Howdy-hoe neighbors, and welcome to my read-through of Bakuman Chapter 24: Notes and Character. In today’s read-through, we discuss character retcons, meta-commentary, and horny mangaka. What delights await us.
If you aren’t caught up, hit up this schwifty index over here to catch up to the currently read chapter. There are no spoilers past the current chapter. Tread feely.
If you would like to read along or support the mangaka like a decent person, please consider buying the tankobon from Amazon or off VIZ Media’s site of the current volume, or subscribe to Weekly Shonen Jump. Also buy merch, to really support the guys. I recommend Weekly Shonen Jump, given the fact that it’s 1.99 a month and you can read the whole ass series. I am not sponsored or affiliated with VIZ Media, I just like artists making bank.
Anyway, without further ado, Chapter 24.
Notes and Character: Summary
Fukuda questions authority
Yujiro listens to Eiji talk about the fact that he’s going to be the most popular mangaka in jump. He recollects the…shady deal he made with Eiji, but assures himself that there’s no chance of him being 1st in both the survey and sales. Yujiro shakes off that thought – it’s literally his job to make Nizuma Numbah One.
Yujiro says he’ll come back tomorrow – they’ll definitely have the chapter finished by then – but before he leaves, Fukuda stops him with a question: are series ranked in terms of popularity.
Yujiro replies that that’s not exactly the case and provides a lawyer’s answer: while popularity doesn’t ensure the front of the magazine, aside from gag manga, the most popular tend to end up in the front, and the least popular in the back. Fukuda wonders why; Yujiro explains that all the major magazines do it.
Fukuda points out that’s unfair as it sets up a bias towards the magazine that is in front and those series get boosted because the younger kids will latch onto the more popular series. Fukuda then says they should order the series on a rotating basis because it would influence the results more evenly.
Yujiro takes this information and then uses his power as the editor to tell Fukuda to shove it, in so many words. Fukuda downplays it as just his opinion while Saiko lies in shock at Fukuda’s brazen disregard for the hierarchy: questioning Shonen Jump when he doesn’t even have a series.
Fukuda doubles down: he doesn’t like how the decisions for popular manga are made almost arbitrarily and that editors are admitting they don’t know have the brains to rotate series and spread the love or make informed choices.
Yujiro warns Fukuda against saying that to other editors for the sake of his own career. Yujiro – because he’s a nice guy – will overlook all the abuse, and will listen to his suggestions. Fukuda, dense as ever, continues.
Meta-Commentary, part 24
Fukuda explains how, in the current system, authors are forced to act flashy and compelling to keep audience interest, and that you can screw up as quickly as the 3rd chapter. Fukuda argues that that prevents true creativity in the mangaka pool. He thinks that the editorial office should wait until the first volume is out before making any decisions about whether to keep a series or not.
Yujiro counters that if they did that, it would screw the whole system up, and it would only allow for five new series a year, and the cancellation of popular series, as well.
Fukuda then points out a meta-point about Bakuman itself (honestly, what chapter is complete without some commentary)
Yujiro asks why he’s bringing this up and wonders if this has to do with Fukuda’s series. Fukuda says that it has nothing to do with his own series. His series will start with genius from the get-go. Yujiro tells him to focus on his line of work and not give the editors notes on how to edit.
Eiji is inspired by Fukuda’s insight into the dangers of being all about them surveys.
He is moved by Fukuda’s foresight and for his idea of rotating manga throughout the year. Saiko observes all of it, noting the validity of both Yujiro and Fukuda’s viewpoint. Fukuda then explains that his favorite manga in jump is To Love Ru which is why he hates the survey. Eiji, the cinnamon roll that he is, doesn’t understand why.
Fukuda elaborates that because To Love Ru (toraburu — trouble transliterated) is a bit “naughty”, it gets a hit in the surveys cause of all those darn elementary school kids…Fukuda also expresses his frustration that despite sending surveys for I’s and Strawberry 100%, because they were “a bit naughty” they were underserved in popularity.
Saiko figures out why Fukuda doesn’t like the surveys – among other things – and Fukuda elaborates on how elementary school children fuck the survey numbers up for decent…*sigh* harem manga to get a shot.
The boys bond over To Love-Ru being a real man’s manga.
The boys start talking about To Love-Ru’s popularity, and how it sells well and gets plenty of color pages; Fukuda wants more color pages. Saiko argues that the desires of a single person don’t outweigh those of an entire community, and, further, putting a naughty manga on the front cover might hurt Shonen Jump’s reputation.
Eiji remembers a panty-shot in Fukuda’s akamaru entry Diligent Delinquent; Fukuda waxes poetic about Kentaro Yabuki’s professionalism. Eiji enjoys the conversation about manga and sees Fukuda’s vision for changing WSJ as mentioned last chapter.
