Nakai and Eiji shows us Fixed vs. Growth Mindsets in Chapter 23: Conceit and Kindness

Fixed Vs. Growth Mindsets, what’s the difference? Why does it matter? Highlow, friendly readers, and welcome to my read-through of Bakuman Chapter 23: Conceit and Kindness. Today we will talk about the difference between fixed vs. growth mindsets, or “That thing that I saw in a Ted Talk once, I should know, but I don’t really know or care about” and how you can use it for success.

As with all read-throughs, there are no spoilers past the current chapter. If this is your first read-through, I would kindly direct you to the following index to find more read-throughs and catch-up.

If you want to be a cool human who is good and stuff, please consider either buying the Tankobon for this volume (Vol. 3), buying some Bakuman Merch from a variety of places, or subscribing to Weekly Shonen Jump. I recommend the last option, as you get the whole series for 1.99, and you support Mangaka. I am not affiliated with Viz Media. I just want artists to get paid cash money. Or yen money? Whatever. Be cool.

And now, onwards.


Hattori, The Shitty Editor

Eiji asks both Fukuda and Saiko how to make Crow Chapter 5 better. Saiko points out how repetitive the chapter is, and Fukuda explains that you want to attract as many readers as is humanly possible within the first ten chapters (approx. 10 weeks).

When Eiji says that Yujiro Hattori hasn’t told Eiji about getting readers and that Eiji doesn’t like storyboards, so he doesn’t make them, Fukuda flips out. When he sees Fukuda freaking, he remembers to say what Yujiro told him: Tell everybody we discuss your series and do storyboards.

Saiko plays devil’s advocate: maybe Yujiro just…believes in Ejii? Nope, apparently Eiji just told him he didn’t want to do it, so Yujiro backed off.

Fukuda’s offended by how half-assed the approach is and Eiji asks whether they meet with their editors, since he hasn’t had one, even for the Tezuka Award and Akamaru. Saiko explains he and Hattori (Akira) have had regular meetings since his initial submission.

Eiji’s Growth Mindset

Eiji asks them about these “editor meetings” (yeesh) and they explain the gist of it: hash out story ideas for a new series, or discuss the upcoming chapters. Eiji wonders whether they’ll make it so you can’t do whatever you want. Saiko explains that “Jump is one of the more lenient magazines that lets the manga do whatever they want”. Fukuda and Saiko compliment each other on their knowledge of the industry

Eiji doesn’t want to do the same thing twice. Fukuda chastises him for not taking the job seriously and for ALSO wanting to make the chapter better. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

Eiji – showing a desire to change – asks the following:

growth mindset: eiji asking how to change to improve
Courtesy of VIZ Media; Eiji’s Growth Mindset

Fukuda wants clarity on why he’s now “Sensei” and Eiji explains that anyone who has debuted is “Sensei” to him. Saiko doesn’t understand why it matters. Eiji gets a dig in on perpetual assistant Nakai which gets a chuckle out of Fukuda.

The Answer is Cliché!

Fukuda goes onto to explain that enjoyment is only part of the equation; the first, and most important key is reader’s enjoyment. Saiko re-iterates and offers this bit of handy, clearly-not-foreshadowing-meta-commentary.

Create Some Kind of Climax in Every Chapter, and end the chapter with a little twist that’ll make the readers want to continue reading it.

-Saiko, metafictional foreshadower

While Saiko explains, he also recognizes that Fukuda is one of the dozen or so competitors that Shujin mentioned being competitors.

Eiji – using Growth Mindset – listens to their advice. He shouts out some words in no particular order, including unpredictability. Eiji then comes upon an insight I’ve already mentioned:

growth mindset in action
Courtesy of VIZ Media; I feel vindicated (again)

Eiji goes into one of his mock-jojo poses, and tells them his plans to end the chapter on a familiar, but enjoyable cliché. Fukuda and Saiko get on board.

Eiji’s old habits die hard.

Eiji is ready to jump into a new final-draft when Fukuda stops him: he needs to do a storyboard first, and he needs to engage his growth mindset, to see if the changes they recommend stick. Saiko doesn’t want to miss the opportunity to see Eiji make storyboards; Eiji – being a genius – does the storyboards so fast that he can’t even correctly observe it.

Fukuda is…ambivalent about the fact that the chapter is already good. He admits that he maybe a genius. Saiko then, looking at the storyboard, engages with the Growth Mindset.

growth mindset examination
Courtesy of VIZ Media; What is the lesson here?

Fukuda then asks Saiko about why he doesn’t just do a Manga on his own; he explains that he’s part of a team. Fukuda warns him that their income gets split in half if they’re a team (eek). Fukuda then goes off while Eiji works on his final draft.

