Nihao my homies. How goes all the things? Today I read and react to Bakuman Chapter 13: Chocolate and Akamaru. In this installment we discuss which dreams are the important ones and how you prioritize and learn to say no.
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As with all read-throughs, I’ll do my best to be consistent with naming practices, but if I need to change the name I shall do so. Also, this read-through has spoilers up to and including the current chapter. If you haven’t read up to this point, why are you here? But more importantly, like, get on that.
Without further ado. Bakuman Chapter 13: Chocolate and Akamaru.
Sasaki sends someone over to Eiji at his new apartment in Tokyo to check-up on him, and to make a request. The assistant notices that Eiji is playing his music super loudly. The assistant opens the door and has to cover his ears. After Eiji turns down the volume the assistant asks if Eiji would be willing to write a 50-page one-shot with a color spread. Eiji asks him to look among the four finished final drafts on the floor.
The assistant is shocked, but Eiji tells him he can’t focus if he isn’t drawing and whenever he gets a new idea he has to jot it down on the page. The assistant finds all of Eiji’s artwork impressive and asks him for 50 page with a Double-Page color spread. Eiji says he can get it by February and then complains about all the people in Tokyo. The assistant leaves as he makes more sound effects while drawing.
The World is All About Money and Intelligence
At Taro’s studio, Saiko elects to go more “realistic” with his art style, given the grittier nature of “The World is All About Money and Intelligence”‘s plot. Shujin agrees with the choice given the subject matter. Saiko sees Shujin looking at the reader survey and asks why.
Shujin explains that he was misled by Hattori’s initial answer to the survey. Given that there are 21 manga being published they have a 1 in 7 shot of getting selected as part of the survey, and then they have to get 1 in 5 of those people who submit the survey. Their odds are much slimmer than they had originally thought.
While Saiko sees the issues, he pesters Shujin to work on the storyboards if he has time to do that kind of arithmetic. Shujin, however, is stuck. As he dives deeper into the premise itself (buying and selling your brain) he is having trouble with it, especially given Hattori’s notes to make it as realistically greedy and repulsive as possible.
Shujin poses the problem differently and asks how much Saiko would sell his brain for. His answer it Ten Million Yen. Shujin is shocked by the number but it’s because Saiko doesn’t want people seeing his thoughts. Shujin then says he would use the money sold to buy Miho’s thoughts. Saiko rejects the notion because he doesn’t want to get that much info.
But then he changes his mind and says he’d let Miho take it by paying her so that they could understand each other better and be more in love.
Akamaru Jump & Yakusa North
Saiko then notes that the deadline for Akamaru is February, so they should get to work. Saiko narrates the next few months and explains that Akamaru is a special copy of Shonen Jump released three times a year with One-Shots. A lot of Mangaka get their start by placing in Akamaru and often get picked up for series that way.
Now that people know, Saiko and Shujin start making Manga at school. While other guys ogle them and make comments about their future success, they discuss their mock exams. Shujin aced his easy, Saiko got 80% and applied early acceptance so he doesn’t have to worry about it. Saiko is also applying to South just to be safe. Shujin says he’d get the crap beat out of him if he went there against Kaya’s wishes.
At this point, Shujin brings up a date near Christmas with Kaya which Saiko explains he is not going to go to (nor will Miho). Saiko then makes a snide comment about not focusing too much on Kaya in place of Manga. Saiko narrates that they were unable to finish the storyboards before the end of the second term. He also laments not being able to see Miho until the next term and after that until their dreams come true, which makes him sad.
The Power of Love
On their Date, Kaya and Shujin discuss the neurotic lengths Saiko and Miho go to pursue their dreams. Kaya notes that they should be living it up now while they have the opportunity and create memories of each other for the future; but they won’t even e-mail each other. It’s weird to then.
Shujin remembers Saiko’s warning to him about getting infatuated. He remembers that when Saiko asked whether they had to wait until their dreams were fulfilled, and Miho cried. Kaya has never seen her cry. Shujin realizes that Saiko and Miho are desperately in love with each other, beyond their wildest dreams; and that if they are allowed to date, it would kill both their professional dreams in a moment because they’d be obsessed with each other. Her tears were likely because she was afraid of giving up her dream, or her love.
Shujin simply notes that Love hurts, and then praises his own intelligence.
During their third terms, Saiko and Shujin use their time off (meant to prepare them for high school) to focus on getting the storyboards ready for Mr. Hattori. Saiko applies early for Yakusa north. He wonders how Shujin will do considering his suspension, but Shujin isn’t worried because that won’t stick to his permanent record, and because he does so well academically they will be begging him to join.
Kaya fangirls at Shujin’s confidence and on February they go to Hattori’s office to discuss. Hattori likes the story but he adds that they should implement ideas from their previous manga “One Hundred Millionth” about a supercomputer in that story to give it extra oomph. Saiko marvels at how the editors often provide great ideas to complement the artists themselves.
Shujin admires the idea and Hattori tells them they don’t have to be so polite and they discuss and fine-tune the idea for 2 more hours. Hattori asks them to redo the storyboards. On February 10th they are accepted to North High – much to Kaya’s relief, and Saiko’s dismay at her relief – and they come back with Storyboards on February 12th, just before the deadline.
