By the end of the last chapter, Ayumu suggested Nagi to become a monk, in order to win against Ruka.
Speaking of monks, their images differ from religion to religion, and from culture to culture. However, it appears to many people that monks, whichever religion they are from, meditate and study in the mountains. Now, it appears that Ayumu is asking Nagi to live up to this impression.
As such, Ayumu takes Nagi and Chiharu into the mountains, where there stands a small cottage. It doesn’t seem to be the cottage in which Ruka kissed Hayate, but Ayumu still makes a reference to it by calling the cottage “Dark Rainbow Village”. We know that the true “Rainbow Village” is a hot spring, but it seems that Ayumu still thinks it is that cottage, and she definitely hates it.
Ayumu explains that Japanese seclude themselves into the mountains when they need a breakthrough. An obvious reason would be that the isolation from our daily life would help us focus. For people who need intensive physical training, the mountains are full of the forces of the natures: waterfalls, woods, and once in a while wild animals. That doesn’t seem to have anything to do with manga, though…
Nagi doesn’t find it make sense either, especially when she is not a “pure” Japanese – her father, Shin Hayek, is American. Yet when Ayumu asks if she has any other way to win over Ruka, Nagi retreats to a cliche: isn’t she granted a victory no matter what, simply because she is the main character, who has a lot of “main character characteristics”?
It does sound like she is breaking the fourth wall here, but she means that she is the main character of her life. Obviously, this is stupid: everyone is the main character of their lives, so does it mean that everyone would win? Of course not. Sooner or later, Nagi must learn that the world doesn’t revolve around her – again, if we are not breaking the fourth wall.
If we do break the fourth wall, maybe we would come to realize that there is some truth in her words. As the main character (or main heroine, for the “main character” would be Hayate), Nagi has always been blessed by Hata the author, and she indeed always wins: consider the Second Season OVA, the movie, the new anime, and the Athena saga in the manga. Indeed, it is only in the popularity polls where she loses.
Now, let us repair the fourth wall and pretend that we don’t know the final outcome. So where are we now? Oh yes, “main character characteristics”. Credits are due to Ayumu for summarizing the characteristics of Nagi and Ruka. It is up to you to decide who looks more like a main character, but Ayumu is opinion that it is Ruka. It would mean that, if the outcome of the competition would be decided by who is the main character, then Ruka looks more likely to win…
Then again, if we break the fourth wall, we would know that it is not the “main character characteristics” which decide who is the main character. Frankly, the author of the story has the final say on who would be the main character. If he so likes, he could make a character with no “main character characteristics” the main character. Whether the readers agree with his decision is irrelevant. What is official is official.
Okay, let us put the fourth wall up again – although I have the feeling that it is now beyond repairable… Anyway, Ayumu accuses Nagi of taking things too lightly. As she has pointed out in the previous chapter, Nagi should not assume that Hayate would stay with her even if she lost in Comiket. To emphasize her point, she tells us her story with a parrot, which she had raised since it was a chick, and then mercilessly fled when it had the chance. Her point is that Hayate could leave Nagi when given the chance, despite Nagi has been treating him so well.
And yes, I do agree that it is quite unfair to compare Hayate to a parrot. Apparently a parrot has more dignity than Hayate.
While Ayumu has so far failed to persuade Nagi, Chiharu does it right on her first attempt. She makes a reference to Kinnikuman, who apparently has retreated to the mountains to perfect his special move, and successfully persuades Nagi to start working – although neither of them understand the reasoning. Once again, physical training has nothing to do with manga…
But Ayumu has more in mind than an “extreme theory” which doesn’t make sense at all. She announces that Nagi would be doing nothing (expect eating and sleeping, of course) other than drawing manga in the “Dark Rainbow Village”. So we are back to Seclusion 101: we want the isolation to help us focus on doing a specific task. At least it makes sense now.
Ayumu then outlines her strategy plan: Nagi would not practice artwork, but she would make stories and storyboards. She reasons that the difference in artwork is so big that Nagi would not be able to overcome soon, but an excellent story could make up for the inferior artwork, so Nagi should work (very hard) on the story. This won’t be easy – indeed, Ayumu goes as far as to say that Nagi needs a miracle to win over Ruka.
The only problem now is that Ayumu won’t be able to tell whether a story is good or bad because she doesn’t understand manga. Let us conveniently forget that Chiharu, someone who knows manga, is present – Ayumu has found the ultimate judge to do the job: Ashibashi-sensei. Understandably, Nagi and Chiharu protest. After all, asking the ultimate pro to judge if the story by an amateur is good enough is like asking Lionel Messi to judge if Doughnut Gunso plays football well enough. We will never be good enough in their eyes.
But apparently Ayumu thinks that Nagi would make progress by learning right from the pro. He might be a bit too harsh for an amateur, but as long as Nagi becomes good enough to defeat Ruka, then everything is fine. This could well be what she means by “If it would help you win, I would call in a professional baseball player for a casual baseball game”. Surely, the “casual” Comiket is now under the inspection of a professional mangaka.
Nagi feels uneasy. She recalls that her downfall had begun at Ashibashi-sensei’s apartment. There she read his manuscript, realised that her work was just scribblings, and then she saw the disappointment on his face when he saw her manuscript. This had heavily damaged her self-confidence, and now he is to read her work again… We can understand why Nagi is worried.
To her surprise, Ashibashi-sensei begins praising her manga and encouraging her to do her best. Nagi is overjoyed, and apparently her self-confidence is back. What has been destroyed has now been restored, all by the very same person. Chiharu becomes suspicious, but as Ayumu plays dumb we might have to tell the unspeakable truth by ourselves: it could be that Ashibashi-sensei is merely telling Nagi she is good because Ayumu tells him to do so. To be fair to Ayumu, the whole point of Ashibashi-sensei’s praise is not about a fair assessment of Nagi’s manga, but about restoring her confidence. Sometimes, when self-confidence is so dearly needed, the truth doesn’t really matter.
So, Nagi’s training begins. We do not know whether it would be an interesting read, but we do know that one person, namely Azumamiya Koutarou is going to suffer. With the mangaka gone, the poor assistant would have to handle all the deadly phone calls from the editor, and / or finishing some of the manuscripts for the coming week(s). Poor Koutarou is going to have a very bad summer…
As we can see from this chapter, Ayumu is doing everything she can to help Nagi. Very sadly, it seems that this time Ayumu is helping not because she has a “heart of gold”, but because she doesn’t want Ruka to take Hayate away. As she (apparently) lacks the power to compete with Ruka head-on, she decides to become an ally of Nagi to defeat their “common enemy”. The thing is that Ayumu is simply defeating an enemy by making another enemy stronger – Ayumu and Nagi are not exactly “allies by default” when it comes to Hayate. Ayumu might be able to knock Ruka out of the contest, but she might also find Nagi becoming an even more formidable opponent. This is strategic suicide.
What is worrying here is that our dear Hamster, the one with a “heart of gold”, has shown us such a dark side of her character. She might be exaggerating things, but the jealousy seems real. We all know that jealousy makes girls ugly both physically and mentally, and it seems that the fight for Hayate’s heart could become ugly from now on. This could be worrying – I don’t want to see our lovely girls being distorted like this, to say the least.
So, my hope is that this nonsense would stop somewhere, somehow. Let’s see what Hata would do with it!