In Executive Director and Songbird, An uncomfortable Villain reappears (Bakuman Chapter 37)

Hey, hey, hey, my dudes, and welcome to my read-through of Bakuman Chapter 37: Executive Director and Songbird, in which a villain rears his head, legends of the industry make legendary speeches, and corporate parties are…corporate parties.

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Without further ado, the chapter.

Executive Director and Songbird Summary

Hiramaru: The Annoyed One

Executive Director and Songbird character introduction: hiramaru

Saiko and Shujin introduce themselves to Hiramaru, who currently laments his status as a new mangaka: he didn’t want to become one. Shujin asks what he means.

Hiramaru, quite tipsy, chalks it up to a momentary fancy and malaise at work. He thought he could do it, so he did it. Not quite drunk enough, he goes to the open bar to drown his frustrations at now …being a mangaka. He doesn’t want to work at all. He wants to sleep and eat as much as he wants, whenever he wants. He wants to be a panda.

Oy.

Eiji – oblivious – asks if that’s why he made his manga about Otter No. 11. Hiramaru chalks it up to his subconscious talking for him. The editor who vouched for him calls him over, much to Hiramaru’s frustration. He laments his doomed future as his editor wants to talk about Chapter 3.

He abruptly asks his editor – Mr. Yoshida – whether he enjoys his life. But Yoshida thinks that’s going to be the title for chapter 3 and thinks it’s…genius.

Eiji tells Shujin and Saiko – both awed by Hiramaru’s abject weirdness – that he’s weird, but funny when you get to talking with him.

Meanwile.

Aoki’s Uncomfortable Situation

oy

Aoki laments having done worse than that filthy Yankee manga Kiyoshi Knight. Koogy, Although only depicted from the face-down – like a goddamn supervillain – says that that’s life. Aoki compliments his Tezuka award-winning one-shot and that she wants others to understand it.

Koogy asks what her real name is. Yuriko Aoki.

He asks whether she – Yuri – likes his songs; she likes the lyrics, but not the music itself. He appreciates her bluntness and recognizes that she likes his manga talents.

Koogy, acting mega creepy, comments on Aoki’s wistfulness and how he should make a song of it. She’d rather he make it into a manga. Koogy celebrates “that editor-in-chief” putting this whole thing together.

Public Speeches

Miura comes to get the “high school trio” to mingle with the rest of the crowd. As Miura drags them over to the party, Shujin wonders about Otter No. 11. He met the artist and wants the scoop.

Miura explains it’s about an anthropomorphic otter that spouts philosophy to make the world a better place. Eiji interjects: his fists can turn into rocks to clobber people.

…Sweet.

The Boy’s curiosity is piqued. Eiji notes hiramaru’s hesitance with a weekly series. Miura explains that that is common: people balk at the beginning, then pick it up. Or so he’s told.

They come to the main dining room to hear a speech from Aida, who is the evening’s MC. People laugh and describe him as “pooh”.

The Illustrious

Everyone is given Champagne, which Shujin pretends to drink – not being of legal drinking age – and Executive Director Torishima steps up to the plate.

Torishima talks about the downturn in sales that the publishing industry has experienced and going on your usual corporate spiel about how strong their company is going, regardless of the downfall. Shujin marvels at the basis for Mashirito for Dr. Slump and Torishi-man from Taro’s manga.

Saiko remembers his uncle telling him about the happy experience of Torishima strangling him at the new year’s party for parodying him without his permission. Saiko was confused, but Taro explains it was all in good fun. Saiko marvels at his own progress, now being here at the same party.

Making the Rounds

Torishima makes a snide remark in his short speech to poke fun at Aida. Aida invites Akimoto to give a toast. After the toast, Eiji goes straight for the food, and Saiko and Shujin meet Arai, who will be starting in the issue before theirs with Cheese Crackers. Miura breaks up the introduction to…introduce them to the other mangaka, and Arai jokes about how they work Rookies hard.

After being introduced to Oishi – and presumably, a ton of others – Saiko and Shujin are exhausted. Shujin finds the mangaka expressions really intense as if they were giving off an intense aura, but Miura tells them it’s their imagination: they’re just ordinary people. He orders them to eat, and Hattori comes up to say hi and to get ready for bingo.

Hattori checks in on the boys. They’re too nervous to enjoy themselves yet.

