In Jokes and News, Ashirogi Finds a Winning Combo(Chapter 43)

Hi, Hey, Hello, and welcome to my read-through of Bakuman Chapter 43: Jokes and News, in which a Chekhov’s Gun is re-examined, and things are going well, which is a bad sign.

If you are not caught up, I’m not you, I don’t know why that is, here’s a nifty index for you to do so. There are no spoilers past the current chapter. Read with an easy heart.

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Without further ado, the chapter.

Jokes and News Summary

Humor and Effort

Shujin marvels at Chapter 10’s Sixth Place and Saiko encourages him to continue writing good stuff. Shujin feels the pressure of being responsible for the success or failure of Trap but Kaya tells him he’s always been a bit crazy. Shujin asks if she’s been making fun of him; yes, to lighten the mood because the boys Ashirogi have been so uptight.

She makes a…bizarre pun, that falls flat, but Shujin thanks her, which weirds her out.

Saiko’s satisfied with the Chapter 14 storyboards and prepares to make a rough draft and send them to Miura. He thinks they’ll do even better with this round.

Shujin wants to know if he’s sincere; he thinks the improvements in dialogue and cases show. Kaya gives Shujin a list of summaries for all the Detective Stories she read this week. Saiko calls Shujin over to ask whether they should pay Kaya since she’s doing so much work. Shujin says not to because she wants to help and she’d totally take them up on it.

Good Guy Shujin. Jesus

Kaya asks what’s going on in the whisper zone and Saiko spouts some bullshit about how they think she’s great. Saiko thanks her too with a ridiculous face which just freaks Kaya out. She explains that everyone wants Ashirogi to succeed as a mangaka and she makes another terrible pun.

She then continues that they gotta succeed so they can get an anime while she massages Shujin. Saiko reflects on his composition skills and finds himself wanting.

Hiramaru’s Hijinks

While Eiji tutors his new assistant on backgrounds in the most Nizuma ways imaginable Hiramaru comes to visit asking to hide from his editors.

Hiramaru expresses his deep admiration for mangaka now that he knows what a pain in the ass it is to write that much weekly. It’s impossible, even though he’s also doing it…

Hiramaru – ever the optimist – thinks he doesn’t have much longer in this crazy world of manga, and though he thinks of himself as a hard worker, the level of work a manga requires is absolutely insane. So much so that an office job is preferable to this nonsense. At least there were vacations and weekends. Now he doesn’t get either of those.

Eiji mentions that Yujiro told him you need to like the job in order to succeed, which Hiramaru does not. Eiji thinks if Hiramaru explained the situation to the editor-in-chief, he’d understand. Hiramaru’s confused by Eiji’s unconditional support. The doorbell rings: it’s Yoshida acting like a cop.

Hiramaru’s flustered. how did he know? Another of Eiji’s new assistants calls Shueisha and he’s letting Yoshida in. Hiramaru is distracting and his self-pity is annoying. The new assistant tears Hiramaru a new asshole because they’re working their balls off to be a mangaka and he comes here successful as hell, but bitching and moaning. Hiramaru apologizes and asks Yoshida what he should do.

Draw his manga, of course.

Hints of Taro

At school, Kaya spies Saiko working on his draftsmanship in his notebook. She admires his art but asks whether he’s gotten any sleep recently. He got a whole…three hours.

On their ride to the studio, Shujin muses about the early results and Saiko remembers that he’s behind because he’s so focused on the drafting. When Shujin asks how far behind, he hasn’t even started the penciling yet. Eek. Saiko says he’ll pull an all-nighter if he has to. Shujin tells him not to do overdo it; even though they’ve handed their work in on Fridays, Miura’s cool with Monday submissions.

Speaking of the devil, Miura calls to let them know that they got 7th place for Chapter 11. Their success isn’t a fluke. Shujin, as always takes the drop one rank very literally.

Miura tells him to chill the hell out and points out that Chapter 11 is a new case so they’ll gain momentum.

As they ride home Miho texts Saiko about the new role she’s landed as a bit performer for a 10-minute anime and how she plans to do her best. Kaya mentions that she’s been auditioning like crazy but she’d obviously want to let Saiko know first.

