Howdy hoe my internet neighbors. Welcome to the newest exciting read-through of Bakuman. Today we cover Chapter 22: In The Way and Youth in which we discuss Soul in the Game, Character Retcons, and New Rivals.
As with all previous read-throughs, there are no spoilers past the current chapter. Additionally, if you would like to catch up on this chapter, feel free to give me traffic and go through this index here containing all previous read-throughs.
If you would like to be a cool human and support mangaka, please consider buying a tankobon of the current volume, or even better, subscribing to Weekly Shonen Jump. I recommend the second option because A.) It’s $1.99 (a fucking steal) and, you get the whole ass Weekly Shonen Jump. I am not affiliated with Shonen Jump or Viz Media in any way; I just want artists to make money off their art.
Without further ado, the chapter.
A Fraying Partnership
Saiko calls Shujin immediately after the last chapter and tells him that he’s going to be Eiji’s assistant. Shujin – who does an excellent job of totally not caring – says, “Okay…”. Shujin then apologizes for his inability to write a mainstream manga. He promises to make good storyboards by the end of the summer.
Kaya acts as the audience surrogate and worries about this. While Shujin continues to look like a guy pretending not to care, he also mentions feeling bad for now having professional storyboards when Saiko’s art has already gotten to professional levels. Shujin beats himself up for not moving at the same pace.
Kaya asks whether she’s responsible. Shujin replies: of course not as the smooth devil leaves with her in tow.
Into The Fire
Saiko packs up a bunch of material and, on July 27th, starts his assistant-ship with Eiji. As he gets to the apartment, music blares. Waiting for Saiko to arrive is Nakai, who apologizes for the loud music. Inside, Saiko comes on Eiji at work, being his usual crazy-ass self (yelling onomatopoeia and other noise).
Saiko introduces himself to Eiji. Eiji refers to an old school manga from the 60s: Yoroshiku Mechadoc and gets an idea for Mecha-Crow. Saiko wonders if he’s joking or just crazy. He admires the fact that he knows old school manga. Nakai explains that Nizuma-Sensei is always like this save for eating and sleeping. He sleeps for 20 hours and won’t wake up.
The other assistant – Fukuda Shinta – chastises Nakai for referring to a 16-year-old as Sensei, when he’s 32. Nakai introduces him as the winner of two Tezuka awards and shows promise as a new Mangaka. Saiko remembers the name as a runner up for the Tezuka award and his appearance in Akamaru.
He also sees that Fukuda is drawing storyboards for his own story.
Enter: Fukuda: New Rival
Nakai explains that because of Eiji’s brand of genius, neither he nor Fukuda get to do much and have a lot of free time. All they do are shading, white-out, and screen tones. Fukuda is cool with it and advises Saiko to focus on his work and not waste time. Fukuda asks about his resumé
Saiko tells him he’s only placed in Akamaru once. He mentions The World is All About Money and Intelligence, and Fukuda realizes Ashirogi was a pseudonym.
Nakai has a continuing existential crisis with both a 16-year-old series and now a 15-year-old who makes professional art. (Poor Nakai).
Fukuda is glad for the new rivalry and compliments Ashirogi’s One-Shot. He does point out that it is not in Jump’s wheelhouse: too bleak, not enough Nakama power. Fukuda qualifies himself since it placed better than his work. Fukuda, as any good rival should, says he’ll surpass Eiji despite his current ascendancy. They’ll realize he’s a nutcase sooner rather than later, which will be his time to strike.
Fukuda then goes on and dresses down Nakai further (poor guy): he should refer to all of them as Sensei and prods him for only winning one award ten years ago and for giving up on having a series of his own. Nakai weakly insists he still wants his own series, but Fukuda is relentless: he assumed that Nakai was a professional assistant and had given up because of his age.
Saiko is 500% done with the studio’s nonsense, but Nakai hasn’t finished the tour of his “Duties.” Saiko’s job is to add screentone and shading to the pages currently on the floor. Then, once done, put them back…on the floor.
