united under To Love-ru and their will to change the face of Shonen Jack, as Mashiro brings up how they should still be careful with the amount of colour pages and Fukuda having a completely different opinion in how there should even be swimsuit foldout in each issue.
Just as they’re all riled up Nakai mentions that they should at least finish the fifth chapter with Eiji amazed when he sees backgrounds, and just before he heads off to sleep Fukuda tells him that he should still plan out the next chapter. So this time he decides to introduce a new ally character as he goes through his elementary school notebooks for a design that he drew when he was younger. Seeing this also has an effect on Mashiro, reminding him of all the times he had drawn manga in his uncle’s studio and when he was at school, and with this he’s realised what he has to do. Telling Eiji that he’ll have to step down as his assistant with him meeting him with a grin and Nakai telling him that he’ll take care of things from here, promising to get serialised as well.
So they set about finishing the chapter together, and on Takagi’s side of things he’s still suffering from writer’s block while his brother happens to be staying with him. The next morning Mashiro tells Yujiro about his decision and while he had hoped he would work longer, Fukuda says that it’s too easy with the three of them and there’s something different about Nakai. Later that day Takagi heads over to Kaya’s house where the two of them are alone as she shows him that her story was accepted, and among the categories there one stands out, mystery. Mashiro also arrives home and begins to go through his old notebooks, searching for one story about a detective who would fool the culprit.
He calls Takagi not long after this who tells him how there was a huge response due to Azuki’s character being left out of an episode, and when he finds out that he’s at Kaya’s house he isn’t too comfortable about it. But Takagi tells him how it’s only natural to be with the one he likes, this seems to hit Mashiro pretty hard so he asks Azuki why she’s okay with not seeing him, staying up almost the whole night waiting for her response. However the next morning he’s met with an unusually long response about how she believes that they should treasure their dreams and that their love will be greater in doing so. And with this Mashiro has renewed determination to create a manga that will get serialised, with or without Takagi.
Now that the series has started to find it’s stride this was another good episode, as not only did it poke at the holes in the real life equivalent to Shonen Jack’s system it also had some fairly substantial advances in the story itself as Mashiro found what he had been missing and was able to gain another boost in confidence and resolve from Azuki. With all that it also meant that we were able to get that iconic moment where all three of them were somehow united under To Love-ru.
One of the great things about this episode was how it took the time to delve into the holes that riddle the system of the magazine that they’re aiming to be serialised in has, and while this may have been good enough on it’s own. When you consider how Bakuman is itself serialised in Shonen Jump which uses this very system it was like the creators themselves were calling those behind the magazine out on them, in the way that just about every series running in it has started off with a bang to grab readers or was quickly cut out, making those stories where the hero doesn’t win at the start and has to earn it impossible. And as what was said, it also means that everything running in the magazine starts to eventually feel similar in one way or another.
Another thing that was interesting with this was the emphasis placed on some staples of the magazine that simply aren’t suited for the questionaire system considering it’s target audience, in this case being the ‘ecchi’ series with the likes of To Love-ru and Ichigo 100% in particular. Which while along with the likes of sports and gag manga are considered something that there should always at least be one of at all times, however they’re just something where the popularity of the series can only be determined by things like the tankobon sales. So like the way that a lot of the series in the magazine tend to pan out, it seemed like another stab at the lack of variety in Shonen Jump, let alone that moment where they all thought so highly of To Love-ru was amazing and in some part well deserved.
The way in which Mashiro was able to find the inspiration for the main character that he had been missing was great to see as well and way in which he was actually able to find it was also pretty nice. Where after seeing Eiji’s source of inspiration, he was reminded of all the times that he had drawn in his uncle’s studio, giving those happy memories he has from back then another purpose in the story and giving the feeling that he was taking them with him as he went on. But in all it was just interesting to see one of the ways that mangaka are able to find inspiration, whether it’s from their past or those around them.
While it may have been a big misunderstanding from Takagi’s side of things it was also great to see Mashiro find the determination to go on even if it meant leaving him behind to do so. Being confronted on just how odd it was for him and Azuki to want to be apart and even wondering why she was okay with it, so seeing her send an unusually long message about why she thinks their love will be greater after it that gave him this determination was great. However given that he’s starting to doubt Takagi due to how he’s always hanging out with Kaya I’m also looking forward to the point where Takagi returns with the idea for a mystery story from the inspiration he also was given in this episode.