Serialization Looms in Chapter 32: Phone Call and the Night Before (Bakuman)

Hola my fellow humans, and welcome to my read-through of Bakuman Chapter 32: Phone Call and the Night Before. Today we talk about Narrative Engines, We revel, and the editorial love of the game.

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Without further ado.

Phone Call and the Night Before Summary

Which series will make the cut?

The editors discuss the outcome of the Gold Future Cup. The debate on serialization comes down to Kiyoshi Knight and Detective Trap.

They discuss the demo for Kiyoshi and Trap: Trap is geared towards Shonen cause the average reader was 14.3 years, while the average reader for Kiyoshi was 17.5 years, which is really Seinen territory. They marvel over the fact that almost exclusively men voted for it, and it still won.

The debate between Kiyoshi Knight and Trap rages as their splits are so close. The meeting goes well into the night and Shujin worries while Saiko is catatonic.

Fukuda also worries, but Nakai is sure that it’s either going to be Fukuda or Ashirogi anyway. Fukuda isn’t too sure, the recount might yield different results. Nakai is hopeful and his editor was encouraging about series potential but he also knows that three rookies getting a series in one year is impossible, so the Gold Future Cup winner is going to really clinch it.

Fukuda and Nakai resolve that they will win, no matter what. Same with Saiko.

They get the call.

And The Winner is….

Saiko and Shujin are informed that they’ve won the Gold Future Cup, as has Fukuda. It’s the first time there has been a double winner in the Cups six-year run.

Kaya celebrates their victory because they won, but Saiko and Shujin are less enthused given it’s a tie.

Nakai takes the let-down gracefully, and he’s happy he can still work on storyboards for Hideout Door. He congratulates Fukuda, who is pleased, although still grumpy about sharing the win. Shujin and Saiko realize they aren’t out of the woods yet: they’ll have to beat Fukuda and potentially Nakai in the serialization meeting.

Fukuda and Nakai also freak out about how spot-on Nizuma’s predictions were. Kaya is happy for both of them and tears up while Saiko texts Azuki.

Miho responds asking for…

Takagi’s Number?

Saiko’s confused but gives her Shujin’s number. Miho calls Shujin to thank him, and Shujin appropriately freaks the fuck out. Shujin bolts out onto the balcony, and Miho thanks Shujin properly for keeping her and Saiko together when, if things had gone normally, they’d have drifted apart.

Shujin plays it cool, but Miho thanks him for giving Saiko a purpose and explains that he’s always told her Shujin gave him reason to dream. She says that she wanted him to say that, but it was unlikely to happen because he’s a boy. Shujin – playing up to Miho’s stereotype – explains that their dream may go either way.

But she says that there’s no such possibility of a bad ending when you work hard towards your dream. Shujin is surprised by how normal Miho is around him. Miho can’t see him…and isn’t in love with him (lol).

Kaya wants to know what the fuzzle is going on. She freaks out about him having a normal conversation with Miho, grabs his phone, and proceeds to get insanely jealous. She then tells her to talk with Saiko. Miho says it’s impossible, which is bullshit because he won something major.

Kaya hands the phone off to Saiko, who immediately gets embarrassed about the last time they spoke. They talk in stilted formal tones while Kaya and Shujin gawk and laugh.

Saiko reiterates that he’ll win for her and his friends like any good shonen protagonist. Miho agrees she’ll do the same. She realizes they can also have a normal conversation on the phone.

They then immediately jack-knife into their “if I like this so much I’ll never pursue my dreams so I must never form memories with you ever” mode and decide not to share numbers. Derp. Saiko walks back in and says they’ll talk once his manga is animated to Kaya and Shujin’s dismay.

Strategies for Success

The Sixth Gold Future Cup passes with two winners, and Saiko and Shujin give their storyboards to Hattori to finalize. Aida – Nakai’s editor – passes by, and Hattori grabs him for a conversation. Saiko and Shujin go home to work on their storyboard while Hattori deploys his keikaku.

Hattori wants the two to be put forward in serialization, but he also wants to guarantee that their age won’t deter the editorial staff from rejecting them. Aida agrees and wonders why Hattori’s so confident.

