In Coalition and Disagreement, Saiko gets quietly badass (Bakuman Chapter 30)

Howdy-do internet neighborinos, and welcome back to my read-through of Bakuman Chapter 30: Coalition and Disagreement. Today we’re talking about badassery in an editorial department, faith in the process, and which one is going to be left out?

If you’d like to catch up, please click on this index here and read to your heart’s content. There are no spoilers for the series past the current chapter, so read without fear.

If you’d like to support the artists, please consider buying the tankobon volume for volume 4 to read along, buy a subscription to Shonen Jump, or buy some Bakuman/Death Note Merchandise. I recommend Shonen Jump because it’s cheap as shit and it supports a whole bunch of other artists. I’m not sponsored or affiliated with VIZ, I just really like the magazine and artists getting paid.

A small note on naming: I’ve been getting increasingly inconsistent with my naming practices. I may vacillate between first names/last names/nicknames. If it’s confusing, just let me know.

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Coalition and Disagreement Summary

Coalition Against Koogy

While napping during class, Saiko gets a phone call from Fukuda. He calls him back when he’s on break, and Fukuda asks whether they’ve seen the news. Being high-schoolers, they have not, and he chastises them for not keeping current.

He tells them about Koji Makaino’s newspaper reveal and his cheap trick to curry votes among his fans. Shujin verifies this information while scanning online on his phone. Fukuda plans to go to the Jump offices to complain to the editors about it. He asks if they want to join Nakai and him, given that they are also in the Gold Future Cup.

Saiko points out they have school, but Fukuda says they can wait. Shujin and Saiko discuss joining the group and, because they want a fair shot at a series, decide to join Fukuda and Nakai. Also, to potentially rein in Fukuda’s temper.

To Battle!

The Four make their way up to the Jump offices and sign-in. The editors are given the heads-up leading to this lovely panel:

Coalition and Disagreement starts

The four enter the office – dramatically – and Yujiro tries to run interference. Sasaki doesn’t seem to bothered by the intrusion.

Fukuda and Yujiro duke it out over the obvious manipulation Koogy’s engaging in. Saiko pieces together that Hattori probably knew what was up in their meeting before.

Fukuda points out that Koogy is extremely popular, and he’ll likely get a ton of votes. Yujiro counters that he’s focused on becoming a mangaka, so it’s fair play. He also points out that Koogy’s decision might alienate his fans too and rebound on him. Fukuda remains unswayed: Koogy’s tactics are extremely obvious ploys to curry favor.

Yujiro points out that manga is partially a popularity contest. Fukuda calls bullshit and starts to get physical. Nakai intervenes as well, given how much is at stake for him with this competition. Good job, Nakai, standing up for yourself.

Another editor tells them they can always drop out if it’s such a problem; other hungry artists are willing to join the cup if not them. Fukuda says they should make Koogy step down. Fukuda threatens that maybe He, Ashirogi, and Nakai should all drop out, bringing Nakai to his senses a bit. The editor continues to push back: Koogy dropping out would be a bigger problem given he is a major cultural force.

Saiko points out the obvious.

They just need to win

They just need to make a better manga than Koogy. If they make a better manga, the readers will know. Saiko has faith in the process and believes readers will make the right choice. Sasaki watches silently. Saiko also believes their manga WILL Be better because they’re…y’know, mangaka.

Fukuda sees the out and pivots to Saiko’s point to save face. Doubling down, he tells all three to show each other’s storyboards to discuss strategy and make sure their content is absolutely better than Koogy’s like they did with Crow chapter 5.

Saiko asks for his storyboards. Fukuda asks Nizuma if it’d be cool to bring Ashirogi over for a strategy meeting. Eiji is always down to clown with Ashirogi and invites them. Nakai calls Aoki so they can also get in on the action.

As they get their storyboard, Hattori tells them that readers will judge their work on its merits. The coalition makes a tactical retreat and as they leave Sasaki’s assistant – I assume – remembers a mangaka who pulled similar stunts. Sasaki points out that those mangaka tend to do better.

