Allo, allo my dear humans. It is I, Eric, here to read and react to Bakuman Chapter 4: Parent and Child, in which romanticism and fate, and parenthood make me…feel stuff (and why that’s important).
If you would like to read previous reactions to Bakuman, click heah. I created an index – like a motherfucking boss – and if you like my writing, by all means read more of it.
Also, as with previous posts, please support the artists and consider a Shonen Jump subscription. I am not an affiliate of the company, I’m simply a proponent of paying artists to make art. You can sign up through this page here. It is dirt cheap ($1.99), and you get a metric fuckton of Manga. Good deal right?
If that’s a good deal for you, let’s jump into this summary.
Picking up where the last chapter left off, Saiko and Shujin are combing through Taro’s storyboards, commenting on the chapters that were turned down. They muse on just how many of the storyboards were rejected when Saiko discovers a strange box in the back. He assumes it’s porn until he finds something else: his uncle’s letters.
Upon reviewing the letters sent between Taro and his beloved – Miyuki Haruno – both Saiko and Shujin note how mundane the interactions are. Talk of the weather, discussions about boring everyday topics. The last letter is about Miyuki’s engagement. Saiko looks at the date Superhero Legend began, and when the anime aired: two years later, and then two years after until the anime.
Digging further, they find Taro’s highschool yearbook and are shocked at how he couldn’t even ask for a picture of the girl he loved. Combing through the yearbook, they make a startling discovery: Miyuki is Miho’s mother, and looks exactly like her. Shujin notes how the adults parallel the kids exactly, like fate. Saiko notes that they haven’t confirmed that Miyuki is Miho’s mother.
Shujin proposes going to Miho’s place the next day, during dance practice, which Saiko is uncomfortable with, but ultimately agrees to. Saiko ponders over the dance lessons, but thinks about Miho’s aspirations to be a voice actress; and how that coincides with being an idol more and more these days.
Shujin pushes Saiko to meet Miho’s mother to confirm, and notes he wants to ask her other questions. At this point, Saiko’s mother scolds him and tells him to come home.
Because of sleep deprivation, Saiko bombs his next Midterm, but agrees to join Shujin to visit Miho’s mother. Shujin excitedly notes he feels like Gevanni from Death Note (snicker) investigating. Shujin presses the buzzer immediately. Miho’s mother answers and they explain that they are there to talk with her, not Miho, about Taro.
Miyuki lets them in, and is the spitting image of her daughter. The parallels between the parent and daughter are uncanny. She asks them to sit and offers them refreshment: they both order Black Coffee. Miyuki observes that Taro also drank black coffee while working.
Shujin immediately tells her they read her notes to Taro and about his crush on her. They then apologize for reading them, but Miyuki forgives them for it. Saiko is surprised to see her blush, and she fondly realizes that Taro kept all of her letters.
Shujin declares that – while the letters were banal – she genuinely loved Taro. Miyuki confirms it; Shujin asks why she never said so. She explains she was embarrassed and felt like she couldn’t. She goes on and claims that they were both waiting to say “I Love you” and she got tired of waiting for him to do it.
Scene 2, Part II
She then goes on to say that when she saw his Manga turn into an Anime, she was happy for him, and began reading the Manga at the convenience store to support him. She remembers “Romanticist Man”, which made her tear up.
As this panel states:
Shujin notes that it was a message to Miyuki. Miyuki confirms before asking which of them Miho is dating. Shujin let sher know that Saiko will be dating her, which Miyuki is pleased with: she doesn’t like extremely smart men. while Shujin is defensive, she laughs it off.
Saiko then asks whether Miho knows about his uncle and her relationship, or that his uncle was a Manga artist. Miyuki explains she does not. He then asks her not to tell Miho about it. Miyuki then exclaims that she’ll be supporting them from the sidelines.
Saiko and Shujin are in the park, musing about the conversation. Saiko wonders about what Miho will be like when she grows up. Shujin understands why Taro fell for Miyuki, and admires his romantic spirit. Saiko re-iterates the romantic ideal of pursuing Manga. They both enjoy the fact that they are encouraged to pursue their dream.
Saiko in particular takes the support wholeheartedly, observing how both his Grandfather and father supported his decision, and how they must have remembered his youth admiring his uncle. He determines that they wanted him to become a Mangaka as much as he did and Saiko gets fired up. He claims he will start practicing Manga drawing now, not just so he can marry Miho, but also to “be a man” and pursue his dreams.
Shujin agrees, and will start storyboarding as the chapter concludes.
Parallelism + Romanticism and Fate = Feels Trip
Well, it took 4 chapters, but we finally got our hero accepting the call to action. Good for him.
But man, this chapter was a feels trip, no chaperones.
