Hello, my humans. Just another human here with my read-through of Bakuman Chapter 15: Send and Reply. Today we talk about texting, competition, and terms I just made up. If you are one of the people actually reading this series: I’m sorry. As you are likely aware at this point, I got caught up in November writing One Million words in a single month. That took up basically all my time.
Happily, I’m back, and I’m ready to Shonen Jump into Bakuman. Ba-dum tsss….I’ll show myself out.
This read-through contains spoilers for all previous chapters. If you would like to read my read-throughs for those chapters, you may do so here. If you want to be a champ and support mangaka and the manga industry, consider getting a subscription to Weekly Shonen Jump here; or, if you got the itch, some Tankobon volumes at your local bookstore, through VIZ, or anywhere they may be purchased. I am not affiliated with Shonen Jump, I just want you to spend money so that artists may get money. True facts.
Without further ado. Chapter 15: Send and Reply
Text her dummy
Saiko and Shujin are hard at work finishing their one shot for Akamaru Jump. Shujin mentions that Miho is moving the next day. Saiko focuses intently on finishing the draft for the week. The doorbell rings.
Saiko doesn’t want to answer, but when they hear Kaya’s voice, Shujin answers for fear of his safety. Kaya is there to see Saiko. She berates him for not texting Miho yet because she is moving tomorrow and Miho doesn’t know that he knows. Saiko leans on the obvious excuse: he has a final draft of his first manga in three days. He feels bad, but he’s too busy.
Kaya doubles down: why didn’t you give her your email address after graduation? Saiko explains that he forgot about it. Kaya and Shujin pry when he mentions talking to her for a bit, but his lips are sealed. They press him harder. He mentions that he doesn’t want to send some random first email, but something special, something “perfect”.
Kaya understands and agrees to tell Miho that she told Saiko about the move to Hachioji. She’ll also tell her to wait for his “awesome message in the future”. Cold, Kaya. Cold.
Deadlines and Fine Details
After Kaya leaves, Saiko and Shujin discuss the deadline. Saiko has gone Saiko Mode (I am so sorry) and wants to review everything as much as possible to make sure its perfect for Akamaru. Shujin offers to help with Speed Lines, but Saiko only allows him to do erasing, screen tone, blacking out and panel borders. Shujin, grumpy, accepts it. With that, he and Saiko work hard to finalize the one-shot.
They then take it to Hattori on March 26th, for review.
Hattori reads their work and sees the sheer effort put towards making it the best possible comic. “It’s like they’ve put their heart and soul into this work”. Hattori gives them excellent reviews and notes that he can sense their desire to best Eiji with this piece.
Hattori offers them something to eat, but Saiko tells him that he hasn’t slept in 2 days, so he’s going to go sleep. He also notes that he’s going to text Miho (fucking finally). Before they leave, Hattori tells them to open a bank account and to write a comment for their Bio section within 32 characters. Their payment is direct deposit.
Shujin asks the pay rate (9,000 Yen Per Page), which leads to this gem of character work:
Hattori asks if they’ll split the earnings, which they will.
On the way home, Saiko only thinks about what he wants to text Miho and falls asleep during the ride home. Shujin notes that all they have to worry about are the reader surveys, now. Once Saiko gets home he gets way too in his head about texting Miho.
He thinks about all the things he has to apologize for. By the morning he is both a vampire and …still hasn’t sent a text. He writes a 5,000 character text before the character limit hits. He then…sigh revises the text repeatedly (been there) before sending it out to her.
As he is about to sleep Miho replies instantly.
Send & Reply
Saiko, embarrassed, tries to figure out what to say next. Miho replies instantly again, calling him a bad boy and that he should focus on manga. Poor sleep-deprived Saiko is awed that Miho has a saucy side and remembers that, yes, he should be writing Manga.
With that, he becomes a big boss man and calls Shujin over to work on potential storyboards should they get first place. Shujin is mega-confused by the sudden change in tone.
A Winning One-shot & A Pseudonym
At the office, the other editors admire Saiko & Shujin’s One Shot (yuss) and Hattori is surprised that even Mr. Aida – a notoriously harsh editor – likes it.
While Hattori wonders whether they can win, Nizuma’s editor worries, but rationalizes that Eiji’s one-shot because of its mass appeal is guaranteed the top spot.
On the day of their entrance to Yakusa North, April 8th, Shujin asks whether Saiko and he should have a pen name. Saiko is confused given Shujin’s desire to be famous, but Shujin wants to avoid notoriety at school. Hattori reaches out quickly and says they can have one if they do it by the end of the day.
Kaya helps come up with their Pseudonym and runs into a distinctly Japanese problem: will the Kanji she writes actually read the way she intends? She explains that the name she comes up with, Muto Ashirogi, is kosher because she has a cousin whose name is Tomu with the same Kanji. The name is chosen because the Kanji for Muto are “Dreams” and “Coming true”.
Saiko thinks its cheesy, but he goes along with it and muses whether Miho would like it.
Quick Shot & Winners
Saiko texts Miho again and she answers quickly (and shortly) again. Saiko calls Shujin about it, who explains that Kaya does the same thing morning to evening. He asks Shujin whether they’re short and to the point. Shujin says no, then realizes that Miho’s messages are short and to the point (so like her). Shujin placates his friend and tells him not to worry. She is all head-over-heels.
Saiko and Shujin wait at the studio. Shujin is nervous about the results for Akamaru, which means he can’t do storyboards (how convenient). They receive a call from Hattori who tells them that there are samples for their release and that they can come to see them.
They head over to Shueisha’s offices to see their work in print. Both receive their advanced prints and read their manga (wow, it’s a real manga!). They then read Eiji’s manga. As expected, it’s incredible. Shujin laments how readable it is and how he’s read theirs so many times he can’t even tell if it’s good.