As they talk, Bingo starts in addition to Rookie editor Yamahisa’s impressions of other editors. The group will write who they think they’re impersonating on their whiteboards. Saiko and Shujin, knowing nobody, are gonna lose. Hattori gives them a freebie: he’s always first with his octopus lips.

Shujin wins a bingo game and gets to choose his prize: he goes big and chooses the big screen TV and tells Saiko he got a new tv for the studio. The company admires his guts.

Saiko explains after that he calmed down and he also cleans house by winning the *New* Nintendo DS. 2008, I hear you.

Mirai

As they mill about they realize how badly they want this to be a regular part of their lives. They watch Eiji talking with Heishi asking about an anime adaptation of Crow (Jesus), and another editor asking for his autograph. Saiko and Shujin watch at Nizuma’s effortless success and ability to turn down Anime Adaptation offers with ease. He’s made it.

They also see Hiramaru totally smashed, and agree he’ll also likely be successful. Despite his ridiculousness, he’s got personality. Yoshida yells at Hiramaru to go to the bathroom before puking.

Shujin and Saiko’s wonder is cut short by Hattori and Miura who let them know that the Mangaka don’t want to think about manga at the party, and often go to after-parties and after-after-parties. Which, because they’re at hostess clubs, the boys are not allowed to go to. Shujin wants to go though.

Lawd.

At that moment Sasaki and Torishima enter the conversation which freaks out the boys to the point where they call Torishima by his Dr. Slump character name.

Saiko’s Goals

Sasaki introduces them to Torishima who gives his condolences to Saiko regarding Taro’s passing, complimenting his work ethic and passion, even though that ultimately did him in. He wishes them luck and they thank him. Saiko pulls out his “I’m a shonen boy and I’m going to have a big brash moment here” and announces that he’ll do what Taro never managed.

Get first place in the reader’s survey.

Torishima admires them and Sasaki says their first chapter is a good shot at Number One. But Saiko doesn’t mean that. He wants to be Number One with a long-running series and will do it no matter how long it takes. Torishima then raises a toast to not only seeking the possible, but pushing to dream the impossible. Don’t think about making it happen: make it happen.

He cuts the tension entirely by downing his champagne and mentioning that’s a quote from a movie. The party ends at that moment and Torishima gives them a goodbye as they’re not old enough for the next round of parties.

Jump SQ and Villainy

Before the end, they introduce Ibaraki of Jump Square. He introduces himself and pleads for artists to join his Magazine, much to the frustration and annoyance of literally everybody around him.

This year, he’s brought a special guest: Koogy.

Koogy enters as only Koogy can and announces he’s going to be premiering in Jump Square with Ko Aoki as his artists.

Shujin, Saiko and Miura collectively panic. Eiji sees danger on the horizon but they all agree they can’t tell her not to do it.

Saiko says the party which he hoped to continue attending ends on a sour note. The story for everyone else was Hiramaru getting absolutely shitfaced. For those who knew Mr. Nakai, though, the real story was about to start.

Executive Director and Songbird Reaction

Koogy continues to be the absolute worst

I just needed to say that. Holy motherfucking shit. We’ll get to Hiramaru and the rest of this absolutely stuffed chapter, but good god everything about Makaino-san was absolutely loathsome.

The one that got to me the most was something that I am getting further sensitized to.

I am learning Japanese because I love language learning, and now, about 16 months or so in, I’m finally getting the hang of it to a degree. Nowhere near conversational fluency, but it’s starting to stick in my brain. The logic map has expanded.

In Japan, naming practices are..hierarchical to an extreme degree and operate on a way more complicated formality scale than in the US. To wit, I actually feel weird referring to Miho and Kaya by their first names because I don’t know them personally, and for people, you don’t know personally or are only casually acquainted with, the last name followed by your relationship with them is common (at least as it has been explained to me. And from what I’ve observed during my immersion). Hell, Saiko refers to Miho as Azuki and he’s her HUSBAND TO BE.

But Koogy’s entitlement fucking OOZES through his pores in that sequence with poor Aoki. And it’s not just the total disregard for her personal space, or the way he casually touches her, which, fucking eek, dude.

It’s the way he not only refers to her by first name, but by a different nickname than her preferred nickname Ko. He refers to her as “Yuri”.

Even though the naming thing is only starting to make sense to me, I can tell you I’m familiar enough that that shit is highly, highly rude at a minimum. They’re not co-workers…yet (oy), but to use a more diminutive, pet name derivative of “Yuriko” and one that is not preferred. That is just capital V real-life villain shit right there. It’s pretty gross in the US, as well, but for some reason, it bothers me way more in this context.

