Howdy amigos, welcome to the read-through for Bakuman Chapter 27: Schemer and Deceit. Today, we admire and talk about Con-Detective Hattori’s Keikaku, that means strategy.
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Without further ado, Chapter 27:
Schemer and Deceit: Summary
Con-Detective Hattori Springs to Action
After Hattori’s ultimatum from the previous chapter, Mashiro is unsure what to do. Hattori tells him not to make any decisions if he’s not entirely sure how to move forward. Hattori, to
distract help calm Mashiro down, tells him to go home, practice his artwork and show him storyboards when he’s done.
Good guy, Hattori.
As he leaves, Hattori asks whether and he and Takagi go to the same school. Mashiro confirms and lets him know they’re in the same class.
Con-detective Hattori springs into action. He calls Takagi and tells him to come to the office the next day. Takagi doesn’t understand: he doesn’t even have storyboards ready to show. Hattori tells him to come anyway and not to tell Saiko about his idea for a Detective Manga. Takagi’s suspicious but agrees to come by around 6.
The Game Plan
At the office, he asks whether Takagi still wants to be a writer. Hattori points out that the artist position is more popular by far, so Takagi has a legit shot at success even at his age. Takagi points out he would have wanted to be an artist if he could draw. Hattori then gets to the crux of the issue: are he and Mashiro done for realsies?
Takagi points that he recruited Mashiro, so he was the one who wanted to begin with, so of course, he’d prefer to remain a duo. Takagi still thinks he’s broken up with his BFF and is resolved to succeed before Mashiro.
Hattori offers to repair the relationship and get them back together if Takagi agrees to follow him exactly. Hattori tells him that they are perfectly synchronized and tells him about Mashiro’s desire to make a Detective Manga.
Takagi, shocked, asks whether Hattori told Mashiro of his plans. He explains that he was surprised: the two of them came up with the same idea simultaneously. Hattori wants Takagi not to tell Mashiro about his idea until they graduate from high school…in 2 years.
At Takagi’s distress, Hattori finally lets loose with his frustrations with both Mashiro and Jump: Mashiro is desperate to get a manga and Hattori breaks down how Jump chooses new series: either a mangaka has a popular one-shot, or if they submit 3 chapters that are “good” they are given a series. He explains how this sets up many Mangaka for failure as many amateurs are not going to be ready for the rigor of the job, or the challenges of long-form storytelling.
That’s why he wants Takagi to join him in crafting an amazing story over the next two years. Since it’s not a battle manga, he can’t wait for them shit something out in six months, and, more importantly, the both of them should take it slow and start after high school.
If he agrees to that, he’ll keep Mashiro from taking a partner to get a series.
Hattori’s Ultimate Goal & Takagi’s Frustration
Takagi thinks about Saiko’s desire to end up with Miho and objects to preventing his friend’s happiness: he should get a series if he’s earned it. Hattori’s frustration gets the better of him and he asks Takagi: do you believe that Mashiro can handle a whole series alone while still in high school, especially doing both the storyboards and art? Eiji Nizuma is the exception, not the rule.
Takagi internally agrees with him but says nothing. Hattori explains that he spoke with Mashiro the day before and explains how his relationship with Takagi kept him from doing artwork for a manga that won an award in Story King’s Storyboard contest.
Takagi balks and says there isn’t any reason to hide Takagi’s idea if that’s the case; Hattori remains firm on his stance: they should focus on a well thought out storyboard for the both of them (so that they are truly successful). Hattori’s cajoling is unsuccessful and Takagi asks him to stop: if he does that, he’ll be forced to work on Mashiro’s character. If he wants to win, he’ll do it himself and if Mashiro wants to join him, after then he can do so.
Hattori relents and apologizes for pushing too hard. Takagi leaves to make more storyboards, and privately Hattori celebrates his victory of having Takagi focus on making an excellent detective story and not tell Mashiro.
At high school, Mashiro asks Takagi why he’s always sleeping at school: It’s his new plan so he can spend the night working on storyboards. Takagi what’s up and Mashiro complains that storyboards are hard and that he admires Takagi’s talent. Mashiro and Takagi talk about Eiji Nizuma getting a color page at the front of the magazine; he also compliments Eiji’s growth as a storyteller. Mashiro explains that it’s no longer Eiji, but his assistants too.
Takagi asks about Fukuda and Mashiro tells him about his experience at the offices and his drawing storyboards. Mashiro finally stops being coy and asks how he does it. Takagi explains the process as coming up with the idea, writing it down on his computer in dialogue, and then dividing the panels according to the story.