He then tells him to save the backgrounds for the assistants, to give them something to do. He also tells him to use the free time to work on improving the story; Eiji Doesn’t like that, but, given his desire to use his growth mindset, agrees to it.

Nakai’s Tears

Fukuda then points out that Nakai has been an assistant for Ten Years and can draw just about any background, even better than Eiji. Nakai boost his skills with assistant work: Screen Tones, Flash Tones, Backgrounds, Shading.

Fukuda, in character, takes him down a peg for his pride and Saiko finds it upsetting. Fukuda then bustles off to his second job as a Cashier – being a Manga assistant don’t pay the bills in Tokyo. Saiko respects the hustle; he also realizes that this is a business and these guys are his competitors, set against a very intense flash tone.

Nakai invites Saiko to dinner and they get whatever they want to eat at a family restaurant nearby. All on Eiji’s dime. However, neither of them have much to say to the other and return to the apartment. Eiji’s still at work, with headphones on (at his Editor’s request).

Nakai and Saiko get ready for bed. Nakai apologizes for the cramped quarters. Saiko doesn’t mind, but he’s unable to sleep knowing that Eiji’s in the other room, working on his series through the night. He hears Nakai crying.

Fixed Mindset comes in

Nakai quietly weeps over his desire for a series and his desire for a girlfriend. Saiko recognizes Nakai being upset by Fukuda, but is also relieved that he won’t be hit on….seriously.

As Nakai’s blubbering concludes, he starts up a conversation with Saiko. He apologizes for his weeping keeping him up and Saiko shows understanding. Nakai’s fixed mindset comes in, and he says that makes him feel even worse. He then tells Saiko not to work as an assistant for a long time.

He explains to Saiko that he’s getting older and his dreams are slipping away. Saiko counters that talent is what matters, not age. But Nakai has been around the block and he knows that editor’s are less keen on older people joining the ranks. He notes – with that nasty fixed mindset – that editors won’t even take him seriously if he shows them storyboards.

Saiko explains he had to spend the rest of the night listening to Nakai’s complains and negative experiences in the industry. While Saiko is annoyed at all the negativity, he understand’s Nakai’s goal is to make sure he doesn’t remain a perpetual assistant like him.

The Next Day

The next morning they come in to see Eiji’s done thirteen pages, and incorporating the growth mindset, has given them backgrounds and shading to do. Nakai asks if he wants something to eat, but, as always, Eiji wants to work. A little after 3:00 PM, Fukuda and the other two work on finishing up the draft.

Saiko admires Nakai’s speed and precision on the backgrounds, especially the complex perspectives and lines all done by freehand. Yujiro comes to pick up the draft. Yujiro asks where the chapter is and Eiji explains he decided to re-do the whole chapter over again.

Eiji then shows Yujiro the storyboards he completed and Yujiro is shocked by the quality. Eiji apologizes to Yujiro for not taking the job seriously. Yujiro, confused, asks about the change of heart. Eiji explains that he was being conceited earlier because people kept calling him a genius.

Yujiro’s thrilled: Eiji may actually get to Number One. As it turns out, Chapter 3 ended up in third place, and did even better in the polls than chapter 2 in spite of Saiko and Fukuda’s predictions. Fukuda doesn’t regret helping him out and pointing out that he should take it seriously.

Of course, while Eiji celebrates, Saiko makes a little intriguing twist of his own:

Little metafictional twist and distinctly ungrowth mindset

DUN DUN DUN. End of Chapter


Fixed vs Growth Mindset. A study.

This chapter, aside from incorporating a balanced mix of Meta-humor and meta-fiction that this series does so well, and doing important character work, does a great job at showing the difference between the Growth and Fixed Mindsets.

Carol Dweck, in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success pioneered the idea that our mindsets affect our potential success. You can fall into either a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. A fixed mindset is characterized by the belief that attributes such as talent, intelligence, and character are static qualities that are unchangeable: You are who you are, and nothing can change it.

A Growth Mindset, however assumes that you are malleable. That even though you have a certain set of abilities right now, or a lack of ability, if you apply yourself diligently, examine yourself honestly and put in the effort, you can improve your intelligence or skills over time.

And this chapter does an excellent job of showing the difference between these two mindsets; and it does so through two characters who diametrically oppose each other.

Eiji’s openness

This chapter features one of the hidden elements of genius that lay dormant in his character: his willingness to learn. It actually flies in the face of his esablished character tropes, but he’s open to learning. He listens to others. While he’s demonstrated this willingness to learn obliquely in the past – his admiration of Ashirogi Sensei is one big way – this is the chapter that really demonstrates why Eiji is so good.

