In Cooperation and Condition, Serialization is Tantalizingly Close (Bakuman Chapter 28)

Yo, yo, yo, welcome my read-through of Bakuman Chapter 28: Cooperation and Condition in which Saiko and Shujin are painfully close to serialization, Kaya makes me sad for meta reasons, and we get some sweet, sweet Manga Training Arc.

If you’re not caught up with the read-throughs, consider heading over to this nifty index where all current read-throughs are housed. There are no spoilers for any content that isn’t up to this point. Read freely, my friends.

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There are no housekeeping measures to go over, for the time being, so let’s jump in, shall we?

Cooperation and Condition: Summary

Synchronicity

The chapter starts with the glorious reunion of Saiko and Shujin at the studio. Saiko shows Shujin his idea for a con-artist detective, which Shujin likes; he also recognizes it will be a difficult premise to write. He asks for the storyboards that Saiko made, and Saiko begrudgingly hands over the beginning.

Shujin thinks the opening lead-in of faking a murder victim being alive is a bit generic, but a good start for a series because, as Shujin says, “It’s good to start off showing the main character in action.” Shujin offers the idea of giving him disguises, and Saiko latches on instantly, realizing that the characters need special skills so that it’s more fun to read.

Unfortunately, that’s where Saiko’s idea concludes. Shujin and Saiko finally have a bona fide good idea on their hands and revel in the possibilities.

The possibility of serialization.

Shujin’s excitement dims when he remembers that they want to do over five chapters worth of storyboards in just shy of six months. Shujin asks about whether the time frame is flexible. Saiko’s worried, but Shujin explains that Hattori sent him six boxes of detective novels and DVDs to his place in preparation for this.

Cooperation and Condition,  six boxes of Manga, egads
This visual gag is incredible (Source: VIZ Media)

Good Guy, Hattori.

A note comes with the mountain of material about how their ideas will seem similar, but, at the end of the day, it’s all about execution (Hattori and I think similarly), and that Shujin should use all these materials to study.

Shujin says it’ll take at least three months to work through all those materials, and he’d like more time to do both and come up with storyboards. Just as Saiko offers to help, Kaya pipes up.

Kaya’s Dream

Kaya tells them she has a new dream. Shujin asks about the cell-phone novels, but she says that she’s no good at writing and she’s a straight C student in grammar, so that’s on the outs. Shujin is astonished at how long it took her to figure this out; then she tells them her new dream: To help them both succeed.

Shujin’s confused, but Kaya offers to help them on their training arc by watching all those DVDs and reading all the Manga and telling them summaries of each of them. She says her grades may take a hit, but it’s a sacrifice she’s willing to make.

She notes that she thought about it a lot, and she just wants to see Shujin succeed and for Saiko to get the girl. And…also…

That she and Shujin will get married; Shujin does a spit-take. He didn’t see this shit coming, and they get into a couple- argument about how they made out, and he said he loved her. Saiko is not amused and takes it all with stoic silence. She asks again: Will Shujin marry her, even if he isn’t a manga artist. Shujin, appropriately, freaks the hell out but doesn’t want to make her cry.

He tells her he’ll consider it if he succeeds: he doesn’t want to freeload. Kaya doesn’t understand what’s wrong if she wants to help them and offers to cook for them. Saiko thinks they should watch the stories themselves to get the vibes just right. Kaya freaks out on Saiko for always excluding her, and she thinks he’s too precious with the dream to end up with Miho. She’s in tears when he asks her to help.

She breaks down totally while Saiko smirks like an asshole. Saiko then orders her to drop by Shujin’s house to pick up the boxes.

With all in line, they decide to move forward on their storyboards with Kaya’s help.

Miho’s Weakness

At school, a girl spies the three musketeers talking and walks up to ask if Shujin and Kaya are going out. Shujin explains that she’s his fiancée and the girl is rendered speechless. She asks Saiko if this guy is serious.

Yep. He is, and Saiko also has a fiancée too. Is that weird or something?

The girl freaks out and runs off. While the three are on their way home, Kaya brings up Miho’s birthday. Saiko says he’ll send her a birthday email; she pushes him on whether that’s enough, but for these nutbars it’s perfectly fine. Saiko explains that he and Shujin aren’t going to be do basically anything until Spring Break while they work on their storyboards.