Mashiro continues to mope: he has no skill for coming up with a story, but he’ll push on for Miho’s sake. After a time skip to October Fukuda calls Mashiro while he works on his storyboards. Fukuda has gotten a one-shot in jump and Nakai is going balls to the wall with storyboards, even if the plot is sometimes hard to follow, and they are all great. Fukuda tells Mashiro he’s part of Team Nizuma, whether he likes it or not.
Of course, Mashiro compares himself to them and has a minor freak out, while also watching Miho’s roles in two programs that air late at night. He laments his pace, and freaks out about life. As one does.
The next day, Mashiro and Takagi meet up again. They observe the bags under each other’s eyes. Takagi hands over 5 storyboards to get cleaned up, for 100 yen apiece, per their agreement. Mashiro has yet to come up with a single storyboard.
When Mashiro looks at the storyboard, he’s shocked to discover that it’s a detective manga “Invisible Detective Skeleton” (eek). He asks whether Hattori told him anything, which Takagi confirms, but only after telling him he had planned to do a detective manga a month in advance. He got the idea after hanging out with Kaya and looking at the Cell Phone Novels website; on the same day, Saiko quit his gig with Nizuma to focus on his idea.
They both laugh at the synchronicity and the irony of the situation.
They become Saiko and Shujin once more (although that was me just being derpy, more below) and Shujin explains how Hattori was scheming behind their backs. They discuss the plan and now that Takagi’s told him, they’ll have to tell Hattori. Takagi backtracks because he remembers breaking the deadline.
Saiko forgives him and gets vulnerable: he was just jealous because he thought he was wasting time with Kaya over the summer. And then he gets all adorable.
The New Game Plan
Having finally reunited, they agree to deceive the schemer by pretending they’re still broken up for about six months, claiming they have no storyboards. While they lie about it, they’ll work on not three, but, like Ten Perfect Chapters. But 2 years is too long, so they’ll do it for over six months, instead.
Their deception of Hattori is on, and Saiko compliments Shujin’s ingenuity with this deceit. Saiko credits Shujin with acting just like the Detective he has in mind, and Saiko explains that the deception is something their detective would do. After a month apart, they join forces again.
They comment on the unusual speed with which this about-face occurs and make a joke about how that only happens in a manga.
*cue eye roll*
They plan to go to the studio to discuss the character further when Kaya catches them trying to ditch school…again. They point out she’s also late, which is why she’s putting pedals to the metal. Saiko tells her they’re going down to the studio and invites her to join. She thought she wasn’t allowed, but Saiko tells her they’ve teamed up again, so it’s all good. We get a panty shot (sigh), and then Kaya yells at them both for worrying her so much. She’s been crying at home, thinking about how she broke up the dream team.
Saiko apologizes and offers to make it up to her and she decides to come with them, thrilled that they’re back together (aww).
Kaya then realizes she told Miho that they broke up, despite Shujin telling her not to do that. Kaya and Shujin argue semantics, but Saiko texts her to let her know the deal. In class, Miho gets the text and responds instantly: she’s happy they’re together, and she’s a little jealous that Takagi and he are so closely linked together frequency wise. Kaya pokes fun at the blushing Saiko as the chapter closes.
Panel of the Week
This isn’t one of the more profound panels of the week, but I like how dense it is. This chapter was a fattie (look at that summary), and this panel was one of the densest.
Mostly, I like how it’s a sausage-getting-made panel, but it packs it’s visual information linearly down the middle in a way that’s nice and visually harmonious. There’s a nice division between Hattori in a white outfit with black hair, sitting across from Takagi in a black outfit with blonde hair, and the contrasting methods of Jump’s actual process sitting haphazardly as two actual comic books juxtaposed with Hattori’s plan in a speech bubble with the content. The contrast between the outside/inside — Quality/Quantity — Business/art is put in a nice artistic framework.
Basically, this panel conveys its information in a parallel fashion that creates tension between ideas while also explaining the process. You can’t really get much better than that. The fact that it’s visually compelling is a major bonus.
Speaking of Parallelism
Hattori’s 4D Chess
I’m not going to lie; I feel like I’m getting redundant here. But it has to be said. That is how you do 4D Chess/Keikaku/Strategy via Hattori.
Like, that’s some genius ass structural stuff.
As I’ve pointed out, what is getting to be an annoying number of times, Bakuman has the rare privilege of always getting to be meta in its storytelling. Every storytelling choice made by the characters when writing manga will prime the audience as to how the story will be told in the story’s version of the real world. That’s what makes most stories about storytelling compelling to me.
