In Window and Snow, Nakai is the Hero We Need (Bakuman Chapter 38)

Disclaimer and Edit Post Script: After some discussion in the comments I wanted to add this to this post because my rosier view may overshadow it. What Nakai does in this chapter is stalking. No ifs ands or buts about it. It’s not ok. It’s creepy and wrong. And while the idea of persevering in the face of impossible odds is something I appreciate, I’d be a hypocrite if I said that that excuses Nakai’s shitty behavior in this chapter. There is no good reason to stalk someone. I’m not going to edit the post itself, but I am leaving this disclaimer to reflect that my opinions have changed since publishing it and that my feelings towards Nakai are not perfectly in line with what they were when I published it.

Hi there, my dudes. Welcome to my read-through of Bakuman, Chapter 38 Window and Snow in which I get meta discussing my own goals and dreams, and get sad a little too.

If you are not caught up, please use this handy-dandy index to do so. There are no spoilers past the current chapter. Read freely, my dudes.

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Without further ado, the chapter.

Window and Snow Summary

Aoki in Distress

Aoki examines the storyboards for Hideout Door and remembers a conversation she had with Aida. The editorial office wants Hideout Door to have more action. Or, as Aoki so eloquently puts it: more punches and kicks. Aoki thinks mental struggle is sufficient. Aida points out Shonen Jump’s whole Joie De Vivre is Kicks and Punches.

Ibaraki pervs on Aoki in a sidebar and sees her work as perfect for Jump Square rather than Shonen Jump. Yujiro barely suppresses his disgust.

Aida tells her not to worry about drawing the action given Nakai’s background, but she refuses anyway and leaves.

As she leaves, Aida tells her that if she wants to be in shonen manga, she will need to be open to editorializing her work and making changes. Aoki makes the rookie mistake of taking it personally when Ibaraki walks up to her to talk about Hideout Door and his magazine.

Nakai’s Promise

The flashback ends and Nakai buzzes her apartment. He wants to talk and promises he won’t come up.

Meanwhile, Shujin and Saiko talk about their concern over Nakai’s wellbeing. Saiko’s sure he’s crushing on Aoki hard. Shujin reminds Saiko that they promised to let Fukuda handle him and concentrate on their series. Saiko agrees with Fukuda and talks about how hard it is to maintain a high school career while working on a manga (duh).

Shujin freaks out about whether Nakai will commit suicide and Saiko himself tries not to think about the possibility.

Nakai asks Aoki whether she’ll be teaming up with Koogy. She confirms it and he asks what that means for him.

They’re done.

Awww, poor dude.

Nakai asks why: Hideout Door is good, and its likely to get serialized at the next meeting. So why? Why Miss Aoki?

Aoki claims his artwork is simply not up to par for her vision of the story. Nakai has a panel long full-on emotional breakdown. But then, he doubles down: he’ll create something that they’ll both be pleased with. He’ll create her world.

Awww, poor dude.

Aoki asks how he’ll manage that, given his own hectic schedule. He won’t sleep. Aoki doesn’t believe him. Words are wind.

Nakai commits to redrawing the entire manga from scratch outside her apartment at the park across every day after work. She’ll be able to see him work…

Uhhh…

She tells him not to but he’s resolved now as any shonen-good boi grown ass man would.

Nakai’s Friendship

At Nizuma’s studio, Eiji and Fukuda discuss the foolishness of Nakai’s plan. Fukuda chalks it up to him getting big-headed about his success in the Gold Future Cup. Eiji thinks it has more to do with his commitment to the story itself. Nakai shows up and apologizes for tardiness.

Fukuda’s snarky and asks whether Aoki was receptive to Nakai’s advances. Fukuda tells him to give up; he’s like 10 years older than her anyway. Nakai insists that that isn’t the point, gaw.

Nakai finishes work and asks to leave, which Nizuma honors. Nakai packs up his drafting tools and talks to himself about what else he’ll need. Fukuda asks what’s up, and he explains his (insane) plan. Fukuda’s understandably worried and thinks Aoki’s a bit too proper to be inviting boys to her apartment alone. Fukuda gets genuinely worried when he clarifies that he’ll be drawing in the freezing ass weather.

When Fukuda questions why he’s going to the trouble, Nizuma answers that he loves “manga”.

Bless his heart.

Three days later, Ogawa, Takahama, and Kato leave the boy’s office, and Ogawa fills them in on their progress. Shujin discusses the Nakai situation with Kaya. Kaya remains optimistic about the situation, but Shujin’s so concerned for Nakai that it’s starting to interfere with his own work. Saiko – also worried – calls Fukuda to ask for a status update.

On his sweet-ass Harley (of fucking course), Fukuda explains that Nakai has been going to the park to draw after work outside Aoki’s apartment.

Saiko is, understandably, confused. Fukuda explains that it’s so she can see his commitment and Saiko thinks that’s nuts, given the season. Saiko is no less confused and Fukuda thinks it’s to win Aoki back, although the behavior is, admittedly more stalker-like than endearing.

