In Yearbook and Photobook, Takahama has ambitions and Miho’s in crisis (Bakuman Chapter 39)

Yo yo yo, my friends. Today we are reading Bakuman Chapter 39: Yearbook and Photobook in which Takahama gets some character development, Miho goes through some satisfying crisis, and we talk about agency some more.

If you are not caught up – and no shame if you are – here’s a nifty index for you to catch up. There are no spoilers past the current chapter, so read at ease.

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Without further ado, the chapter.

Yearbook and Photobook: Summary

Takahama

Miura is satisfied with the work in Chapter 2. Saiko confirms that they need to expedite Chapter 3 in case they need to switch gears midway through and lean into battle manga territory. Miura knows it’s a pain in the ass, but it’s better to be safe in case popularity tanks. Saiko doesn’t want to move in that direction, but c’est la manga.

Miura gives Saiko an advance copy of the next issue of Jump, featuring Hiramaru’s debut with Otter No. 11. It’s the first to run. Saiko explains that Trap will premiere in two issues and wonders if it’s anything like The Gold Future Cup. He wants the series to succeed on its merits, but he also doesn’t want to lose.

Miura leaves to meet with Takagi and tells Saiko they’ll have a group meeting after he turns in Chapter 3. He wishes everyone good luck then peaces out.

Saiko finds the atmosphere minus Kaya, Shujin, and Miura to be depressing and overly quiet. Takahama keeps his earphones in, and Ogawa’s annoyed by it, which adds to the tension. Neither Ogawa nor Saiko wants to bring it up to him, though, because they don’t want to make the issue worse.

At Midnight Ogawa gives the assistants the rest of the night, leaving only Takahama. Saiko tells Takahama he can leave too, but he wants to keep working, so he decides to stay. Saiko’s astonished he’s said anything at all. Saiko offers to stay a little longer, as well.

Walt Disney

Takahama takes out his earbuds and tells Saiko – apropos of nothing – that he really wants to be successful to the point that he’s the next Walt Disney.

….wow.

Saiko’s astonished by such a lofty goal, but he also admires the ambition. Takahama believes that mangaka needs to dream huge, which Saiko agrees with. Amidst the conversation, Saiko wonders about his overall silence before. Takahama explains that, while he respects Saiko’s hustle, he finds Ogawa and Kato’s happiness at merely being assistants alienates him.

Ogawa is mindful of his limitations, so he yearns to be the best assistant he can be, but Kato is too pleased with herself staying as an assistant, so there is no overlap.

Takahama asks to read the new issue of Jump if Saiko won’t. Saiko plans to take it home, but Takahama wants to read it, so Saiko offers to read it before him, and Takahama offers to wait until he’s done. Saiko then asks him to stop referring to him as Sensei since Takahama’s older than him.

Saiko finds Otter No. 11 hilarious and will share with Takahama once he’s finished. They bond over the manga – with Saiko getting in some awkward “is my shit good too” questions in for good measure. Takahama thinks the art is better (lol).

Saiko narrates, explaining that since that day, Takahama, Saiko, and Shujin would all bond over manga when Takahama slept over. Takahama asks about their history, and Saiko explains Chapter 1, and Takahama is amazed.

Third Place

At home, Miho ponders her agent’s ultimatum for the photobook and flips through her elementary school yearbook. She looks at her adorable entry from 6th grade when she was “amame” and thought that the 6th graders would be friends forever. Awwwwwwww.

On February 21st, Detective Trap is released. The next day, Shujin talks about his discomfort at changing the storyboards for Chapter 4 based on results, but Saiko points out that they only have to do it if DT tanks in popularity.

Miura calls to congratulate the boys on getting third place in the early results. They can go with the early storyboards. Shujin and Saiko are concerned that Detective Trap only got third place when most premieres get 1st simply as a matter of newness. Miura’s thrilled because it’s third place in Jump. Perfectly reasonably to be happy.

Shujin pushes back and talks about Otter No. 11 getting first place. Miura tells them it’s maintained excellent rankings even into its third chapter. Shujin asks about Cheese Crackers which also started in third place. Its second week dropped to 9th. Shujin’s worry increases, and he wonders how far they could fall between chapters.

Miura reassures them that remaining above 10th place is incredible out of between 18 and 20 manga, so that’s nothing to worry about. He also thinks the chapters they submitted are top-notch. Hattori overhears the conversation with some…bemusement. Miura tells them to move full steam ahead with the original storyboard and sets up their next meeting.

Shujin explains the situation to Saiko, and Kaya is royally confused as to whether they did well. Saiko’s surprisingly sanguine about the whole issue, seeing how hyped he is for getting first. Saiko explains that they’re in the big leagues now, and third is still good; the real challenge will be Chapter 2.

