Howdy howdy howdy. Welcome to my read-through of Bakuman where I read stuff, then summarize stuff, then react to stuff. You know, the good shit. Today we read Chapter 19, in which I get, somehow, even more meta than before and toot my horn vociferously.
God…that’s sounds way too much like a sex joke. Oh well, no turning back now.
If you are, like me, new to this series, these read-throughs contain no spoilers past the current chapter. If you haven’t been reading – and shame on those who haven’t – catch up with this index. That way you’ll be cool again and I won’t even hold it against you. For too long, at least. Where was I?
Oh, right. If you would like to sit at the Adult table, have the means, and the right country of access, please consider following this series right along with me by subscribing to Weekly Shonen Jump. For the price of a SMALL cup of Starbucks Coffee a month (1.99), you can follow this rollicking good time legally. If that ain’t your style, buy volume three on amazon (or VIZ) here. I am not sponsored by VIZ Media or WSJ. As always, I want artists to make money so they can live their lives. That is my priority.
And a note on naming conventions: I’m torn on whether to refer to Eiji Nizuma as either Eiji or Nizuma. I am leaning towards Eiji, now that he has been properly introduced. But it remains to be seen.
In all cases, onward to Chapter 19: Debut and Impatience
The Mainstream Debate
Following the wager between Hattori and the boys, Hattori comments on their storyboards: they are poo. He also notes that Mainstream Manga, in many ways, is a greater gamble than a niche cult Manga due to their overall popularity. There is no way to judge their popularity until they are in the magazine.
Hattori decides immediately to point out the failings of their current offering: it’s a bunch of rehashed ideas that are totally stale. This storyboard is what rookies fresh out of their mother’s basement submit. Saiko admires Hattori’s editorial instinct.
Hattori then goes with the advice he gives to all Rookies just starting out:
Shujin expresses gratitude to Hattori, noting his kindness despite their petulant bitch-itude. Hattori warns them that he’s only doing this because they want to do it (respect brah). He does not believe that they have the ability to make a mainstream manga.
He goes on to explain that audiences are not stupid: they can tell when they are being manipulated. Mainstream manga has to be authentic. As he tries to explain further, Eiji lays it out clearly. Create without thinking.
Eiji explains to them that Crow has been picked up already and he wanted to say hi to “Ashirogi-Sensei” before he leaves. Saiko remains confused about how nice Eiji is to them.
Shujin asks Eiji what he means so he explains: he creates his storyboards without thinking. He finds storyboards to be stupid and boring and doesn’t want to do them. Hattori and Shujin both take offense, but he continues. He gets Zen, clears his mind and lets the story go forth.
Hattori asks whether he had actually had those storyboards in his head when he wrote them in the previous chapter. Eiji says he just thought them on the spot and hadn’t planned them at all. And he got a series…
He explains he told them that he planned those storyboards so they would let him do the series. Hattori is majorly confused but Eiji explains, while striking a wonderful pose, no less
When he likes a character, they act on their own and he is just transcribing it into the world.
Hattori recognizes that Eiji’s style of creation is totally useless for Saiko and Shujin. He also explains to Eiji that while it’s great that he enjoys that, most mangaka have to make a storyboard and that that is the hardest part. Eiji recognizes that, on some level, he is thinking.
Saiko tells Eiji that he understands how they can proceed with their own manga now. Eiji asks when they’ll debut. Saiko explains that he doesn’t know, but that he’ll be there as soon as possible and catch up with them.
Eiji plays his role as rival and claims he’ll be number one by the time they’re picked up. Saiko tells him that may not be as easy as he thinks.
With a cocky smile on Saiko’s part, he and Shujin head home. As does Eiji.
Shujin and Saiko discuss the confrontation. Shujin asks what Saiko’s conclusion on their process is. Saiko explains: there are two types of mangaka. Those who let the story flow and those who make it look like they’re naturals.
A reason to fight. A Heroine. Humor. tear-jerker. He notes that those were obvious things that they totally overlooked. Saiko sees that including those things could lead to an incredible Manga.
Shujin, however, is pissed because he’s the one who has to do that shit. Saiko prods him that it’d be better if he did it without calculation. He offers to help with the ideas from this point. The battle is on.