Strategy and Workshop Meeting

At Nizuma’s apartment, the five decide to read and comment on each other’s storyboards. Eiji comes in with a usual crow pose and wants to join in on the fun. Fukuda agrees and lets him join in on the critique.

Saiko thinks Fukuda’s work is miles better than his Akamaru One-Shot. Shujin is blown away by Aoki’s manga comparing it to Harry Potter. Aoki watches Shujin and jumps when he catches her peeking.

Fukuda freaks out reading Ashirogi’s one-shot and sees them as his greatest rival. Meanwhile, Nizuma is cracking up. Fukuda and Saiko have contrasting opinions on Aoki’s one-shot. Shujin thinks Fukuda’s manga while having the weakest art, is awesome, and the art complements his story.

Fukuda asks for opinions, but Aoki passes.

Aoki believes her work was the best and so chooses to refrain from offering critique. Fukuda, not one to take ….anything lightly, apparently, calls Aoki’s the worst of the bunch. Aoki goes on about how Fukuda’s work was too violent and ill-suited to Shonen.

Fukuda talks about how he revised it 6 times already to get it to a level that the editors would be ok with at Jump. He argues, however, that despite the censorship, they need more unhealthy boys’ manga and less cutesy shit. Fukuda then drops the rage: he thinks his work is the best too.

Same with Saiko and Shujin.

Nizuma’s Assessment

They decide not to discuss their work. Aoki thinks that, since they’re confident in their work, there’s no need to critique them. Nakai simps for her and Fukuda agrees that they need to have confidence in their work. He respects that they all believe their work is the best.

He then asks Nizuma for his opinion and he’s positive: they’re all great.

Saiko tells him to be more specific. Nizuma says that despite being three wildly different styles, if he were to rank them…

Nakai interrupts: Nizuma will likely be spot on so maybe they should…

He doesn’t get to finish as they all want to know. Who will win?

Nizuma says that two will tie for first and one will be in third place. Because he feels sorry for the third-place winner, he will not say who it is. Fukuda wants to know why a tie, and Nizuma, his usual self, says that’s what he’s feeling.

The battle for the Gold Future Cup commences as the chapter ends.

Coalition and Disagreement Reaction

Panel of the Week

This panel is a nice complement to the panel where the editors prepare for battle (more on that in a bit) it’s at a nice low angle, and despite the generally low stakes worldwide, the low angle, the badass poses of our four intrepid wannabe mangaka, and the expressions on their faces give it a suitably epic quality that makes the contrast so much richer and fun.

Not really much to say other than that, let’s talk about the coalition.

Coalition War

I just read Kingdom for the first time a few months ago, and having just read the incredible Coalition War arc, that was all I could think about when reading this chapter. The war motif is well utilized in the context of the chapter and gives it a suitably dramatic battle flavor.

That’s helped in large part by the framing of the characters as engaging in literal war. Just like the story to date has framed Shonen Manga as a battle unto itself, and made all the sequences follow standard Battle Shonen tropes, this feels like a proper military engagement.

Condensed into three or four panels of buildup, instead of several hundred chapters of heads getting lopped off. Economical.

That it even has the same contours as a battle is delightful. It starts out with forming the coalition against the belligerents. Then information is relayed that a threat is coming to storm the walls of the casle and then the team enters ready to do battle. There are skirmishes and dialogue ripostes.

Dialogue is always a duel, and here the question of whether Koogy’s tactics are fair play is a genuinely interesting one in the “Manga as War” context. Cause you know what they say about Love and War being all fair.

Koogy’s tactic itself is objectively scummy as shit. But Yujiro isn’t wrong: Manga is very much a popularity contest, especially at Jump. Currying favor in any way you can is a good way to get seen and stay afloat. So the conflict is less a matter of good vs. evil and rather a question of cynicism vs. earnestness.

