Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san 2 – 02 – Breaking the Ice

It may be Summer IRL, but the days are getting colder in the world of Takagi-san, such that puddles made by rain a day ago are frozen solid the next morning. Takagi can tell Nishikata has an unbearable urge to pick that ice up, and so makes a contest out of it.

Naturally, despite Nishikata’s extensive activity in such training, she gets him to drop it by declaring whoever breaks their ice first loses, and has to warm the hands of the winner. He’s about to take her hand when she asks for the hand warmer he offered earlier. A reprieve!

Another morning, Nishikata believes he has a surefire way to get Takagi to lose, by telling her he changed something about his appearance and challenging her to correctly identify that change. This backfires spectacularly when Takagi gives him a thorough visual examination, even tickling his side and getting very close up to smell him.

In the end, Takagi correctly concludes he trimmed his hair, though whether she was going with the answer with the best odds is a mystery. Nishikata’s punishment is to try to guess how she’ll change her appearance tomorrow, knowing full well he’d never look her over as thoroughly as she just did.

After an in-between in which Mina laughs at Yukari’s bangs which she trimmed too far, Valentine’s Day arrives, and Nishikata, while telling himself he doesn’t expect any chocolate from Takagi or anyone else, is still expecting chocolate.

As Mina learns the hard way, Tanabe-sensei doesn’t tolerate the distribution of chocolate on his watch. Mano almost works up the courage to hand Nakai some non-obligatory chocolate, but his ever-present friends ruin her timing and she runs off.

Nakai may be dense but has the good sense to chase after Mano, who is able to successfully give him the chocolate (which he tells Tanabe-sensei is a book she borrowed). As for Nishikata, he goes the whole day without being given any chocolate, only to find a box in his shoe locker, obviously left there by Takagi, who tries to get him to identify her as the one who put it there.

Nishikata doesn’t give in, so Takagi keeps the mind games going by offering him a small piece of obligatory chocolate, while strongly implying that not all the chocolate she gave him is obligatory. Her status as giver of the shoe locker chocolate remains unsaid, but like many things between these two, it doesn’t really have to be said.

There’s no one else from which Nishikata would get non-obligatory chocolate, and there’s no one else to whom Takagi would give chocolate.

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 – 16

When Aoki comes to Ashirogi seeking help drawing panty shots, Kaya suggests she meet with Ishizawa, but that proves a bad idea, as he turns out to be worse than Nakai. When Fukuda hears that Aoki and Nakai were in a fight, he drops by Takahara’s to confront Nakai, who tells him he’s “comfortable” where he is, and working with Katou. Rather than leave it there, he decides to coach Aoki himself, giving her pointers while he draws and having her fax him work to look over. Her resulting work gets her a shot at serialization in the same time Ashirogi’s Tanto is up for it. Meanwhile, Iwase meets with Hattori, vowing to draw a manga based on her novel that will surpass Takagi.

Fukuda can be loud and obnoxious, but he’s also kind (in his own way), and fiercely loyal to his fellow mangakas. We see a lot of him this week, juggling his own Kiyoshi Knights manga with the new task of helping Aoki essentially loosen up. This isn’t just about inserting panty shots; it’s about showing the right imagery at the appropriate time. It’s not simple. Fukuda’s direction really perks Aoki up, as she’s put Nakai and even Takagi past her and is going for it. We like this new, more emotional, more assertive Aoki a lot; she’s just got this spark right now, and her heated conversations with Fukuda are very fun to watch.

Fukuda isn’t just doing this for her. For him, doing what he does just isn’t fun if Niizuma, Mashiro, Takagi, Nakai and Aoki aren’t doing it too. He wants everyone trying to outdo the other, because that will result in everyone putting out their best work. Friends are the best critics, because they can communicate feedback to you in a way someone else may not be able to. Takagi and Mashiro may have had a better chance of being serialized if they put Aoki’s request on hold, but they didn’t; they helped her because she was a friend in need, and because Nakai really was a bastard. We’re not sure what to make of Iwase yet; she’s just starting out like Ashirogi Muto did with Hattori; but she’s a bright cookie, and it’s not unrealistic to think she’ll rise fast.


Rating: 3.5

Bakuman 2 – 15

Mashiro and Miho get in a fight and reach an impasse when he won’t spill the beans on what he knows about Takagi. Since they’re both impossibly stubborn, both Takagi and Kaya feel guilty for letting things affect them. They get first place in NEXT with “Tanto”, but Mashiro cannot concentrate, so Takagi calls Kaya, who agrees to meet him at the zoo to explain things. He bumps into Aoki again, who is distraught over Nakai demanding she date him in exchange for his services. Kaya sees them embracing and runs off, but Takagi stops her by proposing, and he and Aoki explain everything to her. They then tell Miho, and everyone makes up.

There’s one pretty glaring contrivance that’s hard to overlook about this cathartic, reconciliatory episode, and that’s that Takagi tells his suspicious girlfriend to meet him at the exact same spot where he met up with Aoki previously, and where he was ambushed by Iwase. Sometimes I wonder if this guy has a self-preserving bone in his body. If we overlook the second coincidence that Aoki was there, it did end up serving Takagi quite well to have Aoki there to help explain things. Although we’ll say one thing: we’re not entirely satisfied with Takagi choosing Kaya over Aoki. Sure, Aoki is an extremely naive person, and hers may only be a crush on her ideal of who Takagi is, but the fact remains they could well be a good match.

Takagi jokes about changing his mind about marrying Kaya, but there’s a kernel of regret in that joke; Aoki is more his intellectual equal, and Kaya admits she’s prettier, though Kaya’s self-esteem kinda sucks. Of course, numbers, statistics, commonalities and surface traits can very often mean nothing at all when it comes to love. Clearly Takagi loves Kaya more than Aoki, so Kaya it is. As for our haughty friend Nakai, our respect for him just dropped quite a few notches. His demand would be inappropriate no matter who he was talking to. That it was Aoki, who had grudingly accepted him as a friend and colleague, is inexcusable. That slap was well-deserved. Grow up, Fatty.


Rating: 3.5

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