In Beach and Ups And Downs, Miho and Saiko strengthen their relationship (Bakuman Chapter 40)

Velcome, my readers to my read-through of Bakuman Chapter 40: Beach and Ups-and-Downs, in which we discuss healthy communication, good choices, and whether someone is doing their job well.

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Without further ado, the chapter.

Beach and Ups and Downs Summary

Saiko’s Mad Dash to Hachioji

Saiko panics because Miho isn’t answering her phone. Miho is a crying wreck. Saiko asks Kaya for Miho’s address. Kaya looks for it and gives it: Hachioji City.

Kaya calls Shujin, who flips when he tells him what’s up. Kaya doesn’t know what’s going on, but she’s worried since he asked for her phone number.

Saiko dashes to the train station only to be stopped by Shujin and Kaya, furious that he’s skipping inking to see Miho. Shujin chews him out because their schedule is going to ramp up with chapter 4’s release. Why go now, since their dream has barely started. Saiko panics – he doesn’t want to explain what Miho couldn’t – and says he’ll stay up all night inking.

Shujin calls bullshit: it’s 4 hours round trip to and from Hachioji. He’ll never complete those pages on time if that happens.

Saiko explains that she isn’t answering her phone, and when Shujin presses for more information, he says he doesn’t know, so he has to go. Shujin wouldn’t understand since he and Kaya are glued at the hip. He pushes Shujin away, and Kaya asks the prognosis for the next chapter: it won’t look good even if he does finish it. Shujin asks Kaya whether she’s given the college try of calling Miho.

Kaya calls Azuki to see what’s up. She’s not picking up. Shujin deduces that Miho must think it’s Saiko still. Shujin asks if she can call the house; yes, but Miho’s mother will pick up. Shujin offers to call, much to Kaya’s shock.

At the Azuki Residence

Mrs. Azuki picks up and is pleasantly surprised to hear from Shujin. He tells her about Miho’s silence, so she goes to check on her. Her mother hands the phone to Miho, who refuses to speak to Shujin because Saiko might be with him.

*rubs forehead* uh-huh. Lord, give me strength.

Miho’s Mom ain’t having none of that dumbass nonsense and gives her the phone, so she can tell Shujin to piss off herself. She grudgingly takes the phone, and Shujin explains that Saiko is rushing over to her place now. Shujin chews her out because Saiko’s screwing over his job to see her.

Miho has a moment of clarity and hangs up abruptly on Shujin while he continues tearing into her. She clarifies that she needs to talk to Saiko. He relents, and she calls.

Heart to Heart

Miho finally calls Saiko, who asks if she’s ok and she apologizes. She tells him to work on his manga. She apologizes for causing trouble and breaks down further. She explains she didn’t want him to hear how depressed she was but that him skipping out on his manga is way worse.

Saiko asks whether she’s still bothered about the photobook. She is. He thinks they should talk about it in person, but she has one question for him.

If she put out the photobook, and it had no impact on her career – positive or negative – would he want her to do it.

The answer is a resounding no. Even though he’d like it and buy it, he wouldn’t want anyone else to see it. He wants her all to himself.

Miho says she’ll say no to the photobook deal. She explains that she might think about it if she becomes more popular but that now is premature. She tells him about how she was looking at her elementary school yearbook and how it was her dream even then. She reminisces about only knowing that people could be voice actors for a living. She didn’t care about the idol work or the photobook. She wants things to be simple like they were back then.

Saiko agrees with her. He talks about the drawing he did all the time back in the day, but when he got a dose of reality he gave up. He then explains how his uncle overworked himself to death, literally. He goes onto admit that the more idealized your dream job is, the harder it hits when it’s ugly realities come to light.

Saiko then pushes on that it’s only if you don’t give up and keep pushing to eventually succeed at realizing your dreams. Miho agrees and feels reinvigorated to pursue her dream after talking to Saiko about it. She tells him he doesn’t have to worry about her and he should go back to work.

D’awwww.

She also offers to be more communicative about problems and struggles as they come up. She won’t internalize anymore. Saiko gently berates her because she was the one who said they should encourage each other to begin with.

She closes the call by asking them to go to the beach: they can take all the photos they want, then. Another promise for when their dreams come true. She’ll prepare a picnic lunch. Saiko goes over their list of dreams. It’s piling on now. Miho says that dreams don’t just come true all by themselves. Saiko tells her he’s going to finish inking.

Kaya and Shujin yell at him from the entrance to the subway, and Miho offers to apologize for the kerfuffle. Saiko apologizes for his own rash behavior. Kaya and Shujin show their relief, albeit exasperatedly. Shujin orders Saiko to go back and finish inking.

Surveys and Storytelling

Chapter 4 is finished in time (phew). Miura is ready to talk about the next chapter and brings their Chapter 2 surveys: Eighth Place. Not bad. Shujin’s not thrilled about it, and Shujin’s shifting goalposts amuse Miura after his worry about dropping to double digits.

