Zankyou no Terror – 10

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Twelve deals with the guilt of betraying Nine, while trying to have fun with Lisa. Nine rolls the dice and surrenders to the police. Five makes one last desperate grasp at Nine, who “belongs to her.”

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Shibazaki comes face to face with Shunzo Mamiya, who orchestrated the Athena Project and the investigation of whom led to his demotion. An atomic bomb is released into the sky, to go off at 10pm. This episode isn’t messing around, expertly setting up the endgame.

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Interestingly, this episode is Five’s last. For those of you who tired of her relatively petty and nebulous vendetta and terrible English, rejoice, for she ends up doing herself in. Physically deteriorating, she senses the end is near, and after a harrowing chase and crossing the line with her American handlers, all that’s left to do on that highway is thank Nine for being the reason she stayed alive this long at all; to pursue him.

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She has him in her sight, but doesn’t pull the trigger, knowing she’s been beaten. Instead, she gives Nine a chaste parting kiss and ignites the pool of gasoline she’s standing in. This explosion was brought to you by the number Five.

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With Five now gone, all that’s left is for Nine to expose Athena to the world, if that was indeed his plan. The only problem is, the press conference he demanded the police allow him to hold is interrupted by Five’s meddling, and the atomic bomb is loosed, unable to be stopped by anyone.

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While meeting with Shunzo, who was convinced the spirit of Japan was “that of a loser, without a shred of dignity”, and thus pushed forward with Athena, Shibazaki can fathom the scale of the backlash, which looks tenuously close to being realized.

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In his final broadcast, transmitted automatically when Nine doesn’t get to the Hyatt at 8:00 PM, Sphinx One warns that nothing can stop the bomb. If he’s right, then we’re in for a catastrophe in the finale. But I’m not entirely convinced he’s not bluffing at this point.

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I’m not even sure his entire plan from the start was to draw out Five so that she could, well, finish herself off. Also, Twelve even ends up redeeming himself somewhat by interfering in Five’s pursuit of Nine, and I like how he does so on Lisa’s urging, telling him how happy she was when he saved her, and how Nine will probably feel the same way. Five may be gone, but there’s a lot left to sort out.

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Zankyou no Terror – 09

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Betray your brother, run away, or die with the girl he’s come to care for. The day Twelve had been dreading, when things go bad and he has to make an impossible choice, arrives much earlier than he probably hoped. With a ton of bombs strapped to her and not enough time to defuse them, Twelve ultimately makes a choice based on where he is there and then. Giving up the location doesn’t mean Nine’s certain death, just the destruction of their alliance (in all likelihood) and the jeopardizing of their grand scheme.

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But with Lisa sitting there—covered with bombs, initially trembling with fear; but after comforting words, becomes calm and accepting of her impending death—there’s no choice. Twelve can’t let her die. If he could give his life to save hers, he probably would have, but that wasn’t one of the options Five gave him. I must say, Five really did make good use of Lisa, and I’m alternating between the great risk she took and the reality that Twelve had already demonstrated to her that he would do anything to protect her, even sell out Nine.

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But despite being fairly certain, as Five was, that Twelve and Lisa weren’t going to blow up, did nothing to deflate the raw, horrifying, virtuoso tension of that Ferris Wheel scene. Yes, Ferris Wheels are a goofily poetic place to stage such a scene—as they’re supposed to be a place where joy is experienced, rather than despair (Deadman Wonderland FTW)—but the music sells the shit out of it, as does the animation of the characters’ faces. Not to mention, with two episodes left, it’s not impossible for them to die now—just highly unlikely. I’m glad they didn’t.

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This episode’s awesome continues as Shibazaki and Hamura pay a visit to Aoki, one of the researchers who participated in Project Athena, in which human pharmacological experimentation was performed on 26 numbered orphan test subjects, with the goal of synthesizing an artificial “savant syndrome”; an exercise in eugenics that went far beyond the pale of any acceptable human conduct. Aoki gives a weak “Befehl ist Befehl” defense, but he knows he’s a monster; in fact, he’s glad someone came so he could make his confession before he died.

