Welcome welcome welcome to my read-through of Bakuman Chapter 44: Repayment and Inversion in which things are very good until they are very not, and we talk about Hiramaru, Nakai, and Fukuda at length.
If you are not caught up, please use this handy-dandy index to catch up. There are no spoilers past the current chapter. Read at your leisure.
If you’d like to read along, buy the Tankobon here or subscribe to Weekly Shonen Jump. I recommend WSJ because I stan it, it’s cheaper and you get more content, but I’m not affiliated with VIZ Media. I want artists to get paid. I like when that happens.
Without further ado, the chapter.
Repayment and Inversion Summary
Repayment and Tankobon Number One
Chapter 14 ties with Crow for third place and even Miura is shocked by their newfound success. Shujin’s hyped up, and Saiko remembers that Hattori said in three years they’d unseat Nizuma. It’s been three years since their initial submission to Hattori. Saiko plans to repay Hattori for his faith in the boys.
Miura’s thrilled and surprised by this tidbit and gives them their deadline and a COLOR PAGE. Awww yisss. Right in time for the release of Trap Volume 1. Saiko is riding a high at the news and asks Miura to look over his storyboards.
Miura thinks the cover art is fucking sickkk and praises Saiko’s draftsmanship. Graphic Novel cover art is mega important and a good cover can boost the potential sales of a manga by tens of thousands of copies. He also tells them their initial print-run will be…
Everything’s coming up Milhouse.
Saiko and Shujin ask whether that’s good. It’s incredibly rare for a rookie to get an initial print-run of 100,000 copies. Otter No 11 hits stores the same day and it’s only getting 60k copies printed. That said Crow got a 150k print debut. Miura would not be surprised if Trap got a second print-run, however.
Miura chalks up the large order to the fact that the Detective Genre can attract new readers to Jump who normally wouldn’t buy it; so, marketing took it into consideration to account for that. By Miura’s estimation, Detective Trap could exceed over 500K in reprints by the release of Volumes 2 and 3 which would mean they’d no longer need to worry about Surveys.
Once a series sells 500k copies it won’t be dropped, regardless of the surveys. Shujin asks if that’s a real thing. Miura explains that it isn’t concrete, but the factors that contribute to 500k copies in circulation mean that the likelihood that it’s doing poorly in surveys is low.
Shujin and Miura hype themselves up and set insane goals to hit that 500k and beat Crow – Shujin wants to hit a million (lol) – Saiko just takes it all in with infectious glee.
His dreams aren’t unrealistic.
Miura heads out and Saiko decides to get the…Jump on the next chapter. Shujin wonders why. Saiko’s workload is enormous with the final draft for Chapter 18, and three color pages for Chapter 19. He’s counting on Shujin.
Shujin’s confident they can beat Eiji with Chapter 19. Scratch that, he will create something that beats Eiji no matter what. That’s how they repay Hattori.
Hijinks with Hiramaru
On their way to the studio, Kaya’s pumped to be inking and potentially try screentones as well. Saiko recommends she talk to Ogawa before doing that though.
They see Hiramaru hiding behind a utility pole. Saiko asks what’s up and Hiramaru explains he dropped by to say hello but that since they were out, Takahama wouldn’t let him in. Saiko asks for a reason but Hiramaru thinks that it’s cold to ditch a friend who just wants to say hi.
Kaya asks who he is and Shujin introduces the two. Kaya introduces herself as Takagi’s girlfriend and a fan of Otter. Hiramaru introduces himself as a fan of cute girls.
Shujin’s surprised he knew where the studio is. Hiramaru claims he asked for their address at the party so he could send a new years card.
…Mhm. Yup. That happened.
Moving on, Hiramaru bitches about the workload and thinks working while at school must be absolute hell. Like him doing it while working. Shujin isn’t bothered by it since there is a more substantial division of labor. Hiramaru admires Nizuma’s superhuman ability to do it all on his own.
