Hi Hi Hi, and welcome to my read-through of Bakuman Chapter 26: Two and One. Today we’ll go over why Hattori is da real MVP and why Saiko and Shujin are frustratingly stupid.
If you are not caught up, please use this handy ol’ index here featuring all previous read-throughs up to the current chapter. There are no spoilers past the current chapter, so don’t worry if you, like me, are a first time reader.
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There are no housekeeping notes, so, without further ado, the chapter.
Two and One: Summary
The date is August 31st Saiko resolves to move forward, with or without Shujin. , Shujin is down to the wire and…he can’t think of a story. He gets stuck on gimmicky detective stories and the protagonists traits. The deadline passes and Shujin hasn’t got the storyboard.
Shujin arrives to Saiko’s house at 8:10 with awkward hellos. Saiko informs Shujin of his plans to move forward with manga…alone. Shujin asks him why and Saiko berates him for missing his deadline: mangaka are beholden to their deadlines, no matter the circumstance.
Shujin can’t come up with a good reason to refute him and asks to ditch school and the opening ceremony: Shujin has lost interest in going, Saiko has also lost interest.
Off the side of the bike path, Saiko and Shujin lay against a hill and Shujin gives Saiko the key to his uncle’s studio back. Saiko says he can keep it, but Shujin won’t be needing it anymore. Saiko figures that he’ll bring Kaya, so best to take the key. Eek. Saiko.
Shujin pushes back on Kaya. He explains that he’s more interested in pursuing manga with Kaya as one of his inspirations because he’s serious about her. He doesn’t say that Saiko and Miho’s approach is wrong, but that there are many types of romances…of which Shujin’s more normal.
He ain’t wrong and he goes on: the motivation is the same. Even though Shujin was not initially interested in girls, now he is because…puberty. Saiko apologizes but emphasizes the importance of the deadlines. Shujin tells him that he’s still going to pursue manga as a writer and pointed out that Saiko himself told him there are plenty of people who are good at art.
Saiko tells him his storyboards still suck, so he’ll clean them up for him if he wants….for 100 yen per storyboard. D’aww.
Saiko also tells him he will change their pseudonym from Muto Ashirogi to Muto Ashiro should he get a debut. He asks if it’s ok. Shujin doesn’t understand why he doesn’t go all the way and come up with a new pseudonym but tells him it’s ok.
At that moment Kaya finds them to yell at both of them for missing the opening ceremony and being late. Shujin, with a good angle comments on Kaya’s taste in panties…
Just as she’s about to whip his ass three ways from the opening ceremony Shujin asks her to accompany him home, which appropriately creeps her out. Saiko watches them leave, all bummed out.
Taking the Blame
Shujin explains the situation to Kaya and she freaks out about how strict Saiko is about all this. Shujin blames himself because he missed the deadline. Kaya stops dead in her tracks and blames herself for him missing the deadline. She blames herself because he spent the summer vacation with her.
Shujin counters with the fact that he was working on a manga story the entire time. Kaya tries to go back to Saiko to explain, but Shujin forbids her because he doesn’t want her to make excuses fto Saiko ever. Instead, he’ll take the blame. Kaya still wants to go but Shujin explains that Saiko knows it wasn’t Kaya’s fault, to begin with. He reassures her that he’ll become a story writer and Saiko will become an artist and they’ll simply take diverging paths.
Shujin explains that he likes her and that it’s motivated him more to pursue this art and, further Saiko understands that motivation. Shujin explains that if she blabs about all this, he’ll end up hating her. Shujin reasons to himself that it’s to work even harder. He doesn’t want to betray Saiko.
Telling Hattori the Bad News
Saiko calls Hattori about the break-up. Hattori is shocked and asks for clarification, which Saiko doesn’t want to share. Hattori asks him to come down to the offices which Saiko agrees to do in the afternoon after class. He asks for both Shujin and Saiko to come, but Saiko says they can’t come together.