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What brings everything together isn’t just that Shibazaki is now aware of Twelve and Nine’s past, and that they have a very good reason to be pissed off; nor is it merely the fact that Twelve and Nine didn’t steal plutonium, but an experimental and probably highly destructive nuclear weapon. No, it’s that the one who gave Aoki his marching orders to poke and prod helpless kids to death, was none other than the politician who Shibazaki came so very close to bagging before he was demoted for peering to deeply into the abyss.

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Shibazaki can add thus add this to his heavy satchel of regrets: all those years ago, he might’ve had an opportunity, however small, to expose and put an end to Athena, had he rejected his demotion, gone rogue, and continued his investigation outside the law, as he is doing now. How far will he go this time? How far will the powers that be let him? It’s also implied from talk of “being out of time” and Five collapsing, that the remaining three subjects wont live much longer, even if they put aside their troubles. Now I’m thinking maybe Lisa outlives everyone else.

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Bakuman 2 – 17

The results of the serialization meeting are a mixed bag: thanks to Fukuda and Ashirogi’s help, Aoki’s manga gets serialized, but Ashirogi’s isn’t, and Takahama’s is cancelled. Katou rejects Nakai, and Aoki is hiring all-female assistants, so Nakai gives up and returns home, after apologizing to Aoki. Takahama goes behind Miura’s back and asks the chief for a new editor, but the chief reproaches him in front of Miura and Ashirogi. Impressed by Iwase’s story, Hattori meets up with Yuujirou, telling him she’s Takagi’s rival. Hattori wants Niizuma to do her artwork, which would make him the first Jack mangaka with two simultaneous serializations. Niizuma agrees to draw under a pen name for when the work is submitted.

As long as they’ve known each other, how in the heck has Takagi never even met Kaya’s parents? I guess her father isn’t around much. Well, it’s moot for now, as they can’t even ask permission to get married unless Ashirogi Muto gets serialized. If they fail, there will be no dreams for anyone. Yet another setback befalls them as their submission lacked the intensity of their NEXT one-piece. They complain about Miura once more, but witnessing Takahama get reamed out by the chief forces them to give Miura a break and focus on making their work better. As the chief says, complaining about one’s editor is just trying making excuses for one’s own shortcomings.

Speaking of talent, Nakai is throwing his away, after a hat trick of unfortunate events: Takahama’s manga being cancelled, Katou refusing to enter into a “special relationship” (despite the fact she still seems to like him), and Aoki refusing to let him come crawling back. As usual, his friends swoop in to try to mend fencs, but he leaves. At least the guy acknowledges he was a dick. Back to talent, Hattori and Yuujirou may have just built a dream team in Iwase and Niizuma. One can’t forget just how amazing a talent Niizuma is, and when he’s fired up by quality story, his rivals had better watch out. Mashiro and Takagi really need to dig deep, or Takagi may find the girl he scorned surpassing him.


Rating: 3.5

Bakuman 2 – 14

Miyoshi stays away from the studio, and when Takagi calls her she blows him off. Busy with their gag manga manuscript, they continue working. When Miyoshi tells Miho about her suspicions, Miho worries that Mashiro is in on the deception as well. “Tanto” is well recieved in NEXT, but Fukuda, Niizuma, and Hattori all believe Ashirogi Muto’s talents are wasted on gag manga. Meanwhile, Aoki’s manga draws heavily from her experience with Nakai and rips off Mashiro and Miho’s romance. Miho finally calls Takagi wanting an explanation from both of them. When Mashiro can’t give her one, she hangs up.

Yikes…the hole just got deeper for Ashirogi Muto, as both are caught up in Takagi’s multi-girl carousel…and for what? While “Tanto” looks to be serialized, everyone who knows them best are disappointed they’re not doing more serious work. To that, we’d argue they already tried that and failed, and right now they just need a hit; and to us it seems looking down at gag manga is akin to novelists looking down on mangakas. But as they hunch over their desks working on “Tanto”, all kinds of things are being set in motion in their real lives. It kind of sucks that the letter Iwase put in Takagi’s book is such an obvious plot device for romantic conflict, but it was really a catalyst for bigger problems.

