Rivals meet and Dynamics are Discussed in Bakuman Chapter 18: Rivals and Friends

Hello, my humans. Today me, who is definitely a human and not three daschunds in a trench coat, will be talking about human things like Bakuman Chapter 18. In which Two Good Bois and one Heckin’ Prodigy meet and we talk about how that is a good thing for those good bois to do.

*clears throat*

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There are no technical notes currently, so, without further ado, onto the chapter.

Summary

Butting heads

Saiko and Shujin face-off against Hattori about Mainstream Titles. They want to do something mainstream, but he wants them to keep their niche style where – he argues – they will thrive as mangaka. He points out that most mangaka start with Mainstream on the hopes of being successful. Shujin’s storytelling is unique, however and therefore valuable.

Saiko counters with the most popular series in Jump: Bleach, Hunter x Hunter, Naruto, One Piece et. al. ….Battle Manga, all of them.

Hattori gets PISSED at that. He thinks these kids are full of themselves to be comparing themselves to the likes of Oda, Kishimoto, Kubo, and Togashi. It’s way too early in their careers to be thinking about serialization. They should be proud of where they are currently.

Shujin and Saiko hit back: they’ll never get a series with their performance in Akamaru AND Hattori didn’t even want to make their stories a series regardless. Hattori is about to have a breakdown. Finally, he snaps.

The Deal

Hattori finally agrees that if they get top rookie rankings, top three in Akamaru, or Top Eight in a Jump One-Shot, they’ll get a series. Shujin wonders if those metrics are what determines the individuals who get a series. Hattori goes on to explain that they are not going to clinch it with a mainstream story and these storyboards aren’t any good regardless.

Shujin recognizes they were bad. He says that he Saiko will come up with a mainstream idea that Hattori will like. Hattori gets disappointed in Shujin for encouraging Saiko’s behavior: they have the opportunity to do something spectacular and unique, but they want to go against their talents.

Sasaki – the editor-in-chief for those not keeping track – is surprised to see Hattori so passionate about this. Another editor notes that the two have potential: he preferred Ashirogi (Saiko and Shujin’s pseudonym) to Nizuma’s comic. He clarifies, however, that he worries about their appeal to editors, rather than readers.

At that point, catastrophe strikes: Nizuma didn’t finish his chapter. Yujiro – his editor – was there to pick up pages but he wrote a different chapter.

Enter Eiji Nizuma: Rival

The editor presses Yujiro. Yujiro has told Nizuma about the deadlines – 2 days for the Color pages, and 9 pages to press – but Nizuma doesn’t want to. Heishi – the editor in-office – freaks out. Sasaki asks for his phone. Sasaki tells Yujiro to bring Eiji down to the office. Shujin and Saiko are to meet their number one rival.

Yujiro informs Nizuma that they’re going. Nizuma has always wanted to visit the offices. Yujiro – remembering the first meeting – wonders if this is a ruse on Nizuma’s part. He asks where the pages for his chapter – Crow – is. Under Yujiro’s feet, apparently.

Yujiro dismisses the assistants for the day. On the ride, Yujiro asks Nizuma – who is sketching on the car ride over (pfft) – how many days to make a 64 page chapter. Eiji tells him he doesn’t want to do that.

Courtesy of VIZ Media; I don’t know why, but I find this hysterical. Some clever foreshadowing, too from Nizuma

Yujiro freaks out at Nizuma’s insistence and realizes that he’ll have to discuss with the Editor-in-chief about the change. Eiji admires the building as Yujiro rushes him inside.

Rivals meet

Eiji expresses amazement at Jump HQ. Saiko freaks out, finally seeing his Rival for the first time.

Yujiro reports that he failed. Eiji just doesn’t want to work on “Yellow Hit”, and wants to focus on “Crow” instead. Saiko asks why Hattori didn’t tell them that Nizuma got his series. Hattori didn’t realize they wanted to know. Saiko explains that they’re rivals.

Hattori internally sighs… that tracks.

Sasaki asks for the pages and reads through them. Sasaki asks about Crow: it won Akamaru oui oui? Yujiro asks whether he wants to make it into a series. Sasaki then asks whether he has additional storyboards but Yujiro points out they’ve already advertised “Yellow Hit”. Yujiro looks for Nizuma who walks over to…

“Ashirogi”. Eiji compliments them on “The World is All About Money and Intelligence”. It was his favorite one-shot. He asks whether it’s going to become a series, Hattori says no. Eiji reacts with dismay he could never come up with that story. He then recognizes that the depth of the art and story are due to it being a two-person team.

