Hi hi hi. You are just in time for the latest read-through of Bakuman. Today we’re reading Chapter 10: Fear and Hope, in which there is some shonen action, the iceberg is brought out, and we learn what it takes to truly grow.
As with all previous read-throughs, this one will have spoilers for all previous chapters. Previous read-throughs can be found here. If you like that stuff, give me a follow and a like on Twitter and Facebook. The more you do that, the more I will post there like a functional human.
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There are no additional notes, so let’s move onward and upward with a summary.
Training for Tezuka
Saiko and Shujin take time to practice drawing manga and come up with stories. On September 8th, after Saiko practices for two days straight, Shujin gives him summaries of ideas he has. Saiko reviews them at school to find winners for the Tezuka Award.
After first period, Saiko doesn’t find an idea he likes, so Shujin hands him another notebook of ideas. After sixth period, they still haven’t found an idea that they love. Shujin promises to come up with more ideas. Saiko, feeling guilty, asks whether Shujin is ok with all the work he has to do. Shujin explains that he really wants to win. He’s having fun.
Later that night, Shujin has another idea and goes to write it down. The next day Shujin hands him another ten ideas.
The One Hundred Millionth idea is the winner
Saiko finds “One Hundred Millionth” and, despite Shujin’s novelistic tendencies, decides it’s the best choice. Saiko tells him the idea is great and they get to work brainstorming and drawing.
They brainstorm ideas to make the manga more “Shonen” and Shujin has a storyboard ready in two days. Saiko skips school for four days and they finish the draft on September 29th. Both believe it is their best work today and they are really happy with the end result. The schedule a meeting with Mr. Hattori.
Mr. Hattori also loves the Manga and expresses amazement at their rapid improvement. He offers to submit to the Tezuka award (which he then realizes was their plan). Hattori internally debates whether it has a shot before stamping his own doubts. He compliments their work highly – which freaks Saiko out – and tells them to plan their next idea as if it were going to be published in Shonen Jump’s monthly Seasonal Magazine: Akamaru Jump.
Both of them are shocked at the idea of already debuting, but if they win the Tezuka award they will debut in the magazine next. Shujin notes, though, that that’s only if they get the award. Hattori says that even if it doesn’t win, it’s still good enough to get read.
The Torment of Waiting
As they leave Hattori’s office Saiko and Shujin discuss the surprise of Hattori’s praise. Saiko ruminates on Hattori’s announcement that the story is really good and notes that the art didn’t receive similar praise.
The next day Shujin passes out in the middle of class from the lack of sleep. Saiko gives Miho notice, then follows suit. While waiting for the results of the Tezuka award Shujin comes up with more ideas, but none of them are good. They’re both worried about the Tezuka results and can’t focus on anything else.
Meanwhile, Shujin only ranks 3rd place among the top 20 students midterm exam results, which gets Aiko Iwase (Aiko)’s attention.
And the winner is…
Shujin still has no good ideas when, on October 21st, they receive a call from Shueisha. Mr. Hattori lets them know they’ve made it into the final eight contestants and the final judging will be on November 10th. Either way, their comic will be featured and their names are going to be included in the award.
Shujin is pumped about the 50/50 chance of winning. He notes the previous award had four winners, a semi-finalist, and three honorable mentions. Saiko gets pumped and has this (hilarious) fantasy:
Both are so excited by the prospect of winning, they can focus on nothing else. They decide to stop working until the results come in. Shujin wonders if Saiko is ok with it, but since they’re both so excited, they’re unlikely to be productive.
On November 10th, they get the call. Four of the finalists one, they did not. Their disappointment is magnified by having known that they were in the top eight. While moping, they question Hattori’s trustworthiness, but still look on the bright side: they’ve improved a lot.
Everyone’s a critic.
While Saiko struggles to get over his disappointment, Shujin continues providing him ideas for Manga. On December 8th – the week the Tezuka finalists are announced – Ishizawa confronts Saiko about the award, and criticizes his art. Shujin steps in, but Ishizawa also takes a jab at Shujin’s recent drop in quality, while announcing to the class that he’s an aspiring mangaka.
Ishizawa then compares them to Eiji Nizuma – who won the grand prize, and the semi-final award – and notes that the art is what keeps them from becoming the best. He criticizes it as not being Manga art and notes that while Shujin’s story received a Four out of Five, Saiko’s art only got a Three out of Five.
Shujin gets pissed at Ishizawa and asks whether he’s drawn 31 pages of Manga before. Ishizawa says he hasn’t. Saiko tries to stop him, pointing out that his art isn’t that good. But Shujin loses his patience with Ishizawa’s attitude and decks him
Shujin yells at Ishizawa to apologize and has to be pulled off Ishizawa by Kaya. The incident still makes its way to the administration, however, and Shujin is suspended for a week, with Saiko expressing worry over his friend’s declining academic performance.
The Next Day
Even though Saiko is disappointed at not winning, Miho congratulates him on being in Jump, much to his embarrassment. In the afternoon Saiko heads to Shujin’s apartment who is glad to see him: Hattori wants to meet them to go over the evaluation sheets the judges provided. He’s also been making the most of his suspension to come up with even more ideas.
