Everyone Is Trying Too Hard in Bakuman Chapter 17: Battle and Copy

Hi. Hey. Hello. After another gap I am back on the Bakuman Beat with Chapter 17: Battle and Copy. In this chapter, we discuss trying too hard, battle manga, and vindication. Sweet sweet vindication. Mmmf.

All previous read-throughs can be found over here in this schwifty index. There are no spoilers past the current chapter, so read with ease my humans. If you would like to read along, please consider getting a subscription to Weekly Shonen Jump. It’s $1.99 a month and it helps out mangaka everywhere. If you don’t want to do that, consider buying a tankobon of Volume 3 and join along with me. I am not sponsored or affiliated with Shonen Jump, I just want artists to make money off their art.

Also, a note on my editorial calendar: it is currently in-progress. I am working on getting these out on a more regular basis, but because this is more of a thing I do for fun – and only a few people read it – it does not take priority relative to my other responsibilities. If you would like me to make this more of a priority, please share and let me know. I’ll do it anyway, but the extra motivation is extra helpful.

Without further ado. Chapter 17: Battle and Copy

Summary

Training Arc

Shujin, in sparring gear, faces off against Kaya. Some little shonen watch, worried for Kaya’s safety. Kaya pummels Shujin handily and Shujin gives in.

Meanwhile, Saiko re-draws popular Shonen Jump titles: Bleach, Naruto, and Dragon Ball. As he re-draws Vegeta and Goku duking it out Shujin and Kaya return. Saiko asks Shujin whether Kaya beat him up again. Shujin explains that he wanted to get beat up to get into the frame of mind of someone fighting in a battle.

Saiko wonders whether that has any value. Shujin comes to a simple conclusion: Fighting is scary. Not particularly helpful for battle manga. Kaya congratulates Saiko for getting third in Akamaru Jump. But Saiko downplays the victory: only first place gets a series. Kaya gets the frustration, but wonders why he’s drawing Dragon Ball.

Saiko explains that he wants to practice drawing Battle Manga by re-drawing 100 pages of 10 popular battle manga. Shujin freaks out, but Saiko explains that he doesn’t feel confident in his ability to draw a battle manga without the practice.

Failure, failure, glorious failure

Kaya doesn’t understand so Shujin explains the deal: they want to write a mainstream title so they can place first in Akamaru Jump and get a series. They figure the best way to do this is to go with a classic battle style manga.

She doesn’t understand, but Kaya interjects with a story of how she made it to the top of a national karate tournament. She gave up though because there were stronger people than her, and she had to prepare for high school exams.

Kaya on quitting after hitting the national tournament
Courtesy of VIZ Media

She also talks about Miho’s persistence in the face of insane odds. Recently, she was turned down from an audition after she got sexually harassed by the studio head. Saiko – overlooking the harassment and failure – seems surprised that she has failed her auditions.

Kaya asks why he didn’t know. Saiko figures that Miho is waiting to succeed before telling him about her own journey.

Dreams and Oppai

Kaya admires Miho’s strength and Saiko decides to text her. He texts her about his frustration about Akamaru. It was bad, but he’s going to use it to make himself better. Miho texts back instantly: Tell Kaya to Keep Her Mouth Shut.

Lordy.

Kaya expresses a wish for a dream of her own in a very…fanservice-y way (image not included). Shujin asks about Karate, but she claims to want a girly dream; she doesn’t have any positives about her though, she says. Saiko says she’s really nice and …Shujin admires her big boobs.

Thunk.

Kaya (thankfully) flips out on Shujin for being an asshole. Shujin thinks that a nice chest is a plus. Kaya gets angrier.

Serialization Foibles

Meanwhile, at the Shonen Jump Offices, the editors are in a meeting about Serialization. They provide this handy snippet explaining the process.

The selection process for editorial offices
Courtesy of VIZ Media

After the meeting, Nizuma’s editor – Yujiro – gets the news that Nizuma will start with “Yellow Hit” in Issue 33. Yujiro, pumped, calls Eiji to discuss moving forward. Eiji doesn’t answer so Yujiro heads over to his apartment. Another editor sourly notes Yujiro got lucky.

