In Silence and Party, Everything is Stiff (Bakuman Chapter 36)

Howdy-ho, my dudes, and welcome to my read-through of Bakuman Chapter 36: Silence and Party, in which things are stiff, backgrounds aren’t intimidating, and new characters coming from all angles.

If you haven’t caught up, consider using this index to catch up, cause like, this blog is totally awesome. There are no spoilers for any future chapters so read at ease.


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Silence and Party Summary

Kato, and Takahama introduce themselves.

Miura introduces the less experienced assistants: Kato and Takahama. Kato lives nearby, so she won’t have to sleep at the office, and she has two years of experience; she’s a real catch (as an assistant). Kato gives a polite introduction. Shujin worries about Kaya’s response. Saiko tells him to give the go-ahead for Kaya’s help, mostly because having two girls over instead of one will make everything less awkward.

Logic. These boys gots it.

Takahama is a rookie, is 19, and has unlimited potential…as an assistant. He’s also the most skilled artist of the bunch. Takahama’s dour demeanor and total silence concern Saiko and Shujin.

Ogawa springs to action.

Miura gives Ogawa the timeline: start at the beginning of the year. Ogawa immediately jumps into assessment mode of the building. They have some stuff, which is good, but they need a light table for tracing, and a computer to take photos for use on backgrounds. He then takes a look at Saiko’s rough draft and asks about his plans for finishing.

He asks whether he flipped the image in reverse to make sure everything was consistent. No, he used his left-side face to draw the right-side face. Ogawa tells him to flip to make sure the proportions are correct. Because his art is so good, flaws will be extra noticeable to the reader.

He then hands a page over to Kato and Takahama and asks them to finish the pages he provides. After a panel of examination, he takes the pages and then gives them their next assignment: draw in Ashirogi’s style and ink and tone the pages. Ogawa then assigns the assistants their ink and background responsibilities. Takahama will do inking and background characters; whoever’s free will finish off the page.

Ogawa then discusses scheduling with Miura and tells him to push up the date to start before the end of the year. Kato explains her own duties, and Ogawa sets the schedule for his juniors. They’ll start working on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and break for New Year from the 30th to the 4th.

Ogawa then asks Saiko about their preferred schedules for 4 P.M. They confirm that that’s the preference due to their responsibilities at school. They say they can come earlier if they’d like.

With that Ogawa and the three depart for the remainder of the day.

What are Detective Trap’s Chances?

Shujin is enthusiastic about the new assistants as is Saiko, although he’s concerned about Ogawa being aloof and Takahama’s reticence. Miura tells them it’s no big deal and not to worry.

Miura asks whether Shujin has come up with a rival yet. Shujin thinks a PI like Detective Zenigata from Lupin III given Trap’s profession as a con-man, but he’s unsure. Shujin asks about the first three chapters because Miura hasn’t told them anything yet. Miura can’t help with those since they were submitted to serialization already by Hattori, so those chapter’s success or failure is on Hattori.

Miura goes on: the reader surveys will come in starting at Chapter 4; if Chapter 1 does well, they’ll continue the story full steam ahead; if it doesn’t, they’ll take it in a drastically different direction. Shujin, now freaking, wants to know what he genuinely thinks of those chapters now.

Meanwhile, the three assistants discuss whether Trap will be popular. Kato thinks it will be good, although shakily; Ogawa hopes so but foresees it fizzling out quickly. Takahama says nothing. When asked why, Ogawa says it’s a hunch, and maybe were it not in Jump, it would do well. He then plays it off and says he sucks at predictions, don’t worry (lol).

He then goes into his back story: he couldn’t write Manga stories for shit, so he decided to focus on being an assistant. Kato loves being an assistant too. Takahama says nothing.

Stiffness

Miura is honest: he thinks Trap is stiff. Saiko comes over to partake of this now fascinating discussion. Miura thinks it’s stiff. But it can be no better than it is right now. He explains how every mangaka starts with inherent stiffness because they’re newbies and want to guarantee their continued livelihoods. If it gets popular, Mangaka will lighten up, a thing Miura likes in his preferred manga.

He explains that the first three chapters being a self-contained arc, are tight and beyond improvement at this stage. That’s why they are as good as they can be. They can’t be changed, and Hattori’s editorial signature is all over them. Rigid. He also explains that Manga-style conforms to the editor who works on it.

Shujin’s frustrated by this philosophical take and asks: will it be popular. Miura gives the usual spiel: you must BELIEVE that it will be popular or it will never be popular. He gets pumped and goes on a tirade about how if the creators believe in their work, it will translate, and then the people enjoying their work will inspire them to make work people enjoy even more.

…Eek.

