Hello, I didn’t see you there, because you technically don’t exist. Welcome to my read-through of Bakuman. In today’s read-through, we cover Chapter 7: Smile and Bashful, in which we discuss scene craft for a hot second, admire the artistic process, and get shy about our skills. Hehe.
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Now, without further ado, let’s jump into Chapter 7: Smile and Bashful
Slight note on format: Unless otherwise specified, I will refer to all characters by their given names, and not surnames, even though in Japan politeness dictates the opposite (Kaya, Miho, etc.); and because their nicknames are more important, Mashiro and Akito are referred to as Saiko and Shujin.
Miyoshi and Shujin Sitting in a Tree…
Shujin and Saiko relax during school hours as they work tirelessly on the draft of Two Earths. Shujin struggles with the storyboard; Saiko struggles with the art. While they relax, Kaya Miyoshi (Kaya) – Miho’s best friend – comes to talk with them about Miho.
Miho is angry with her for telling Shujin about her aspirations to be a voice actress. Kaya scolds him because Miho is very bashful about her dreams. Shujin defends himself and notes that actresses can’t be bashful. Miyoshi assumes he and Miho are dating, but Shujin tells her Miho is into somebody else.
…Which Miyoshi did not know. Woops.
Miyoshi pushes about who it is, but Shujin denies knowing any specifics. Miyoshi asks why Shujin bothered to ask her about Miho, to which Shujin responds
Miyoshi walks away blushing and telling them “Let me think about it”. Shujin calls to her to correct his mistake, but Saiko holds him back: if he tells her he was lying or joking, she’ll get mad or cry. Saiko also points out that Miyoshi probably talked to Shujin because she had a crush on him.
Shujin is shy and doesn’t believe it, but Saiko explains that her behavior just now — and her decision to let Shujin in on Miho’s secret — means she probably has a thing for Shujin. Saiko gives her a seal of approval. When asked why he tells Shujin it’s because she’s a friend of Miho.
Miho’s Guy Problem
Kaya talks with Miho about her discussion with Saiko and Shujin. Kaya seeks Miho’s approval asking about Shujin, and Miho observes that he’s smart, good at sports, and tall. Kaya’s bashfulness goes over 9000 when she denies she’d look good sitting next to him and she thinks he’s going out with Iwase, based on rumors.
Miho observes that Iwase is too cold and snobby to be attractive to boys (*cough*) and points out that Shujin thinks Kaya is cute. Kaya remains adorably oblivious as she confirms her cuteness.
Kaya goes on the attack and asks Miho about her own crush. Miho denies it, but Kaya spills that Shujin told her about it. Miho continues to deny, even while Kaya tickles her. Then Kaya points out that boys probably think Miho is snobby too. Kaya notices she never talks about boys.
Miho says she’s boy crazy, even more so than kaya. But she gets nervous and shy when talking to boys, which is why she doesn’t do it at all. Kaya laughs at how seriously Miho takes everything just as lunch ends. Miho leaves as Saiko and Shujin head back to class. She says Kaya will have to talk to Shujin on her own if she wants to go out with him.
Kaya glares at Shujin which Shujin asks Saiko about: are they on the same frequency? Saiko quickly puts the kibosh on that.
Saiko notes that aside from this incident, little changed during that semester. And one other thing: Shujin helps him with his school work so he can do better, and not have to worry about his class ranking. He also explains that, while Shujin and Kaya are into each other, they didn’t ask each other out, nor did he get Miho’s email address before summer vacation was over.
To get their comic ready, they convince their parents to let them sleepover at the studio. Saiko gets 4 hours of sleep and devotes all his time to drawing Manga. Shujin finishes his storyboard in time and observes how hard Saiko pushes himself.
As a joke he says Miho should come over, dressed in a maid outfit and be their residential maid. Saiko attacks him while he says it’s a joke, and he knows Miho isn’t like that (too bashful). Saiko asks about his homework, which Shujin finished (and made mistakes that it seems like Saiko would make).
Shujin asks about the AC and Utilities, which Saiko explains is probably courtesy of his parents or grandpa. Saiko chugs a five-hour energy drink.