Fukuda’s Earnestness

Fukuda was a royal pain in the ass this chapter. However, his character was introduced as brash and hilariously horny (after reading Kentaro Yabuki’s current work in Jump, holy shit that boi is thirsty); here is anger is more…Uhm, grating.

I do get it. He’s operating at a severe disadvantage and he’s put his heart and soul into his manga. All three creators are understandably angry at the idea that some asshole musician who already has a base is exploiting it for gain and presumably not doing the work. Especially considering how – generally broke – mangaka are to begin with. I’d be pissed if a musician decided to piss on my dream by entering for the fuck all of it.

Sidenote: that remains to be seen whether Koogy is actually going to do the work. But the framing suggests it is…unlikely. He’s pretty villainous already, and I can’t imagine him getting better.

With that said, I am sympathetically nervous for Fukuda ever getting a fucking series the way he bitches out Yujiro constantly. His anger this chapter was so far past the pale of what we’ve seen before that it was confusing to pair with the guy who has been, comparatively, chill for the last few chapters.

I guess when your bread and butter get fucked with, you gotta get angry.

That said, Fukuda is making it harder for himself. At least from the perspective of someone trying to get into a creative industry. Stand your ground, but don’t piss off the powers that be…too much.

Sigh….

Anyway.

Saiko’s Faith

Despite Fukuda being…himself, Saiko was pretty great as the quiet voice of reason and faith in this chapter. He’s really embodying that Shonen perspective here. Even though the odds are stacked against you, you have to have faith in the process and faith in yourself.

And his last minute save is so smoothly implemented it’s just a satisfying moment. I can hear the music and the editing that would be in the anime version of it. It’s one of those sweet inflection points where the tide of battle turns in favor of the protagonists. It also makes Saiko a badass in a cool, calm, collected way.

Who doesn’t love that?

Although it might be a little more idealistic than the real world would permit, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this is the mindset one should adopt when doing anything creative. Put in the work, and have faith in the process.

That may just be me psyching myself up for my own writing, which is in progress as well, but by all accounts, that’s a valid in. And doing the work has two edges to it: if you do the work, you can *sustainably* create art, which is an element of creating art that is largely overlooked when discussing dream jobs working in {insert entertainment industry here}.

It’s also in line with the Shonen ideal of doing the work leading to good results, which I happen to believe, so there’s that too.

More heartwarming is Hattori’s absolute faith in his wards. He really does believe in them. He’s seen them put in the hours, and we’re now deep into the manga that there is a real possibility that our heroes are actually going to cross the first threshold, which is incredibly exciting.

Overall a very good climax.

But not nearly as fun as the workshop that followed.

The dumbest critique session

That final critique session was fucking hysterical. The entire premise was abortive from the start, given just how high the stakes are for this particular competition and everyone’s place in it.

If the proceedings weren’t so hysterical, I’d say just have Nizuma read all their works and give his critiques since he’s got the “Rival who is so buffed that he’s basically unbeatable” thing going for him to the point that he’s basically got Paul Mua’Dib prescience. And I already have an inkling of who the tie is going to be.

But it’s both delightful and horrible that people who are actively competing against each other even thought that a critique sesh would be a good idea. I mean, they know that they’re just going to give themselves heart palpitations doing that. It’s also cute that each of them sees the other as better than their own. It’s a case of imposter syndrome I think all writers are subject to.

But it’s also nice to see everyone is able to recognize that they’re all contenders and that each equally has a shot at winning…well, maybe not Aoki. She seems to be very set in her beliefs on what constitutes shonen.

But I wonder which two will win, and which is third place. I guess we’ll have to find out in the coming weeks.

Stray Thought

The only thing I wanted to comment on otherwise is that it feels like Sasaki was talking about Taro at the end of the confrontation. It was very… on the nose in a very specific way “only the best mangaka make it” but it was nice to see how this version of Jump does seem to prioritize talent, above all.

With that, I’ll see you next time.

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