Saiko claims theirs is better. Shujin is shocked, but Saiko explains that he finds theirs more enjoyable
And Hattori agrees.
Visual Storytelling and Panel Layout Majesty
Before getting into the meat of my reaction, I really want to highlight this series of panels for a few reasons. Mostly, the layout is gorgeous. Just look at that attention to detail; the stacks of papers everywhere, the idea sketches on the door; the array of papers. All of it establishes two mangaka. There is also a subtle curvature in the design of the panels – using the comic books – that leads your eye from the small insert on the top right across Saiko’s desk to the panel on the top left. It’s like a eyeline that makes a smiley face
And what makes that so incredible is that the image is supposed to convey a sense of visual chaos to the reader by showing the stacks of pages on the desk and pages everywhere else. But that mass of pages is arrayed to draw your eye from the deadline to Saiko’s sketch. From the end to the beginning, in reverse.
Even better, if the dialogue boxes weren’t there, you could still pick up the plot being conveyed, simply by looking at the arrangement of these panels. You start at the deadline that they have on the calendar, and you see Saiko working hard to finish it. This is conveyed by the sketch on the left, and the volume of pages on his desk.
It’s really really wonderful and is a great study of visual storytelling. Everything we need to know is in the image. The dialogue still adds information, but it is secondary.
But that’s not really what I want to focus on. I really want to focus on…
Oh my fucking god Saiko didn’t do something horribly stupid re: Miho. When this chapter began I was about ready to meta-fictionally slap Saiko for being stubborn and hardheadedly romantic. But, thankfully, he finally did a thing and texted the girl.
I’ve already expressed my frustration with this repeatedly so I’ll just say, thank god. This isn’t just sympathy “stop playing the romantic” relief, it’s also a different kind of relief.
One of the great challenges of Storytelling – especially long-form serialized storytelling – is that creating new conflict dynamics is essential. It’s still pretty early in Bakuman, so I probably could have handled a few more chapters of Saiko being hopelessly romantic. But not too many.
And that dynamic would have gotten exhausted pretty quickly had it gone on. This also highlights something this series has done very well to this point.
When reading a long-form serialized narrative, you need to do something I’m going to call “Conflict Pivoting” because let’s pretend I’m original.
Conflicts often exist on a narrative cause and effect plane. At all points, there must be some kind of conflict and tension to keep things interesting. But there must also be new conflicts once a major conflict is resolved. And this conflict should “pivot” off the resolution of the previous conflict. If successful, the story is novel; the characters are deepened; and the theme is expanded. It’s a new angle with which to view the story.
This issue can occur in every storytelling medium, but serialized stories can suffer the most from this. The audience needs some kind of novelty in their conflict patterns. Otherwise, you can see where the conflict is going, and how it will be resolved. Or worse, the character remains static and never evolves. You can get away with that in a sitcom, but not a serial story where characters are designed to change and grow over time.
And in this chapter, the conflict between Miho and Saiko — their relationship — has pivoted to a new stage. Now the question driving their interactions isn’t “will Saiko actually talk to her?” it’s “how will Saiko’s talking to her affect his ability to work”.
Because there is definitely a seed of that. Even though it was played off as a bit of a (sexist) joke about girls’ need to constantly text, this is something that Saiko was scared about. He is nowhere near his goal of creating a Manga that will become an anime and he was afraid of how his desire for Miho would affect that.
So now, because the authors have shown themselves to be pretty competent, there is uncertainty as to whether Saiko can restrain himself now that he’s actually talking to Miho. Which speaks to…
Excellent character work
This chapter had some fantastic character work. And to double down on the pivot of the Miho Conflict, it also shows that Saiko’s chief character flaw is his perfectionist nature and his push to do things with his whole heart even at the expense of his health and happiness. It’s great because even with Miho you can see that obsession mirrored in his manga art. He literally does not get any sleep trying to figure out what to say to her. It’s a wonderful parallel.
And that extends to the other characters. There is something so adorable about Miho being terse and playful with Saiko that belies her shy exterior, while also completely reinforcing it. Same with Hattori and Shujin who each have their moments to shine. I especially loved that Saiko knows Shujin so well that he “accurately” calls it when Shujin calculates their payout for the one-shot.
And it’s nice to see Hattori’s developing interest in his wards.
While I still agree with him, they should work on getting better later, I still admire his ability to recognize their talent and drive, and both celebrate and admire it. It, again, demonstrates his top-tier editorial skills.
And, finally, we do get one new thing to look forward to.
A Clash of Manga
This is the first time where the characters are in a confrontation with someone else – namely Eiji – in a tangible way. There is a great deal of anticipation about whether they can win the survey for Akamaru Jump.
And while the likely answer – this early on – is that they will lose to Eiji overall, but give him a run for his money (super common shonen trope) the sense of anticipation and excitement is real. There is the real possibility that they will win, which is highlighted by the editorial office collectively enjoying their One-Shot.
And with that, I’m excited for what the next chapter has to offer. There are many kinds of victory, and even if they lose the battle, there is still a career that awaits them, potentially.
But we’ll have to see in the next chapter.
–As someone currently learning Japanese, I definitely got a laugh out of the Pseudonym. Kanji are a pain in the ass and it stands to reason that even fluent speakers get tripped up by it.
–I’m still really worried about Saiko’s already obsessive work patterns. 2 days without sleep? Eek.
–Miho is a treasure. I’m looking forward to more silly texts.
–Kaya and Shujin were my favorite comic relief this chapter. As always, Kaya comes in with the clutch.
–There are two named characters from their middle school: Hajime Suzuki and Yumi Saito. I wonder if they’ll be relevant down the line
–There is something so incredibly wholesome about the boys freaking out about the fact that their manga is “real”. It was a definite d’awww moment.