Bakuman 16

The drama mounts: Akito is struggling with coming up with a good enough name for a mainstream manga, while becoming continually distracted by Kaya. Moritaka, meanwhile, is buoyed by Miho’s appearance in an anime, and then asked by Hattori to be Niizuma’s summer drawing assistant.

All of these events have repercussions. Moritaka will be working separate from Akito, which will create a rift between them, whether they like it or not. Then again, perhaps being apart will help Akito focus and come up with something before summer’s end. Only problem is, his girlfriend isn’t going anywhere, and he kind of likes spending time with her.

I love it when Kaya asks him: “I’m not getting in the way, am I?” His response is to kiss her. In reality, she is getting in the way, but in the way of Moritaka and Akito making a manga...not in the way of Akito finding happiness. Even though he was the one who dragged Moritaka into this, he could be the one starting to tire of the constant work and rejections, and may just want a normal high school life with his girl.

Even if he wants to stay on the manga track, he may not have a choice…he and Kaya aren’t as patient and disciplined as Moritaka and Miho… Rating: 3.5

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Puella Magi Madoka Magica 4

Booyah! This was in my opinion the best episode of the season among all the new winter shows. The fact that Mami “bit it” but no one in the normal world knows, and she didn’t leave a corpse, really puts into perspective how tough it is to be a maho shojo. The dark undertone of this series so far is exactly what I was hoping for; the girls don’t just automatically contract with Kyubei; there has to be a deep, heartfelt reason to do so.

Sayaka finds it, as she can no longer live with the injustice of her friend – a violin prodigy – losing the ability to move his hands after an accident. His life of music was taken away, and there’s nothing a normal Sayaka can do about it, which crushes her. However, magic and miracles, she has learned, do exist, and she decides to make that contract, in exchange for her friend recovering his gift and hence, his life.

Equally moving is how she realizes that she isn’t just doing this for him; there is a part of her she detests that wants to be the one to save him, and for him to fall for her in return. It’s a selfish fairy tale in her mind, but it also happens to be perfectly doable. Considering the good her wish will do, though, I think she made the right choice.

I also like how we don’t actually witness Sayaka’s contracting and transformation; but she shows up in the nick of time to save Madoka, who is still too scared and indecisive to contract, and trapped in the middle of a group of people (including a classmate) charmed by a witch into poison themselves in a warehouse, possibly for nothing other than the witch’s amusement. This is dark stuff, and the suspense around Madoka’s peril is very well presented.

I’m really enjoying how witches and the creepy, crazy, messed-up way they futz with reality and perception. They’re so far removed from conventional reality, and yet know exactly how to manipulate humans, including Madoka, into wishing they had never been born, or to kill themselves at the drop of a hat, or whatever.

Anyway, Sayaka is now a maho shojo. Will Madoka follow suit? Obviously; I’m really looking forward to how. I’m guessing for now that Sayaka may start facing challenges from rival shojos wanting a piece of Mami’s former territory; and the rookie Sayaka unable to hold them back without Madoka’s or Homura’s help. But even though our main character isn’t a maho shojo yet, this episode rocked. Rating: 4