The manuscript for the first chapter of Perfect Crime Club is ready, but Hattori believes the character names and design needs work, as does the title of the manga itself. Ashirogi Muto misses the New Years party to perfect their work, as does Fukuda with a motorcycle shonen one shot that will appear in the same issue. Ashirogi meet their new assistants, Orihara, Moriya, and Shriatori; the latter two get into a debate about why to draw manga.
Takagi finally comes up with the name PCP (Perfect Crime Party), and the team belts out the first chapter. It takes first place in Jack by a landslide, earning more votes than either CROW or +Natural’s first chapters, an encouraging start. Mashiro shows the rankings to his uncle’s grave, but the real challenge has only begun, as the chief editor vows to cancel PCP if it can’t consistently keep up with CROW or +Natural.
First, lets get this out of the way: PCP (the drug) must not be a bug problem in Japan, otherwise, Hattori or someone else would surely have discouraged the use of that particular acronym to title anew manga. That said, this second season was going to end on one of two notes: either PCP took first place, or it didn’t. Victory or defeat. Hope or despair. Thankfully, it took first place, as it was meant to do. What we didn’t expect was for it to win by such a large margin. Nobody did; not even the setback-fatigued authors.
The battle has only begun. The competition is stiffer than ever, with two Niizuma Eiji drawn mangas, one of which is written by a girl who considers Takagi and now Hattori her nemeses. Hell hath no fury and all that. Not to mention Fukuda, who has a much more straightforward mainstream manga about motorcycles that the kids will love.
They also have to contend with a chief editor who is still not happy about Ashirogi quitting Tanto, and even more unhappy that he was rebuked in the vote to allow PCP’s serialization. Moritaka Mashiro is a step closer to making his dreams come true, and PCP has the makings of an anime…but there’s still at least a third season’s worth of tribulations to contend with before that happens. He sure hasn’t made it easy for himself.
Miura reads Ashirogi’s manuscript for Perfect Crime Club. While at first he finds its crimes petty, the realistic art and serious tone draw him in. He believes it will be a hit. While at any other serialization meeting, it would easily pass, the editors have to determine whether it will be able to beat Crow and +Natural, right now. Their deliberations go on a long time, as Mashiro has a Christmas get-together with Takagi and Kaya. The resulting vote at the meeting is tied 3-3, and the Chief editor with the tie-breaking vote. He believes it’s good, but not enough to win. With the final vote 4-3, Perfect Crime Club will not be serialized by Jack.
Bakuman is full of foolish promises. The idea that Mashiro and Miho cannot possibly be together unless they achieve their dreams is getting to be a major problem. Huge chunks of their youth have been spent away from each other. Yes, they love each other, but the idealism of their promise is starting to strain credulity. Case in point: Takagi and Kaya have Mashiro over for their first Christmas as a married couple. Why isn’t Miho there? Because of that silly promise, made when they were still kids. We know this issue has been covered exhaustively and they both seem to be committed to keeping the promise, but these constant drawbacks make the dreams they seek to achieve seem more like mirages; impossible to ever reach. Time will tell, we guess.
That’s beause of another dumb promise: to create a manga that can defeat Niizuma Eiji, or leave Jack for good. Ashirogi Muto has been through the pressure cooker enough; there was no need to gamble themselves into a corner. We held out hope Perfect Crime Club, which is the most original and best-thought-out manga Ashirogi’s created to date – would at least be given a shot to compete, but the Chief Editor took their gamble to mean that they the editors – and they alone, not the readers – would be the arbitors of the manga’s fate. With that, it seems like Ashirogi Muto’s Jack days are finished, unless Hattroi and Miura have any other tricks up their sleeve.
Rating : 3.5
As Tanto winds down, Ashirogi Muto struggle to find a new idea, until Miura suggests they bring back Money & Intelligence, but add “Appearence” to make it KTM. Takagi is fired up and has loads of ideas, butwhen they submit the manuscript for serialization, it fails. Rather than improve KTM, Miura orders them to do a mainstream fantasy in the vein of One Piece, but the resulting manuscript doesn’t even make it to the serialization meeting. Miura arrives with Hattori, who wants to help in anyway he can. Meanwhile, Iwase reiterates her ‘interest’ in him, and he gives her a set amount of time to win his heart.
