Hola Amigas y Amigos, yo soy practico mis espanol y….I’m just fucking with you, welcome to my read-through of Bakuman. Today we argue the merits of realism and idealism, the regrets of real life, and of course, satisfaction. What else would we talk about?
As always, previous read-throughs can be found at this nifty index here. This read-through contains spoilers only up through the current chapter. If you want to read ahead or read along, please consider buying a Shonen Jump subscription, or Tankobon volumes of Bakuman here. It’s cheap, and I do this – not because I am sponsored (though that’d be nice, not gonna lie) but because I like when artists make money to make art.
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Note on naming: I am doing my best to keep naming practices consistent, but I may change it up. Saiko, Shujin, and Miho are currently firm, but if I feel I need to change a character’s name moving forward, I’ll do so. Just easier to keep track of, and all that.
And without further ado, the chapter:
Shujin’s Love Triangle.
Shujin fills Saiko in on why Kaya (Miyoshi) and Iwase are in his apartment. Kaya is worried, and Iwase is dating him…apparently. Shujin explains that in freshman year he and Iwase had a short exchange in which they encouraged each other and shook hands. For Iwase, the moment they held hands, they were together.
Saiko is incredulous but sees it as likely that Iwase – normally reserved – could take it that way. Shujin pokes fun at Saiko’s equally slow-going romance with Azuki (Miho). In all cases, Kaya also assumed Shujin was going out with her. As a result, they’ve both come to settle the matter about whom Shujin is dating.
Miyoshi then prods them to speak up and asks who Shujin will choose. Shujin denies that he ever made any intimation that he wanted to go out with either of them. Offended, Miyoshi gets up to leave.
Iwase asks Shujin whether he likes her or not. In the broadest terms, Shujin answers yes, which upsets Miyoshi more. Shujin then clarifies that he also “likes” her. Kaya then gets on his case for his indecisiveness. He then asks them if they like him. They both answer yes.
Shujin having a moment of virgin-nerd panic (been there, buddy) freaks out at his sudden popularity then explains that he wants to be a mangaka, and has no time for love; and that he would probably disappoint them.
To this outburst, Kaya expresses support for him and his dreams; Iwase tells him she wants him to quit. She goes further and explains that if he continues writing manga, he will regret it one day.
“I’ll regret it if I follow my dreams and fail, but I’ll regret it more if I don’t even try”– Shujin
He then explains that before he commenced on this journey, he felt like life was just happening to him, passing him by. Now that he has started, he feels like he’s alive, and he’s enjoying life. Saiko internally agrees with him, his own life feeling brighter as well.
Shujin then tells Iwase he’ll be going with Saiko to Yakusa North. She leaves him, telling him he will regret this choice.
Shujin, defensive, makes a jab at her laughing at him. But she leaves tearful at the thought of his life’s direction.
As Iwase leaves, Kaya explains that she is also going to Yakusa North (eep). Shujin explains that he talked to her because Saiko and Miho love each other and plan to go out. Saiko freaks out as Shujin explains his true motive for talking to her. She socks him the face for being an asshole, which he takes like a man.
She then tries to punch him ten additional times. He freaks out because of her black belt in Karate and Punching, so she bumps it down to three punches. After these punches, they will start going out. Shujin is confused, but Kaya explains that he already confessed to having feelings.
He gets punched three more times and Kaya turns into the dutiful girlfriend to nurse him back to health. He then asks Saiko about their trip to Shueisha regarding the Tezuka award; Saiko says to make it any day after school.
At Shueisha, they meet up Mr. Hattori to go over their evaluations. Hattori forgets their evaluations and invites them up into the editorial office. They’re both surprised, but Hattori explains that they let little kids go their for field trips all the time.
Then they see Mecca: the Shonen Jump editorial office in all its glory:
While they admire the office itself and the hustle and bustle of activity, Hattori takes a smoke break. Saiko notices a man who came to his uncle’s funeral. Shujin complains about having to wait for Hattori to smoke. After his break, he sits with them to go over their evaluation.
