Bakuman 8

Whew…Bakuman can be harsh with the building-up and anticipation of great things, only to deal Mashiro and Akito yet another defeat – this time after submitting for the Tezuka award. Akito feverishly fills notebook after notebook with ideas until Mashiro finally finds one that clicks – a more traditional shounen manga with lightsabers or something. They belt it out and meet with Hattori, who likes it much better than their last work.

Having improved in both story and art, and made a tight deadline, they submit it for the award…and the waiting game begins. Meanwhile, the price of their hard work: Akito has fallen two places in class rankings. Doesn’t seem like much, but academics are a slippery slope. Worse still, the two are so distracted and excited about the prospect of winning (and all that entails), they can’t concentrate on school or writing/drawing. The suspense is excruciating, and really draws you into their state of mind.

Even though I was certain they’d lose again, I couldn’t help but get just as all worked up as they did, and when the hammer came down, I was just as deflated. This defeat stung more because Hattori gave them a lot of hope. Their classmate Ishizawa finds out they submitted to Jack, and confirms what Mashiro fears: the artwork is holding back the better story. This is a knife-twist to Mashiro’s confidence, but Akito isn’t having it, socking Ishizawa in the face in front of the whole class, including Miho and Kaya. You really get the feeling things just aren’t going to get any easier from here. Rating: 4

Star Driver 8

Athrun Zala Sugata enters Full Angst Mode this week, refusing Wako’s birthday present for him and generally being a dick. It seems at first that this is because of Scarlet Kiss’s kiss – which can control any man – but Sugata has genuine resentment for Kira Yamato Takuto beneath that control. The trio so riven, Takuto decides to confront Sugata on a picturesque bluff (though to be fair, there doesn’t seem to be a non-picturesque part of this island).

Things are about to come to fisticuffs when they’re thrust suddenly into Zero Time. Scarlet Kiss fuses her cybody with Sugata’s Samekh to defeat Tauburn, but to her surprise, Sugata starts fighting him (in a deftly-animated battle) on his own, without her control. The fusion between them is unstable, so Takuto is able to defeat Sugata/Scarlet with one well-placed punch. Back on the bluff, Takuto and Sugata simply stare at each other, totally winded. Both end up cracking smiles. He may no longer be under Scarlet’s spell, but the love triangle betwen him, Wako, and Takuto continues.

As for Wako, she and Keito get on a bus and meet – zounds – Birdcage Girl Fish Girl. Like Wako, she’s a maiden, and escaped from the Head of Crux. Rather, he let her go; her story was over. With her seal broken, she can leave the island, unlike Wako…and does. Wako could be headed down the same path, if Takuto and Sugata are defeated. By episode’s end, things are very tense. The trio is still shaky, and Crux is as determined as ever to break Wako’s seal. What else could be up their sleeve? Rating: 4

Oreimo 8

We get a little Bakuman mixed in with our Oreimo this week, as Kirino’s manga is selected to be an anime. She arrives at the studio, Kuroneko and Saori in tow – to meet with the production staff, arms bursting with notes, but most of her ideas are ignored or rejected. It turns out that her anime is just a half-season, and it’s filling a gap left by another canceled anime. The producers aren’t interested in satisfying Kirino, but making a buck quickly and without too much effort. When Kirino returns home she’s out of gas; collapsing into Kyousuke’s arms. He knows something’s up and meets with Saori and Kuroneko (at Akiba’s Gundam Cafe, where I’ve been). They lay it on him, and he decides to spring into gear once more and plead for the producers not to completely change her story. They even want to change the lead from a guy to a girl.

He arranges to meet them as Kirino’s proxy – Kuroneko and Saori in tow again – and almost makes things worse, until Kuroneko speaks up. She confesses her intense envy towards Kirino, and detects that same envy and pride in one of the producers. Neither of them had the easy success Kirino has had up to this point, and this goes for Kyousuke as well. Kirino is perfect at everything and things just fall into her lap. Kuroneko doesn’t understand why Kirino’s book was popular and sold well enough to get an anime, but it did, and she just has to deal with it, as does the jealous producer. They can’t use that frustration as an excuse. Kyousuke then makes an impassioned plea for them to think about making her changes. They ultimately agree, but Kirino is unaware of how much of that was thanks to her frenemy and brother.

On the train home, Kuroneko asks him why he does so much for his sister. It’s obvious that she’s an only child: you do things for your sibling because they’re your sibling. That’s the obvious reason, but who knows, perhaps Kyousuke has another. Regardless, this episode was full of great speeches and debate, and pretty well illustrated the tribulations that can come with developing anime adaptations. Rating: 3.5