Saiko heads over to the studio and Kaya mentions that Saiko’s sleep schedule is out of whack which concerns Shujin.

Over at Nakai’s

At Nakai’s place, he has four assistants all working on Hideout Door. Nakai gets a fax from Aoki with Storyboards as well as their early results for Chapter 3: 11th place. Nakai chalks it up to the number of pages per chapter. He looks over the storyboards with obvious concern and calls Aida outside.

He tells Aida to tell Aoki to rewrite the chapter. Aida pushes back – he gave her approval – but Nakai points out that Aoki’s trademark fairy tale quality is overtaking the action, which no amount of good artwork can salvage. Aida agrees upon a second look, but remarks that he can’t tell someone to redo something they’ve already gotten approved for. Next week they can work on it.

Unsatisfied, Nakai calls Aoki. He asks her to rewrite Chapter 6. She asks why and he explains the issue to her. The panel layout and action are wanting. She pushes back given that Aida approved them. He’s persistent: the art needs to breathe and she should divide chapter 6 into two chapters. He asks her to trust his 15 years of experience – more than Aida’s.

He then gets to the crux of the issue: skip the narration. This is Shonen and it should adhere to Shonen storytelling, not Shojo. To Nakai’s surprise, Aoki agrees to rewrite it. She respects his opinion when it comes to manga.

Nakai rides a high after getting his co-writers respect. Casually overlooking the last part, as one does.

Meanwhile with Fukuda

Yujiro’s thrilled to announce that Fukuda hit 6th place much to his team’s delight. He asks about Nizuma, Ashirogi, and Nakai. When asked why only those, it’s because they’re friends, rivals, and members of Team Fukuda.

Awww?

Crow is in third place. Trap is in seventh. Hideout Door is in eleventh.

Fukuda’s thrilled to beat Ashirogi and sets his sight on Nizuma and first place. He’s worried about Hideout Door’s ranking, though. Yujiro asks for the final draft. Yujiro’s assistant – Yasuoka – asks for 2 more hours: one assistant for a manga is a murderously low number. Fukuda thinks he doesn’t need more than one for his shitty art. Yujiro compromises and allows them to submit while they have their storyboard meeting.

Fukuda brings Yasuoka along on the meeting and promises to give him 1000 yen for every good idea he has. It’ll be educational. Yasuoka is all in baby. Yujiro asks who will finish the draft.

Fukuda volunteers Yujiro as additional help since all three will be at the meeting. Yujiro decides to join in since he’ll do anything to make it popular. Yasuoka and Fukuda pump him up for the process of hiring him as a pro-bono assistant.

lawdy.

Deadlines

The next morning Saiko’s mom calls him and he explains he fell asleep at the studio. She figured as much and tells him not to scare her like that. Saiko panics when he realizes that he hasn’t inked the pages yet. He asks his mom to call him in sick but she won’t allow that nonsense. He explains that dire situation and that he’s had perfect attendance otherwise and that manga matters more than school.

She allows it this one time.

Ogawa takes a look at the pages and looks flustered that he has completed so little. Saiko’s excuse: I fell asleep last night.

………..

Ogawa laments that they won’t be able to finish by Friday night, and he can’t assist as he has a job on Saturday thanks to their current scheduling. He also wants one day off. Saiko agrees to push the deadline to Monday so that they can get it done over the weekend. Kato and Takahama offer to help even though Ogawa is guilty at leaving them alone. Kato asks for instructions and Takahama asks for overtime pay.

Ultimately, they get the chapter on Saturday. Saiko feels bad and makes sure he gets the next chapter in by the deadline.

Old Enemies Reappear

On May 15th the next serialization meeting occurs and all the main characters’ manga survive. On June 2nd the final report for Chapter 14 arrives and Miura is absolutely bounding with energy: they tied with Crow for third place. Shujin sees a potential anime offer as well although Miura tells him to slow his roll on that.

Saiko only hears the first part, as one does and he remembers Miho’s doing well.

Fukuda’s furious that Trap and Crow tied for third place so much so that his sixth place no longer has the savor it used to.