We will be rivals
On the way back to Eiji’s apartment Yujiro expresses amazement that Eiji liked their comic. Eiji notes that it was an excellent comic. He also expresses disappointment at their decision to focus on something mainstream. Yujiro is straight-up confused: no way they could do a mainstream manga.
Eiji goes on, however. They will become his rivals, especially the “Short One” (Saiko). When Yujiro asks why, he explains by comparing his assistants to Saiko. The eyes.
Yujiro fails to recognize how truly Shonen Saiko is. He’s confused. Plebian.
Meanwhile, Hattori finds an illustration of the main character:
Hattori, surprised, recognizes the vast improvement in skill Saiko exhibits. He also recognizes how the character is perfectly suited for an action series. Hattori admires his seriousness and rigor.
As we look at those Manga Main Character eyes, we cut to our cute heroine.
A Cute Heroine
Miho, meanwhile, is auditioning for another television program. She is offered an audition for Saint Visual Girls’ High School. There are four roles opens and the primary win condition is being attractive…and maybe also a good singing voice.
The other two girls in the room immediately jump on the opportunity, and Miho soon follows suit. The manager explains that they should memorize everything. They could be reading any line.
At the audition there are a metric fucktillion cute girls auditioning. The producers muse on how many there are when the boss man comes in and says 12 and 36 pass automatically: they are to get any roles they can provide. The others can be chosen at their discretion.
The two inwardly vomit. Also Miho is number 12.
yay? I guess.
Make ’em laugh.
Shujin and Saiko, back at the studio, discuss calculating tearjerkers and humor. They discuss how to inject natural humor…calculatedly. Shujin expresses amazement – and terror – at the fact that Eiji was able to bring Crow to life ex nihilo.
Saiko says he’s glad they met though because it’s been really motivating. Shujin agrees and looks back on the last year. Saiko realizes that it has been a year since this journey started (19 Weeks irl, though). Shujin doesn’t linger on the happy memories: mainstream manga is hard.
While Saiko thinks about their tentative goal, Miho sends an unusually long text about her “successful” audition and her new show and role (Reika Saotomeji). She shows vulnerability but says she’ll do her best for a better role next time.
Saiko shares the news with Shujin. Saiko is ambivalent about the news. Shujin tells him that the adaptation is from Young Three Magazine, so more comedy than perversion (big oof). Saiko is a bit lost though: Miho has a debut.
Shujin comforts Saiko: they’ve also debuted. Saiko is concerned about her breakout. Is it more immediate than a mangaka? Shujin continues to comfort him. It is probably similar, and both idols and mangaka will struggle if unpopular. But Shujin goes on, Miho will likely become popular.
She is incredibly cute.
For fucks sake….oh right, still in summary.
Shujin tells him that if he’s worried to text her not to show her face. He texts her congratulations, and also to wait for him in case she becomes mega-successful (d’aww).
She replies instantly: she made a promise to Saiko. She’s waiting for him come hell or high water. If he acts like a little bitch like this again, she’ll block him (LOL). That is a paraphrase. Saiko privately swears to work just as hard to achieve his dream.
Saiko asks Shujin whether he’s a masochist. He explains that he enjoys Miho’s messages, and he’s even happy when she’s angry at him. He likes Azuki a lot, but he doesn’t feel the need to see her. Shujin asks whether she’s still waiting for him. She is.
Shujin realizes Saiko isn’t a masochist. He’s a…
Ba-dum tsss. There’s your joke you filthy animals.
Holy shit this chapter was a lot. Summarizing it was a bitch and a half. But it was also a great chapter just overall. Because it highlights one of the things that Bakuman gets to do that no other Manga really does.
It gets to be a commentary on itself as a form of story.
I love it man.
This chapter made me feel all sorts of vindicated about my constant bitching about tropes and how Eiji is right and how the authors are using him to point out what is likely to happen in the future. But, more importantly, about how intensely mangaka think about story.
This chapter was hilariously meta. To the point where it got just shy of overbearing. Here are the things that we need to make a great mainstream manga. But it can’t be engineered. Oh, also conveniently, here’s the rival, here’s the heroine, and here’s a joke.
