Hi there, and welcome to my read-through of Bakuman Chapter 41: Pandering and Patience, in which I go on a long tangent about the resolute acceptance of death.
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Without further ado, the chapter.
Pandering and Patience Summary
Rewrites and Fierce Competition
Picking up from the last chapter Shujin plans to rewrite Chapter 7. With their disappointing placement in third place, Hiramaru and Nizuma beating them, and the addition of equally fierce Fukuda and Nakai. They want to get animated, but at this rate, they’re fucked.
Ogawa privately muses on their goals for an anime but sees it as pretty common for mangaka. Saiko doesn’t want to lose to any of those other series, all of which will be fierce competition. Saiko agrees that the storyboards aren’t good enough but wants to know the changes he plans to make.
Shujin explains that they’ll have to talk to Miura to take it in the direction of a battle manga. Saiko asks whether he’ll have the time to make storyboards in 2 days. He’ll have to be really fast if he does.
He calls Miura, who wonders if the storyboards are finished, only to freak out hardcore when Shujin says he wants to change the story. Miura thought they’d agreed on going with the storyboards based on their meeting done today. However, Shujin thinks they’re moving in the wrong direction, and he wants another meeting.
Miura wants to know why and asks to call back on the company phone, as well as whether Shujin’s at the studio.
Pandering or Keeping Straight
Miura’s frustrated by Shujin’s change of heart and Aida asks what’s up. Miura asks about Trap’s status at Serialization and Aida confirms it wasn’t on the chopping block, but that it could be next time. Aida explains that it got 9th with Chapter 3, which doesn’t give it a clear path forward in terms of popularity and that Miura’s job is to make sure it doesn’t get canceled.
Miura starts to panic and asks whether Aida thinks it’s going in the right direction. He thinks keeping it a straight detective series is the right move, but it doesn’t matter if that isn’t popular in Jump.
Miura calls Shujin back and offers to come by tomorrow. Shujin wants to meet ASAP, but by tomorrow they’ll be finished with the current chapter. Miura sighs, as does Yujiro, and they ask each other what’s up.
Yujiro is Fukuda and Nizuma’s editor, but he has to find a whole new set of assistants for both Nizuma and Fukuda because of that success. Because of Nakai’s success, he’s down another assistant as well.
Miura explains that Shujin wants to redo the storyboard for Chapter 7 despite having finished storyboards for it. Yujiro points out that their ranking is pretty weak. Miura’s confused, but Yujiro thinks they should pander because of those lackluster results.
Miura wants to know what he means by pander, and Yujiro tells him tough titties: that’s your job to figure out. Hattori notes that neither of the boys will be satisfied with 9th, and they’ll strive for Numbah One.
Yoshida chimes in they shouldn’t pander to the lowest common denominator. Trap is a slow burn that gains momentum. This nameless editor thinks that as long as the cases are good, people will be drawn in, and the chapters where the cases are resolved are bound to get more votes. Aida thinks it’d be best if their cases were wrapped up in one chapter. Yujiro thinks pandering is the way to go.
Miura has a panic attack at all the conflicting information.
Sasaki and Heishi discuss Miura’s plight and Heishi explains the trouble. Sasaki tells Heishi to chill Miura out so that they don’t panic the mangaka.
Heishi walks over and tells Miura to calm down and project confidence, and never to panic in front of the mangaka. Miura asks for Heishi’s opinion on the matter.
Heishi, like a good bespectacled shonen side character, pushes up his glasses and explains that no one really knows what the recipe for good manga is and which method is right. Miura calls out the non-answer. But Yujiro thinks that slow and steady never wins: every chapter is like the first chapter. A chance to hook the audience.
The other nameless editor agrees with Heishi: there is no magic formula for a successful manga. The addition of characters like Lady No. 2 in Otter and Soul Inspector Heart isn’t the same. Don’t mess with the formula if it works.
Yujiro and Yoshida butt heads over the ranking and how they could get axed for doing poorly consistently. There is always the possibility of a revival, though. Most works get canceled before that opportunity. Etc. etc.
The argument heats up as Yoshida thinks the success of Crow is getting to Yujiro’s head, and he pushes back that the same could be said for Otter’s overnight success.
