‘ello ‘ello guvnah and welcome to my read through for Bakuman Chapter 34 Pursuer and Pursued, in which some characters celebrates, some characters are in crisis, and everything finally seems to get started. Finally.
If you are not caught up, please consider using this index here to read all previous read-throughs. There are no spoilers past the current chapter so read freely.
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Pursuer and Pursued Summary
And the winner is….
Picking up from that obnoxious cliffhanger, Shujin confirms that they’ve been serialized. Detective Trap will premier in Weekly Shonen Jump. Saiko and Shujin have an epic celebratory yawp.
Meanwhile, Fukuda rages at Yujiro, and Nakai gets dejected at the news that they didn’t make it. Yujiro tries to talk Fukuda off the ledge, and Aida comforts Nakai that both made the top 7 and it was really close.
Yujiro gives the rundown on why Fukuda was turned down: his chapters were good but read too much like one-shots. Fukuda points out that that was what Yujiro told him to do. While Fukuda borders on an aneurysm, Aida says that Hideout Door was well done but not shonen enough for Jump. Aida assures Nakai that he and Aoki will have to revise their draft for the next meeting.
Yujiro offers to read Fukuda a blow-by-blow, which pisses him off (of course), but Nakai takes the notes graciously.
As the boys celebrate their hard-earned victory, Hattori brings them back to earth with some practical realities. Hattori would like to drop- by and discuss. Saiko tells him to come by the studio instead. Hattori agrees to meet them the next day at 4:30.
Amidst their super adorable cheering, Saiko sends Miho a text about it and they all eagerly await her instant response. But she doesn’t respond. They all wonder what’s going on with her.
A dream imperiled
Miho gets chewed out by her…agent? For throwing away an opportunity. She apologizes. The agent explains that she’s popular because of her looks and not her talent. Ouch. He tells her that even the famous voice actresses don’t receive these kinds of opportunities.
Her agent is not advocating that she become a swimsuit model, but her show is ending in the spring and after that, her well will be dry. If she puts out a photobook she’ll receive offers for sure.
Miho thinks it’s ok as long it’s just a few photographs of her working and her private life, which her agent finds ridiculous.
He points out nobody but hardcore fanboys would buy a book like that and the publisher would never agree to it. Miho explains her father saw her performing in the ending for Saint Visual Girls High School and he wanted her to stop putting herself out there like that.
Her agent yells at her that her parents can fuck-off in so many words: that ending opened a ton of doors, like the current opportunity even though she’s tone-deaf. She can treat this opportunity like a stepping stone if she wants. He thinks she should have started as a model and transitioned to voice acting.
He tells her that it will be hard for her to get work if she turns this job down. With that she leaves to think about the position.
Enter: Eiji Nizuma, Rival
Fukuda decides to write a multi-chapter arc for the next meeting instead of listening to Yujiro’s notes. Nakai is glum about his own failure. Fukuda starts to blame Yujiro for the mishaps. Nakai wonders how Ashirogi handled it. Fukuda explains they had a better strategy by bringing in 10 storyboards and 5 final drafts. Nakai freaks out at that trick to prove they have the stuff.
Fukuda believes that their work ethic clinched it, rather than any genuine ability; that said, he is impressed with Hattori for pushing them that hard.
Saiko receives a phone call from Fukuda (not Miho) who congratulates him in as loud and obnoxious a way as only Fukuda can manage. He resolves to get a series so they dare not get canceled. Nizuma remembers Ashirogi’s similar statements to him and asks to congratulate him.
Nizuma drops the gauntlet: his series is still running strong, and he’s been waiting. He’s happy that they’re competing, but he’s not going to lose. Saiko points out that Nizuma helped him, so he’s looking forward to the competition. Nizuma responds with class.
Nakai gets pumped and tries his own shonen good-boi inspirational speech only for Fukuda to prick that particular balloon. He also teases Nakai for his crush on Aoki, and Nizuma laughs it off too. Shujin is surprised at their good humor despite having lost.
Miho arrives home late and sees that Saiko got a series. She’s excited and ready to reply but her mom scolds her for being late. Her mom asks whether she turned down the photo book offer. She says yes. Her mom asks why she’s smiling so hard then. She tells her mother politely to shove it.
