Bakuman 18

Mashiro’s confidence in his own abilities as a mangaka swell just at the time his patience with Takagi is growing thin. From his perspective, Takagi has been goofing off with Miyoshi all summer long. Meanwhile, he’s been assisting Nakai and Fukuda on Niizuma’s manuscript, gaining new insight by the day into how the system works.

Once Niizuma is on-track and focused, the entire team is pumped up. Fukuda openly questions Shonen Jack’s publishing policies to Niizuma’s editor, while reiterating his determination to get his own stuff serialized. So inspiring is the young combo of Niizuma, Mashiro and Fukuda, even Nakai snaps out of his melancholy and starts naming again. It’s great to see how far this group’s come in seemingly so little time. They’ve also become increasingly fun to watch as they debate and collaborate.

But once Mashiro grabs hold of an idea – to do a mystery, not a battle manga – he decides he has to quit assisting Niizuma. The team – Niizuma included – gives him their best wishes. So determined is Mashiro to get this off the ground, he decides if Takagi doesn’t finish a name by the set deadline, he’ll go it alone. This, following their most uncomfortable phone conversation yet: Takagi can’t deny he’s with Miyoshi, and his name isn’t done. What is Mashiro supposed to think?

Furthermore, he refers to Mashiro and Miho’s relationship as not normal. This triggers him to send another inquiring text to Miho, who sends back exactly the reply he needs. It’s the same reply as before, but seeing it repeated, and containing the words love and joy (rabujoi?) have a big impact on Mashiro. Rating: 3.5

Star Driver 17

One of the worst, most overused anime cliches out there is the random beach party, and Star Driver doesn’t disappoint (or rather, does) by presenting us with one right here, complete with the volleyball match with Takuto as the prize. We get it: women are attractive in swimsuits, and all the women love Takuto. Move on already!

Fortunately, this episode does, as we’re introduced to two new characters: Madoka and Kou. The former has a very cutesy voice and big hair; the other has short green hair and frankly sounds like a man, baby. With two of the four maidens’ seals broken, things get a little more interesting in Zero Time, as well. Madoka challenges Tauburn with a Galactic Pretty Boy of her own.

She tries to capitalize on Takuto’s reluctance towards killing his opponents, but she fails when he devises a missile-like attack that rips her cybody’s core – with her inside – right out, without hurting her. So once again Tauburn wins. Oh yeah, we now know who the last maiden is: Keito, interestingly enough. I know this because she sings a song at the end; and that can only mean one thing on this show. Rating: 3