When we learned there’d be three serialization meetings, we imagined three episodes in which Mashiro and Takagi come up with three manga ideas, and naturally the first and second would be rejected. But things went faster than we expected, with them breezing through two manga concepts in one week, leaving them with one more shot: if they fail again, they’re through with Jack. One annoyance of this series is how it’s paced: earlier in the first season, an episode would only cover a day or two – now weeks can pass with nary a label to indicate it.
Pacing aside, clearly there’s plenty more material to come – there’s a third season coming later this year – and that makes us wonder, just how long is Ashirogi Muto going to continue these cycles of small victories followed by failures. When will they finaly surpass Niizuma Eiji, like Hattori and others believe they can? As viewers, we’re starting to get a little antsy. Is Bakuman merely stringing us along, or will there be some eventual gratification? We know, for one thing, Mashiro’s goal of getting an anime with Miho voicing it is still a long way off, and their marriage with it. So until then Bakuman has to make a case for itself. Something good’s gotta happen.
Tanto’s rank is steady, but low, and Takagi is nearing the limit of his jokes, pulling all-nighters days before his wedding to no avail. At his and Kaya’s wedding reception, Mashiro confronts Hattori to tell him straight up whether Tanto is good; he says it isn’t. The final straw is when Niizuma calls Ashirogi Muto his rivals on live TV. Both Takagi and Mashiro ask the chief editor if they can quit Tanto and work on something that will surpass Niizuma – if they can’t, their Jack days are over.
First Trap got cancelled. They liked it, but the rankings fell to far. Now with Tanto, the rankings aren’t falling enough to risk cancellation, and it’s important to Jack as a kids’ manga – but both Takagi and Mashiro feel it’s holding them back. While it may seem unwise to put so much faith in the opinions of a few peers – in this case, Niizuma and Hattori – the way they see it, they would rather try and fail to surpass Niizuma with everything they’ve got rather than continue to dabble in obscurity. If they truly have the talent and it’s a matter of proper utilization, then Tanto has to go.
It’s a big gamble, because, well, what if they truly can never surpass Niizuma, and burn themselves out in the attempt? They’re already known as “troublemakers” in the industry, and there’s apparently no better publication to be in than Jack, so they’re really limiting their options. But continuing to eke out Tanto would be limiting them even further. Would Mashiro really be okay marrying Miho after getting a late night anime deal like Hiramaru? I doubt it. He wants the primetime, and he wants to be the best. And so they roll the dice.
The good news: a revised Tanto passed muster and will be serialized, so Mashiro has a Christmas present for Miho and Takagi and Kaya can now move forward with their marriage plans. The bad: Akina Aiko and Niizuma’s manga +Natural is also serialized, and will be published the week before Tanto, putting Takagi in direct competition with Iwase. Fukuda gathers everyone together to talk with Niizuma. This includes Iwase, who has no intention for sharing her opinions with other authors. Niizuma dismisses everyone’s concerns as whining, and they should focus on making manga that’s better than his.
Bakuman finally gives Ashirogi Muto something to celebrate, only to sour their jubilation with the knowledge that not only is Iwase, at this point THE WORST HUMAN BEING IN THE WORLD, will be competing with their manga, but Niizuma has heartily agreed to lend his all-but-unbeatable art to her story. It’s a tough pill to swallow, especially when Iwase does her best to live up to her all-caps title by subtly taunting Takagi. This girl is seriously messed up, and in this case I think Niizuma is being a little too simple-minded by working with her on a whim. Yeah, we know he likes to draw, but enabling a budding psychopath is a bridge too far.We can only hope Iwase won’t turn dangerous if things don’t go her way. For his part, Takagi warns her nothing she can do will change his and Kaya’s plans.
Beyond all that unpleasantness, it was good to see the whole gang (save Nakai) back together, thanks to Fukuda of course. Niizuma’s comparison to Iwase as Aoki two years ago was not only a funny observation, but also underscored how much Aoki has grown as a person and how pathetic Iwase is right now. Niizuma was on a roll this week, urging everyone to lay off him for taking on two simultaneous serializations. While we fault him for giving legitimacy to Iwase’s vendetta (which goes way beyond a friendly rivalry), we can’t fault him for this. If they don’t like it, they need to make better manga.
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.