But in chapter 27, I think this is the first major advancement of the story where the meta-element felt truly enmeshed in the storytelling organically.
As I pointed out in the last chapter, Hattori is basically taking the role of Con-Detective Hikake as outlined by Saiko insofar as he’s conning the two boys to get back together, and much to my predictions, he conned them into rejoining. They used the best detective manga elements and melded it with an in-universe MacGuffin to make a commentary on themselves while also telling the story. It’s a twisty, satisfying knot that tells you about itself recursively.
I promise I’m not trying to break your brain.
But what’s truly next-level about it, in this case, is that Hattori totally did inception here. Think about this: he gave them six months to come up with a good battle manga storyboard. Through his subtle manipulations of Shujin – telling him to wait two years and make it amazing, and also that he thinks the idea of making only three-chapter is woefully short-sighted, he planted the seeds for Shujin’s own “deception.”
Now, both Saiko and Shujin are going to take their time to make a good story, in 6 months, the original deadline, but they’re going to pace themselves, and they’re going to give him 10 storyboards.
Even Hattori’s observation about Shujin is likely misleading the audience slightly. If I had to guess, he set up all these details and deceits to get them to think that they were coming up with this idea themselves to work on schedule and slow down. I half expect in an upcoming chapter he’ll reveal that that was his keikaku all along. That means strategy
I’m still not tired of that joke yet.
But he really is a great editor, a fact that is only re-iterated with this chapter
Good Guy, Hattori
Which brings me to Hattori’s stick in the mud attitude toward the pace. I still appreciate it. Even though Saiko didn’t ultimately come up with a storyboard, he definitely got the experience of going it alone and being a mess. Shujin slept through his classes. Hattori is the necessary adult/sensei in the room, and I love that he’s constantly keeping these kids on a leash.
I don’t want them to burnout. And I think, ultimately, Hattori understands that well. He’s an editor, which must feel at times like herding cats (artists are a complicated bunch). Given jump’s obnoxious turnover for employment in the magazine, he must have seen countless burnouts and failures.
He knows what the cost of rushing is. More to the point, he understands how to cultivate potential, and it’s not by doing a three-day bleach style ride-or-die training arc. It’s by refining your craft, honing things, and pacing yourself.
So, basically, Hattori’s the best, and he needs to never change.
But I’m not unsympathetic to Saiko and Shujin’s struggle.
Comparing yourself to others and mastering your craft
What hit me most in this chapter was Fukuda and Nakai’s growth. I felt, acutely, how much pain Saiko was in when he heard how they were progressing because that’s a pain I’ve felt.
I have several friends who I went to film school with working in film in some capacity or another. I also have a cadre of friends who are doing nothing related to their chosen field of study. I’m somewhere in the middle. I’ve been writing screenplays and novels (I like writing a lot), and I’ve also started drawing some shitty comics for fun. I love storytelling, and I want to tell stories.
But I’m not published, and I don’t have an audience. And even though I’ve stopped engaging in the kind of lassitude that keeps one from pursuing their dreams, I still don’t feel like I’ve made progress. When I see friends get writer’s room gigs, or do something amazing, win screenwriting competitions, I inevitably compare myself to them and feel the sting of my own lack of progress.
So it’s not like I don’t understand Saiko and Shujin’s need for speed. I have it too.
But, now that I’m older, I see the need for pacing oneself. I’ve burned out before and it is absolutely no fun. It drains the life out of you and makes your art fucking suck. And I fear that Saiko and Shujin are at risk for that.
Again, Jump is a brutal platform, and Hattori’s criticisms have merit. He’s a fan and on the inside.
A Postscript on names
While I don’t have a lot else to mention in this chapter, I should note that I changed from Saiko & Shujin to Mashiro & Takagi because, when I opened the chapter, I thought they referred to each other by their given names. After all, they weren’t the dream team anymore.
I forgot that Hattori always calls them by their given names. So whoops. But I’m not changing it because I like the effect of that on their eventual reunion.
And man, that reunion was quite excellent. Even though it went on for too long, I love how they’re on the same page in perfect synchrony, to the point where they got the idea on the same day and even made a meta-joke about how that only happens in the manga. It makes me smile and feel hopeful for my own artistic endeavors, which I’m working on for real feel more real.
I have an idea where they’re going, but it’s nice to see that we’re now entering the phase of the story where they’re almost ready to make a manga.
I, for one, am very excited.
As I am for my art.
I have no stray thoughts for today.