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If you haven't learnt much from Bakuman, this episode should teach you something.
We've seen this many times in this series - Ashirogi Muto struggling once again to make something of themselves - and it's not new material but it is done differently. This time round the conversation is about the difficulties of pushing popular manga further up the popularity ladder in the most popular manga publication in the whole of Japan.
As someone who interested in Table of Contents rankings, manga popularity and the like, this episode is right up my alley. It shows us the less obvious difficulties weekly manga faces when it aims to be popular, down to the minor artistic touches that could push it over the edge. There was a feeling of the rug being pulled from underneath us every time Ashirogi Muto came remotely close to achieving their goal and that is what really conveyed the competitiveness of the manga industry. You didn't expect the other mangaka to step back and allow Ashirogi Muto to surpass them did you
Funnily enough if you go back to the relevant chapters of the manga which make up this episode, they too hold a certain significance. Occasionally unnoticed, this was about the time that the manga started changing its art style from the more realistic like in DEATH NOTE to the more comedic and exaggerated. Unknown to me at first, this ended up being a big turning point as I found the manga to have improved significantly after this point. A part of me thinks that Ohba and Obata were expressing their views and experiences, which you can't ignore with moments like this.
On another note, it's good to see Hiramaru being brought into the spotlight a little more. Initially an occasional gag character, he's slowing being phased into the story the proof of which lies with this episode. I do wish his voice actor would exaggerate a little more, because I'm not getting the craziness I always imagined his character to have.
In the end, I like how this episode turned out. The composition was just right in terms of what was included and the cliffhanger was a good choice also. Next episode will wrap up this arc and after that, it is all J.C. Staff's will on how the series will progress.