Heishi points out the youth of Ashirogi and that, no matter what, they have a lot to learn. Yoshida sees it as confirmation of his belief, while Yujiro thinks the editors at the top are up-tight conservatives. You gotta throw everything at the wall and see what sticks.
The conversation does nothing for Miura’s confidence or a solution to the problem.
Eiji’s Surprising Commentary
As the assistants peace out for the night, Saiko decides to call Fukuda and Nakai to congratulate them. However, he’s afraid they’re busy; Kaya tells him to cut it short if so; Shujin wants him to focus on Chapter 7.
Eiji is excited to hear that Saiko’s calling Fukuda. While congratulating him, Fukuda makes a snide comment on Trap’s 9th place. Saiko reflects that Fukuda and the crew are privy to the early results. Saiko asks for Nakai, who is shaving. Nakai is extra gracious and is glad that, even at 35, he finally got a series.
Nakai mentions that all the ones who wanted to change Jump now have series in Jump, so they can all change Jump together as they wanted. Saiko realizes that the competition is even stiffer now that they’ve refined their skills further.
At this point, Eiji chimes in and tells him that Detective Trap is great. Its unusualness is a big point in its favor for Eiji. He loves Shujin’s story and compliments his writing ability. Saiko thanks him and relays this information to Shujin, who thinks it reads more sarcastic than genuine, coming from the prodigy Nizuma.
Shujin wants to continue working on Chapter 7 and they both agree changing to a battle manga is the easiest way to curry favor.
Miura’s Spine and proposal
The next day, Miura meets with the boys to discuss their rewrites. Miura thinks these chapters are the best they’ve done to date. What’s the deal?
Shujin bluntly explains that they want more votes. Miura pushes back and calls them spoiled. Miura explains that making a radical shift at this stage in the game will hurt their chances, and they’ll end up fucking themselves over. He says they should focus on maintaining their ranking rather than trying to do better.
Shujin’s furious: they should always shoot for the stars, right? Miura explains that they aren’t that type of mangaka. They need patience and to let the slow burn pay off. Shujin’s still worried about falling in the ranks. Miura finally loses it and calls him chicken for being afraid of falling in the ranks.
Miura proposes: stop asking about survey results. Since they’re such a major distraction and affect their work, they don’t need them. He goes on: even though he’s relatively new, he’s seen Rookies crash and burn using this same tactic because of their worry about surveys.
The magazine only recently started giving mangaka their rankings once the mangaka learned that they existed. Shujin finds that agreeable; why wouldn’t they want to know those results. Miura used to think the same way until yesterday. He thinks now it’s a curse more than a blessing. Saiko thinks about it and finds he agrees with Miura’s new stance.
Saiko explains their position as friends with another mangaka. They’ll find out no matter what. They can also tell by the Table of Contents. It’d be different if they had no way at all, but…
Miura continues: don’t worry about it and focus on telling the best story possible.
False Dichotomy and revelation
Shujin’s still antsy and asks whether Miura thinks chapter 7 as-is will make them more popular. Nope. He doesn’t. Shujin thinks that means they need to rewrite it then.
Miura explains that it will make them neither more nor less popular, but if they change now they almost guarantee failure. Miura finally gets to the point: they only have to focus on making the story as good as it can be and keep it in the magazine. Chapter 7’s current storyboard is perfect for that. Full steam ahead for now.
Saiko’s assessment of Miura changes: he’s keeping a cool head. Takahama’s criticism ring untrue now.
Shujin’s still not having it. You have to risk it to get the biscuit is his logic, especially in the extremely competitive Jump. On the other hand, Miura thinks they should keep full steam ahead. Shujin asks Saiko which of the two is right, and Saiko thinks about a central question: is it all or nothing?
He recalls Eiji’s enjoyment and Miho’s resolution to take things one step at a time.
He agrees with Miura: it may be a gamble to get serialized but afterward gambling isn’t gambling. It’s desperation. You always lose once you become desperate. Shujin’s confused so Saiko explains that Shujin is a good storyteller and engaging. He also explains that Eiji’s compliment was genuine. While it isn’t jump-like, detective manga do and have succeeded in other magazines. Saiko concludes that they need to attract fans of detective manga aware that Jump has one.
