I’m not sure if this constitutes an attempt to make Iwase likeable, but if so, it didn’t work for me.
The struggle for success in the world of manga is so constant that sometimes I get tired just from watching Bakuman. I know that’s a realistic picture and that only for the very, very top talent in the industry is it possible to relax for even a moment, but it really engenders a certain admiration for the people who dedicate their lives to trying to succeed in the job. Given that Bakuman is of course a manga itself it might be considered a bit immodest to portray the struggle as heroic, but for me it doesn’t come across that way – just brutally difficult.
The challenge is made even harder when you have egomaniacal publishers like Sasaki who place unnecessary and unhelpful conditions like the ones PCP (I really wish they’d chosen a different name) is working under. Under any conventional standard Perfect Crime Party is a success – consistently in the top 5 or 6 places, with a broad fanbase that extends beyond Shounen Jump’s stock demographic. Yet it’s under threat of cancellation (assuming Sasaki would be stubborn and dumb enough to actually follow through on his threat) because of the circumstances under which it was launched. With new series nipping at the heels from below and more established series fighting off competition from above, PCP seems to be in an unenviable position. And perhaps it is, because Takagi is inspired to take a risk that under normal circumstances would be ill-advised.
Takagi is a somewhat overshadowed character in Bakuman – Mashiro is clearly the center of the story, Eiji the flashiest character and many of the supporting cast steal attention as the subject of secondary and tertiary plots. Takagi plugs along playing mostly a supporting role, but with Mashiro already having raised his game and Iwase’s rivalry on the front burner, it’s he who thinks outside the box and suggests the idea of a 5-part arc to coincide with Sasaki’s deadline. My initial reaction was the same as Hattori’s – extremely risky, and possibly unwisely so. But when you consider that Ashirogi Muto really don’t have anything to lose, perhaps it’s not such a bad gamble.
I think Takagi eventually came to the right conclusion about the ending, too – the original idea of Akechi being defeated in a straightforward manner would have been somewhat anti-climactic. And adding him as a recurring foil and sometimes ally (much as Ashirogi’s rivals are in “real” life) adds a nice element to the series. PCP is yet another in the line of Bakuman manga-in-mangas that I’d love to see become a real manga – it remains to be seen if in the world of Bakuman, it’s the sort of manga that can become an anime. I sense that it’s an important milestone for Ashirogi and I think it will survive Sasaki’s ultimatum, but it doesn’t feel like the final step – I think they have something even better in them.