Greetings my Dumbos and Smarties to my Bakuman Read-Through. I’m back from…well, doing whatever it is I do; and I’m here to read and react to Bakuman Chapter 2: Dumb & Smart, in which Love is Love and Manga is Manga and there are definitely no fucking problems with that thought at all (ick).
I will build an index for this series as it gets more untenable to scroll. But since this is only the 2nd chapter — and this is the only thing I’m working on on this site — it’s unnecessary for now. So if you want to read previous chapters, you can just scroll to chapter …1 or click here. We will start with a summary of the chapter, and then my reaction.
Two bits of housecleaning. If you want to read the manga, get Shonen Jump. I’m not sponsored by them, but it’s $1.99 a month, and a means to support Mangaka. You also can read this along with me, if you’ve never read the series before.
Also, a correction from last week: I referred to the main characters inconsistently: the main character’s first names are Moritaka and Akito. I used their surnames, but I did not use Miho’s surname (Azuki). From this point forward I will refer to the main characters by their first names, or their nicknames (depending on context).
With that out of the way, let’s talk about Bakuman Chapter 2: Dumb & Smart
The morning following Moritaka and Akito’s visit to Miho’s house, Akito walks to school with Moritaka, whom he refers to as “Saiko”. Moritaka, who finds the nickname sarcastic, calls Akito “Shujin”, despite his despite his request to be called “Shuto”. As they walk, Akito brings up Moritaka’s uncle, who wrote under the surname “Taro Kawaguchi” (real name Nobuhiro Mashiro”.
They discuss the cause of his death, and while the official reason is overwork. Moritaka notes that his uncle had not written a successful series in seven years. He goes on to say Mangaka who don’t write Manga are just leeches and that was probably why he wanted to kill himself. Akito is taken aback, but not deterred. He still wants Moritaka to join him to be “The Greatest Manga Artists in Japan”. Moritaka, still undecided, states that Miho is the reason he wants to be a Mangaka.
During class, Moritaka obsesseses over Miho and their previous conversation in class and, overcome with anxiety, asks to go to the nurse’s office. The teacher relents, and Akito follows shortly after, claiming to have completed the test. As they leave, Miho herself fantasizes about going to the Nurse’s office, but laughs it off.
In the nurse’s office, Akito pokes fun as the lovesick Moritaka, who notes that, though he loves Miho, he has not yet exchanged emails or contact with her. The nurse, angry at their banter, asks them to leave. They go to the roof to blow off school for a bit.
On the roof, Akito offers to get Miho’s email for him, but Moritaka says he needs to do it, even though he’s nervous. Akito recognizes Moritaka’s feelings are real and then expresses admiration for him. Moritaka counters with “Love is Love and Manga is Manga” He then notes that the other guys in class brag about their relationships with girls. Akito believes that Moritaka will team up with him for this reason, but Moritaka makes the clam “. When Moritaka asks why he’s up there with him, Akito notes he aced the test easily.
Moritaka wants to know why Akito is studying at all if he wants to be a mangaka. The simple answer? Insurance. Moritaka notes his general intellect, only for Akito to point out that he thinks bother Moritaka and Miho are smarter than him.
Scene 3 Part II
Akito explains he chose Moritaka for his drawing skills, and his brain. When Moritaka pushes on Miho’s intellect, He then goes on an extended sexist rant about how Miho’s intelligence is of a different, womanly sort. Ugh. She is only pretending to be of average intelligence, and playing the role as the graceful, kind, average girl. Her parents are wealthy and continue to be so, so she comes from good stock. And she knows a woman’s role in society (barf), so her desire to be a Voice Actress is just the whim of a young girl who wants to enjoy her youth.
As a contrast, he notes Iwase is pretty, but stand-offish and overtly intelligent, which makes her stupider from a social perspectives, as she is unlikeable.
After Akito’s assessment of both Moritaka and Miho, Moritaka considers his offer more seriously. Akito is put-off, but pleased. However, Moritaka is astonished by his ignorance of a storyboard and tells him to research it.
Moritaka later notes that he messed up the test. Akito then reminds him he will have to tell his parents that he wants to be a Mangaka, which Moritaka realizes with dread.
Moritaka notes that he doesn’t have serious conversations with his father, but always tells his mother about serious things. Upon telling her he wants to be a Mangaka, she instantly refuses. She is shocked to learn Moritaka thinks his uncle committed suicide, and he back pedals to “overwork”. She tells him he will not be a Mangaka, end of story.
Later that night, she comes back up and tells him his father has approved. She brings him to his grandfather, who he will be telling himself about his decision to be a Mangaka. He then confronts his grandfather and tells him his wishes. His grandfather is OK with the decision, and gives him the keys to his Uncle’s Studio.
Despite his mother’s protest, he runs out with the keys to check on the studio. His grandfather expresses relief that Moritaka has taken an interest in something. Meanwhile, Moritaka runs to the studio, calling up Akito to let him in an the news, and to meet him at the studio.
Love is Love
Oh god the sexism. It fucking hurts. Oh my god.