He drops the stack of 10 chapters – plus the three finals for serialization – and he tells Aida of his insane plan to get five final drafts from the start in addition to the Gold Future Cup entry. Hattori is not high enough on the food chain to join the serialization meeting, but he wants Aida to put the word in so that the team will be convinced that they can put in the hours.

Aida agrees to do so.

On December 8, the two complete storyboards for the serialization meeting, and Hattori submits but tells them to wait and see what happens.

The Night Before Serialization Meeting

Hattori works late and runs into Yujiro. They talk about their wards: Yujiro is looking for artists in case Nakai and Fukuda get series – which he anticipates as possible. Hattori has all 13 storyboards to be sent to the serialization meeting, and we get a little sausage-making tutorial.

First, the editors collect storyboards for the first three chapters of a prospective series and give them to their captain. The captain will debate whether to push them up the ladder or send them home. The captains and everyone high on the food chain will read the storyboards over the week and write their impressions of each upon the envelope the storyboards are in.

The participants of the meeting will need to read every review. That said, everyone is allowed to read the reviews and is encouraged to do so.

Yujiro looks at Ashirogi’s reviews and sees they’re good, but he also sees that most of the reviews are less about the actual manga and more about the team’s promise. He also talks about Arai-sensei’s revisions after the previous meeting; Yujiro thinks he’ll get a series even though it’s not getting good reviews.

Yujiro thinks that’s because Arai has already been serialized and he’s being compared to his previous work. Yujiro also speculates that because there are four veterans in the running, only one rookie will be chosen. Hattori is confident that at least two rookies will be chosen, even though 5 serializations in one meeting is unheard of.

Hattori cites the precedent of the release of Hunter x Hunter and four other series being another example of a class of five. Yujiro knows it as a legendary example, but highly unlikely that it’ll happen again. Five is unrealistic to expect, three is more likely, but they’ll probably only do two.

Hattori explains he wants Ashirogi to get a series, and it has nothing to do with the in-office political capital that comes with it. Yujiro agrees with him re: Fukuda and Nakai. Yujiro offers to get drinks at a 24-hour pub. Hattori agrees to join him.

Like their wards, neither can relax so it’s best to do work, then go to sleep. Yujiro’s surprised that Hattori agreed to drinks, just the two of them; Hattori says they can discuss manga.

As they leave, they both ponder how fun it would be to be in the serialization meetings, and are excited at the prospect of joining them one day.

Phone Call and the Night Before Reaction

Panel of the Week

Phone Call and the Night Before

Nothing truly stuck out this week, but I love the crammed quality of this particular image. It feels lonely and overwhelming at the same time, with Hattori placed from a high angle to give the office a fuller, more menacing vibe.

It feels living, with all the desks covered in detritus, the boxes upon boxes, but also it has a quiet solitude to it. There’s no one else in frame, and it takes place at night. It gives off the distinct vibe of being alone at the office on a late night. Which has a strange magic in the off-hours of the day.

Time to get Serial

I like South Park, and this joke amuses me.

This chapter was exciting – they won, yay! – and interesting to see how the editors pick winners. I like that it comes down to factors that have less to do with actual ability and more prosaic considerations like the target audience and the actual survey data. Gives us a sense of the full gamut of things editors have to think about when choosing.

But this chapter is certainly more of a bridge and a come-down from the last chapter’s absolute wonder. It feels like a calm before the storm hits vibe. I’m certainly not complaining about it, given that serialization is on the docket. Which, holy shit, are the boys going to get serialized?

We’re almost 40 chapters in and we’ve gotten no closer to the actual publication of their manga. In fact, they’ve already had the equivalent of a full shonen-time skip in terms of narrative time: they’re almost graduates of high school (Dafuq) and they started at the end of middle school.

When this was being published, they would have been just shy of a year of publication when they hit this chapter and I’m certain the reader surveys were getting impatient with the buildup of our boys not even at serialization in a series about making manga. Former credentials or no.

With that in mind, I appreciate the decision for two reasons.

Making art and getting to do it for a living takes a LONG FUCKING TIME no matter the field, and, secondly, and more practically, I’m guessing Ohba and Obata didn’t want a repeat of Death Note by prematurely blowing their narrative load.