Shujin’s not disappointed – completely – and wants to know about Plus Beta, the most recent addition, as well as Crow, Otter, and Crackers. Plus Beta ranked fifth, Crow ranked third, Otter sixth, and Crackers in twelfth. Even though Crackers is low, it’s not in the danger zone yet. No need to worry about the rankings this early on.

Shujin finds the trajectory of Cheese Crackers alarming after dropping from 9th to 12th and that there is a good likelihood they’ll also drop that far. Miura thinks they’ll be fine unless they get 18th or 19th place and that there really isn’t any reason to worry. He reminds Shujin that confidence is key, and he’s been hounding him about that.

Shujin’s fear comes from the upcoming serialization meeting coming up right after their third chapter release. Miura explains: unless they’re dead last, they won’t be dropped at Chapter 3. Shujin wants 100% certainty. Miura isn’t 100%, but he’s 99%, which is just as good. Not good enough for Shujin. Miura explains that you can never be 100% sure of anything.

Saiko asks about Plus Beta and how it won’t be dropped because it’s still in Chapter 2’s early results. Yep. Dem’s da rules.

Saiko then wonders that if four new series get serialization, then anything under 15th will be destroyed. Miura is at a loss as to how to deal with these insecure mangaka. He tells them that Trap is fine and not to worry. Just focus on the next chapter and keep pushing ahead.

Early Results

Miura gets the early results for Chapter 3: 9th place, which Miura is cool with because it’s still the top half of the magazine. They’re not up for cancellation; they can chill. Aida also compliments Ashirogi and thinks they’ll keep running and that the Nizuma/Ashirogi pair are really strong, especially because they’re in high school.

Miura agrees with that assessment. Hattori’s bugged out by Miura’s contentment at aiming so low.

The next day Shujin asks Saiko to review the storyboards. While reviewing them, Saiko thinks they should start changing whatever they can. He explains that their case resolution in Trap is about three chapters. Without survey info on chapters 4-6, they don’t want to be locked into a case that will take 3 chapters if their next chapters do poorly.

Shujin points out that Miura wants to keep them full steam ahead until they release the first graphic novel. Once the sales for that are confirmed, they won’t have to worry. Saiko’s still concerned. If they don’t do well in the four or so months leading up to that release, it doesn’t matter anyway. Takahama – who has been listening – agrees with Saiko’s assessment.

Takahama explains that while Miura is a decent guy – and offered to be his editor when he was a runner-up for Tezuka of the three one-shots he got published, none got a monthly award. All were “just fine,” according to Miura. His lack of experience and optimism weaken his editorial instinct, so Takahama has decided to rely on his own instincts.

Shujin thinks it’s a bad idea because they already locked story details in their editorial meeting; also, they’ll lose time if they do make changes. Saiko talks about the chapter in which Trap falls for a trap and nearly dies. But Saiko’s not the writer, so he defers to Shujin’s judgment.

The Next Day

Kaya is grumpy during serialization because it’s stressful, even if they’re not up for serialization. Shujin asks her to focus on Inking, which she scoffs at while inking.

They get a phone call. The meeting seems to have ended early. The call is from Fukuda and Nakai: they both got series! Nizuma congratulates everybody. Nakai is literally in tears while Nizuma happily mourns the fact that they’ll not be working together anymore. Fukuda points out that they’ll all be in Jump now. Nothing better than that, and now they’re all in competition. Fukuda’s usual bluster is on display. Nakai vows not to lose either for Aoki.

Saiko tells Kaya and Shujin about their new rivals. Shujin panics.

It then gets worse. The two series canceled are Chain Gold by Takano and Cheese Crackers by Arai. They remember Miura’s confidence about Cheese Crackers. Shujin thinks about Saiko’s recommendation and Takahama’s advice, and he decides he’s going to rewrite Chapter 7 as the chapter concludes.

Beach and Up And Downs Reaction

Panel of the Week

Beach and Ups and Downs color page featuring Miho Azuki singing from bakuman Chapter 40

Color pages tend to have the unfair advantage of being color pages. But I like that Ohba also changed up his usual rendering style with what appears to be paints instead of markers. If it was markers, then the blending is absolutely off the charts. The value work here is very delicate and expert, with the folds of Miho’s clothes and the highlight of the studio lights creating a nice blend of light and shadow that is extremely realistic.

It also creates a nice tonal contrast to an emotionally heavy chapter with its pastel imagery. Although Miho isn’t very expressive in this image, the level of detail is astonishing and beautiful.

Phew

Just gotta say, as dumb as these two dummies are, I’m glad they broke their little It Happened One Night cutesie wall of Jericho shit for once to actually talk to each like actual adults instead of this protracted experience of “I like it too much therefore I cannot do it or it will be like drugs and I’ll start doing relationship heroin”.

Thank. Fucking. God.

But more importantly, I’m glad the series has finally done something regarding the idea of the rigid pursuit of your dreams and saying yes to opportunity in an emotionally mature way that actually makes Miho not an object. I like the fuck out of that. More on it below

You see, feminism isn’t about strong women doing things that men do with their fists, that plays into male power fantasies even if it does give women agency. It’s about giving women the will to have their own autonomy and the strength to use their body how they wish outside the bounds of male expectations. And equal treatment under the law. And also freedom to live life comfortably. Feminism is a lot, ok?