The terrible twos. They speculate on the trajectory of their popularity and how it relates to the premiere chapter. Shujin thinks that Miura is being too optimistic about their chances and wonders about his competitiveness, given the success of Otter No. 11.

Miho in Crisis

Saiko chalks it up to relief at the first chapter doing well and youth leading to a lack of ambition. Shujin asks whether Saiko’s bothered by it: he is, but what can they do about it? It doesn’t matter until chapter 4, anyway.

Kaya and Shujin poke fun and speculate that Miho must have been sweet about the chapter, leading to Saiko’s contentment. That ain’t it, dawg. Saiko privately wonders what’s going on since she hasn’t said anything since the release of his one-shot.

He tells them both that he has to get started on the inking for the Chapter 4 and Shujin shoos Kaya out so he can focus.

Saiko texts Miho just…cause and she responds with “I’m doing fine (lol).”

Uh-oh. Saiko’s not pleased with the answer but pays no attention and starts inking.

He gets another text. Miho explains her predicament re: the photobook and how she’ll have to dress like a pinup girl if she does. Saiko is totally flabbergasted and doesn’t know how to respond. He sends the diplomatic option to choose for herself even though he doesn’t want it to happen.

He sends the text when she sends another text: if I do it, I want you to see me naked first.

What the fiddly fuck, is the collective response from me and Saiko, who thinks it’s a joke. Nope. It ain’t no joke; she wants him to see her au naturel so she’ll be comfortable posing in a swimsuit for horny otaku.

Saiko pieces together all the weirdness that’s been going on for like 6 chapters now. He calls Kaya and asks whether anything bad has happened to Miho recently. Kaya’s confused, but Saiko pushes her, and she explains that Miho’s been worried about her career as a voice actor.

Saiko freaks out about this and asks for more info but Kaya’s just confused. He asks for Miho’s number, much to Kaya’s surprise and barely concealed delight. He asks for her number and doesn’t explain.

He calls her, but she doesn’t pick up. She’s weeping in her room, not paying attention. He emails her asking her to talk on the phone about their dream. He calls again. No answer.

The phone remains ringing as the chapter concludes.

Yearbook and Photobook Reaction

Panel of the Week

Yearbook and Photobook crisis moment

This panel of the week obviously goes to Miho’s crisis being portrayed bodily. There’s just a wonderful sense of gesture and a really dynamic pose that’s set against the window and hardwood floor. Just a wonderful sense of composition overall and really evocative imagery. Pair that with Miho’s all-black school uniform contrasted with the all-white windows, which slant in the opposite direction to her pose. Outstanding work overall.

But what really interested me about this image is how it demonstrates the roles that Ohba and Obata actually have in coming up with the story. On the top right is Ohba’s original storyboard, which has all the basic elements, but instead of the dramatic fetal position splayed bag, Miho sits at her desk.

Contrast that with the wild, sketchy pencil and gesture work of the storyboard that ended up being drawn by Obata. Obata clearly understands Ohba’s story and knows how to translate it with purely visual language so that it ends up far more dramatic and emotionally satisfying.

I like it, yes I do.

Miho’s Crisis

We’ll get to the rest of the chapter in a bit. But obligatory Poor Miho. Poor girl needs a hug in the worst way. What a stressful situation. Her nickname was if I’m getting better at Japanese “Bean,” which is freaking adorable. And the nostalgia of her being a sweet little 6th grader was almost too much cute for such a dark turn in her arc.

And man, this ended up being way darker than I anticipated it being. The crack was set up in chapter 34 pretty effectively, but I did not foresee a turn to this much internal struggle this quickly. Especially one that hinges so heavily on Miho’s own sense of personal space and boundaries. It’s one of those stories that Shonen frequently does such a poor job of covering.

That is to say, I appreciate that it is a legitimate conflict instead of being something like Kaya housewifing or Misa being Misa. Or you know, all the countless examples of shitty depictions of women in shonen, which are countless.

It’s also a way more uncomfortable read than the other crises to date because it’s one I have no experience with. Like, I’m not on the same wavelength as the potential audience for a photobook, but like, she’s 17? and it’s creepy. Man.

Which is just a horrible position to be in. And one that I don’t envy in the least.

Surprisingly, I think Saiko is handling this whole situation well, given the whole “I’m not going to talk to you even though I want to” thing holding him back. It’s one of the more mature turns of his character that I’ve seen with this whole relationship so far. And it’s good to see that he is paying attention to her subtle tells when something is wrong and cares enough to go outside of his comfort zone to protect her sense of well-being.