Saiko recalls Nakai’s vow to get Hideout Door created no matter the cost and pieces things together.

Nakai’s Perserverance

Aoki watches, frustrated, from her apartment and calls Nakai asking him to stop. Nakai, who is fired up tells her he’s glad she’s watching and he’s fine.

Fukuda, watching decides not to drag Nakai back to the office as planned; he concludes Nakai would probably be happy freezing to death working on this manga which freaks both Saiko and Shujin out even more, as they misunderstand the metaphor. Fukuda tells them again not to worry about it and focus on their own series.

Kaya asks about Nakai’s mission and Shujin confirms that he’s been doing it every night from nine pm to six am and all day after work.

Eek.

Saiko’s frustrated by his decision to call Fukuda as now it’s all he can think about, worrying for Nakai’s well-being even though he has to work.

Kaya thinks Aoki’s being mean. She could call the cops and have him removed. Shujin thinks that’s a good idea and proposes they do so, but Saiko nixes as Nakai would hate them even more.

The three talk about how weird it is that Aoki hasn’t called the cops on him and conclude that, on some level she must be conflicted about what she wants

Meanwhile, at the park, Nakai is harassed by some no-good punks for drawing manga, being called an otaku, and asking to see the pages. Nakai swipes the pages and earns himself an ass-whooping from the kids trying to protect the pages. All he has in mind are protecting the pages and his hands so he can draw.

Aoki watches in fright after the kids, disgusted, leave. Aoki goes inside and checks the pages he’s left her, and she’s amazed at his draftsmanship in the cold and dark.

Snow Storm

Ogawa complains about the incoming snowstorm, and Kato thinks it might be wise to close early. Saiko calls Fukuda and asks where Nakai is. Saiko asks about the weather, and Fukuda confirms it’s snowing like crazy.

Saiko tells him that if Nakai falls asleep in the snow, he’ll die. Fukuda’s sure he won’t change his mind for any reason, and he’s trying to prove his cojones. Saiko yells at Fukuda for being a hard-headed idiot and tells him that Nakai is a friend and member of Team Fukuda. He shouts that he’s done with this bullshit, and they’re going to drag him inside if no one else will.

Fukuda takes the bait and agrees to meet them at the train station.

Saiko tells his assistants to head home and calls Shujin to fill him in on the details. Shujin asks to bring Kaya and Saiko says yeah in case they have to move him.

Nakai’s Victory

Aoki watches in horror as Nakai continues drawing with a flashlight, a space heater, and a tarp. Fukuda and the Boys connect at the train station and head over to the park. Fukuda insults Aoki but Saiko recognizes this isn’t really about her. He concedes that it’s more about the manga than her and that his raw passion is what led to this.

Window and Snow. Aoki watches as Nakai pushes himself to the limit.


They arrive at the park to find Aoki holding an umbrella over a frozen Nakai, literally in tears.

Aoki apologizes for insulting his artwork. She acknowledges that it was her story that was the problem, and she was deflecting. Nakai still thinks his art is the reason.

Fukuda, Saiko, Shujin, and Kaya all watch, sobbing at the happy resolution as Aoki invites Nakai to her apartment to warm up. Nakai misinterprets her intentions, and she appropriately freaks out. She clarifies that she just wants him not to catch a cold if they’re a team. He apologizes for jumping the gun.

Shujin and Saiko watch admiringly and Saiko explains that Nakai ended up in the hospital for three days with a fever but the duo had reunited and Koogy was left to work on his manga alone.

With that the chapter concludes.

Window and Snow Reaction

Panel of the Week

Come on. There was no way in hell this was not going to be the panel of the week. It’s one of those panels that good manga and anime excel at where out of context it’s kinda beautiful with the snow and the composition and the tears. But in the context of the chapter, it’s a climactic resolution of building drama. A tipping point towards resolution.

It’s also a small, quiet moment that makes it somehow more relieving and emotionally resonant because it’s not a theatrical moment. It’s just a quiet recognition of someone’s struggle and the end of a conflict borne of personal failing. The way Aoki is pristine in the snow and Nakai is a busted-up, teary mess is…Chefs kiss.

On that note.

Let’s Talk About Myself For a Second

Nakai is important.

When we were introduced to his character about 15 chapters ago, I went on an extended bitch-fest about growth vs. fixed mindset and how he embodied the latter when he could get what he wanted by exhibiting the former. He was 33 and girlfriendless and going nowhere, and his life was in shambles.

I felt for the guy, and he has grown to be one of the most personally significant characters of the series for me. For reasons which, if you’ve read this series, you’ve probably pinpointed.

I see way too much of myself in him.

I’m somewhere between a late-bloomer and right on time – I still haven’t figured it out yet – but I didn’t have the will to pursue my own dreams until my late 20s, and even then, I dithered about it and, in some ways, still am. Until I met some shonen good bois and decided that it was reasonable to pursue my dreams though I am neither a shonen nor, necessarily, a good boi. I’m ok.