The Perils of Genius

Over at Eiji’s apartment, Yujiro scolds Eiji for his absenteeism and reminds him that he has to pick up his phone when Yujiro calls. Yujiro puts the phone on Eiji’s desk. Eiji flips shit about Yujiro touching his desk when Yujiro notices something wrong: Eiji is not drawing “Yellow Hit”.

Yujiro informs him that “Yellow Hit” will be a series and Eiji celebrates. He prepares to go into brass tacks about the specifics of the premiere but Eiji simply asks for a deadline. Then, Yujiro gives him the issue and a request for color pages. As Nizuma makes onomatopeia for his series he asks Yujiro to leave.

Yujiro asks about assistants and other necessities but Eiji leaves it up to his editor.

Mainstream and Cynicism

Shujin and Saiko struggle to make a traditional battle manga in art and story. But in time they manage to get a workable storyboard. Saiko shows his character concept for their new idea. He then goes over the new idea: the main character can wield a special sword to seal dragons in a dragon infested world. Only the main character can wield it, and after the dragons are sealed, peace ensues.

Saiko thinks its stereotypical, but he rationalizes to himself: tropes can be good if they’re done right (Has he been reading my blog?).

By the end of June, they take the new storyboards to Hattori for review.

Assistants and Wrong Turns

Yujiro meets with Eiji’s assistants: Mr. Nakai and a really bummed out 21-year-old. Nakai is 33. Both are depressed to be working as assistants to a teenager. Yujiro explains that the prodigy has already completed his chapter. The 21-year-old wonders why they are even there, but Yujiro wants to introduce them and to help with more chapters.

Yujiro and Hattori both find out their wards have made some wrong turns. Saiko expresses his desire to pursue mainstream manga in spite of Hattori’s recommendation that they go a more niche route. Hattori tells them they will be more popular with a non-battle style. But Saiko insists.

Meanwhile, Yujiro flips out when he realizes that Eiji wrote the first chapter of the One-Shot he did for Akamaru: “Crow”. Not the chapter he was assigned to write. Eiji explains that he wrote that chapter because he wants to do that one. Yujiro freaks out. as the chapter concludes.

Reaction

Trying is the Enemy

Paralellism between hattori and yujiro
Courtesy of Viz Media

Hehe. Laying the parallels here on a little thick, aren’t we?

This chapter wasn’t really a standout. It was a prelude to a longer arc. The abrupt ending adds to that flavor. Which makes sense since we’re around the 20 chapter point. That’s when those arcs start to crop up.

But I do think there is something to be said for that. Now that we’re heading into the series proper, the dynamics of the story have to change. And so far they’ve done it a fun way.

But I want to talk about something that this series has made the focus of this chapter: Trying.

The Intention to Fail

I felt more than a little vindication when Saiko mentions the bit about tropes in this chapter:

Saiko and Shujin discuss the value of tropes
Courtesy of VIZ Media

Because that was my entire argument last time, which lends credence to my theory about the use of the trope in the last chapter.

But this chapter is doing a good job of emphasizing that neither Shujin nor Saiko is built for that kind of storytelling. Given that these are the authors of Death Note – an infamously non-battle manga shonen – it makes sense that the autobiographical struggle would include heading in the mainstream direction, even though all signs point in the opposite direction.

And this panel highlights that in particular. Saiko doesn’t feel good about this story, which is why I want to bring up “trying” momentarily. Or, intending to fail.

Trying too hard

This chapter reminded me of Yoda’s statement “Do or Do Not, there is no try”. Saiko and Shujin’s efforts to make a battle manga are a form of trying. Not necessarily their training (which is not trying). But they don’t really have an interest in mainstream titles – and I suspect at least on some level they know they are going to fail – so they aren’t whole-assing the effort to make it the best possible product.