Kaya tells them about Miho’s CD which will be coming out soon. She explains that the show Saint Visual Girls was so popular that it’s running a full year, which Saiko was told about, but Shujin is completely in the dark on. Kaya explains that the most popular voice actresses are singing the ending song, and Miho will be front and center. Because she’s going to be singing, she wants Kaya to stop Saiko from watching it.

Saiko asks what’s up with that. Kaya doesn’t understand what the issue is. Shujin admires Miho’s pursuit of her dreams.

They all find out why when she sings on air and she’s absolutely awful. Saiko’s so embarrassed that he feels secondhand cringe. Shujin notices that the girls skirts are extremely short which has him….interested. Kaya pulls him out of perv space by pointing out they’re wearing something underneath.

They ask if Saiko’s disappointed, but he’s just bummed that he can see her progress, but she can’t see his. Shujin tells him to send her a photo with his cell phone of the work. He also points out the irony of the entire situation: she doesn’t want him to watch her perform, and he feels embarrassed that she can’t see him.

These two are such idiots, but you gotta love it.

Saiko defends himself and tells them to work hard and Shujin shushes Kaya cause it’s 2 A.M.

Cooperation and Condition

It’s December, and Hattori checks on both of them separately. They both pitch in on their part of the lie: Shujin has watched most of the DVDs, which Hattori buys, and Saiko’s struggling with storyboards. As they spin this tale, Saiko finishes the storyboard for Chapter Four.

In the end they create 8 full storyboards and they think they’re going to get serialized for sure, now.

On April 1st, they take the storyboards to the editorial office. Hattori is shocked by the number of storyboards and the fact that both are together again. They explain they got back together shortly after he told Shujin to work on it for two years. Hattori calls fair play and as proof of their strength as a team.

He takes a look at the eight storyboards. The verdict? Good. Seriously good.

Weee.

Hattori’s shocked by the quality and asks them whether they’re willing to wait until after high school. The answer’s no. Hattori looks at the work and weighs his options. Saiko pushes him to take it to the serialization meeting. Hattori doubles down (again) on his original point: it’s a fucking bad idea. Saiko uses the “But Nizuma’s doing it” defense and Hattori finally relents.

Under two conditions: First, they have to do a One-Shot for the Gold Future Cup and get good results, and second: they must bring him a 19-page final draft of this manga every two weeks until the Gold Future Cup are out. Shujin freaks out at the timeline: they don’t even have a story out.

Hattori points out it would normally be once a week (big yikes), but since they have the Gold Future Cup and no assistants, they won’t have to work on the finishing touches. But, if they do both of those things, he will submit the storyboard for serialization.

Shujin has second thoughts, but Saiko is all-in. Hattori points out he doesn’t just want final drafts for these storyboards, but every two weeks at the same quality. Hattori explains they’ll bring down the chapter every 2 weeks. Hattori muses that it’ll be a practice for a series.

Shujin asks if editors go this far, normally; no, but Hattori will take it this far. If they’re unable to do this, they’ll never have a series in high school. He goes on further: they are nothing like Nizuma, and creating a Detective Manga is totally different from a battle manga. This experience will be great for them, even if they don’t get a series, because they’ll develop the work ethic of a mangaka.

Saiko has a crazy-ass gleam in his eye, ready to tackle this huge task. He didn’t think that Hattori was that serious about them. He’s ready for a series, chomping at the bit. Hattori agrees to follow-through; the bosses will have to give them a series if they do that much. But, he doesn’t want to overlook that the series is good. Really good.

The Gold Future Cup

They both look forward to a potential serialization, but Shujin wonders if they have it in them to do a chapter every 2 weeks. Saiko guarantees he’s going to do it no matter what. Shujin agrees that they’ll have to go all out.

As they walk home, they run into Fukuda who just got done meeting with Yujiro about, of all things, the Gold Future Cup. His one-shot Ranked 7 and Yujiro wants him to revise it for the Gold Future Cup. They tell him they were told to get good results for the Gold Future Cup if they want a series. Fukuda asks whether they’ll definitely be in, but they say it’s not guaranteed, although their editor thinks they have a good shot.