Silence

The next day, the assistants start working, and Saiko is uncomfortable at the desk placement, making him feel like a boss. The quiet, tense atmosphere and Saiko ponders what he should do.

Kaya and Shujin head over while Shujin coaches her on how to behave. She asks about the girl’s assistant, and Shujin tries to answer in a way that will get him in the least trouble. Which obviously doesn’t work.

Saiko panics at the silence, his inability to engage in small talk, and his role as leader. He doesn’t know how to lighten the mood. He’s relieved by the arrival of Shujin and Kaya. Shujin introduces her to everybody. Kato’s happy, Ogawa’s concerned by the lack of professionalism, and Takahama says nothing.

Shujin explains she’ll be helping out with small things which puts Ogawa at ease. Kaya asks to be ordered around (oy) and Ogawa agrees to take her up on the offer.

This does nothing to make the atmosphere less tense; it’s actually worse now. Ogawa breaks the tension by pointing it out, and Kaya takes up the cue to start talking. Ogawa explains that because they’re all new to each other, it’s bound to be awkward. Kaya asks whether Ogawa is dating anybody.

He is. She’s pregnant and he has two jobs. Kaya successfully defuses the situation. Takahama’s quiet keeps the air tense, however.

The New Year’s Party

Shujin and Saiko prepare for the party, which Shujin dressed to the nines for, and Saiko dressed not at all. Saiko makes fun of him until he points out that they’re meeting the other mangaka, and it’s likely to be rude not to have dressed up at all. As Saiko panics, they get a call from Tanaka transportation, their chauffeur.

They talk about the swankiness of their ride and freak out when they finally see it. He asks what they want him to do. They ask to be driven, so they get their 15 minutes early.

They both feel out of place in the car and go over their introduction to another mangaka at the party. They get more nervous the closer they get to the party.

They marvel at the black cars – that look like Yakuza – and all the people and glitz and glamor. Their chauffeur gives them a card so they can be picked up.

At the party, they run into Miura and Hattori dressed to the nines and are directed to the coatroom. Nizuma enters as he always does, looking like a crow which freaks out Shujin. Nizuma comments that he can’t drink booze as a minor be he’s vibing the soft drinks. He also introduces them to his new bud: Hiramaru sensei.

Hiramaru looks…unhappy to be dealing with the whole Nizuma of it all. Saiko remembers that he’s the mangaka who got in after a month of drawing Manga. He remembers that he’s also a genius, by Hattori’s accounting. They make a formal greeting. Hiramaru asks f if they’re Nizuma’s high school friends. Nizuma tells him they’re also mangaka, and he marvels at their youth. He then downs a – presumably alcoholic beverage – and greets them casually as the chapter concludes.

Silence and Party Reaction

Panel of the Week

Silence and Party
How Glamorous

Now, the reason this is my panel of the week is not, in fact, because it’s technically marvelous execution. The primary reason I chose this panel is for the reason we will discuss in the subheading “backgrounds”.

In short, this was probably traced from a photo reference, and it almost certainly was done largely by the assistants with Obata overseeing the process. The realism is beautiful, but it’s also more overtly real than the characters over on the right-hand side of the frame. Given that this chapter is all about assistants, it felt right to feature the assistants at their best.

With that said, the detail here is stunning, and it immediately gives the exact feeling one gets when one is a frumpy introvert going to a glamorous corporate party. I like the arrangement and detail of the cars specifically, with the shading being absolutely top-notch and kind of dreamy with the lack of hard lines. There was another car image that was probably traced as well.

And you know what? I don’t give a single shit. It looks beautiful.

But with that out of the way.

Stiff

An uncomfortable, yet apt adjective for this chapter. Everything up to the introduction of Hiramaru at the end there – more on that in a bit – is as awkward as the day is long.

I genuinely don’t know what to make of the assistants at this juncture. Ogawa’s competence shines bright, and Kato’s cheeriness is…well, there. But Takahama is a big giant question mark. Because this is a narrative, big giant question marks tend not to be good things. More on that as well, down below.

The awkwardness and silence works, though. It’s got the fresh paint feeling of a group of people who don’t know each other thrown into common circumstances, all of whom are, by nature, introverts. The sequence of Saiko being the boss amongst fundamentally independent assistants was a genuine cringe moment that made the settling of the new roles all the more real (and hilarious).

That also goes for Detective Trap, which Miura describes as stiff. As I’ve said for a few chapters now, there isn’t any clarity on whether Detective Trap has any chances. That was further iterated by the conversation between the three assistants. At this point, Detective Trap could well be one of the U19 simply by virtue of having a premise that fizzles out quickly.

All that to say, I’m worried.