The Sensei at Work
Saiko, bemused, decides to stand next to Nizuma. Still, Fukuda tells him it’s useless: Eiji refuses to teach his assistants. Like seasoned veterans are supposed to do, but Saiko just wants to use his powers of osmosis to see what techniques Eiji uses so he can draw better.
Eiji, as usual, is in his own little world drawing his manga, gesturing, making faces, being the most Eiji he can be. While Saiko tries to work, Eiji recognizes Ashirogi-Sensei and expresses his amazement as only Eiji can. Eiji doesn’t want Saiko as his assistant – he wants him to make manga, continuing his weird, adorable streak. Saiko explains that he and Shujin are a team, and he doesn’t have a story to draw currently.
Saiko explains that he’s there to learn drawing from Eiji, much to Eiji’s surprise. Eiji brings a seat next to him, calling Saiko Ashirogi-Sensei to the confusion of both Fukuda and Nakai. Eiji then tells him that he was right: Being Number One will be much harder than he thought initially.
Eiji explains he dropped to 4th place in the second week. Saiko points out that’s still amazing for a new artist. Saiko teaches Eiji more about the biz while Nakai and Fukuda ponder their – admittedly confusing – relationship. Fukuda’s not pleased. As they discuss, Fukuda ponders.
tenWhile Saiko comforts Eiji, Fukuda ruins the party and tells them Eiji is screwed if he keeps down the current path. He says that after reading Chapters 3, 4, and 5, he better watch his ass. After ten weeks, he could get canceled if he’s not careful. Eiji continues to be a series of reactions. NOT GOOD, this time.
Saiko sees what Fukuda knows: the chapters lose their luster because the novelty has worn off. Fukuda drops the douchebag act for a second and drops a truth bomb: Eiji is a professional mangaka in Weekly Shonen Jump, not a Doujinshi artist. He has to think of the audience, and not just himself
Saiko doubles down on the criticism, figuring out how to make his manga better.
Soul in the Game
Both Saiko and Fukuda start critiquing the work – as only compatriots can – pointing out that spectacle and flash are cool, but don’t have longterm value. Fukuda asks why Eiji liked Ashirogi’s comic so much, to which he responds that it made him think about the world. It was engaging.
Eiji gets the lesson, and Fukuda explains that the Editor’s enjoyment does not mean the audience will enjoy it. Saiko admires his critique, which he thinks is better than an editor’s. But Fukuda drops this motherfucking gem:
Oh not at all. Most guys who want to become manga artists are good at being critics. But they still can’t create anything awesome. That’s not the case with me, though.— Fukuda, the internet’s proxy.
Rivals Helping Rivals
Eiji decides that he wants to rewrite chapter 5 and asks the others to help make it more interesting. Fukuda ain’t having none of that shit, but Eiji wants him to critique his work. Saiko recognizes that Eiji’s carefree nature has inspired him to want to make Crow better.
Saiko decides he’ll help out his rival and make Crow better. If Fukuda wants to be a little bitch boy and work on the screentones, he can. Not to be outdone, Fukuda agrees to help out with the process of improving it. Eiji calls him Nice, which Tsundere Fukuda gets angry at, but they all want to “Change Jump.” They get to work eagerly.
Meanwhile, Nakai watches helplessly as they make Crow the best damn manga in Jump.
Eiji is the Best & Fukuda is his replacement
Eiji stuck out to me this week. There are some other things I want to get to, but Eiji’s character has changed…dramatically since his introduction in Chapter 9. And I think that’s why Fukuda was introduced.
One of the fun things about reading a manga about manga production is that it suggests its process by telling its story. In this case, Eiji’s change from the borderline psychopath with his initial request in Chapter 9 to the flanderized savant who sincerely loves manga is extreme.
And he’s become infinitely more likable. With his bombastic use of his body and his wearing literal feathers – to emphasize that he is Crow in a meta way – to his genuine respect for Ashirogi. He’s taken a total 180.
That’s probably a result of editorial intervention, or fan surveys, or both.
As this chapter points out, Manga is a constant battle in Jump. You can’t just be good at what you do. You have to be compelling and willing to adjust the sails of your narrative when an opportune wind rises. Ohba and Obata probably realized that Eiji worked better as a positive foil for Saiko and Shujin, rather than an out and out prickish villain. So they altered his character from his initial appearance. .