Fukuda was told Yujiro told him he’d get in for sure but that there are only 4-5 slots. He tells them they beat him in Akamaru but he has no intention of losing to them again. They tell him the same and he tells them they’ll fight it out fair and square, and the guy closest to the top will get a series.

Saiko and Shujin reiterate: They’re winning no matter what.

Reaction:

Panel of the Week

Source: VIZ Media

There’s nothing particularly special about the paneling this week. Nothing superlative. But this one, in particular, struck me differently than the others.

I think the details – namely the manga – look like Dragon Ball – lying in the foreground, next to the wrappers strewn across the desk, with the eraser and the G-pen add nice subtle detail to a workspace in use. Then there’s Kaya and Shujin losing their shit to Azuki’s horrible singing. The shabby tv lying on the bookshelf. Saiko’s face and embarrassment; Kaya’s delighted laugh.

Honestly, it just gives off that vibe of it being 2 A.M. working on a project, watching late-night TV. The energy is just right. And the details really give it that tired, late-night vibe. It’s inviting and effortlessly charming, like you’re watching three friends shoot the shit and enjoy themselves even though a deadline hangs over them.

It’s relaxed in the tired way it should be relaxed and tired.

And, although it lacks the fireworks of some previous panels, it’s still quite charming and it does exactly what it sets out to.

Progress, Finally.

This chapter is a lot. There’s the post-reunion excitement at finally finding a good idea among the piles of shit they’d been working on for a shonen battle manga. There’s Kaya’s…dream; more on that below. As always, there’s the meta stuff, and there’s the mouth-watering promise of actually becoming a mangaka.

But this chapter resonates because it feels like the characters are moving forward. In real-time, it would have been almost 30 weeks since the series started, over half a year, and more than a year has passed in the manga itself. A lot of time has passed, and they feel no closer to actually getting anything out. I feel much the same way.

I’ve been on and off on this series because…uhh, life got in the way, and I’ve meant at various points to restart this series and get it out to you regularly, but I’ve been experimenting. I think I’m going to stick with this content for the time being while I work on all the artistic ventures I pursue, of which there are many.

I want to talk about so many things, and finding focus is difficult. I want to make many things, and it’s difficult to stick to one thing for too long. As a direct result, things move slowly, like in the manga. And I want to apologize to those who have been reading consistently because I feel crappy about it.

But I’ve finally made progress, and somethings are finally done, so I’m going to commit to getting this content and some other good stuff.

All that is to say, when I saw the characters making a significant step towards a series, I felt resonance because i”m also feeling that way about a lot of things in my life. It’s both exciting and scary. And the prospect of doing work outside of work is…scary. But also exciting.

And that’s what this chapter captures perfectly.

Hattori’s Still MVP

Hattori must get tired of fucking winning, man because the dude is becoming my favorite character. The 6 BOXES of detective manga and DVDs for Shujin was so hilarious as both a visual gag, but also adorably extra for Hattori. He has so much faith in these kids, and he really wants them to succeed. It’s funny that his dedication amounts to an Urahara level training arc where he wants Shujin watching two years of DVDs to get ideas.

And I think I mentioned it in Chapter 15, but he also thinks that it’s the execution that matters, not an idea’s novelty. But I’ve already litigated that before, and I’ll probably re-litigate it later. And we have much more to cover in this chapter alone, so I’ll leave it at that.

Seriously though, this is how you mentor. I am just as worried as Hattori about these kids’ boneheaded desire to be done now. On the one hand, it’s super amazing that they want to get on with it, and, more importantly, they’re already so devoted to the craft. But his concerns are starting to take on the tone of logistical, unforeseen concerns.

They are going to be overworked if they succeed. It’s just not even a question. Even if they give up on school, they’ll still have to go to it while making a manga. I think the condition of a trial run at the quality they started with, in addition to the Gold Future Cup, is incredibly high stakes, and will make a difficult arc for our heroes that’s not a variation of “Goddamn it, here’s another roadblock that’s forestalling our journey.”

The story doesn’t need that type of narrative stalling. It’s time for these boys to actually get serialized. But it’s clear they don’t realize just how difficult this is going to be.

Con-Detective Saiko

I was totally wrong about Hattori using 4D mind-games to get them to do what he wanted. So woops.