That said, I find Miura’s commentary interesting

Comfort in writing

One of the most elusive elements of narrative craft is chilling the fuck out when writing it. Finding that peak wu-wei nonaction vibe that allows the story to come from you naturally, while also satisfying the gatekeepers, and retaining a natural sense of who you are, while also still adhering to the general rules of the craft. It’s a pain in the ever-loving ass. Juggling all the responsibilities – and the potential of an audience that is indifferent or hateful – it’s just, like, a lot, man.

Which is why it makes sense that Hattori would make sure that Trap is as tight a ship as one can have. Juggling all those conflicting elements is going to be a hassle no matter what. And when you get into creative fields, there are lots of “rules” on how to write, but none that guarantee success.

This is also something I’m running into with my screenwriting. Confining my creative impulses so that the story is competently written, but not so limited that my voice is constrained.

So, assuming Detective Trap doesn’t get prematurely axed, it’s likely that Saiko and Shujin will loosen up in their storytelling and flex their creative muscles. Partly cause they’ll have to. But also because it will be a more natural process, for which they have training and experience. Callouses, so to speak.

And Miura seems, at least to some degree, to be the right editor for that kind of zen state. While he is brash and boisterous, he’s also pretty insightful – if too vague for Shujin’s taste – and has the right amount of Shonen attitude for the magazine.

But man, this current equation does not inspire a hell of a lot of confidence.

Drawing Backgrounds

Since I’ve started reading Bakuman, I’ve developed a passion for manga that I never thought I would experience. There is something unique to the experience, and despite my complaints about the brutality of the industry, part of me desperately wants to make manga. As if I didn’t have enough to do already.

So what thrilled me about this chapter, in particular, was Ogawa’s dissection of their studio and the requirements for upgrading it. Particularly, the need for a lightbox and xerox machine (lol the 2008 is so strong with this one). The reason I find this so thrilling is simply that it led to some research on how the profesh mangaka makes their manga and deal with one of the most daunting aspects.

Backgrounds, background characters and toning.

And what I learned is that, well, the process differs for everybody, but being good at drawing backgrounds is less important than meeting your deadlines. So artists will frequently use reference drawings to trace out backgrounds. Case in point, here’s Reiji Miyajima drawing Rent-a-girlfriend on livestream.

As y’all can see, he’s just literally copying and pasting reference photos in Clip Studio Paint, while devoting most of his time to inking and filling Kazuya and Chizuru.

Yes, I’ve watched Rent-a-girlfriend. It’s the guiltiest of pleasures.

All this is to say, on this very long tangent, that artists in the industry are not doing everything, and though their schedules are busy, they aren’t married to this platonic notion of being the perfect artist. They’re paying heed to the notion of getting shit done as efficiently as possible, which is what makes the assistants so relieving.

I also like that Saiko is like Ryoichi Ikegami and has trouble drawing faces from his non-dominant side. There’s a documentary by Naoki Urusawa that showed it. It’s excellent.

ANYWAY

Takahama

I don’t know what to make of Takahama. His perpetually dour expression gives me bad vibes, and he’s quiet too. Could he be the element that sinks the ship? It seems so from this juncture, given how awkward the air is in the room while they’re all working. Something is ringing in my ear about this, just like Ogawa’s predictions on Detective Trap and Miura’s assessment.

Something is wrong.

I may be overthinking it, and in the meta, DT being doomed to failure as a red-herring is lowkey brilliant. But man, the odds are truly stacked against it right now, so everything that is a sign of being a future failure point has me instantly wary.

I’m sure we’ll get more information as time goes on. But for now, let’s see how it plays out.

The New Year’s Party

While the bulk of this chapter is focused on the introductions and prep for a series (yay), the New Years’ party should prove interesting. I’m so glad to see Hattori here. Reading this sequence felt like the exact awkward feeling of going to a corporate New Years’ party, figuring out how to dress up. Seeing your co-workers dressed up and mingling.

The cognitive dissonance and the inappropriate behavior, the suits, the glamor that feels both alive and also chintzy in some off-brand way. It all felt painfully real. Which means that we can only expect super awkward things from this New Years’ party.

I also like the feeling of relief that Hattori and Nizuma provide by being familiar faces in a sea of gussied up strangers and manga heavy-weights. That’s what really gives the sequence its verisimilitude. And Saiko’s decision not to dress up or be at all interested in going outside of a requirement to do so.

It just sells it.

And now that I’ve met Hiramaru, boy, do I have questions. This guy seems like a whole new ball of crazy, distinct from Nizuma. And That could be a very, very good thing. Or it could be pure chaos.

Either way, it’s just another thing to look forward to.

And with that somewhat tangential post, I’ll let you go.

Until next time

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