Her mother ponders whether it’s the Akamaru and Shonen Jump copies on her bookshelf. (lol). Miho *tries* to play it cool and says her mother shouldn’t snoop. Her mother plays it off as casual interest before mentioning Muto Ashirogi’s One-Shots. She asks whether her dream is linked to that.
Miho’s poker face is shit and she breaks immediately to ask how she knew. Her mother toys with her and figures that’s the guy she’s vibing. Supremely embarrassed, Miho goes to take a bath but her mother asks why she won’t go see Saiko. Miho’s shocked: he’s just a friend.
Her mother says she doesn’t want what happened to her to repeat itself. She tells the story of her and Taro and how they only ever sent letters. Just letters? Miho would know nothing about that. Her mother asks whether she’d still be interested if they did that for years. Miho pushes back that she’s different and has faith.
Miho tells her mother that, though being a friend and parent works most of the time, she doesn’t want to talk about her love life with her. Her mother understands but still wants her to feel like she can talk to her. She offers to persuade Miho’s father to let her do the photobook.
Keep the Dream Alive
Privately, Miho panics about her future in voice acting and her dream. As Kaya and Shujin leave the office, Miho texts Saiko: their dreams have come true. Kaya peeks and figures out the code: it’s time to meet? That doesn’t seem right. Shujin senses something off about that: that wasn’t their actual dream.
Kaya tries to spin it. Because it’ll take ages to get animated, this is a good stopping point. Saiko remains adamant about waiting until their shared dream is a reality: she’s a voice actress in the anime of his show. Kaya gives Saiko shit for his faith in Miho without actually asking her.
Kaya pushes him to call her and see what’s up. She’s about as tired of this nonsense as I am. Saiko texts back about their actual dream. Miho replies again: whoops, my bad, I remember our actual dream. I was just like, so happy(lol). Kaya and Shujin are relieved, but Saiko senses something wrong.
Miho’s in full on crisis mode.
The next day, Saiko and Shujin clean up the studio and Hattori shows up precisely at 4:30. With him is another guy, and Saiko thinks it’s for an explanation of their contract as the chapter concludes.
Pursuer and Pursued Reaction
Panel of the Week
Same as with Chapter 31, I’m a sucker for stylish frontispieces that display multiple disciplines and pizzazz. And this has everything in spades. I could look up the color version online, I’m sure, but this goddamn double page spread is glorious. It gives drama and weight to manga making while also indulging in several styles. It also uses the character of the art styles of each creator to determine their pose and angle.
Fukuda apropos of his yankee style is sinisterly placed at the top right, while Aida and Aoki are are given a more pastel, fairy tale look. Saiko at the top left is literally identical to Trap and posed with a similar grandiosity, arm outstretched. And Koogy is nowhere to be found.
Just an epic color page for an important chapter.
But, more importantly.
A series, fuck yeah. Finally
Oh man, Saiko and Shujin’s faces sum up my responses to their finally getting serialized. What a goddamn thrill. While we have and will discuss the pitfalls of their manga, that is getting more…apparent, at this point, let’s just revel in that sweet sweet victory a la Spongebob.
A series. Yay.
I am always a fan of work ethic over talent considerations. Not that talent doesn’t matter. But when a series emphasizes that talent is what gets someone where they are, rather than skill, it sets a bad precedent for the viewer. It tells the viewer that just being talented is enough to make it. That can set up some truly toxic mindsets. Ones that are prevalent among the aspirants of creative arts. Art and Life being more of an ourbouros than a straight line.
I would know, having indulged in those flights of fancy when I was younger. I used to operate on the idea that if I’m talented I’ll be seen.
It happens, but it’s not sustainable. And if it never happens, it’s crushing.
So, for Saiko and Shujin’s work ethic to pay off and get them the series over Fukuda and Nakai is genuinely satisfying. It’s the right message. Hustle Culture might be toxic, but the notion of working hard is not.
Speaking of Fukuda and Nakai
The alternative responses to failure.