That said, the meta-fiction got a nice inversion with them pulling off the con on Hattori, and it works. It’s narratively neat, but not in a cheap way that it could be. That they successfully conned him was part of the fun of this chapter.

However, what is alarming is how they didn’t account for getting serialized, which this next arc is probably going to focus on. Even though it’s not an actual series, they are being given what they want: at least they work for it. And that prospect is sinking in for Shujin, but Saiko doesn’t see it yet.

Hattori’s going to win either way: they’ll either buckle under the stress and be forced to listen to him, or they’re going to succeed. But I think it’s probably going to fall somewhere in the middle. He’s even generously giving them TWO WEEKS to make top tier manga.

This time the meta-elements are coming back to affect me. All I can think about is that this is a trial run and two weeks is generous. I’ve been a bitch about this read-through, but they’re going to have to storyboard and draft a whole 19-page chapter every two weeks for several months, and that’s a perilous quest. That means screentones, characters, backgrounds, and with no assistants. These guys aren’t Nizuma, they don’t have that natural talent. It’s going to be brutal.

Guys, guys, guys.

That’s so fucking much.

And it just makes me appreciate, evermore, how much work actually goes into making a manga at Jump, if not at other weekly and monthly magazines. There’s so much pressure to release chapters regularly, and that’s before you factor in the enormous fan base from around the world reading, the potential to get canceled, and the eyes of the editorial office on you.

It really makes it feel superhuman and like a dream worthy of a shonen manga. But even worse, they’re at a disadvantage: they have to plan their stories meticulously because that’s their style. The stakes have been effectively raised, which makes me mad excited for moving forward.

But there is something else I do want to bring up that makes me wayyyy less excited.

Kaya’s “Dream”

This one hurts, man.

While a lot of this chapter was awesome, Kaya’s dream was, Uhm, problematic, to put it mildly. And it’s not because wanting to get married to Shujin and support his endeavors is bad. But here’s the thing.

It’s so conventional. And I know my whole bugaboo is about convention is not bad, but in this case, it rubs me the wrong way.

As I’ve done several times here, I’ve discussed how this chapter impacted my perception of the manga industry. It even made me reflect on my own storytelling practices (I Pants, hard, this chapter read-through is very much a fresh take) and my own desires for my own art.

So I hope I don’t need to point out that the representation of characters can affect the real world tangibly. And Kaya’s motivation to be a good wife. Like, I get it on a practical level, but also ugghhhhh.

Can we have a female supporting character not be defined by their relationship to the main protagonist as a romantic connection? Kaya’s a great character, and as the series has pointed out, she has several skills that are worthy of their own whole-ass manga: she’s an Aikido master, she’s great at volleyball, etc. Those are interesting; those are good dreams.

But she wants to pursue a dream of being a mangaka’s wife? She wants to cook for the boys? Dafuq.

And yes, these are cultural considerations, and yes, Jump is kinda notorious for shitty women characters. But it’s always heartbreaking to see female leads forced into supporting roles because the author either doesn’t know what to do with their character, or, as is far more likely, doesn’t believe they need to have a fulfilling arc outside their relationship to the man.

And you could make the argument that Miho and Saiko are similar: Saiko’s motivation is to get with this girl he’s in love with. Miho wants to get with Saiko. And that Miho IS pursuing her dream of being an idol.

But the difference is: they’re not giving up their dreams to pursue the other. And, as importantly, Miho is offscreen almost entirely. Her entire character is very much through screens. All off-screen. She’s barely a character.

This is not unique to Bakuman either. Misa from death note is…a fucking mess of misogyny and bullshit, so I know I should expect about this level of discourse on female empowerment from a Shonen manga by Ohba.

But man, after all the amazing awesomeness of the boy’s storyline, is it too much to ask to have Kaya get her own awesomeness away from them?

Oh man, that was a fucking rant.

Anyway.

Fukuda and Gold Future Cup

It was good to see the competition getting ready and to see it framed as an epic battle on a final note. That got me pumped. What I find interesting about the exchange is that Fukuda emphasizes Yujiro as his way in, rather than doing the work himself. Yujiro said he’ll get into Gold Future, which is very different from Hattori.

It’s a nice thematic parallel and a good teaser of things to come. I can only imagine what happens next, but I’m excited for the sparks to fly.

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Peace

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