While Fukuda has noble intentions, his desire is to see pin-ups on the cover as part of the rotating schedule, which Saiko points out, again, is selfish. Nakai continues drawing. Fukuda doubles down: other magazines use cheap titillation to sell magazines; Saiko defends the honor of Weekly Shonen Jump, saying it doesn’t need such cheap tricks.
Nakai, however, finally snaps and asks them to focus on finishing Chapter 5, which is due tomorrow. Everyone gets back to work. Nakai asks how much more Eiji has to do. He is finished, but admires the incredible backgrounds of one Mr. Nakai. Fukuda compliments his skills as well, and Saiko notes he’s learned the most from Nakai.
Eiji decides to sleep since he’s done but he promises Fukuda to not wake up until Yujiro returns and that he will discuss the next chapter with him.
Fukuda asks Eiji to come up with new ideas for subsequent chapters, to which Eiji agrees. He wants to add a new character and asks Fukuda for help, but Fukuda’s mentorship has expired as of Chapter 5’s completion. Eiji goes to his notebooks to find a sketch of someone to be a new character. Eiji pulls out notebook after notebook of childhood drawings.
He then discusses how when he was young, living in the remote aomori prefecture, and being broke, he would spend all his days drawing manga, as it was his favorite thing to do. Fukuda notes most manga artists started drawing at a young age, and their advanced drawing skill allowed them to pursue manga as a profession. Saiko realizes this is true for him as well.
He remembers drawing Manga as a kid up until his uncle died. He remembers dividing the panels up and everything. Eiji notes he created Crow when he was a kid. Fukuda joins in with the fact that he uses riffs on characters he created when he was a kid.
Saiko remembers just how much fun it was drawing Manga at home, there was no better thing than that. He realizes Shujin probably has similar stories that he had as a kid. He also recognizes where Shujin’s strengths lie. He tells Eiji that he is quitting as his assistant.
Eiji realizes that Saiko has had an epiphany. Saiko thanks Eiji, Fukuda and Nakai. Eiji gives him permission to quit. Fukuda, in character, bitches about it, asking Saiko to stay and help finish the chapter. But Nakai intervenes: he’s got this shiz. He also allows Fukuda to quit.
Nakai then pulls out his glorious Shonen face and promises Saiko that he’s gonna get his shit together and get a series in Jump. He won’t stay an assistant forever (yay). He notes that what a manga artist needs most is Gattsu from Berserk. Sorry, I meant Guts.
Saiko promises to get a series himself.
The next day, they hand the final draft of Chapter 5 and Yujiro expresses frustration at Saiko’s quitting but he is convinced that three assistants are unnecessary by Nakai and Fukuda.
Saiko leaves with renewed inspiration and the feeling he felt when he wanted to start drawing. Ready to move forward, he heads home to find the comics he drew in middle school to see something that will help with the stories Shujin wants to write.
Soul in the game.
I just love that image. It reminds me of an anecdote about a young kid who loved manga and dreamed of making one when he got older. Throughout his youth, he would work on this manga in his spare time, creating characters, and building up the world giving it a simple TBD: Pirate Manga. He would, at 17 become an assistant to another Mangaka, and eventually would submit his One-Shot Romance Dawn to Akamaru. The success of that manga would lead to the start of the world’s most popular manga, One Piece; the young kid, Eiichiro Oda.
Despite the very harsh realities attendant to mangaka – the low pay, the brutal hours, and the perpetual stress of cancellation – there is something that inspires those who resonate with manga to stick with it. And I think, despite the fact that this chapter was super all over the place thematically, that soul in the game shines through most of all.
But this panel really sums up the beauty of Manga as a form. It utilizes the thought bubble and extremely well-drawn backgrounds by what I will assume is a baller ass assistant and shows Eiji’s genesis through a static image and some words. The detail gives the panel a richness that was clearly meant for a revelatory moment. It fits in nicely with the dichotomy of this chapter.
As a chapter though, Notes and Character comes off as both a love letter and a list of grievances against Jump which doesn’t mix incredibly well. The start of the chapter litigating the notoriously impenetrable surveys/sales metrics used to determine the life or death of a series in Jump is such a comically on the nose criticism of the magazine that I’m genuinely shocked that the editor for this series let it slide.
Harem Manga & Meta-Commentary
I have not read To Love-Ru, I am still very much a fledgling weeb, but I’ve found my own highly enjoyable Harem Manga in We Never Learn (Bokutachi Wa Benkyouga Dekinai) which is the epitome of guilty pleasure material. I have no illusions as to why these series are stuck in stasis – they are thirsty as hell – in surveys, but the fact that Fukuda’s entire motivation for being a petulant little shit because he wants his pervy-manga to top the charts is endearingly shitty.