I am…at best and worst, a romantic. I love the rarefied feeling of some transcendent love that escapes the mundane bonds of real love to become something universal. That unreal thing that everyone wants on some level, but either finds to be cheesy bullshit, or otherwise unattainable.
Like a moth to flame, those romantic impulses call me. Which is why I am enamored of the idea of Beatrice; and have one myself, though she definitely hates my dumbass, if she even spares the time to think of me (unlikely). The idea of loving someone purely, from a distance, invisibly, appeals to me. And I think it appeals to guys more than we let on, because toxic masculinity or some bullshit.
But in this Manga, that romantic ideal is emphasized and re-emphasized through aggressive parallelism, romanticism, and intimations of fate.
Just look at this shit my dude: that resemblance ain’t for nothing. It’s almost as aggressive as Miho and her mother.
And I like that creative choice. Parallelism is one of the greatest thematic techniques one can use to tell a story, and creating this parallel between Miho and Moritaka and Taro and Miyuki sets up this nice, feelsy, romantically fated do-over, for lack of a better word.
One of the coolest things about Multi-generational parallelism is the idea of a do-over. Something went wrong the first go-around, so reality makes damned sure it happens the right way in the second go-around. This is a narrative trope that you’ll find in stories having to do with re-incarnation – like the Wheel of Time, in a very macro way – or The Sea of Fertility Tetralogy by Yukio Mishima; but it’s uses can vary widely.
There’s endless appeal to the idea of righting the wrongs of the past in a way that recalls, if not re-enacts, the past. And Bakuman leans hard into that premise. The idea of breaking a cycle that has kept man down for a long while, or otherwise kept someone from achieving their full potential holds primal appeal. One could argue that that is THE story of stories: redemption of the past via the present.
But what I like in particular about Bakuman’s choice to be aggressively on the nose about its setup is that it also gives us a clear indication of stakes for what this journey means that doesn’t require foreknowledge of Manga writing to pick up. 4 years is a long time in romance, and Saiko is staking his happiness on his ability to be the best quickly. It’s risky, and scary, and he is almost certain to fail.
Which, of course, is why it is a shonen manga.
If Saiko doesn’t achieve his dreams, he will not redeem the legacy of his uncle, and he might risk his life in doing so. While this is a common interest of mine in this Manga to date, I think this use of parallelism is way more dramatically compelling than the knowledge that Saiko’s uncle died of overwork.
Because the Romanticism and fate make it about more than just writing Manga.
Real Life isn’t that on the nose
In real life, this whole situation is a matter of coincidence. Even if it is this straightforward. And the “real life” quality of this particular story makes that coincidence strain credulity. But it is still a story, and it is allowed to make these fated encounters and bizarre coincidences.
I mean, honestly:
And this straightforward:
This stuff is so aggressive and unsubtle that it boggles the mind how writer’s in Japan consistently get away with the obviousness about their intentions.
But it also creates this illustrious romanticism and fate to the entire series that adds a grandiosity to the premise of: dude writes Manga for a living.
And that makes me happy. Art is such a visible thing, and artists want to be seen, but artists also insert themselves into their art. To have someone’s love story be a motivation to be a man – and have reality swiftly justify it – is something special. And the fact that it is “real life”, gives it an earthy wish-fulfillment quality that I enjoy.
Becuase, if I’m honest, I want that kind of romanticism and fate in my own life.
Romanticist Man fucked me up
I would be lying if I said I didn’t tear up at the description of Romanticist Man – the character by Taro that explains his feelings for Miyuki.
And that’s because in my own private writings, which, if I ever suck least enough to share with the world are about me in over the top ways, and are about my own sense of wish fulfillment and excoriation about my wish to be seen by someone who has no interest in doing so.
But, more than that, that desire to be perfect enough to be loved – and pursuing the craft relentlessly – is something I have been guilty of frequently; and it’s held me back from living life, at times.
These days, I have reviewed the tape deck of mistakes I’ve made relentlessly, trying to justify my existence to myself; and it leaves me feeling so alone and purposeless. When I look back on things that I wish I had done, or actions I wish I had taken, I feel like Taro being too much of a pussy and not saying how felt to Miyuki. But it’s somehow even worse because I didn’t even get into the polite pleasantries. I have lived in my head with romanticism and fate and nothing else.
I was like Saiko before narrative: alone, and watching from a distance.
Acknowledgement is the first step
Reading this Manga has increased my awareness of this issue. I identify with the doomed romanticism of Taro as much as I pour myself into the escapist narrative that is Saiko. I am reading from the perspective of someone who is getting old enough to have regrets.
And man, that parallel fucking hurts.
But it awakens that old romanticism and fated spirit within me. The one that believes in something greater than observable limits of reality, and inspires people to action all the time. And it makes me hope for a fate that isn’t so…alone. Something closer to where Saiko is headed, and not where Taro went. I want to pour myself into my art.