Fukuda, Niizuma, Hiramaru, Aoki and Nakai tell their editors they’ll all join Ashirogi Muto on hiatus until the Chief Editor ends the TRAP hiatus. Mashiro’s surgery is successful, but he and Takagi are furious when they seen the four other manga missing. The phones ring off the hook at the editor’s office, but the Chief Editor won’t budge. When Mashiro is discharged from the hospital, he, Takagi and Miura confront him one more time with eleven piled-up manuscripts, and he finally agrees to return TRAP to Jack as soon as possible.
Well, that would seem to have been resolved rather quickly! Putting TRAP on hiatus brought the whole point of the series – Mashiro achieving his dreams – to a screeching halt, but through it all, Miho was ever-supportive, Mashiro’s friends stuck their own necks out for his sake, and he never stopped drawing. We’re not entirely sure passage of time was handled as well as it could have been, but what’s important is that they managed to convince the chief editor to end TRAP’s hiatus before they graduate, which is as good an outcome as they could have hoped for.
Of course, while Miura considers the backlog of manuscripts to be some of Ashirogi’s best work yet, it was all produced without knowing how each story would be ranked. The next episode’s title incliuding the words “low ranking” suggest Mashiro and Takagi’s next major challenge will be dealing with a sudden and perhaps prolonged decline in popularity, just when their first volume has been released. And unpopular manga don’t get turned into anime (usually).
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.
Everything picks up where the first season left off, with Mashiro and Takagi getting serialized. Hattori hands them over to a new supervisor, who immediately delves into the logistics of serializing a manga. He hires three assistants for them, sets the deadlines, salaries, and expenses of the enterprise. They are also treated to VIP service as they attend Yoeisha’s New Year’s party, where they meet rivals Hiramaru and Niizuma as well as Mr. Torishima, board of directors. Mashiro sets high goals that impress both him and the Editor-in-chief.
This was a great continuation of the story we’d left last fall, and introduced a lot of new characters and challenges for Ashirogi Muto. It cleverly begins with the OP of Detective Trap, as seen in Mashiro’s head. None of the trials he and Takagi have gone through have jaded him from his ultimate goal. “Hard work, confidence (or conceit) and luck” are the weapons of any successful mangaka, and so confident is he (at least on the surface), Mashrio promises the editor-and-chief and (a very subtly hilarious) Mr. Torishima that he’ll do what his uncle couldn’t – make a living off manga – and do what he left undone – winning first place in the Jack survey.
Lofty goals, but after witnessing the professionalism of his new team – Editor Miura, Chief Assistant Ogawa, Kato the Girl, and Takahama the Quiet – he has cause to strive for them. The party is the perfect vehicle to introduce Kazuya Hiramaru, who some have claimed is even more of a genius than Niizuma – but when they meet him he insists he’d rather be a NEET. The charisma at the party is palpable, as is the cautious optimism. I love how this show doesn’t merely have course enemies as the leads’ rivals; their relationships are often more complicated. Punctuating the episode with a brief cut to Azuki getting Mashiro’s vow via text was also well done.