Fukuda makes for a good asshole. And His characters growth serves as a joyful counterpoint to Saiko’s self seriousness and Eiji’s relative innocence.
But I think this is an example of Ohba and Obata getting personal in their meta-analysis. That they give a mangaka the power to bitch out an editor in the form of Fukuda must feel very cathartic. I’m almost certain that bit about the slow burn style came from their own early submission Pre-Death Note and honestly, the whole thing feels a bit saltier than usual. I’m sure this is not going to be the only time we see editors get their comeuppance courtesy of the two. It’s also a nice character beat that his Akamaru submission was “a bit naughty”
As I noted in the last chapter, Eiji’s growth from cold-blooded douche to loveable flanderized cinnamon roll has been incredible, and I like how he has been drawn in an increasingly less sharp style. If you look on the front page of this chapter, Eiji’s face is less sharp angles and dangerous eyes and more from chapter 9 to….Jojo poses and a head that looks like boiled cabbage.
I’m glad the series is revisiting that moment with trepidation. It is unclear how it will progress the story, but it’s hard to reconcile that cold bloodedness with the current incarnation of Eiji.
What is there to be done about that plot point, though? I have a feeling it will come back to bite our hero’s asses at some point in the near future, but it’s really hard to tell given the character trajectory of Eiji so far. I feel like canceling a series because he’s popular is almost a moral event horizon for this series at this point: there ain’t no going back after that trigger is pulled. But we’ll see.
Speaking of, I wonder if the surveys had anything to do with the change in his demeanor. Given this chapter’s gripes with the system, it wouldn’t surprise me if people didn’t like Eiji when he premiered and so Ohba and Obata went back to the drawing boards to change his character.
Surveys are life
A propos of the changes to Eiji’s character, the mention of surveys and the rotating schedule also brought to mind Time Paradox Ghost-Writer, in which the main character’s flaw – plagiarism – struck such a negative chord with Japanese that the series currently looks to be on the chopping block, which is a shame because the series itself has had a lot of potential.
I like that the surveys are coming under scrutiny because that manga was great, and now, because it was unpopular in japan, it likely faces cancellation. I wish there were a way to influence the industry so that international readers could have a say, but c’est la vie.
What does interest me, however, is how the rotating cycle of publications has somewhat taken root in the online publication. Generally, there is a rotation of series on WSJ’s platform (which you should subscribe to) where the top chapter isn’t always the most popular. While it’s not reflective of the Japanese or Paper editions, it is a nice touch and it gives a sense of variety to the weekly offerings.
Overall, I struggled to pin down a single thing about this chapter that really propelled it into the stratosphere. It was focusing on a lot of things at once, and while each of the moments works, they don’t cohere into something greater with the exception of Soul in the Game.
The heart of this chapter is a genuine love for manga is likely what kept it from being impossible to track thematically. I like that the teaser in the previous chapter was immediately abandoned because Saiko’s revelation was glorious. Also because that kind of shaggy dog nonsense baiting readers to read the next chapter is something I find hysterical
I’m a sucker for big epiphanic moments, and this one really hit home. Not because I drew manga as a kid – I sketched dragon ball z poorly in elementary school – but for a reason, that’s embarrassing for my near 30-year-old ass.
When Saiko talks about how the happiest he feels is drawing Manga, I have a similar feeling. I’ve started doodling and drawing manga in a limited capacity. Really just learning to draw at this point. I have no drawing skills to speak of, yet, but simply putting pen to page and drawing stuff is surprisingly enjoyable. It feels tensionless, a pure expression of joy and fun. And it makes the process of reading manga even more fun.
I have the feeling when I write screenplays, and when I shoot things, and record music. But when I open Clip Studio Paint and make panels it feels…it’s a hard feeling to pin down. It’s like a rush, an overwhelming release. A lightness all over.
If I weren’t a a near 30 year old dude in America, I’d more actively consider making it a living. I suppose there are OELM (Original English Language Manga) out there, but it’s not the same. And the market is not nearly as large.
In any case, when Saiko has that realization, it fucking checked my box. That it ties up the conflict that’s been ongoing for about 5 chapters adds to my satisfaction. I have a feeling he is going to return to Shujin ready to tell some real stories and drop the generic nonsense schtick.
It’s also just genuinely inspiring to see someone get their second wind in a creative endeavor.
Nakai’s Growth Mindset
What makes me happiest though was seeing Nakai drop his fixed mindset, which you can read about in last chapter’s recap, and decided he’s going to grit it out to get a series of his own. Despite his protestation that he doesn’t want to be complimented, I think it got to him.
In any event, I’m glad the dude decided to drop that nasty mindset. It’s inspiring. It’s bouyant, just like the last portion of this chapter.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to open clip studio paint and pick from my roster of invented characters from my youth.