Rivalry and Bashfulness Conquered
Eiji Nizuma’s comic “Large Bander” is released in Shonen Jump and spurs Saiko to work even harder. Saiko recognizes that Eiji is much better than him, and works himself to the bone to improve. He observes that he is a sore loser. Shujin continues to worry about his friend’s work pace and asks him to sleep. Saiko ain’t having it and pushes even harder.
Shujin asks if he can help, but Saiko rebukes him. After explaining he wants them to finish the final draft together, Saiko gives him screentone duties. They work overnight, and eventually, on August 28, 2008, they complete the draft of The Two Earths. While it isn’t up to Eiji’s level, they’re still proud of their work and think it has a shot with the editorial office. Saiko thinks his artwork isn’t very good but likes the story; Shujin likes the artwork, but not the story.
Tired, and proud, they shake hands as they cry over the completion of their work. Shujin thanks him for everything.
Saiko makes Shujin call the Shueisha offices. Shujin gets bashful about calling on Taro’s phone, so Saiko tells him to use his cell-phone, and tell them they have some work they’d like to show. Despite being bashful, Shujin calls the office and scores an appointment for 3 o’clock the next day with Mr. Hattori.
Mr. Hattori, in his office, scolds his secretary for allowing the meeting tells her she needs to not arrange meetings with numbers that haven’t been screened before during summer break (when young men are likeliest to call).
Saiko notes: Anyone can submit work, but that doesn’t mean it will be rated highly.
And with that, the chapter – and volume 1 – conclude.
So, before I jump into the chapter itself, let’s talk about something that occurs in both sonnets and scene craft. This is the concept of the volta. The turn. The reversal, if you will.
In a sonnet, you establish a theme with the first three quatrains. You talk about love from lines 1-12; then the last 2 lines you flip it and talk about heartbreak. In one of Shakespeare’s most famous – if not most famous – Sonnet, Sonnet 18, he writes the following:
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?William Shakespeare, Sonnet 18
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimmed:
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee
Now, while we could do the lovely prosodic break down of Sonnets, I want to call your attention to the final couplet (the final two lines), in which after comparing the temporal subject (a young man) switches to a discussion of the eternal: this sonnet, and how, unlike the man or the summer, both subject to decay, the poem will live forever.
The Volta, ladies, and gentlemen. Just like a sonnet, scenes – and chapters – rely on the reversal of a theme to really get going. The idea is that you start in one emotional/thematic space, and then you invert it like a sexy jazz chord; that creates a thematic tension that keeps you engaged.
In the case of Chapter 7, which continues to squeeze thematic richness out of every single goddamn character, the climax of the chapter is an act of overcoming bashfulness by having Shujin asking Shueisha to read their manuscript. I love how it pairs the boldness of Saiko/Shujin’s work ethic, with their total inability to confront emotions maturely, just like their teenage girl foils.
The idea that everyone is being so bashful in this chapter (and I mean everybody sweet Jesus fuck) makes the fact that Shujin takes the initiative to contact Shueisha have greater dramatic resonance at the end of the chapter. It sets up an internal tension that isn’t plot-based but still allows for that final satisfying moment to be, well, satisfying.
Disregarding that fact, this chapter is rich and enjoyable.
What is most fun about how this chapter approaches the subject is how it makes every character totally unaware of their own bashfulness. If you need a masterclass in pot-kettle bullshit, look no further. But it’s the kind of pot-kettle bullshit I’m pretty sure everyone indulges in.
Because look at Shujin getting on Saiko for like, what, 6 chapters, now to get Miho’s email address and wondering what the big deal is. But when Kaya has a crush on him and he shows mutual interest, he can’t pick up the signals she sends him. And then Kaya has the same exact issue: she’s all about teasing Miho for being shy, but she tells herself defeatist stories about she isn’t cute enough to go out with Shujin. It’s all very cutesy and, from what I’ve observed in real life, true.
Also, nice callback to Shujin being sexist as hell when Miho talks about Iwase’s stand-offishness, only for kaya to flip it on her completely. She’s so bashful she also seems standoffish and unapproachable.