And you may be thinking “wow, you’re getting pretty a-na-ru about this whole naming convention thing, what’s the big deal?”

It’s like if I started calling a girl on the street who I’d just met “babe”. It’s gross and inappropriate.

There’s a degree of unreality and informality in manga and anime, to begin with – no one’s calling anyone “Temee” in japan as casually as they do in Shonen anime – but this story is keeping it relatively realistic, so the informality is way more…obvious and galling than it normally would be in something like Gintama or My Hero Academia.

And I felt so defensive on poor Aoki’s behalf here. The way that entire sequence is framed in general is just mad uncomfortable. Her expression looking like a prisoner or someone whose life is over. It was just an upsetting sequence which made the exclamation point of an ending all the more unnerving and frustrating.

But we have a ton of other shit to talk about, so let’s not waste time.

Hiramaru

If he weren’t a fictional character, I’d probably get jealous of the apparently failing upward Hiramaru. He’s the kind of person I get annoyed by. Someone who doesn’t want to do anything but does something and instantly succeeds. The anti-saiko and shujin. He’s no hard work at all. But because he’s full of character and he’s evidently talented, he’ll get away with it.

It’s frustrating in real life, but here it’s hilarious because he’s just so extra and hates everything profoundly. I don’t know; I find him amusing. He also clearly chose the wrong profession if he doesn’t want to work for the rest of his life.

He’s also a nice contrast to Nizuma in terms of prodigy because he’s older, and he doesn’t actually like manga and also, the premise for Otter No. 11 sounds hilarious. There is an ongoing manga in Jump called High-School Family, which has me dying with a similar vibe.

I dunno, surprisingly likable, all things considered. And an uproarious drunk. A comedy of errors the whole way through. He should add some more levity to the proceedings, although there is plenty to be had all around.

Torishima the Illustrious

One of the things I loved about this chapter was Torishima. Just. Full stop. He’s delightful. He gives a speech like Kamina from Gurren Lagann, he’s full of character, and he’s playfully pissed off by everything.

But the best part of all is that he is real. One hundo P.

In fact, he’s the editor who made Akira Toriyama’s Dr. Slump famous by shifting the focus to Arale instead of the professor, a change which made Dr. Slump successful and if we’re being honest helped pave the way for Dragon Ball in the future, given its humble beginnings. He also became famous for bringing an unpopular manga to the top of Jump by having the artist draw a character resembling a famous Idol at the time.

I learned this recently applies to Hattori as well (Thanks Rusty!), but to learn that they take potshots at real Jump figures is all kinds of fun for me.

Even better, Toriyama parodied him as a villain – as is mentioned here – for his efforts. I can only imagine the relationship he had with Torishima to get to that point. And I wonder how the guy took it.

All that is to say, seeing Bakuman take pot shots at real dudes in an affectionate way was wonderful. I also love that Taro Kawaguchi is lowkey compared to Toriyama by also having a character who parodies Torishima in his gag manga. It gave an air of esteemed lineage to Saiko’s uncle. It was also touching and hilarious that his favorite anecdote was getting strangled by the man.

While I can’t say I had the same pleasure with Ibaraki – who is also real – it’s interesting to see the real world and fictional one collide.

The Party Itself

As for the party, continuing with my assessment last chapter. It feels like a corporate party down to the awkward raffle and schmoozing at the buffet. Arai was kind of a nonpresence, but I assume he’ll reappear at some point given that he was introduced at all. The bingo and the games all reeked of corporate party schmaltz. And also the after-party at a hostess club.

All in all, they got the vibe just right.

And I love that Saiko and Shujin are so enamored of the experience that they use it as a benchmark for their future. It’s what they want, and I love seeing people knowing what they want. It was also nice to see Shujin clean house at the raffle and for Bakuman to date itself with the NEW NINTENDO DS.

I’ve made that joke twice, it’s still funny.

Other than Hiramaru’s nuttiness, Nizuma was also in peak jealousy arousing mode this evening. He’s already getting offers for an anime and being asked for autographs. To see your rival be so good and you just starting is always a hard thing, but it’s still aspirational at the end of the day.

Saiko and Shujin are where they want to be, and they want to get that anime. So I know they’ll fight tooth and nail for it.

But they have a lot of obstacles in the way.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens next.

And with that, I’ll leave you until next time.

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