I love meta-fiction so much. So I ate that shit up. But man, I can almost smell the shit-eating grins they had writing this chapter.
But I also love the subtler indications that they are trying to be a mainstream manga in a non-mainstream story. Especially the eyes of Saiko’s Main Character, and Eiji’s note about Saiko’s determination.
Aside from the whole scene being an absolute joy of a rival confrontation – again highlighting the friendly competition angle that all rivalry’s have – I love that the main character’s eyes that Saiko drew are drawn the same way Eiji draws Saiko’s. Intense, driven, with a serious expression and ready for battle.
There is something so deliciously thought out, down to the last detail that makes this series so fun. And it’s clear to me that the authors really love Mainstream Shonen when they do that type of shit. Even though they are not strictly suited for that type of storytelling.
Eiji continues to be the real MVP.
Aside from the fun I had with the meta-elements of this chapter, I’m not gonna lie, Eiji is growing on me a lot. It’s definitely an on the nose comparison, but his mannerisms – which suggest being on the spectrum – and overall character feel more and more like a light hearted version of L from Death Note.
The way jumps up on tables and holds pencils on his nose and fucking shouts out onomatopeia while writing. Dude is a master class of prodigy level bullshit that I just can’t help but admire him.
But I also like that he isn’t a total asshole regarding the talents of other. I think his first appearance rubbed me the wrong way because it was so selfish, but I genuinely appreciate his true love of manga. And his obsession. To the point where he even sees his relationship with Saiko and Shujin in terms of Rival Mangaka.
there is something endearing – and meta – about how he understands their roles in those terms. It contributes to some great jokes. But it also reduces the acid that his introduction brought in. Makes him more human.
Gardeners and Architects
But what I really love about his presence in this chapter is his idea of writing from thin air. Because that’s what I do with my characters.
This chapter came at a weird time for me. I started this read-through about…almost 6 months ago, and in those first few posts I noted that I wanted to start screenwriting and pursuing me dreams of being a professional writer for real this time. And I have started taking meaningful steps.
I wrote drafts for two screenplays and had both of them workshopped. And I bring this up because I really felt like Saiko and Shujin during the most recent workshop which happened the other day.
Like Eiji, I am a pantser – I let the story reveal itself to me (you may gag on the pretentious) and then revise and outline later to improve it. I make no claims to being very good, but i’m not bad either.
The critiques of my screenplay tied directly into that writing style. it wasn’t clear and I needed to work on it. And when I got those notes, I felt like Saiko recognizing Hattori’s notes on their mainstream manga. And it felt good to see these characters deal with criticism. Because my own criticism is something I’m processing for this screenplay.
But it’s fun that a central conflict axis is that of intuition vs. calculation. I feel like Eiji: I watch characters do things and then transcribe. but I feel like my writing would be ten times better if I wrote with more calculation.
So I relate to both characters. and it made me happy.
And this is still also a personal blog, so I can get meta too.
And before I sign off, I do want to mention that the sexism of the audition did not escape my notice and the cute heroine being subjected to pure objectification made me le mad.
Fortunately, however, this time the sexist behavior was appropriately recognized as sexist. And I’m feeling better about the author’s approach, given how much I wanted to bash my head into a wall with chapter 2’s sexism through the wazoo.
That said, I am 100 Pa-se-n-to nervous about Miho’s arc. She is going to get groped by master le creep and I don’t want that man. I just want her to pursue her dreams. But more than that, I’m genuinely worried about the likely harassment she is to experience will affect her relationship with Saiko. I can’t take it. My heart can’t take it.
But I guess we shall see what happens.
–Eiji being eiji is best.
–Is Eiji able to draw photo-realistically now? that’s pretty fun
–Hattori’s recognition of Saiko’s growth was a great shonen moment and I fookin’ loved it man.
–The joke at the end cracked me up, but it appears the authors weren’t so jazzed about it. On the storyboard pages (I haven’t talked about it yet, but I will), they thought the joke was too obvious.
And with that, I shall now leave you to your musings. If you want to give me social capital, please like my facebook page or twitter profile. And if you want to support this blog, leave a comment below. I really do get a lot out of hearing from you, and it inspires me to make this blog better.