4 out of 5
I’m just docking a star because of the cheap cliffhanger this ends on – literally stopping mid-sentence during a very important announcement by the chief editor. BRO.
With our writer / artist duo having been successfully established, throwing a medical crisis in their way – Mashiro is hospitalized, with strong recommendations from family and friends (and doctors!) to stop working while he’s there – would, in general, seem like a cheap maneuver for adding drama. Yes and no. Yes: it’s certainly a maneuver for adding drama, but Ohba takes the opportunity to further explore the ups and downs of the manga world, having to consider what happens when your work goes on pause, for whatever the reason, AND leverages it as a way for further adding depth to some aspects that felt mighty questionable, previously: namely Mashiro’s mother’s attitude toward the whole business, and adding more dimension to Azuki. Though it partially seems like a half-step back – turning Azuki into a fangirl, of sorts – the way Ohba massages it, it actually makes her more well-rounded and believable and individualistic, in a way. Those two’s relationship is wholly characterized by its youthy, I’ll-wait-for-you nature, so I don’t want to claim we’re breaking wild emotional grounds, but that’s just it: Ohba has taken what was cutesy and simplistic and, along the way, given realistic considerations to what Azuki’s and Mashiro’s pledges to one another mean.
There’s also a whole separate thread about how editorial decides to deal with Mashiro’s hospitalization, which opens us up for some great character work with editors Miura and Hattori, as well as some great comedy antics with Mashiro’s manga-making crew – Nizuma, Fukuda, etc.
On the other side of his hospital visit, Mashiro – and Takagi – now have to deal with the affect they’ve had on shonen manga, with sudden competition in the detective genre challenging the progress of their strip…