Aoki compliments Nakai’s instincts: they got eighth place. Nakai asks Aoki to show her storyboards to him before showing them to Aida. Hiramaru fumes over getting ninth place and thinks that the readers think he’s a dumb fraud.

Yujiro mentions that Trap tied for third with the exact same number of votes.

Eiji’s glad to hear it. But he has no intention of losing to Ashirogi.

On that ominous note, the chapter concludes.

Jokes and News final panel with Eiji Nizuma

Jokes and News

Panel of the Week

We have two panels this week and, we’ll go into a little bit more detail down below, but the two studios of Fukuda and Nakai are worth further examination.

Obata’s sense of visual storytelling is again the key here. He has an eye for composition and detail that really gives these two panels some extra oomph. The fact that Nakai’s studio is drawn at a high angle gives us a birds-eye view of the massive number of assistants he has working under him, next to garbage and magazines, and more importantly physically below him in the space. One can instantly sense that Nakai is a bit of a control freak.

Contrast that with the canted angle and, though a physically smaller studio, a visually spacier setup for Fukuda. Fukuda and Yasuoka are roughly at the same height in the frame, with Fukuda only slightly above Yasuoka. Not only does this establish the kind of mangaka they are, but it also gives us a greater sense of power dynamics that Nakai and Fukuda have with their assistants. This fact is further reflected by Fukuda’s paying off Yasuoka for ideas and inviting him to editorial meetings.

It’s also worth noting that on Nakai’s panel, there is a lot more detail – look at the bookshelves and the desk and the trash bags, and greater use of Beta (the dark blacks), Screentones, and Greyscale which is reflective of his overly detailed showy art style for Hideout Door. Not only is there a greater level of detail in the image, but it must have taken much longer to finish compared to the relatively light screentones with Fukuda, and the only beta fills going in on Yujiro’s jacket and Yasuoka’s T-shirt and Head, with a moderate to the normal amount of screentone.

An even smaller, but more impressive detail is that the onomatopeia “Klak” is soft and gentle in Nakai’s panel, but forceful and high energy in Fukuda’s. Again, we get a sense of the character’s energy and demeanor in the paneling itself.

This is how you reflect character without actually having them do anything. And this distinction in both visuals and reflections of character is what truly gives Bakuman a narrative edge.

Anyway. Back to the chapter.

Eiji, Don’t You Dare

Ok. So, before we get into the exciting shit. Eiji, what the fuck are you planning? Are you going to use that Chekhov’s cancellation that has been hanging so perilously like an ax of Damocles over our boys? Is that it? Don’t you DARE EVAR do that to Ashirogi.

Seriously though, it’s nice to be reminded that, for all of Nizuma’s inherent goofiness as a character, he’s still an active threat to the boys and their chances of success. Better yet, he’s not actually taking this lying down. He’s a good rival, I like him. Although if he cancels Detective Trap, I will be angry about it because that seems like bullshit.

Even though it’s pretty obvious that Trap is going to go out one way or another. I just don’t see it surviving. But if Eiji’s the reason for its cancellation I would be infuriated.

Maybe it will be like the Traitor at UA in My Hero Academia and just take an extremely long time to be addressed, and hopefully forgotten by the audience. Or when Eiji finally does decide to let that gun go off, it’s at a time when the editorial department forgot about it.

In all cases, *does the two-finger eye gesture*, Nizuma, I got my eyes on you.

But onto the chapter at large because, hoo-nelly, was this one exciting.

The existential horror of meta-fiction

I love meta-fiction so much and this chapter was fucking disgusting with it. One thing this series is not shy about is purposely making meta-jokes and storylines, and the opening pages with Kaya trying to be funny was like the beginning of some existential horror piece in which characters are forced to do things against their will because the author wants to comment on the text. In this case, we’re tackling something that hasn’t really been a problem for Bakuman: Humor.

Granted, my sense of humor is pretty basic, so doing the bare minimum will, usually, elicit a chuckle; although Kaya’s attempts at jokes were pure cringe. But given the melodrama of recent chapters, it feels very intentional that the series is shifting gears to be funnier to lighten the mood. And, for the most part, it works.