I wouldn’t be shocked if that helped the popularity of the manga too.
Which is why they probably introduced Fukuda to fill the gap of an explicitly douche-y rival character.
All about Fukuda
While I’ve grown to adore Eiji for his carefree, genuine nature, and for the way he wants Saiko to be better (when he grabbed the chair for Saiko to watch him make art my heart did a d’aww) he’s no longer quite a villain. More a friendly rival a la Yuno and Asta in Black Clover (I’m Basic, Sue me). Instead, that hard edge that was present early on in Eiji’s character has transferred to Fukuda.
Fukuda is immediately compelling in a dickish way. His introduction as a rude asshole, talking down poor Nakai, and generally being shitty to everyone feels more natural for a rival character than Eiji. He’s smarmy, self-aware, and highly critical. And yet, he’s good at manga. You can tell. Fukuda is a rogue.
His behavior is like sandpaper: he creates friction. But he isn’t extreme like Eiji is. He isn’t going to ask to have a series canceled if he’s number 1. He’s more of the Mat Cauthon or Han Solo type rogue: openly a prick, but a secret softie. I see it as entirely possible that, as they were writing Eiji, they realized he wouldn’t make sense as the out and out antagonist, especially as his eccentricities have come to the fore.
A Chapter about Chapters
This chapter’s focus on Eiji’s shallow storytelling also spotlights Fukuda’s character in a roundabout way. Fukuda’s commentary serves to illustrate that chapters are not set in stone, even after your weeks into your series. There is room for flexibility and growth. And, although it’s more despite his shittiness than because of it, he ends up working to make the series better.
So, in essence, he’s introduced to make the series more interesting, keep the rivalry more compelling, and to keep the story moving in the real world, as he is doing to Crow in the story.
That’s hella fun man.
I appreciate it. Because his character is so vivid, I look forward to the conflicts that are likely to ensue between the three as time moves forward. It also creates an exciting dynamic for Saiko, who is currently minus his better half.
Saiko’s general approach to manga – when it’s not obsessive – has always been super admirable. He highlights one of the critical components of what I’ll call the “Jump Mindset”: if you do the work, and you put some soul in the game, you will be rewarded. Case in point, his art is already considered professional at age 15, and he’s well on his way to a series at this point.
Soul in the Game (Pt II).
He’s putting in the work that genuinely successful people put in. He does see it as competitive – and, again, Jump is insane in its competitiveness – but he’s also open to learning. He’s willing to put aside his ego to the point that he’ll watch Eiji do his thing because Eiji is better than him, and he has something to learn from him.
He’s humble about his limitations, and it ends up bringing the assistant team together and opens Eiji and Fukuda up. He is otherwise known as having emotional intelligence: a vital component of the Jump Mindset. One often overlooked in favor of the Bankai or Devil Fruit or Quirks.
That is the essence of Soul in the Game. Saiko puts his whole self into the production of manga; and while it’s been pretty gnarly in some regards, it’s not an inherently bad thing. He’s learning how to do the things he wants to with an open mind.
That’s a powerful lesson I wish more people embodied. It has taken me 29 years, but I’m finally doing it myself. I see my artistic endeavors as less of a competition and more as an opportunity to express myself and be a better me. So instead of getting jealous about better screenwriters, I’m actively learning from my colleagues and my betters. I see how they do it. And my craft is improving.
It’s also a lot more fun, when you do things for their own sake.
I still don’t want to do doujinshi fan comics though. I want to be professional, so I’ll have to study being compelling for an audience.
At some point. But not now.
–I didn’t touch on it, but the current fraying of Saiko and Shujin’s relationship is interesting, and I hope they resolve it soon. But it’s obviously there.
–I feel so bad for Nakai. He is so le sad.
–Eiji’s poses are everything I ever wanted.
–Eiji’s love for old school manga – like Saiko – is a nice touch to emphasize their similarity.
–I love the black dialogue bubbles to indicate loud music playing. Perfection.
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