From the moment the chapter starts, he believes that he can improve if he listens to the wisdom of both Saiko and Fukuda. He’s engaging with a central premise of the Growth Mindset: being open-minded and assuming there is room for improvement.

When you engage in the growth mindset, you presume that you can improve, even when you are already great. In Eiji’s case, he’s neglected storyboards and editor meetings because he’s been called a genius. That he instantly listens to the two people who oppose him – his rivals no less – shows incredible humility.

And his Growth Mindset is rewarded. He takes the lessons from the people who are working for it, and he incorporates it into the new storyboard. The story is even better because of it, a fact that Yujiro confirms by the end of the chapter.

Part of the joy of comics and narrative media, for me, at least, is the ability to demonstrate admirable qualities through action. In this case, Eiji’s embrace of the lesson immediately and embodying the Growth Mindset throughout the chapter really does a good job of explaining how it works.

But even better than that, is showing the opposite of the growth mindset: Fixed mindset, which Nakai does in a single panel

Poor Nakai

I genuinely feel bad for Nakai in this chapter. He is painted in the most pathetic tones imaginable, and, as someone who has started the process of aging, I actually feel some uncomfortable resonance. I’m pushing 30 and I’ve never had a serious girlfriend, nor am I working the profession I want to work in.

While I could definitely blame the circumstances of modern society, which in fairness, have done nothing to make things better, I choose to focus on the choices i’ve made that have led me to this moment. I am fighting with all my energy to get into artistic fields that people will see and enjoy. But some days I can fall into that self-pitying pit of despair, where it seems like the best moments have passed, and I’m consigned to an oblivion of loneliness.

…I didn’t mean for that to be so heavy.

So this moment was genuinely depressing:

Pure fixed mindset, as nakai explains his issue; not growth mindset at all
Courtesy of VIZ Media; His face

But it was also infuriating.

How Fixed Mindset fixes your circumstances.

Nakai’s spiel about being stuck because of his age is almost certainly true to a large extent. I would not at all be shocked if older Mangaka debut less frequently than kids in their early 20’s. But by that same token – and the reason I don’t stay in pits of despair – is that I know that if you put in the work, and you put in the right kind of work, you can succeed.

Nakai’s experience in the industry has jaded him to the process. He feels like the ship has passed him by because he waited too long. that is his fixed sense of things. If he wasn’t so focused on how miserable he was. On how consistent of a failure he was – a thing that at least in part he has trained himself to focus on – and he actually did stuff like Fukuda like studying, and working on storyboards in his own time, he might get a series.

It’s not a guarantee that he would. He might fail a lot. But even Saiko sees that he can do the work. He can draw beautiful backgrounds freehand. His ability is self-evident. If he incorporated a Growth Mindset, and applied that pure earned skill storyboarding his own ideas, he could get a series.

But because he doesn’t have a growth mindset – because he is focused on his failure and not his ability – he is in a fixed mindset that offers no hope of escape.

That’s bullshit.

Growth Mindset doesn’t guarantee success

I don’t want that little rant to be misconstrued: even putting in the work doesn’t guarantee success. There are some hamstrings that might be unmoveable. But if your belief in your inability prevents you from doing anything, then it’s a guarantee that nothing will happen.

If you think you can grow, more often than not, you will believe you are able to put in the work necessary to succeed. The likelier you believe yourself able to succeed, the likelier you are to succeed. It’s not the belief, but the growth mindset’s capacity to inspire you to do the work. Which is what Eiji, Fukuda, and Saiko do.

I’m liking Fukuda more and more. He seems like a better mirror for Saiko overall given his knowledge of the industry. And Even Saiko exhibits some growth mindset in listening to Fukuda talk about how he should treat the industry like a business. I’m curious to see how this three pronged rivalry pans out.

Meta-Fictional ending

As always, this series keeps killing it with the meta-nods. Evil scheming Saiko is fucking hilarious, and I live for that little devilish look he gives at the end. He’s gonna have his growth mindset, but he ain’t above stealing shit too.

I also want to point out that Eiji’s revelation about Cliché mollifies my continued belief that people need to chill out on tropes. The fact that he, like Saiko recognizes that Cliché can still be interesting, will never not fill me up with puffed up glee at my own beliefs.

But I’ve kept you here long enough.

If you liked this, please share it. Or consider liking me on Facebook and Twitter. I could always use the social capital. It makes me feel like I’m not writing to the endless void.

Tell me if you have a growth mindset, or a fixed mindset.

Until next time

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