Saiko has faith in Shujin’s ability to do that, and if they can’t, they can’t. If they’re going to gamble, they should gamble in service of leaving it as is and hope it will gradually gain more readers. If they succeed, then they have, in fact, changed Jump. Shujin thinks it’s impossible to raise Jump’s circulation single-handedly, but Miura agrees with Saiko. That’s exactly what he’s been saying all along.
Miura points out that many manga have tried to do this and have sometimes succeeded, but mostly fallen flat on their faces. The boost often kills the series.
Shujin finally gets it, and decides to go…
Full Steam Ahead
As Miura leaves and assures them, Saiko calls Eiji to let him know they won’t change their storyboards. He thanks him for encouraging him. Eiji doesn’t think they have anything to worry about.
Fukuda, overhearing, thinks they’re fools for not making changes and thinks Eiji himself is being foolish.
Miura heads back to the office to hear Yoshida chewing out Hiramaru and Yujiro finding assistants. Aida compliments him on reigning in the boys, but Miura says that they convinced themselves.
Hattori privately commends Miura for his personal growth as an editor, as he worried that Miura would let them go in a battle direction. But he also notes, they are not out of the woods yet.
Pandering and Patience Reaction
The Eternal Question
First off: fuck, this chapter was an obnoxious pain in the ass to recap. Jesus fucking christ. Obata: stop writing novels.
Ok. Now that I have that out of the way. This chapter asked one of the most important questions for any artist entering the creative arena, but especially ones who work in a highly competitive serialized field: do you trust your gut and go with your story, or do you give into audience demands and pander?
What I like about the chapter’s structure is that it does not provide a neat answer to the question, although it does hint that it believes in the more shonen answer: to stick with your guns.
This brings me to a topic that I’ll bring up now, and I will bring up countless other times because it’s one of those important philosophical elements of the elusive confidence that lots of people want. Still, few people are willing to embody because it’s really scary.
The Resolute Acceptance of Death, as Musashi Miyamoto so eloquently put it. There are other series that I think embody this premise more wholly, but here is as good a time as any to introduce it.
The Resolute Acceptance of Death is an idea that Musashi came up with to describe the mindset for victory. The idea is that you, well, accept the possibility of death and move forward. It’s similar to the Art of War’s internalizing victory as an initial condition for victory. But what does that really mean?
Bodily, if you’re in a sword fight – I don’t know your life it’s possible – you pull that sword out knowing that you are a few swings a way from getting stabbed through the heart and spraying blood all over everything and dying. And you let that rest easy in your mind. You see it and you go in.
In less intense terms, it means you think about the things you want in life, and you move forward with full acceptance of the possibility of fucking it up and being ok with it. Not getting seen? Getting negative reviews? Getting trolled on the interwebs? Not selling? Getting Canceled?
You frontload these in your mind. You live the reality of them happening, and then you move forward regardless, knowing what’s at stake, perfectly at ease with your failure.
It is the hardest skill one can cultivate, and the most powerful if you are successful.
And here Saiko has come upon that secret. He must resolutely accept the possibility that he is making the wrong decision with Trap by not pandering and still have the story work. He needs to have faith in his ability.
Respect for Miura
My respect for Miura shot up precipitously in this chapter after he finally grew a spine, for lack of a better word. Although the series has regularly painted him as being inexperienced and that his willingness to accept anything less than absolute perfection a detriment to his character, at this moment, he showed the wisdom of his mindset.
As I mentioned previously, one week isn’t a good indicator of ability. It’s the trend that matters. For now, it seems that Trap is stuck in the middle of the road popularity wise and that isn’t a bad thing or a good thing. Otter No. 11 and Crow are very much exceptions, not the rule. A series won’t become a sure thing for most people until it has at least one volume out. And even then, the popularity of a series really doesn’t start to gain momentum until later chapters or anime adaptation.
That isn’t to say that one does not need to be good to start. Most series need to keep their premises compelling for a heft number of chapters before anyone will pay attention to them. And there is no magic formula for that. But you also can’t judge your longterm chances unless you are doing truly terribly.
RIP Samurai 8, you are missed, by me, if no one else.
But here, Miura’s easy-going attitude feels right. He’s the one who is not shaken by the surveys, and his takedown of his wards for their obsession with the results felt justified. I’ll make no bones about the fact that I disagree with Fukuda and Yujiro, who are interested in short-term success. Long-term success isn’t about the minor fluctuations; it’s about the grit to push through.
