It's crunch time for Ashirogi Muto, as quite literally their last chance to make it to the big time within the pages of Shounen Jack approaches at a rate of knots, and even Hattori parachutes himself in to discuss their options before what could be their final serialisation committee showing.
Although they may feel as if their previous efforts have largely been in vain, Hattori believes that this isn't the case, and that all of those works were merely preparation for their master-stroke; something that only Takagi's writing and Mashiro's art style can provide. What's Hattori's grand masterplan? "Serious humour" - the art of making people laugh without even trying to do so, while delivering a seemingly serious story.
The concept certainly catches with our manga authoring duo, but what should the setting for such a work be? After a lot of fretting, a chance occurrence at their school's culture festival provides Takagi with the formative ideas for his answer, and after dragging Mashiro around on some seemingly pointless escapades tailing Hattori for a day and surreptitiously replacing Miyoshi's birthday present to Miho, all is revealed. Is this really the manga that will allow Ashirogi Muto to match, and even surpass, Nizuma Eiji? Our pair of artists are supremely confident if nothing else, but then again that isn't the first time we've seen their confident come to naught.
Despite some aspects of the plot being a little contrived (the "serious humour" of Takagi and Mashiro tailing Hattori didn't really work out), watching these formative stages of the creative process has always been one of the most fun aspects of Bakuman, and so it proves once again here - the ideas brought forth are always great, and it's tough not to get carried away by the infectious enthusiasm of the main characters once they hit on a bright idea. The only sad thing is that we don't get to enjoy that side of the series all that often by its very nature, so for now I'm just going to enjoy this while I can before seeing where the series deigns to take us next - expect bums to shift uneasily in seats as the next serialisation committee meeting materialises.