Narrative Engines

One thing which was discussed much earlier in the series is Ohba Takagi’s tendency to write novelistic manga. That is, one’s that have a strong central thru-line and a beginning, middle, and end. This is a conventional structure, but one that is not necessarily conducive to popular manga.

Manga – especially in Jump – need to have sustainable narrative engines that suggest a world large enough to be explored for hundreds – or now thousands – of chapters. While each story has its own needs, for the mass appeal Manga, the bigger the world, and the larger scale the conflict, the likelier longevity it has.

Death Note blew its narrative load almost immediately the moment L deduced where Light was to the point where they started acting in concentric narrative circles barely halfway through the series. As good as Death Note is, its engine runs out of gas extraordinarily quickly, and its left spinning in circles for an uncomfortable length before its story rehashes in the second half.

So, if I had to guess, that almost a year into publication and Saiko and Shujin are JUST NOW being considered for Serialization likely has something to do with that.

Because Ohba and Obata have to, week to week, come up with new, and more importantly, interesting conflicts that will keep readers hooked, sending in good surveys and keep the series running. And even if they mapped out the major beats before starting, if the series tanks, they’ll never get to explore them.

So I don’t really mind that it’s taken so long to get to this point narratively. It means they still have plenty of juice for interesting and compelling narrative moving forward. And given their experience, I’m sure they have a wealth of experience to pull from.

Detective Trap and Miho

A warning sign for Detective Trap – the detective genre can be a difficult genre to write compellingly *ahem* – and the reviews, while good, are less about the manga itself. I have the feeling that is not a coincidence. One potential conflict is a series bombing before it gets the chance to shine, and the potential of a creator and the potential of a series are not the same.

But that’s a relatively minor concern at this stage, so let’s focus on some more immediate stuff.

The sequence with Miho and Saiko was, as ever, adorable and twee. They’re idiots, but they’re my idiots, and it’s cute to see their bumbling teenage attempts at being badass protagonists and being so idiotic in the process. But it’s also a good reminder of how far Saiko, in particular, has come in writing manga.

That Miho recognizes Shujin’s role in all this is very very sweet. And it’s nice to see that the mutual desire to end up together remains strong, to the point where they don’t even want to talk on the phone. But I can’t help but still worry that that’s ultimately dumber than dumb and they should honestly connect now, start forming memories and support each other more tangibly.

I also appreciate the little “hard work towards your dream is never wasted” idea. It’s one I love, as I’ve stated, and will continue to state.

Hattori is the General We Need

I love that the strategy which was so brutal for Saiko and Shujin is being deployed so effectively. Hattori is the editor everyone needs. Willing to push someone to be their best. Even Aida, the editor I didn’t know before, is all aboard for this. It’s a really clever strategy that focuses on work as a means of exploring and exploiting their potential.

If they do get serialized (please get serialized) I sincerely hope that it’s through their hard work. It would be rewarding for them to get there because they did it through work and I honestly think its a great strategy. All it is is “Put your money where your mouth is” in the most extreme way imaginable.

I do think it gives them a legitimate shot. But not a guarantee because that’s not how editors work.

The final scene was humanizing for Yujiro and also gave some much-needed perspective on Hattori’s position. He’s an editor, but he’s not the highest up on the ladder. I appreciate his desire for the boys to succeed over his own political aspirations, but I think it’s important that he capitalize on that himself so that he can help the boys further down the road.

He and Yujiro being closer to sergeants rather than lieutenants in the Jump power structure is also a nifty bit of world-building that gives the battles a militaristic edge, most obvious in Chapter 30, but really ever-present in the series. It also gives it a more court intrigue vibe.

But at the end of the day, as the last panels suggest, these are people who love manga. Yujiro knowing the Hunter x Hunter anecdote, and the two going to a late-night pub to get a drink and talk comic books is heartwarming and lovely. While it is a Shonen Jump piece and subject to distortions, I have a feeling that you sort of need to have that kind of raw passion for manga production to make it in the industry given just how brutal it is.

That’s an appreciation I continue to build myself, the more manga I read. It really gets in your head. I’ve even started drawing my own fanart.

Stray Thoughts

I liked the little bit about serialization meetings, because I’m into that stuff generally. And that’s really all I got.

I’ll see you at the serialization, and hopefully, Saiko and Shujin will be on their way to being professional mangaka.

Until next time,

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