With their recent differences settled, all is well between editor Miura and his pair of young charges as we dig into the second half of Bakuman's second season, meaning that it's back to the grindstone and the serialisation game for Ashirogi Muto.
With agreement finally reached by all parties to focus on a gag manga, Mashiro and Takagi still have two conditions - firstly, that they want to create another new work to consider for serialisation, and secondly that it should cater towards a broader range of ages than TEN. With Jack NEXT chosen as the testing ground for another one-shot piece, it's full steam ahead once again, as it's left to Takagi to come up with suitable ideas.
However, one thing is bugging the writer in our manga-making duo, and that's how to write a believable female character. Getting advice from the tomboyish Miyoshi seems out of the question, and so it's Aoki to whom Takagi turns after serendipitously bumping into her at the zoo while hunting for inspiration. Seeing as Aoki is herself in need of some male perspective for her work, this seems like a match made in heaven as the two spend their evenings making long phone calls and comparing outlooks on life in general... one could say that they almost get on too well. If this isn't bad enough, Takagi's possible harem grows further by the reappearance of Iwase - a girl who he rejected in the past but who still harbours feelings for him. Despite the confrontational nature of this meeting, it seems as if things are about to take a decidedly upsetting turn for poor, hapless Miyoshi.
Although it's effectively become tradition to have a moan whenever Bakuman enters romantic territory, I actually rather enjoyed the dynamic between Takagi and Aoki - okay, that's probably mostly because I've grown rather fond of the latter character in recent weeks (and I'd wager she took up almost the entire animation budget this week so I'm clearly not the only one), but somehow the whole thing works rather well, especially given the tension surrounding Miyoshi's place in all of this. Sadly, the same can't be said of Iwase's character here, as she simply doesn't come across as believable (or if she is, she's a grade A bunny boiler) and feels out of place in a cast with plenty of believable and relatively strong female characters. Still, overall this was an enjoyable episode that has given us plenty of drama going into next week - I just hope that Iwase isn't going to be too much of a regular fixture for the series going forward.