Saiko looks at the stacks of notebook labeled Not Good and realizes that Shujin has been churning up idea after idea to come up with just the right one. He also notes Kaya and Aiko from their class are in his room. He asks what they are doing there and Shujin jokes that they’re there because he punched Ishizawa and that girls do like a bad boy, as it turns out.
This is the other reason Saiko has come at the right time. He doesn’t know what to do. With that, the chapter ends.
Icebergs and Ideas
There are many things to love about this chapter. But I think best of all is how it creates an entire arc in the span of 19 pages. Specifically for Shujin and Saiko’s pursuit of the craft.
There is a lot of thematic parallelism which is just juicy and I want to talk about it so much, because, again, this shit is super economical. But there is a really great point to be made about the creation of art, and improving one’s craft: it requires a lot of failures, persistence, and an iceberg of content.
Throughout the chapter one thing strikes me particularly: While Shujin is always noted as “Coming up with more ideas” – he spends almost the entire chapter coming up with ideas, to the detriment of his academic performance. It starts with him waking up in the middle of the night and jotting down ideas. When Shujin is not coming up with new ideas, he’s at school, with Saiko, or discussing with Mr. Hattori how to progress his career. And the one break. Over four months.
Meanwhile, Saiko only spends two days at the beginning of the chapter working on his art. That’s the only mention of Saiko honing his craft the entire chapter.
It gives the entire chapter a fatalistic context which makes perfect sense at the end. When Saiko sees the mountain of notebooks containing discarded ideas, it really underscores the chapter’s focus: in order to grow, you have to churn out shit and get criticized.
Ishizawa is a cunt, but he’s not wrong
That Saiko does not make efforts to improve his art throughout the entire chapter should be telling, but it’s lowkey and invisible to the greater issues at hand: the Tezuka Award. But once it finally comes into relief it’s unavoidable. He needs to really buckle down and draw. But more than that, he needs to be criticized.
Being an artist is a tough gig because getting your feelings hurt is part of the standard operating procedure. It is essential that you find good people who will give your work meaningful, constructive criticism, but even the bullshit criticism is useful. Anytime says you didn’t do something right, it’s an opportunity to adjust and improve. There are moments to debate criticism, but almost always, it’s useful, even when it doesn’t feel like it.
In addition to Shujin coming up with ideas, he’s constantly getting his stuff rejected by Saiko. Saiko is giving him the fuel necessary to challenge himself and his notions of how good he is. This constant rejection pushes Shujin even harder to get a good idea. And it bears fruit.
But Saiko, as the artist, simply waits for a good idea. He doesn’t approach the issue of his work is closer to illustration head-on. So when his shit-ass classmate rips him for it, it’s a moment of revelation for him. And although it comes from the most assholish source possible, it attains to an even greater verity as a direct result.
And it makes Shujin’s decision to beat him senseless – while admittedly satisfying – ultimately unnecessary. Ishizawa has provided an impetus for Saiko to hone his craft. It’s a gift, even if it sucks.
Which brings me to something a little more low-key, that I really loved about this chapter: it’s the first chapter to really deploy a lot of call-backs and Chekhov’s guns. There is Ishizawa who was noted as being an obnoxious critic in the first chapter despite only being able to draw cute anime girls.
There is the criticism that Shujin writes novels, and Saiko writes illustration. And there are the references to Aiko Iwase being cold and stand-offish, which leads to her being unlikeable. We even get a nice cameo from Kaya. All in all this chapter really effectively deployed some storytelling beats from previous chapters to reinforce and push forward the conflict going forward.
And Ishizawa is also the perfect person to shit on Saiko, by the way. He is the embodiment of Saiko’s current failing: the ability to criticize, but not do anything.
The entire chapter Saiko criticizes (constructively) Shujin’s ideas, which leads to his growth but doesn’t make any changes to his own art. Ishizawa is noted in his introduction as being able to dish out mean spirited criticism, but never makes any improvement to his own art, and only draws cute anime girls. Saiko isn’t intentionally doing that. So having Ishizawa be the messenger becomes ten times more effective.
Shujin should stick to Keikaku
I’m pretty sure the editor made them include the fighting element. I could be wrong, but it feels unnecessary in this story. This story is all about the creative process and the struggles to break into a creative field. There is already so much great stuff going on here.
All of the stuff surrounding the Tezuka Award I personally found thrilling. It’s so relatable as an author and writer to want to see your work published, and still freak out when people actually acknowledge your talent or ability. Even better when you become a finalist for some prestigious award. It can be nerve-wracking and pulse-pounding.
So when Shujin beats Ishizawa into a pulp, it loses its dramatic flavor for me because it feels so out of place. I know there are only so many ways to convey the difficulty of becoming an artist or a mangaka or a filmmaker, but this fight scene felt tonally inconsistent.
But this was a great chapter overall, and I’m eager for Chapter 11.
Until I make changes to my own process and edit mercilessly. See you next time. Eric Out.