Hattori lists off the Mangaka who acted as Judges: Inagaki (Eyeshield 21), Oda (One Piece), Kishimoto (Naruto), Toriyama (Dragon Ball) and Tezuka Productions. The big names of the Manga world rated their work highly, but the editors gave them lower ratings because the Manga is not of the “Jump Style”.
While the Mangaka assess the work on its own merits, the editors are looking for something that fits the vision of Shonen Jump itself (the eternal dilemma). They are also more positive towards manga that “break the Jump Mold”. Hattori explains that their main character is just a normal human, while the Jump editors want flash super-powered hero-types. Shujin asks about whether his writing is still too novelistic.
Hattori says it is, but that it works because it expresses his voice well. Hattori also explains that they are good stories, but the protagonists are weak. Saiko then asks the million-dollar question: does my art suck? No, affirmatively. He received more 4’s than 3’s on his assessment, but they only gave him a 3 so that it would encourage him to work harder and grow and improve.
Hattori explains that his art will only improve with time, and Saiko breathes a sigh of relief. He commends them on their work and explains that they lost because of bad luck: Eiji Nizuma entered again. Shujin and Hattori discuss that he is a prodigy, a once-in-a-lifetime genius mangaka: he’s already won 4 million yen in prize money. Hattori goes on and tells them Eiji is coming to Tokyo and is being given his first series. Shujin is shocked and asks whether that is even possible.
What it takes.
Hattori clarifies that with assistants, the process of making Manga gets easier and easier. He also notes that Eiji was submitting monthly without assistants already and he won consistently. The process of making Manga is tough at first because you do everything yourself first. It gets harder once you have a series though, as you have to come up with a story for a weekly paper, and the drawing and pace pick up because you’re drawing weekly.
Hattori gets back on track and explains they simply need a Jump protagonist: if they can create a good character, they will win. Saiko mulls Eiji’s incoming series and how they were behind two other artists. Hattori recommends that they focus on winning a monthly award. Saiko asks whether that’s the fastest way to get a series.
He asks whether a series could get serialized if he brought it to the office and it was good enough. Hattori says it’s theoretically possible, but that they would need three completed chapters in full, completely drawn, no storyboards. Hattori then gets defensive, noting that the editors probably won’t even look at it and they’ll look down on it for being cocky and hubristic.
However, at that moment, Taro’s editor – Sasaki – walks in, now the Editor-in-Chief and explains that
“Manga just needs to be good. Anything good will get serialized. it’s as a simple as that”Sasaki, like a motherfucking boss.
Character is Action.
Oh man. This chapter was a fat one, with a lot going on. And I almost don’t know where to start. But we can start with the most obvious stuff: regret/satisfaction dynamic.
I don’t think I’ve adequately expressed my appreciation for the way these titles are structured: a simple dichotomy against which the text will explore in detail some concept. In this week’s chapter, the debate is whether to live with short term regret or go long term.
I especially like Iwase and Sasaki in this chapter. This manga has so far done an excellent job of using like, two panels to characterize its cast, and the frame where Iwase leaves Shujin with tears in her eyes is some fucking masterful “Character as Action” moments.
In screenwriting there is an old Bromide: Character is action. All that really means is that, since we can’t listen to the character’s internal struggle or their thought patterns, screenwriters have to rely purely on their actions to give away who they are.
In Iwase’s case, the action is leaving Shujin, despite clearly caring about him, and giving what she sees a genuine warning against being an artist. And like, if we’re being honest, she’s not wrong. As this series has stated pretty consistently Manga is a gamble, and there are no guarantees.
But what really characterizes her is her blunt approach, paired with a sensitivity that is veiled in this…intellectual obtuseness, for lack of a better word, where logic trumps emotion, but only on the outside. The little tidbit about Iwase thinking they were dating via a…handshake makes it clear that she’s pretty formal, and not very attuned to expressing herself.
Which makes the fact that Shujin thinks he is being made fun of when she tells him he’ll regret this choice all the more heartbreaking.
Regret and Satisfaction
But it also makes clear that Kaya is the emotionally healthier choice for Shujin as shown by her support of his dreams and her uhm…choice school. I do find it funny though that the story takes a dim view of the school and makes it Kaya’s first choice. That’s a bit of a low blow.