Rivals and Friends

Yujiro finds Eiji chatting up Saiko and Shujin and yells at him. Eiji shows them off to Yujiro: they created his favorite manga of Akamaru. He then compliments them further: their work is incredible for someone a year younger than him. He’s also happy that they’re his age. He just moved to Tokyo from Aomori prefecture, and now he can have some friends… He hopes.

Saiko and Shujin are fucking shell-shocked at his seriousness. Yujiro tells him about Sasaki’s offer for a series if he has storyboards for the second and third chapters. Eiji tells him he wants to make “Crow”. Yujiro asks him where the chapters are: in his head, of course.

Yujiro – now in full panic attack mode – tells him that’s no good. Eiji brings out his sketch pad and he’ll get them in thirty minutes. 25 pages for the second chapter, 21 for the third. Yujiro pulls Eiji away from their meeting. But, Hattori asks him to stay. He asks Saiko and Shujin whether they want to watch.

A master works

Eiji gets to work, which leads to the most intense picture of a dude drawing comics ever:

Courtesy of VIZ Media; Eiji tears ass

Saiko and Shujin watch in shock as Eiji pounds out 47 pages of storyboards in 30 minutes. Eiji is taken back to the editor, who asks for photocopies to be made. The editorial staff reads and they agree it is up to Jump’s par. It might even better than “Yellow Hit”. Yujiro privately breathes a sigh of relief.

Hattori, however, has used Nizuma’s work as an object lesson: they are never going to beat him at Mainstream. He’s too skilled for them to hope to match.

But Saiko is relentless and stubborn: he and Shujin can do this. Based on their storyboards, they do not a shot. Shujin corrects him: these storyboards.

A tense moment.

Hattori relents. If they don’t succeed in making a mainstream manga he likes in 6 months, but they still insist on going this route, he will drop them as clients.

Saiko and Shujin agree to these terms.

Panel of the Week

This panel is fucking incredible for a few reasons. But the chief one is the sheer level of detail going on. Specifically in the scenery and backgrounds. But also for the MVP of this chapter Eiji Nizuma being the most Eiji Nizuma he can be.

Aside from the way his body leads our eye forward, his solidly colored clothing provides a strong visual contrast to the whites and greys and geometry of the rest of the scene. His body is also the only thing that is moving against the leading lines of the scenery around him. Basically, he’s embodying his role in this chapter.

Other than that, however, the level of detail – from the posters on the wall, the boxes which are a little busted and worn out, to the copies of Jump sitting on the tables really bring this panel to life

It’s fucking great.

Reaction

The most important panel in this chapter.

Ok. First off. I fucking LOVED this chapter. It’s probably one of my favorite chapters to date. And you can probably guess why.

Eiji Nizuma is one of the richest rivals I’ve read in Shonen to date. And he is the ultimate embodiment of the shonen rival archetype. As you can see with these two panels:

Courtesy of VIZ Media

First off, it’s humanizing in a way that some of the efforts Bakuman has done to make Eiji more relateable have failed to do. the fact that he is probably on the spectrum – or at least displays some of those tendencies – in some capacity does make him less hateable, but it doesn’t necessarily endear himself to the audience.

But having him genuinely admire the work of his competitors is what really stands out. It is the oft unspoken rule of a shonen rival: respect for the opponent.

Really though, I do feel kinda bad for shitting on him in his first appearance now. I have a soft spot for lonely guys. I think, to some extent – his passion for manga aside – he is a lonely guy. And he’s reaching out to Saiko and Shujin was kind of adorably awkward and earnest. Also, his genuine appreciation for their manga made me feel warm and fuzzy because they are proxies for the audience.

But let’s circle back to the rival thing:

A rival is a friend

All great rivals, at the end of the day, are actually the friend of the main character, or otherwise reflect them. But they also want to win. A rival isn’t supposed to be a villain. They’re supposed to be a shadow. A mirror.

And Shadow’s are not the enemy of people who have them. They’re allies who you have to beat to ascend to the next level of development. If they weren’t in the same field, they’d likely be buddies.