Reading this chapter was fun, and also kind of a fucking nightmare. And here’s why:
That is from Akito’s spiel, and oh my god, I want to claw my eyes out.
Ok, I need to just, breathe out, right? This shouldn’t be infuriating. But it absolutely is. Girls are smart when they pretend to be ditzy nothing’s with no dreams? What kind of bullshit message is that.
And that is to say nothing, NOTHING, of this fucking chestnut below:
I’m not a huge fan of getting on some moral high horse to tell you all that you’re unintentionally being a horrible person who is systematically beating down oppressed classes by supporting specific kinds of art. I find that kind of pretension to be just that, pretension; often affected for the sake of retaining unnecessary moral certitude that “Yeah, I’m a Good Person”.
But this is gross man.
While I find a lot of modern feminism to be deeply frustrating for myriad reasons, it’s easy to see why they’re so pissed off. Even though this isn’t the US, this blatant belief that men are superior to women is just really icky.
Like that thing with Moritaka’s Mother and Miho: they can’t have dreams because they are women. Only men can have dreams. Women have to be little damsels in distress or have to play dumb and then become house wives.
And it’s worse, because it’s not framed subversively, like in Mad Men, where the sexism is a product of the setting. Let me back up.
In Mad Men’s second episode, there is a sequence where Peggy Olsen is starting work and all the dude’s are unironically staring at her like meat on the shelf. It’s slow motion, and the guys just walk by, their eyes scanning up and down with some measure of enticement and desire. The scene is gross and sexist; but it’s gross and sexist in a subversive way.
There is a sense that behind the scene itself, Matthew Weiner doesn’t condone the behavior of his characters. The framing of the sequence as a low-angle makes all the guys menacing and creepy and not suave like they probably imagine. The subtext is: this is gross. By emphasizing the POV of Peggy, we’re seeing from her eyes how fucked up this kind of behavior is.
But in this chapter, the sexism is diegetic, and what the author likely believes. Akito’s spiel is gross and sexist; but at the end, when the mother – with the awful defeated look on her face – comes in and says “Your dad’s cool with it” it just fucks with me.
I’m feminist, and seeing this kind of cultural belief that’s so deeply toxic be played so straight makes me deeply uncomfortable. But it ties into something that I’m gonna need to keep in mind with this series
…And Manga is Manga
At the risk of being obvious: I’m not Japanese.
That really matters in the case of this particular story.
This narrative can only really take place in Japan, where your career is more fixed, than say, the USA. In Japan, your job is effectively your life, and that mentality bleeds into everything about the culture itself. Aside from the many obvious differences outlined here, career is much more definitive in Japan.
So if you choose to be a Mangaka, you run the risk of ruining your life if you do it wrong and make nothing but duds.
And that’s why reading this chapter aside from the above frustration, was also somewhat confusing. When Akito makes his insurance plan, it’s out of recognition that Manga is still a gamble. But the way Moritaka approaches it is way way more fixed.
And there is something weirdly admirable about that. I’ve learned lately that focusing on one thing for your whole life tends to make it a lot more meaningful overall. So to have one job forever isn’t necessarily the worst thing. But at the same time, I’m thinking in very American terms.
Don’t like your job? Quit. Want to do what you love? Do it.
In Japan, that line of thinking is almost antithetical to the larger cultural ethos: pick a job, do it the rest of your life, whether you like it or not.
And the culture is changing. The idea of a lifetime job is losing favor with youth, and the possibility of doing fulfilling work, and changing your mind is entering into some kind of popular acceptance.
But for the purposes of this story, that’s not really gonna fly. And I actually like that element of it.
Framing this against a guy committing suicide due to “Overwork” (which is also common Japan…dude, Japan, come on man) and making it a gamble gives this choice a real sense of drama and fear. It’s not like say, wanting to start a blog, and then failing. That isn’t going to ruin my life. I can still have a day job and do this, and not feel bad about it. If I want to make movies, I can do that too.
But in this series, that’s a poor mindset.
But there is something at the root of that which I find the most appealing
You can Love Manga
So far the best thing about this story — aside from all the obvious Death Note storytelling tropes — is that it is about finding your purpose, at its root. Most Shonen manga are about purpose, but this one is finding the purpose in an art world. And I am all about that shit.
At the end of this chapter, when Moritaka finally gets the keys to his Uncle’s Studio, there is grandeur and excitement to it. Despite Moritaka being all Hegelian about Love and Manga (ew), the light in his eyes when he gets access to that studio, sort of makes his whole “I’m not going to shit where I eat” ethos throughout the chapter feel like bullshit. And I like that.
I still can’t get over the feeling of how Shonen this is, despite being set in this particular world, which is technically our own. And while I find the sexism cloying, it’s still something to go on this adventure in such a fashion.
And on that note, maybe the sexism has some minor element of subversion?
Nope. it’s definitely still sexist.
But man, I’m ready to see what this studio looks like.
Until we get to Taro’s studio, I’m Eric, and good night