Which…ok, that metaphor doesn’t really line up here because she had to get Saiko to talk her off the ledge. But I do appreciate that Miho is ultimately the one who chooses to potentially hamstring her nascent career by making a choice about her body and her own levels of comfort and consent. I’m really really glad that happened.

I also like how it’s framed as not a compromise, necessarily, but a commitment to pursue dreams on one’s own terms. Even though practically it will impact her career – potentially very negatively (gross) – and it will slow down the process, I just want baby girl to be comfortable and not get harassed by weird dudes.

Well, more than she would as an idol, which we know would happen anyway.

I do also like that Miho and Saiko are when push comes to shove, reasonably healthy communicators. I live for healthy communication and open expression of desires. So to see them take each other’s lives into account, act with candor and class, and be respectful of each other’s boundaries. Mwah. Chef’s kiss. Perfect. Now, if they can only stop this dumbass plot point about their dreams and start talking, I will truly be thrilled.

…Anyway. What I’m saying is. Good job Obata for not fucking this one up like you did with Kaya. This is an incredibly satisfying conclusion to this little mini-arc. And, might I also say, did they actually change editors at this juncture?

Tonal Shift

The last several chapters have been surprisingly action-packed. Like, way more dramatic in a melodramatic sort of way that feels almost out of character for the tone this manga has taken to date.

The drama feels like either intended to counteract poor ratings, or a new editor was cycled in at around this time to make the manga have a little more dramatic heft and bite.

Not that I’m complaining. As much as I like the logical people discussing the ins and outs of the trade in minute painstaking detail, it’s always good to have drrrama with a tongue trill.

And, if I’m being honest, since I have to recap this I am wayyy more emotionally invested in these characters than I normally am because I actually have to digest what they’re doing and also I see myself in them more than I’m comfortable with.

So to have Nakai, and Miho’s crises be actual straight-up crises of dramatically epic proportions was a nice break in the pretty methodical formula we’ve had to date. And for them to be more visual than dialogue-driven was easy on my recapping. Cause man, these can be a bitch to recap sometimes.

With that out of the way, Ima be real with you.

Detective Trap is in trouble

And not for the reason you may think. I have a feeling the story itself may or may not be good. And this may be a red herring – since we can read this as both a meta-detective story surrounding rankings and creative writing – but at this point, they’re laying on the warning signs thick.

Narratively, Detective Trap is not long for this world.

And look, maybe I’m wrong and maybe Obata and Ohba have set me up super hard and they actually plan for the series to be a runaway success that then presents an issue for the boys moving forward.

But given how methodical the story has been to date, I don’t see it. One of the major failures in mangaka life is getting the axe, and given that I’m less than a quarter done with the series, there ain’t no way in hell Detective Trap is long for this world.

That said, I do hope they don’t get axed this soon. But Miura’s advice, the lack of faith from the assistants, and the trajectory – and cancellation of Cheese Crackers – are all making it pretty dire.

Which is great, for the record. There is a real sense of urgency for what might be the least urgent seeming business dramatically. One would not initially think Manga was such high stakes.

But those low ratings and Miura’s own carefree attitude are so against the grain of the story to date that it is impossible to read it and not see it spiraling down the drain.

Speaking of

Is Miura a good editor?

This really is the question. He is certainly likable, but he’s currently checking off more bad editor flags than good. Especially when Shonen is all about pushing yourself towards greatness. Especially Hattori’s little spit take when he seemed satisfied with 9th place. It makes Miura seem bad.

But on the other hand, as a devoted reader of Jump for several years now, the week-to-week rankings probably mean less than the boys are freaking out about. Series get canceled for many reasons, and while ranking most certainly has to do with it in part, there are other factors. And being in the middle of the pack consistently is generally a good thing, at least when you start. You can always rise or fall, but maintaining the middle, in the beginning, is actually really good. You don’t have any brand recognition, and you’re competing against the heavy hitters who will remain at the front of the pack due to their enormous popularity.

So I tend to side with Miura here. If they drop to the bottom of the ToC, they are certainly in trouble. But at this stage, being middle of the pack is pretty standard. Nizuma is an exception by a wide margin.

But this is just another warning for Trap. If the boys change it, what are they risking? Will they shoot themselves in the foot? What will Miura do if they choose to change the storyboards?

It’s impossible to say at this point, but it’s not looking good.

With that said, Miho’s crisis does shed some hopeful light.

She took a hit to her career (potentially) by saying no to the photobook. But she’s not out of the game. She’ll have to work hard and may hinder herself going forward, but the series does not seem to be suggesting that she’s down for the count just yet.

So maybe Trap has a shot.

I really don’t know. And I’m worried about it.

I guess we’ll see.

Jesus the read-through ran long.

We’ll find out what happens next chaper.

Until then, see you next time.

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