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Wasn't that just a pleasant episode?
The main issue I've had with Bakuman over the past few weeks has been pacing. It's been going too fast and splitting episodes into parts that just didn't work together combined. This is an episode that actually works with the split focus, and even though I still have issues with the pacing, it's less noticeable here.
One hand we have Hiramaru and Aoki's love story. Originally started because of Hiramaru's huge popularity with the readers of the manga, slowly we've been exposed to him (and Aoki) a little more. This season could perhaps be considered his time in the spotlight, as he steadily increased his presence in Bakuman to the point of appearing in numerous episodes.
There's not really much to say about the romance. It was an adorable and satisfying moment to see two people as shy as Hiramaru and Aoki putting their feelings out in the open. In many ways, this couple resembles Mashiro and Azuki, possibly even inspired by them. Of course their relationship took this long because of Yoshida and his doting father-like ways. Speaking of Yoshida, his absence would not have been excused! He's been as big a part as Bakuman as Hiramaru, almost like the perfect complimentary character. Again, an influence of character popularity polls but that still doesn't change anything.
Then we get to the more rushed, yet equally important Ashirogi Muto part of the story. As usual the duo are faced with some kind of conundrum relating to their popularity; their ongoing struggle for an anime adaptation. What they're experiencing now is the harsh reality of Nizuma's big advantage. Just like if Oda were to finish One Piece and draw something else, his name alone would guarantee monstrous sales figures. The strategy meeting ended up being just more insight into how to make a manga more popular since the part was where the reassurance came from.
The Tezuka-Akasuka award ceremony seems like the appropriate place for Ashirogi Muto to get their reassurance. As they once stood at that same place where many hopefuls stand. It made sense that the man they've been chasing was the one to clear them of their doubts. It was just a cherry on top when they were approached by the anime exec!
As I said, this episode of Bakuman works better than the last few have. I still would have liked for a slower pace for the meeting, to give it more of a regrouping feel but for the most part it was fine. Some other of my problems might come to light in the last five episodes, but I'll just have to wait and see if Bakuman can avoid them.