It’s just, well, sweet, is probably the right word. But I think I’m going to go with mature because it’s ultimately a question of personal comfort over someone else’s well-being, which maturity often decides more than anything else.

Good on you Saiko, doing something adult.

Honestly, I can’t say where this is going to end up. I’m high key praying that there isn’t a sequence where Miho does an awkward teen girl seduction of Saiko because that just feels very wrong, overall.

Will She Choose To do the Photobook?

It’s pretty clear she has absolutely no desire to do the photobook, which, like, yeah. Makes sense. It’s skeezy and gross. And I continue to like that that is the heart of the issue: does she want to make a choice about her body and make it *potentially* easier to break into her industry long-term, or does she say no and weaken her position.

Given how much is riding on her personal success in the field, the fact that she doesn’t want to do it must be horrifying. I think we’ve all been in a situation where we know that we don’t want to do something, but the thing we want tells us we have to. And since her future happiness is at stake, it’s just too much to handle.

But I don’t know how I would feel if she did say yes to this opportunity. Partially because I don’t want this manga to get x-rated and awkward, but also because it’s very much against the spirit of the series and shonen in general. If she doesn’t choose it, though, how is she going to proceed?

I guess this is what a psychologist would call a false dichotomy. But I don’t think she should do it. And I don’t think the series wants her to do it. But how is she going to move forward if she doesn’t?

It’s an important question, and that cliffhanger was ballsy, but I want to talk about some other important things so let’s talk about those now.

Walt Takahama

Ok, not gonna lie; I did not see Takahama’s heel turn here. It’s actually pretty endearing to see the root of his discomfort is a lack of ambition. His off-putting silence was jarring – as discussed previously – but to see that it’s a reflection of a genuinely held desire to be the best. I dunno; it’s still kinda dumb. Be friendly, even if you’re ambitious. But it’s definitely a more interesting take.

This does tie into the above conflict from a different angle, and one that’s been pretty central to the series so far: what will you do to achieve your dreams? And, secondary, but equally important: dreaming big matters. Acting towards your dreams matters. And the most important part of that is doing the work.

But in creative fields, being able to socialize is as important as doing the work. Networking is one of those things you need to do even as an introvert. And if you want to be the next Walt Disney, you’re going to need to find compadres to fulfill your vision. No matter what. You can’t do it in isolation.

Which, mercifully for Takahama, he has in Saiko and Shujin. And it’s genuinely heartwarming to think about late night’s riffing on manga until the early morning. It’s one of those rare off-the-beaten path pleasures that comes in work environments where passion is at the center. But he could definitely talk to the assistants and build a coalition now so that when he pursues his big dreams, he has allies in the push.

I dunno. I appreciate the sentiment and don’t agree with the methods. But I am glad that Takahama’s red flag can be removed, now that it’s clear that he was just a red herring.

But that does lead me to a bigger red-flag and potential red-herring.

Miura’s Editorial Style

Now that they’ve been given the go-ahead to move forward with their original storyboards, Miura’s editorial prowess is an open question. He’s satisfied with Third, although their competition did much better on their first chapters. And again, the question of dream big vs. accepting reality comes into play.

Should they accept 3rd place as good enough?

My answer right now is that it’s another red flag that establishes Detective Trap‘s danger immediately. It also ties into the stiffness Miura complained about in the previous chapter. Miura is clearly willing to accept lower results and standards than Hattori would, but is that a bad thing?

At the current juncture dreaming big is the most important thing. Doing things like working all night in a snowstorm and making ten chapter storyboards in addition to the Gold Future Cup. The idea of sacrificing your big dreams in the face of practical realities – of compromise feels wrong right now.

But Miura is fine with some level of compromise. He may be taking a more relaxed view of the situation and recognizes that popularity polls don’t really start to matter in earnest unless you do poorly. Which is pretty middle of the road.

It has me worried. And It does for Shujin too.

Dreams and reality

This, in many ways, brings us back to the first chapter’s title: Dreams and Reality. Now that they’ve started, they’re getting a dose of reality for what being a mangaka means. And in this case, that might mean accepting a lower standard and pushing upward. Or it could mean they’re going in the wrong direction and are going to get axed.

In all cases, there are no straightforward answers as to what the right decision is. Miho could reasonably make either choice – though I don’t want her to – so could Takahama, and so could Saiko for making friends and changing the storyboards to Trap.

In a way, it’s kind of thrilling to not know which decision to make. It’s a fresh eye on the conflict and one that’s vital and pulsing. The choices matter, and can have grave effects.

What choice would you make, given the circumstances?

I have a feeling that, whatever choice they make, it will be alright, although it may not look how they want.

But that is a matter for future chapters.

Until next time

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