Twisting the Knife
Hattori approves of Saiko’s choice to go “realistic”. Hattori and another Deputy-Chief are going to be selecting works, and Hattori will be pushing big time for their work to succeed. They ask why not the Editor-In-Chief. Hattori explains that it’s to give the Deputy-Chiefs more experience but that the Editor-In-Chief will by the final approval. He explains that that is how it works throughout Weekly Jump, and not just for Akamaru.
Hattori tells them that he will have their decision on the 25th of February. Saiko and Shujin freak out while they wait for the answer. Kaya comes on Valentine’s Day to celebrate with Shujin and brings him a gift. Miho doesn’t come, but Kaya brings her gift for Saiko who pretends he doesn’t care (he totally cares though). When he does open it, it’s chocolate pencils (oh god the adorable, it hurts) and Saiko is thrilled.
The day of the 25th they are nervous as heck and measure their expectations (not wanting to be disappointed like last time). This time they win and celebrate accordingly. Their first real win in manga. They’re absolutely off the wall but then Hattori has to give twist the knife.
Eiji Nizuma’s one-shot is going to be featured as the main comic with a double-page color spread. Because they are the same age, they are there to make his work look better. Shujin is crestfallen at being the fall guy. Hattori then breaks with his usual reserve and yells at them to “WIN” and to beat Eiji.
With their confrontation coming, the chapter ends.
Yes and No
Let’s talk about saying yes and no, for a second.
These two words are used every moment of every day by someone, and I’m getting pretentious but I been thinking about this lately, so deal.
We like to act as though yes and no are two different things. We like to assume duality and an implied separation. You are saying yes, it is positive. You say no, it is negative. But what if saying yes was saying no at the same time? I’m not being pretentious, just hear me out.
This chapter is wonderfully centered on the competition between two violently necessary yes’s for both Saiko and Miho. Yes to my dreams, or yes to my love. For both of them, choosing one will almost certainly sacrifice the other. You say yes and you say no at the same time.
And at the end of the day, that is decision making in a nutshell. We say yes to somethings and in the process say no to other things. And in our culture, in which everything is on display, it is harder to see why you need to say no to things.
For me, this chapter was timely. I’ve been debating the nature of no and yes quite intensely of late. I’ve realized that I say yes way too much and for things I don’t want to say yes to; as a result, I suffer.
But this chapter was enlightening – as only shonen can be – by framing two strong desires in opposition.
While I do appreciate that it is narratively important – albeit slightly sexist – for Miho to be a goal for Saiko, I love how that colors their relationship currently and simultaneously imperils and vitalizes it. Manga is very much a way of life – as Kaya learns with Shujin – and for Saiko it is partially a means to an end. But he knows that the feeling is mutual. He could have Miho now, and start a beautiful relationship, form memories create a strong bond.
But he wants to be a mangaka. Really badly. It fills him with that vital fighting spirit that keeps the soul alive. So he chooses the manga and his dreams first, as a way to eventually say yes to her in the future.
And that really speaks to the importance of being able to delay gratification, while also deepening Saiko’s character. I’ve struggled with impulse control since I was young, and I realize that it is partially motivated by fear. That tension to do something now is borne out of the fear that I will not do it later and will have missed out. This impulsiveness has now been magnified by social media use, and, as a result, it is very hard for me to say no.
But I have dreams. They were dormant for a long time. Those dreams require time, effort, and patience. I can’t rush those things. Like Saiko, it would be nice to indulge in the instant gratification of a reward now which I would be guaranteed. But I want to work for things. I want to go deeper.
Although it is self-help bromide, delayed gratification is essential to be any kind of success. It required that you be able to suborn your will to something greater for a bit, to yield greater returns. Sit for 20 minutes and get a second marshmallow. Some weird out of place Warren Buffett quote.
And this chapter is all about that. I even like how Shujin slacks on his storyboarding to spend time with Kaya during the holidays, even thought that is the healthy teenage thing to do.
But really, there is something admirable about pursuing your dream so fiercely you are willing to keep things to the side. Although the series has not particularly been nice to Taro about his delay, this chapter has done much to assuage my misgivings about Saiko’s approach.
Which brings me to Eiji Nizuma. I really liked how his character was expanded in this chapter. I was actually lowkey inspired by the fact that making manga is so essential to his existence that as soon as he gets an idea he has to draw it out immediately. It’s inhuman and borderline savant, but also an extremely admirable trait to churn out quality like that.
Don’t get me wrong, he’s still a brat in a lot of ways but that drive to create is something I envy. It also fits neatly into the “Rival who is by-the-letter-perfect at the trade the main character aspires to be the best at” trope that is found in much shonen manga, but for me, as someone who wants to write creative fiction more and more, it’s pretty inspiring.
And Eiji is also saying yes to manga in a big way. In fact, he says yes to every manga he can. But for him, he says no to everything else. Whether that be food, or money from prizes. He is consumed by a single solitary yes: manga creation and his uninhibited drive has led him to create voraciously.
Now I need to learn that balance, and get good at the things I want to get good at, but we’ll discuss that.
–The “realistic” art is drawn in the same style as the manga itself. Another delightful meta-joke.
–Miho’s gift was adorable, holy shit.
–I really loved the meeting with Hattori and Hattori’s encouragement when they got in Akamaru Jump. It’s really great to see the story respect the role of the editor in the creative process. I think it’s very easy to assume that creative tasks fall purely under the purview of the creator, but that is simply not true, and I think that’ll bear out more and more over time.
–Kaya’s tears at getting into the easiest school to get into and Saiko’s worry at her relief. I shouldn’t have laughed.