4 out of 5
As hoped, the payoff for the slowdown of Moritaka’s and Akito’s creative juices – and lives – in a post Detective Trap world is a deepening of our understanding / appreciation / dread of how a passion becomes a job, and the little life incidents that just crop up and up and up along the way that make it difficult to revert the latter back to the former. While this transition is playing out, the world-building can appropriately shift to delving more into our boys’ personal lives and feelings, growing them in to actual characters as they bridge the gap into becoming young adults. Similarly, the girls around the boys (Azuki excepted, since she’s still a rather peripheral character…) become more like flesh and blood people, and everyone’s intertwined interactions have a realistic – if continually touched by some great comedic and slapstick beats – vibe. Volume 9 is incredibly rewarding in this sense.
As such, with Hattori’s scheming falling into place, and Miura’s hard-earned lessons-learned as an editor, when we hit on some key decision toward tankobon’s end – Ashirogi making another bold choice for their career path – it’s not just another momentum-fueled blast, but rather something that has great emotional impact; we’ve all grown toward this decision together.
The only reason for knocking a star is a very minor point: Ohba clearly intends to make shut-in mangaka Shizuka into a more primary character, and the only way to do so (apparently) is for random inserts when he is visited by his editor. There are no transitions into or out of these scenes. They’re totally valid scenes, and not uninteresting in themselves, but they’re really just randomly jammed in there.