Funny how we all lack the wherewithal to be genuinely self-aware.
It strikes me as true. I don’t know about y’all, but when a girl is interested in me – protean signals, hair flipping, laughing at my dull-as-ditchwater stupid jokes, my brain just goes “nope, fuck that, you’re crazy”. I will tell myself a million stories as to why an interested person will act like that, except that they’re interested.
But when they are not interested I will read into every little gesture. I will make a conspiracy theory grade story as to why an eye-twitch is meaningful; but if a girl is literally throwing herself at me, I’ll be dumber than shit.
But while I don’t have an excuse, these middle school kids do. Saiko, Shujin and Miho and Kaya are all wearing their youth on their sleeves, which makes their shy awkward bullshit cute and adorable, not sad (like me).
But that youth is also cause for concern, especially considering.
The Manga Grind is Fucking Brutality
Saiko continues to worry me in this chapter. I know this is a shonen manga, and he’s going to be alright, but watching a guy essentially murder himself to get a comic book draft finished by an arbitrary deadline is horrendous.
And the way the Mangaka chooses to depict Saiko this chapter, as exhausted, snappish and inattentive really drive that worry home. Saiko isn’t being bashful this chapter at all for his manga: he’s being perfectly self-destructive, and it’s hard to watch.
But I don’t know if I can really fault him for it. He is working as hard as he needs to, and his motivation is so strong he just has to push harder than he’s ever pushed to get where he’s going. I can admire the spirit of his endeavor.
Like, look at this shit man:
I think the choice to make this a Shonen Manga, in particular, is an inspired choice. Super Eyepatch Wolf made a lovely video on Non-battle Battle Anime (seriously, watch it, it’s great) in which he discusses Bakuman heavily, and he observes that Shonen Battle Manga is a style, as much as it is a series of tropes. And here we see that coming to bear more obviously than in previous chapters.
While other chapters have the usual bromides to the human spirit and pushing past your limits to improve, it’s also for what amounts to sitting around a lot and drawing.
But if you look at Saiko during this chapter, he constantly looks exhausted, manic, or destroyed. And that’s something that is essential Shonen. A character getting knocked on their ass and pushing through anyway. Just look at him scribbling furiously. That intensity is pure shonen right there.
And I also relate personally to that. As I work on building this website up, I will sometimes spend more hours than is healthy staring at a screen, to make sure everything is perfect, and then get frustrated by how I’m using too much passive voice. I feel this shit.
Bashful Smiles to the End
What resonates with me most, however, is Shujin and Saiko’s incredulity, pride, and insecurity after finishing their draft. That feeling of having put a lot of work into something, to make it excellent, and seeing the tangible product of your work is thrilling. Also terrifying. And the moment it become real, when you’re staring at it and you’ve done all the steps to make it pretty. And you’ve checked everything and put your best foot forward. It’s scary as hell.
This panel is so real it hurts. Whether it’s a blog that you’re working on, or a manuscript, everything about this page is earned, and honest.
Because then it falls under the purview of the audience, who don’t care whether you’ve done well or not. At that point, you become even more self-conscious and terrified about whether it’s any good. Even if it’s absolutely amazing, you still can’t help but find all the flaws that make it completely less than amazing in your eyes. And all that work is still fulfilling, but tinged with fear. And you have to constantly question whether you actually did as good as you are scared you didn’t.
In other words: even the best artist will get bashful in the light of the sun. And that can’t stop you from moving forward anyway. Bashful can’t come between you and success in art. You have to beat it down and move forward.
I may be reading too closely into this, or too personally, but the way this chapter conveyed that via that little moment of “I like your part, but not mine” made me happy. Again, it was honest.
And that’s what I love, when consuming any art. And now we’re at the end of volume 1. Yay. I’m actually eager to see what the fruits of their labor yield .
And at the end of the day, that is the most important thing when writing a story.
Wanting to see what happens next.
This is Eric Koenig, signing out. See you in volume 2, and chapter 8, Next Monday.