Broadly speaking, it’s really counterproductive, honestly. And when Yoda says “Do, or Do Not”, he’s not talking about the fact that you can’t “Try”. He’s talking about how, when we internalize the idea of “Trying”, we’re internalizing a guard rail that makes failure hurt less, and makes it possible for us to feel ok about not putting our best effort in. You tried, didn’t you, isn’t that enough?

Which is the essence of trying, really. Doing something without putting your whole heart into it, hoping it will succeed, but knowing that it is likely to fail, at least on some level is the essence of “Trying”.

That isn’t to say you won’t fail if you don’t try. Far from it: people who do things fail constantly. But when they fail, they fail honestly. They welcome the possibility of failure and focus on success. This is so important to learn, and a lot of people don’t learn it.

For me, I have historically “tried” by anticipating failure, then not putting forth my best effort when crunch time came. I would start working out, and then the first day I felt too sore, I would stop because the soreness meant something was wrong. The first time I found a new idea for a screenplay and I was stuck in writer’s block for the one I was writing, I would stop writing that one, waiting for inspiration to re-strike.

And I always had the excuse: At least I tried.

I still do that plenty but I’m aware of it. And I’m working on a commitment to seeing things through, even when I fail and am uncomfortable. A willingness to fail and grow. I’m a long way from successful, but I’m getting there.

Oops. Look at that digression. Back on point.

I foresee this carrying over into the next chapter. I actually feel for Hattori in this chapter. He knows that this does not play to their strengths at all. His strategy is capitalizing on what they do well. And they want something bigger, so they are doing what they think they need to succeed.

And that’s not going to work. When does it ever in storytelling?

Do it or Don’t

Saiko needs to commit to a story. And he can’t do that if he’s focused on his dream. So he’s in this weird forced in between, which makes it hard for him and Shujin to progress. I like that this failure is so in character, but man, it’s frustrating.

That said, I do like how they are handling the peripheral characters. Especially Eiji. I’m getting some vibes that he’s one of those savants and while I don’t think it’s necessarily in good taste to play up someone’s mental acuity for laughs, I think it works for Eiji. Mostly because it humanizes him more than it caricatures him.

I also like that this is the first time he has genuinely fucked up because of his desire to do what he wants. Like Saiko, it’s completely in character for him to write a whole chapter for a manga that he isn’t even supposed to be doing. it’s amusing and cute, to say the least. But it’s also good to see that, despite his genius, he is flawed. It allows for more interesting conflict dynamics.

More importantly, he’s pure doing. No thought, no try, no calculation at all. And he still runs into potential failure. But he has the opportunity for success. A key distinction between Saiko and Shujin trying, and his doing .

Shujin gets called out.

Although the Kaya fanservice undercuts the moment. I did appreciate her beating him down for the fact that he only seems to appreciate her body. Since Chapter 2 I’ve been lowkey worried about the sexism in this comic, and it’s good to see someone calling him out on his bullshit. It’s also good to see it acknowledged in Miho’s storyline as well, even if it is off-screen.

I have a feeling that sexism is going to feature in this series frequently. It’s already been there with characters like Iwase and Miho, but given the industry, I wonder how it will manifest. Shujin’s casually sexist bullshit is…unsurprising (sigh) given his age. But I hope he works on it. Especially since Kaya is such a lovely companion, and she don’t deserve that nonsense.

Stray Thoughts

–I loved the redraws of the battle manga as training. Felt very creatively apropos of training arcs in general.

–There is a lot to be said for imitating your favorite artists to improve your craft. Ursula K. Leguin recommends it for all writers.

–Miho’s mind-reading of kaya was fucking hilarious

–Kaya continues to be a gem. Her generally putting up with Shujin’s nonsense is sweet, but her casually being so self-defeating is a little sad.

–The whole exchange between Kaya and Saiko about pushing forward on your dreams, even though there are people better than you is pretty resonant. Also very very Shonen Jump.

And that’s all I got. If you like this, like me on facebook and twitter and all that and add to my social capital.

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