Nakai is competing with Hattori and Nizuma for one of my favorite side characters. While I get Fukuda being full of piss and vinegar, his whole approach is fucking obnoxious, and I’m pretty done with it. I’m not a fan of people offloading their own mistakes and failings onto people as a convenient excuse for failure. And Fukuda using Yujiro as a verbal punching bag is exactly that.
But Nakai’s really coming in with that sweet, sweet humility that, paired with his renewed shonen vigor, makes it clear he’s temperamentally suited for a career in creative work.
I get that Ohba and Obata are using the parallels between the two to create a sense of narrative contrast, but Nakai’s quiet heartbreak doesn’t interfere with him being gracious about the whole thing. He dutifully listens to the notes Aida provides and, if I had to guess, will actually employ them in his work moving forward. That, compounded with his decade of assistantship gives off a craftsman and perpetual student of the craft, which is common amongst the truly sustainable successes found the world round.
I respect that approach to the creative process. It’s collaborative, even when one person shoulders the visible burden of creation. And learning to take criticism is integral to moving forward in creative fields. It often makes your work better when the editor is the right fit.
And, in fairness to Fukuda, he did take his editor’s advice for the chapter structure so that he can be rightfully pissed. But still, his vinegar is stripping the paint off my patience at this point.
But they’re not really the heart of this chapter.
Poor girl, she needs a hug. She’s a bit too chaste it seems for the world of show business. A racy photoshoot for a what… 17-year-old girl? Oy. That’s uncomfortable for me. But I know that it’s not uncommon, and in Shonen manga sexualizing teen girls is like, the standard operating procedure (which, blegh).
But what I like about this conflict, and which I haven’t seen in a lot of Shonen Manga is that Miho is not being treated like an asshole for not wanting to do something so skeevy in service of her career. It’s a genuine dilemma and her discomfort here is not being treated as wrongheaded or misguided. If anything, the series is suggesting that she shouldn’t do it, given that little grace note at the end with Saiko and his dreams.
While I do think that Saiko and Miho need to get a fucking move-on and just date, for fucks sake, this definitely feels like the wrong inflection point and it’s certainly worrisome. I’ve complained about the depiction of girls before in this series, but in Miho’s case, it’s actually a fair counterargument against it.
She’s given a degree of agency here to make a choice about what to do with her body and her career, and while her relationship to Saiko defines her more than her own aspirations (sigh), that she has any aspirations at all, and the agency and will to act on them is more than can be said for a lot of shonen female protagonists. I’m looking at you Misa.
It doesn’t negate some of the previous bullshit and making Kaya into a walking stereotype, but it does make it better. And I’ll respect it when I see it.
I’m also glad her Mother is fully aware of the dumbass approach to dating she’s taking and calls her out on it. THANK YOU. You go Mrs. Azuki. It is also adorable to see her gently needle her about boys. Mostly because watching teens get flustered by what they think is so badass and adult is hilarious and twee.
I’m getting old.
I’m gonna close out this recap with one of the things I loved most. Nizuma’s re-entry as a rival proper. I like that he’s finally stepping up in a more openly competitive role.
Now that he’s gotten some much-needed development and is no longer a dick, I’m actually reasonably excited to see how their competition fares. A good rival is hard to come by, but now that he feels less like Sasuke and Bakugo, and more like Yuno there’s something warming about his presence.
Which is what the ideal Rival should accomplish: a positive focus on competition that makes the competition pro-social, fun, and engaging way to be the best version of yourself. The stakes are still high. And I’m sure Nizuma is going to use Chekov’s cancellation if Detective Trap doesn’t live up to his standards, but there’s a sense of shared camraderie and a desire to suprass the self. Which is a kind of competition that can be so rare, that it’s worth treasuring.
And I lied slightly .
Will Trap do well?
I’ll leave with this question because to date, no one has given an affirmative on whether Trap is actually good. The conversation is still about the artist’s work ethic. As important as that is, the lack of discussion about Trap’s quality is a red flag and not conducive to jump. To say I’m worried about it is to undersell it.
This is a thread that I think is going to get bigger, before it goes away. and it’s one of the worst dangling threads to have for an aspiring mangaka.
Until next time,