At the offices, Hattori asks if they had a fight but Saiko denies doing something so childish. Cause clearly this shit isn’t completely childish. While there, Saiko pulls out his idea for Con-Detective Hikake with several ideas for drawings. Hattori sees the potential and if it had the right story, being an honest-to-god hit. He asks whether Saiko still wants to pursue the mainstream style manga. Saiko explains that detective manga is mainstream and classic.
Hattori asks to excuse himself and to the other room where he calls Shujin.
Hattori asks why Shujin and Saiko have broken up and Shujin explains the debacle with the storyboards. Hattori thinks Saiko’s too strict, but Shujin sees it as dedication. Shujin explains further that he doesn’t think he has it in him to do battle manga but doesn’t know what to do because Saiko is set on mainstream manga.
He then explains that he spent his summer coming up with a detective manga. Woof.
Shujin, sounding purely defeated asks to come to visit him alone to show the storyboards. Hattori confirms whether he told Saiko about the detective manga instead of being vague and non-committal. Shujin didn’t because he didn’t feel he could given Saiko’s obsession and his deadline. He was planning to show him the storyboard after the break, but he couldn’t finish it so now he’s giving it a go himself.
Hattori becomes the audience and asks what the fuck is up with these two
dipshits teenagers. Wasting no time, Hattori tells him he thinks detective manga is perfect for Shujin and asks him to make tons of storyboards and bring them down ASAP. Shujin reminds him of the current predicament and Hattori doesn’t care, he just wants a generic character and to come up with deductions and gimmicks.
Shujin pushes back based on Hattori’s advice to make an attractive Main Character, but Hattori tells him to forget about that for now, noting the importance of gimmicks and the detective solving them being the main attraction. He gives him a rousing shonen speech about having confidence before going.
Hattori to the rescue
Meanwhile, Yujiro is told that Crow is going to get a color page as he talks with Fukuda about the current chapter. He makes a rude comment about timing and asks to have the storyboards faxed over. Fukuda tells him to pick them up directly, which pisses Yujiro off – though he claims to admire Fukuda’s cockiness. He relents and agrees to come over and pick them up.
Saiko watches Yujiro, thinking about how Eiji and Fukuda are making manga, and longs to get some work himself. Hattori returns and tells Saiko to make storyboards for this idea cause he likes it a lot. At that moment, however, another editor walks in on them, sees Saiko alone, and asks if he broke up with Shujin.
Saiko and Hattori react with horror and the editor is surprised he got it right. He wants to poach Saiko and asks him if he wants to work on a series that won an award in the Last Story King Storyboard contest but Hattori erupts and stands protectively in front of Saiko.
The editor scurries away confused and Hattori apologizes for raising his voice. Hattori explains that the opportunity he was just provided would have the potential to be very popular and that popularity could translate to a potential series.
Hattori apologizes for his outburst. He is willing to let it go so he can get the job. While Saiko dreams of Miho and a series, Hattori drops a bomb: if he says yes, he’ll probably never work with Shujin again.
Saiko remembers all the good times they’ve had up to now, and starts to freak out. He has a crisis of conscience and is on the verge of tears while Hattori deviously smiles to himself.
Panel of the Week
There is nothing super special about this panel, this week, it’s just very very pretty and I like how pretty it is. I’m pretty sure at this point that Nakai is based on one of their own assistants, because damn, that background work is on. point.
This is so well-drawn, that I wonder if it’s based on a photograph that was traced; I’ve seen it before in other Manga, and it’s so rich in detail that it’s possible. But really, I like the serenity of the shot. It feels so naturalistic, especially with Saiko and Shujin occupying the bottom of the panel in relaxed, calm poses.
Also, there is some sweet parallelism between this shot and the panel of the week in Chapter 21? where they drive off toward the horizon line. Instead of being dead center in the frame, heading towards their goals metaphorically, they’ve stopped on the road because they’ve hit a block. That they are just off-center, the bikes are empty, but the road and detail remain creates a powerful sense of cessation and doubling.
Intentional? Maybe. Beautiful, absolutely.
Overanalysis aside let’s talk the important shit.
Hattori is the Best
Hattori is the real MVP of this chapter, without question. The way he is able to look past the plot-induced stupidity to play on Saiko’s obvious character flaws to his ultimate benefit is nothing short of masterful.