Takagi and Mashiro have been taking advantage of Miyoshi’s kindness. And with Aoki exhibiting signs that she may be falling for Takagi, and the fact her manga so closely mirrors Mashiro and Miho’s story, compound the problems quite a bit. We’re as disappointed as Miho when Mashiro conceals the truth from her. If all four people simply sat in a room and unraveled everything – without omissions or lies – everything would be cleared up. After all, it started innocently as Takagi seeking the advice from someone who better understood girls. As for Mashiro failing to tell Miho that her mother and his uncle exchanged letters, well, bad move. And more ammunition for Miho’s assertion she can’t trust him.


Rating: 3.5

Bakuman 2 – 13

Ashirogi decides to do a new gag one-shot in NEXT, something suitible for all ages unlike Ten. A discussion of animal characters leads Takagi to the zoo, where he bumps into Aoki. She agrees to help him understand girls if he helps her understant boys. They proceed to have two long phone conversations two straight nights, leading Miyoshi to become suspicious. When Aoki asks Takagi to meet her at the zoo again, he’s surprised to find Aiko there as well, who wants to confront him. They argue about the merits of manga verses novels, and in the end, Aiko decides she’ll do a manga that will surpass his own. While cleaning the studio, Miyoshi finds a note from Aiko hidden in the novel she gave him, and she runs out in tears.

Ohoho, Takagi, you dawwg. He’s never been that respectful of his tomboyish girlfriend, but this week he digs a hole he may not be able to climb out of. Nightlong flirty phone conversations with cute girls who aren’t your girlfriend must unfortunately be discouraged, as are secret meetings with said girl. Though not everything that unfolds is his fault. It’s Aoki’s newfound aggressiveness that leads to them exchanging advice in the first place, and there’s nothing wrong with doing so, but Aoki is operating under the impression he’s single. Similarly, the Aiko meet was a total ambush (what’s wrong with you, Aoki?)  and probably isn’t aware of the note Aiko left him in the book, but the damage has been done. Miyoshi can and will weave any number of narratives of his perceived unfaithfulness.

Meanwhile, we must flick our foreheads in apology for forgetting that Aiko Iwase was a classmate of Takagi’s, whom he rejected. She remains extremely bitter and confrontational, though that could just be her outward persona. Her true feelings may indeed be in that note. As Aoki and Takagi discussed, love can come in many forms, one of them being outward disdain and rivalry. Ideals and reality are rarely in synch. None of Aiko’s enmity would exist if only he’d agreed to date her back then. But even if she was – and is – the ideal gorgeous intelligent girl for him, he chose Miyoshi. Just like he abandoned higher pursuits and chose to be a mangaka. Were these choices mistakes?


Rating: 4

Bakuman 2 – 03

TRAP’s first chapter ranks third in the Jack polls, which is fine by any measure, but disappointing for Takagi. Mashrio says the only thing for it is to keep plugging away. But their work on the fifth chapter is interrupted by news that Aoki has dumped Nakai to write for NOOGY. Rather than heartbroken, Nakai decides to win her back by drawing outside her window every free minute he has. Just when everyone is about to stage an intervention for Nakai, who is drawing in a snowstorm, Aoki cracks and decides to keep working with him after all. The second chapter of TRAP falls to eighth.

For side characters, Aoki and Nakai are pretty complex. Aoki isn’t just the stone-cold bitch she appears to be on the surface, nor is Nakai a desperate, creepy stalker he appears to be. It’s more complicated than that. There’s no doubt that Nakai likes Aoki very much, and a lot of his actions are stalkeresque, but he has also bet everything on her manga, hideout door. He wants to prove himself to her. But she decides to work with KOOGY so she can tell the story she wants to tell – not bend to the will of Jack editors. Their standoff dominates this episode, and it was fun to see them back in action, along with Fukuda.

That standoff resolves itself without cheating. Aoki isn’t going to call the cops on Nakai, because part of her must know that he’s the best artist for her. Koogy’s all flash and no substance, but Nakai has been finely honing his art almost as long as the likes of Koogy have been alive. The scene where she finally comes outside to apologize is an awesome culmination of all the emotions expressed so far. She admits its her work she feels is inadequate, not his, and promises to do her best for his sake. Then Nakai gets overexcited about her inviting him in, that even manages to elicit a teensy scream from the stoic Aoki. There’s clearly unrequited love at play here, but the manga is more important than that.


Rating: 3.5