But it works because the story has organically set up these characters and it bases its humor on motivated character decisions, rather than just tacked on silliness. Even Kaya’s horrible puns are still within her supportive character and desire to be helpful to Shujin. The fact that the joke is she’s a cringey girlfriend makes it more, adorable, than funny.

I also like the little sight gags of Saiko and Shujin making faces. And Eiji’s general demeanor just cracks me up because he’s the embodiment of extra, with the feather dusters literally popping out of his body like a crow.

That said. There is one element I’m not really sure of and that’s:

Hiramaru

I don’t know how I feel about Hiramaru yet. Although I’m inclined to find him amusing, despite the fact that I find people like him insufferable, here his antics worked? I don’t know yet. It’s kinda weird to have someone who is clearly a comic relief character in a relatively strait-laced manga like this.

*sees comments about Eiji’s antics*. I did say relatively strait-laced.

As I may have said before, and I’ll likely say again, I appreciate the lengths Obata and Ohba go to make the mangaka reflect the character of their manga, like a meta-fictional matryoshka doll. Eiji’s design mimics a crow, Hiramaru is absurdist and anti-work and generally nonsensical, Fukuda’s rough and tumble and pure Yankee, and Aoki is ethereal with Nakai filling out her character with his own largesse. It’s a neat trick that Obata and Ohba have mastered.

But whether Hiramaru fits? I don’t know. I’m on the fence. His antics are both annoying, but weirdly endearing, and I don’t hate him. But I can see his schtick getting tired, really really fast. Without the ToC from the original Jump publication, it’s hard to tell how his whole bit will pan out.

It’s very much in line with the chapter. And given how calculating the mangaka are, it’s likely they introduced this bit in this chapter because of the theme of humor.

I will say, I do get immense schadenfreude out of the concept of a guy who thought that he could get out of doing work by becoming a Mangaka. That had me rolling.

And as good as it is to see Hiramaru, it’s even better to see

The rest of the cast

This chapter was a very economical look at Team Fukuda in their natural environments. I love that the way these characters are expressed is not only through what stories they choose to tell but also the overall layout of their offices. The contrast between Fukuda’s one assistant light setup with Nakai’s four assistants crowded and surrounded by garbage really gives us a nice visual contrast that also defines who these characters are.

Even the assistants themselves have little snippets of personality. I like that Nizuma’s editor seems to take things more seriously than Nizuma and that Yasuoka literally has a mohawk and that Fukuda trusts him enough to ask for ideas and offers to pay him for the trouble. Meanwhile, Nakai runs his office so that he’s at the top and it gives off a controlling air.

I love it. Yes, I do.

There’s also an element of horse racing, now that the four series are competing with each other that gives an added drama to the fact that all the characters are just sitting around drawing.

It’s an exceptionally neat trick, and my admiration for the style grows each chapter.

Also

Trap is doing well!

This was actually surprising. Although it’s really nice to see that not pandering has paid off in droves, I love that the boys are actually getting successful to the point that they are competing with Nizuma himself. I love when heroes win, so seeing them get some well-deserved popularity is truly a sight to see.

Because this is a story, this happy train can’t last forever, and they’re going to fall from grace at some point – I’m looking at you Nizuma – but while they’re doing well, I’m running a high. I also like that Miho has picked herself up and is also getting back on that horse.

Things do look good here, which is obviously deceptive. And there are some things that are not looking good. Specifically:

Saiko, what is you doing?

Saiko’s overwork is a really big red flag. A huge red flag. Giant crimson block of uh-oh on the horizon. I’m worried. While his obsession has always been worrying. The fact that he’s losing sleep now is actively alarming. But what sucks is that, well, it’s part of the job of being a mangaka.

Granted, most mangaka aren’t in high school, but the falling asleep and missing a deadline is a pretty real thing that made me sad. I’m sure overwork is not going to stop here, but the fact that my boy Saiko had a borderline panic attack at his body shutting down is just…a problem. Especially given his uncle’s demise.

It does not bode well.

But, for now, threats, aside and there look to be even anime in the offing?

Well, probably shouldn’t get one’s hopes up, but things are coming up Milhouse, so let’s enjoy it, shall we?

Until next time

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