But it speaks to Iwase’s fears for Shujin, and something that really resonated with me this chapter.
As I’ve said previously, I wants to make the movies for the monies and be a professional writer. But it’s a gamble, and it’s scary, and I have to make time for it. Honestly, the start of this journey has been pretty exhausting, and I haven’t even gotten more than one screenplay under my belt.
But at the same time, it feels so good to make stories and write stuff. Creating is such an overwhelmingly good feeling. It’s not immediately gratifying, or fun, but the end result is something deep and satisfying and unknowably vast. I love it.
So when Shujin explains how alive he feels. I feel him. That vital sense of making progress toward your goal, and working at something doggedly because you want to is so powerful and enjoyable, that it makes all the attendant bullshit worth it. The stress headaches and lack of sleep and insecurity.
The satisfaction is higher because the potential for regret is huge.
And I dunno, there’s a lot more I wanted to cover in this chapter, so moving onward.
The Meta of this Series is off the Charts.
So, now that I’m balls deep in Manga consumption, I’m coming to appreciate how this series so firmly places itself in the real world. The scene in the jump office was gleeful for me because it was such a fucking otaku moment. And I really appreciated the touch that the authors of all the most popular manga – at the time of publication – are judging the Tezuka Awards as pretty small, but definitely appreciated.
And I feel like that adds to the grandeur of it all. Just think about if your favorite author or filmmaker was judging your work and then they thought it was great. The Authors of Naruto and One Piece being all about your manga. That must be a really excellent, validating feeling. Especially after the drama of the last chapter with Ishizawa.
I also openly snorted at the desires of the editors and the mangaka. The editors want to sell magazines; the mangaka like manga. I feel like it’s the oldest fucking trope in the book but entirely warranted. Especially if you look at cinematic auteurs who are given total artistic autonomy. Tarantino’s films have gotten longer and less dramatically satisfying as time has gone on because there is no editorial friction trying to put asses in seats. It’s not bad, but it’s there.
The effect is to create a high degree of verisimilitude. I also definitely appreciate the likely fact that they had to trace an actual photo of the jump office to accurately re-draw Luffy and Naruto on promotional materials. It’s the small things that count.
Shonen Moments are the best
But my favorite parts were the shonen moments at the Jump Office. Shonen isn’t a trope, it’s a mindset. And having the editor-in-chief come in with that Big Dick Energy saying “if it’s good, we’ll publish it” is just…goddamn that’s Shonen.
I also think the decision to rate Saiko’s drawings with a 3 to encourage him to do better is hilarious. It’s such a trope that they’ll push the protagonist way harder than everybody else so he can be particularly great, and I am all for it. But it also seems like something the editors would do to encourage young talent. You don’t want to get all in your head. Something I have to continue to learn daily.
But back to Sasaki: I really appreciate that Taro’s editor (implied to be at least) is taking such a gung-ho approach to Saiko. I feel some extra development between him and Saiko down the road. But what an entrance, man. And while I think in the real world Hattori is right: don’t be a smug know-it-all cocksure brat and follow the due process to get published. But this is a shonen manga in shonen jump, you can’t not have those moments of pure “If you put in the work, and it’s good, we’ll do it” moments.
And for me, those moments are satisfying because they nullify that feeling of regret.
Especially in the radically changing environment of filmmaking, increasingly it’s more and more unsure how to make a film and sustain an audience, but that kernel is there. The gatekeepers for film do not hate film, and do not hate you. They want to make good films that will see box office returns. While there is definitely nepotism and bureaucratic failings, film producers love film and have high standards, and they know the market.
So for me, Sasaki’s moment of “if it’s good, it’s good” is encouraging to me personally, and pushes me to excel at my craft. Because there are multiple entrance points into the world of filmmaking, and despite what may seem to the contrary, being good at it is one of them.
So keep on with that shonen pumping. I’m going to mainline it in my brainstem until I’m a filmmaker.
And that’s all I got, thanks for reading. If you enjoy it follow me on social, and I’ll see you next time at Chapter 12.
Until I make something good enough, I’m Eric.