I’ve just started a long journey into creative arts and online work, and I have no scaffolding. I have no support system, and I don’t really have an audience yet minus trusty Rusty (thanks bud, you’ve been keeping me going) and the bevy of lurkers who I assume also read this blog. The prospect of building connections and building this whole process is abjectly terrifying, especially because I’m no longer in the spring of youth.

I’ve been overweight the majority of my life and have only just started getting healthy. And I also recently got some form of rejection in screenwriting that amounted to what Nakai experienced. And it hurt, and it showed me that I have a LONG way to go before I get where I want to go.

Which is why it was so important to see Nakai in this chapter do what he does.

Let’s talk about Nakai

This chapter might be my favorite to date on a character and emotional level. It is straightforwardly dumber than shit to do what Nakai did. And I mean this sincerely: kids, do not be an idiot like Nakai and do what he did. It is mega-stupid, dangerous, and not a little bit creepy because of the Aoki of it all, more on that in a bit.

But it is the embodiment of shonen ideals for people who aren’t literal shonen. Which Nakai most certainly isn’t. He’s a dude who has let life pass him by for a really long time, who has then decided that he wants something, and in wanting something this badly, he finally has the will to pursue it come hell or high water. Yes, it’s partially motivated by an unhealthy crush, but it is also the first time that Nakai has recognized his own value to the point where he willing to engage in some level of risk to get what he wants.

I admire the fuck out of that.

While the lessons of Shonen manga are often easy to glean and eminently translatable beyond age and gender, it’s not often that I get to see a visceral tangible example of someone with whom I uncomfortably identify with doing the things I want to do with conviction and character. But Nakai does. He is going for it. He loves the work he does, as brutal as it is, and he’s risking life and limb for it.

And it’s good to see the characters trust Nakai’s instincts. Or at least Fukuda, who showed a welcomely different side to himself this chapter. I’m glad to see Fukuda exhibiting some level of trust in Nakai’s goals and dreams. Saiko and Shujin are understandably concerned, as is Aoki, but they are willing to trust him enough to do what needs doing.

So good on you, Nakai, doing what you want to do to get closer to your dreams and having faith in yourself. I’m also a sucker for sequences of grit and determination and doing the impossible, so that too.

Let’s talk about Aoki

Aoki was also mega-relatable in this instance but for entirely different reasons. While Nakai’s crush is understandable – if inappropriate given context – Aoki’s hard-headedness would make me re-assess those feelings. I do get that he cares about the manga more and takes personal responsibility (yay) for the process. But even so, that doesn’t excuse Aoki in this chapter, who is, let’s face it, acting like a child.

I got some criticism for my script, and I’ve been flitting between Aoki and Nakai in how I’ve handled it. I’ve been mulling it over and chewing on it to see what is valid and what isn’t, but as Aida tells her: you need to be open to editing, or you will never get anywhere, and I’m happy to say I haven’t rejected the critiques outright.

But Aoki is really doing her damnedest to let the story be hers and take no outside notes, which, oy. I don’t like it man.

Even though we like to treat art as this monolith which is the sole responsibility of one person, it isn’t done in isolation. Most art – if not all art – is in some way a collaborative process. In painting, you need a subject, and people to critique your work. In narrative, you need an editor. In screenwriting, a producer and creative team willing to bring your vision to life.

You need that conflict and clash of ideas to make sure the idea is excellent or the best it can be. It doesn’t always work out, but it is an essential part of the process. Something that has taken me years to learn.

I do understand that impulse to be protective and shift blame, but in Aoki’s case, it’s just tiring. She’s been singing this tune for a while now and she needs to take the criticism to heart because everybody has had the same criticism: it’s not shonen enough. And when you’ve gotten the same not over and over again, it’s not the reader that’s the issue. She didn’t need to take it out on Nakai at all, even though he’s been nothing but a good sport.

So for her to finally recognize this in the climax of the chapter was wonderful. And especially with that beautiful gentle climax. The use of the umbrella was a gorgeous moment.

Obviously, it had to be undercut by the fact that Nakai is crushing, but I appreciate it nonetheless.

Closing and Stray Thoughts

This chapter was a powerhouse emotionally for me. The snow storm was an effective way to inject pathos without being silly or over the top. It felt real. And given the real health concerns of mangaka – who regularly end up in the hospital for days on end due to overwork and immune trouble – Nakai’s risk was punished accordingly.

That said, given the recent news of Kentaro Miura’s passing, maybe downplaying the health concerns for manga is not the best thing to do right now. RIP Miura. Thank you.

It’s also hilarious that Nizuma still understands everybody so well, despite being so fundamentally weird about it. Never change Nizuma. Unless you plan to snipe my bois, in which case, you know, DO change.

But other than that, a wonderful chapter, and one that re-affirms me even if it is hard to stomach sometime.

Until next time,

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