The early focus on Reversi’s sales figures exceeding those of Zombie Gun is a nice and passive way of resolving the competition between Ashirogi Muto and Niizuma Eiji. While this has long been a major goal for the protagonists, achieving it isn’t the kind of complicated plot point that merits a chapter unto itself. This moment of success is obviously great because of what it means to the characters, but it’s made even better by not being overblown. The way it’s allowed to flow naturally with the rest of the story allows for more emotional and direct developments, such as Mashiro being thankful for the support of his close friends, to get the focus they deserve.
Eiji’s renewed challenge to Ashirogi Muto is the perfect way to wrap up his role in the story. His contribution to the plot cannot be overstated; his constant presence as a rival has constantly propelled the series forward, whether or not he was actually directly involved in current affairs. Even though the main objective of Bakuman was for Mashiro and Azuki to get married by way of an Ashirogi Muto anime, that goal would have meant little without the fierce competition provided by Eiji. His role as a lovable genius and a steadfast rival has been invaluable.
These scenes of the other authors and editors proceeding with their lives cultivate an appropriate sense of closure for a chapter so close to the climax. While Fukuda and Takahama were less integral to the story than Eiji, supporting characters like these contributed to the overall variety of the series. Subplots such as the developing romance between Hiramaru and Aoki were enjoyable in their own right, but their most important addition to Bakuman was the way they kept the process of writing manga engaging. By providing exciting side stories without dragging the series down with unwarranted character development, the supporting cast took the focus off of the admittedly obtuse central concept of the series and prevented it from growing dull. More directly, they provided some excellent moments of both drama and comedy, evidenced most consistently by the working relationship between Hiramaru and Yoshida.
Mashiro’s calm determination to propose to Azuki is beautiful. For too long, he has willingly put obstacles in the way of his own relationship; no matter how justified he was each time, it took an emotional toll on him, Azuki, Takagi, and even the audience for him to delay his own happiness until the conditions of his promise were met flawlessly. The result of such long-term tension won’t be made completely apparent until he actually proposes, but since this chapter already hints at the realization of his dream, it also hints at the catharsis of such a moment.
While the clarity of Mashiro’s focus on his objective is wonderful, he is right to take the time to thank Kaya for all her assistance. Although Kaya was never quite central to the main plot, her temperament and emotional sincerity have made her absolutely crucial to the balance of the cast. She has splendidly augmented any character with which she interacts; without her, the relationship between Mashiro and Takagi would not be as meaningful. Like Eiji, Kaya’s impact on the story has been profound.
Azuki’s misinterpretation of Mashiro’s intentions makes for a curious little scene. Considering how specific Mashiro has been about the terms of their promise, it’s somewhat unusual that she doesn’t expect Mashiro to propose right away, especially considering the panel in chapter 173 where she mentally prepared herself for such a situation. In all likelihood, this confusion exists solely to generate meaningful surprise when she hears Mashiro’s proposal, but it’s still a little strange.
Mashiro reading his uncle’s notebook is a fantastic way to finish a chapter built around the thought of everything coming full circle. This chapter has done a magnificent job in highlighting the importance of the truly excellent supporting cast of this series. Furthermore, by providing ample closure for so many characters this week, the authors have freed up next week to the point where it can be exclusively about Mashiro and Azuki, just as it should.
Final Flash: As fantastic as this was, it’s only a prelude to what should be an absolutely stunning chapter next week. Assuming the authors don’t have any unpleasant surprises planned, this series is poised for a stellar ending.