But here it is obvious. Eiji doesn’t even realize that Saiko and Shujin lowkey hate him. He just genuinely enjoys their manga in the most intense way imaginable. He’s really impressed. And he’s better than them at making Manga. The other important feature of a Shonen rival. In order to move forward, they will have to overcome their rival by improving their craft.

But what I find even more interesting about the dynamic, aside from the rival/friend thing is how it underlines Hattori’s point about their writing: they have something special.

Let’s talk about Death note for a sec.

I find it very convenient that in the beginning of this chapter, of all the popular Jump titles listed, Death Note – which Shujin referenced as a Meta-joke in Chapter 1 – is conspicuously absent from the list. The point doesn’t need to be belabored: they’re not referencing it because it undermines their point (the meta-excluded).

But there is something subtler at play here, on which I’ve just picked up and only really became obvious this chapter.

A few weeks…months, ago I talked about how this series relies on tropes to tell its story and does it well. From the Shonen Protagonists doing their damnedest to get into the top spot. The “Special Academy” entrance exams schtick that is the Akamaru Jump submission. Eiji’s rivalry. That’s all bog standard for Weekly Shonen Jump. But because of the milieu, it’s not cliché

It’s also executed well, but I digress.

The point is that this is by the authors of Death Note. Which is one of the least WSJ titles out there that was a breakout success. One which breaks convention in numerous ways. It’s functionally a mystery story with a very explicit beginning, middle, and end. The only real similarity is that there is a creepy weirdo Rival character as smart as Light Yagami.

And it’s also one of the most popular Non-battle Mainstream Jump Titles.

The meta-commentary here is delicious. Bakuman’s reliance on trope-y jump storytelling offers an insight into the motivation to make it. They know that these tropes exist. Even Saiko comments on them. But here, in this debate on the value of Mainstream Manga, Bakuman is taking notes from Mainstream titles.

And part of me suspects – though I can’t confirm it at all – that this argument was one they had in their own careers. This feels overtly autobiographical because:

This is how the Authors of Death Note conceive of Mainstream Manga

Bakuman is very much of the mainstream battle variety, using non-battle methods. It emphasizes the commentary on tropes and also uses them to highlight how the authors themselves want to make a mainstream story, while not using swords and magic.

Of particular note, Hattori refers to Shujin’s storytelling as a weapon. Eiji’s storyboard drawing sequence is framed as a battle sequence with his own self-inserted onomatopeia.

It’s a battle, told in a real world. Instead of swords, pointed dialogue and cross-purposes and drawing constitute the fights. that’s why Saiko re-drawing Dragon Ball and Naruto constitutes a training arc.

And I freakin’ love that.

Hattori’s out for blood

What also made this chapter work was it’s condensed time frame, and the genuine tension between Saiko and Shujin. And this brings me back to why those two panels are the most important.

Hattori’s suspicions are confirmed by Eiji: Ashirogi’s One-Shot was the best. From the mouth of their own rival, their unique voice is confirmed to be powerful. And yet they want to go in the mainstream direction anyway. It’s a wonderful bit of “Show don’t tell” because Hattori’s right. If they stick to their unique brand they could be the next death note.

And Eiji underlines it by admiring it.

But because these two knuckleheads are so obsessed with their rivalry and besting Eiji, they don’t make that connection. Hattori’s frustration is completely understandable.

But by that same token, this felt like a real battle. the dialogue was razor sharp, as was the characterization. This was teh first really tense chapter.

And I’m very excited to see whether Saiko and Shujin can do it.

I imagine not, but I’m excited to find out.

Stray Thoughts

— Nice call back for Sasaki to straight up see how good Eiji’s work is, and decide fuck it, he’ll do a series.

–All of Eiji’s poses are hilarious, and he really wins fro MVP of this chapter. But the sketching in the car ride had me on the floor.

–heishi’s comment about the comic that only editor’s like is painfully true. There is a disconnect between the popular and the high art. But the reasoning is soemthing often overlooked. If it comes up again, I’ll break it down further.

–Hattori losing his mind is freakin hilarious.

–The mainstraem shonen characters all look hilariously poor. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

And that’s all I got. If you wanna give me social capital, like comment and subscribe. I don’t’ need those to stay afloat, they just motivate me to publish these regularly.

Peace

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