Same with weight loss, same with publishing online content. One good day isn’t successful, one bad day doesn’t make you a failure. It’s the aggregate that really matters. That said…
Are Saiko and Shujin making the right decision?
Well, that really is the question. Isn’t it. At this juncture? I’m going to go with yes.
We had a whole arc that was essentially this question with a different frame. Lean into their strengths as novelistic mangaka or try to make a soulless battle shounen and appeal to the masses. This question really never stops being relevant either, even for established mangaka like Oda and Kishimoto.
To wit, Togashi didn’t introduce Nen in Hunter x Hunter until well into the Heaven’s Arena arc, and I bet you it was to keep popularity up as much as anything else. Oda didn’t introduce Haki until Hattori was introduced IRL. Jojo introduced Stands in Part 3, and Naruto got crazy with the power scaling later on. Dragon Ball didn’t become focused on fighting aliens until after 200 or so chapters. It didn’t become a full-on fighting manga until after Frieza established the popularity of the formula.
These were made as creative decisions to satisfy the story’s needs and keep audiences coming. No one is safe in Jump, and you have to satisfy the audience and editors both.
But for Saiko and Shujin, who are going to be successful with properties that are not traditionally successful, the worries they have are premature. and I agree with Miura: they need to have faith in their abilities here. And I’ll tell you why.
I’ve been working on Bakuman read-throughs for a while, and it’s been a rocky road to get it consistent. I’m still very much figuring out a schedule to make it readable while also satisfying my own creative impulses – music, writing, film – in a way that feels compelling. I don’t want to turn my website purely into a manga read-through website. Although it’s looking more and more like I’ll lean into that niche because I really love manga, and I can talk about it endlessly.
Bakuman has been a scary prospect because, by traditional SEO standards, it goes against all the compelling grains of blogging best practices: it’s a series, which is a big no-no. Also, it’s not a big series – not like Demon Slayer or JJK or AoT – and it takes enough time that I currently can’t manage more than one post a week without building a huge buffer of posts.
So for a while, I dithered. I also worked on the eminenly more popular Promised Neverland coverage, which gets more views because it’s more popular. And I was going to finish that read-through. But it’s not nearly as well-read as this series is here. Partially because of the disaster of season 2, and partially because I was doing it for the wrong reasons. I’ve been working on other reviews, music, books because they interest me. And I want to do more of those more consistently in the future.
But despite all that, this is the series that has gotten the most coverage. Because I’ve enjoyed it, and people seem to be enjoying it too. There are some long-tail advantages to it, as well, but I won’t go into those.
Which is to say that for the readers of this read-through. Thank you. You are encouraging me to move forward with this read-through even though it is, in the modern SEO driven website environment a significant risk with no promise of any payofff. I like doing it, but finding the balance is still a work in progress.
Now that i’ve gone on several tangents, let’s bring it back to the chapter.
This chapter was so difficult to recap because it’s not a plot-heavy chapter in the traditional sense. Instead, it’s an ideas chapter and, because of that. The ideas here matter more than the characters.
But Eiji is, as always, a useful plot device/character, and I love his insight. I think his understanding of manga is comically on point, and he continues to be a guiding light for Saiko, which is great.
He’s also a great counterpoint to Shujin, who royally annoyed the piss out of me this chapter. Of course, he was understandable as part of the dialectic for popularity. But oy, I wanted to sock him when he was arguing with Miura. He really needs to calm the fuck down.
I do like that Heishi finally gets more presence and that the editors also don’t really know what the right answer is, despite how convinced they are that they have the secret sauce.It’s good to see that struggle isn’t just for artists. I also think Miura is young and inexperienced but not incomprehensible.
Fukuda is, as always, annoying, but again, I can’t fault him for having the view he has with all of the above.
But overall, the takeaway I have for this chapter is that faith is the key. Faith and the resolute acceptance of death. Which Saiko seems to be hip to now, for better or worse.
Something I have to keep with myself moving forward. As I move forward with Bakuman – and other series as well, in the future, hopefully – I hope you will join me.
Most won’t be this digressive and tangential. Or this long. Jesus.
Until next time.