I’ve been on Hattori’s side since chapter 8, and his observations on his wards are always right on the money. The man’s no fool, and it’s clearest here. But what I really love is the dedication towards building successful, stable, careers for both Saiko and Shujin. The way he recognizes their strengths while also pushing them past their bullshit to do the things they absolutely need to do is perfection.
And now that the series has entered it’s first genuine crisis point, with the fracture of Saiko and Shujin, the fact that he’s taking the sensei, mentor, surrogate father role seriously is beautiful to see. I love that he actually physically stands in the way of that other editor. It really gives off the quality of protection and guidance that he’s been beacon of so far.
But more than that, he’s acting out the con-detective role because this series loves its metafictional flourishes as much as me. Almost.
It’s subtler this time, he con’s Saiko into believing that he’s letting him do his own thing, but gathers more intel from Shujin, then plays them both so that they can reunite. Even that deviously shaded face at the end is clearly with their benefit in mind, which is why I can’t take it seriously at all. And it’s a meta-gimmick. What’s not to love?
But honestly, I really want Saiko and Shujin back together. Because this is…
Plot Induced Stupidity at its most annoying
Perhaps I could be more forgiving of this chapter’s use of plot induced stupidity if it weren’t so clear that these two knuckleheads are being knuckleheads because the plot demands it. Cause honestly, that’s what it is.
And I’ll be the first to defend in-universe explanations for why certain plot beats occur, and to a certain degree, they make sense. These characters are very well realized and behave generally within believable vectors. That they are so vivid is a testament to their characterization. Shujin feeling like he betrayed Saiko is in character, and his conflicts about his interest in Detective Manga is also believable. Saiko’s childishness regarding his obsessive need to become a mangaka affecting his ability to make rational (see: not idiotic) decisions is in character. The issues that have been building all summer are believable.
But also, Shujin could have told him the issue straightforwardly instead of vaguebooking his way to further conflict. This is one of those low-stakes situations that can easily be resolved by a conversation but isn’t because plot. Again, I’m generally cool with it. But this is frustrating.
And it’s only a case of plot-induced stupidity because the authors forced it so hard. Saiko’s obsession is frequently weird, but he’s capable of listening to Shujin explain. He’s been angry since last chapter, but I feel like Shujin is smart enough to know how to explain this in a way that would clarify anything he has trouble with. It just doesn’t feel organic enough to pass the sniff test.
That cliffhanger worked
I’m pretty patient about the process of reading and I can wait more often than not. To date, no chapter of Bakuman has got me so excited that I almost went ahead. But goddamn this chapter left me blue balled. It ended just before a major climax and that shit is annoying. It is a testament that in 26 chapters these characters feel sufficiently real that this conflict feels so potent. What’s even better is that they haven’t even gotten into making manga for realsies.
My biggest issue with Death Note is that it narratively runs out of steam and keikaku halfway through. Here though, it feels like things are heating up. That this story has been so painstaking about the process of getting a series that it’s taken almost 30 chapters to even approach the main narrative thread means that the conflicts are fresh. And will remain fresh well into the process. There are so many more pitfalls to get into with manga creation that I have the sense that the following 140 chapters are going to brim with story that isn’t just L redux, but actual fresh changes.
The goal of getting an anime is sufficiently hard to do that it feels like the series has a way to go. And the fact that Saiko and Shujin are broken up is fresh. This series has not yet approached its narrative half-life, and that’s exciting because that means it’s possible I won’t be disappointed by lulls or redo’s (I’m looking at you, Near and Mello).
Or, at least, one can dream.
But with that, I leave you. I’m mega excited for the next chapter and the resolution of this arc. It’ll be interesting to see how things progress moving forward.
–I did not need the Kaya pantie shot. I don’t need Kaya fan service. Please stop.
–It’s interesting that Hattori emphasizes the element of Detective Manga that makes it work. Unlike Battles which hinge around powers and fight scenes, it’s about gimmicks and solving crimes. I know that should be common knowledge, but it characterizes Hattori just a little bit more that he’s able to parse out what works about different comics.
–Volume 4, baby. We’re making progress.