Abruptly Hiramaru mentions he pees blood to Kaya while slurping tea.
Shujin asks whether he saw a doctor about it. Yup, Hiramaru saw a urologist when no one else was there since he was embarrassed. It was pointless though since he didn’t pee blood there.
Kaya notes that he couldn’t work on Manga at the hospital. That’s right, Hiramaru needs a break.
At that moment, Yoshida sends Saiko a fax explaining that fugitive Hiramaru has a habit of running away and will visit mangaka to avoid having to work. Three other artists have already been bothered by him. He’s asked to call in case he shows up.
Saiko asks whether he should call. Takahama already has.
While Hiramaru goes on an extended rant about popularity in Jump and how his life is a nightmare, the fuzz Yoshida comes, and Hiramaru books it in a calm manner. Kaya and Shujin are, understandably, confused, but Takahama explains that that’s just how Hiramaru blows off steam.
Ogawa and Kato arrive and ask what the hell is going on and Kaya explains the situation.
Turning the Tides
Ogawa’s thrilled with Saiko’s productivity re: Inking. He also takes pride in seeing Detective Trap take flight now that the first volume is coming out. Takahama remembers when he thought the series was going to crash and burn, though.
Ogawa compliments the art and goes on about Saiko’s natural abilities that he will never be able to have. He muses about his own inabilities as an artist and compliments Takahama’s character drawing skill. Takahama thinks to himself that this is a product of not actually drawing any characters and only focusing on backgrounds.
The salt is real.
Everything goes smoothly. Chapter 15th is only in sixth place, but the boys are banking on Chapter 19 doing well.
Meanwhile over in Fukudaville Fukuda praises Yasuoka for coming up with the idea that got them in 5th place. Yasuoka tries to get an additional 1,000 yen out of Fukuda for the effort, much to Fukuda’s frustration. Yasuoka explains that he talks with his friend to get ideas and that 1000 yen each would be way more motivating than 500.
Fukuda’s so surprised by Yasuoka’s business acumen of subcontracting the work that he agrees to 3,000 yen per idea. Yasuoka is thrilled with this turn of events.
Nakai looks over his own results, disappointed by the fall to 10th and he takes it out on his assistants and makes them redo the work.
Hiramaru is crushed by 11th place and complains he doesn’t want to work anymore. Yoshida points out he’s a lazy shit but Hiramaru goes on about peeing blood again. Yoshida offers to take him out to drinks at a place with pretty girls if he’ll just finish the chapter. Hiramaru’s diligence shows up.
Kato’s Daydreams and an Inversion
Saiko takes a school holiday on June 15th to pull an all-nighter to complete Chapters 18 and the color pages for Chapter 19. He works on the inks while waiting for his assistants.
On the way to work, Kato runs into Takahama and asks to join him on the walk. He agrees.
She swoons over Saiko and Takahama tries to downplay the awkward situation arising by placing it on his abilities as a mangaka. She thinks he’s shy and that’s cute. Takahama asks how old Kato is.
She’s 8 years older than Saiko. She asks if she has a chance.
Takahama obliquely explains that he has a girlfriend. Kato doesn’t believe it, but Takahama explains that he talks with Saiko and Shujin after the other assistants leave and it seems like he has someone. He tells her to ask Saiko for confirmation if she wants to know.
They enter the office and reason that Saiko’s already there.
They find him on the ground. Takahama thinks he’s sleeping but checks on him and claims he’s dead. Kato freaks out but Takahama’s joking. Bad joke dude.
His sleeping is weird as he wasn’t woken up by Kato’s shriek. As Takahama tries to wake him up Ogawa arrives and asks what’s going on. Seeing danger he tells them to call an ambulance immediately. He orders them to call Shujin and Miura and Mashiro’s parents as well.
At the Hospital
Miura gets the news and panics as Ogawa fills him in on the situation of both Mashiro and the pages. Hattori overhears and catches Miura as he rushes to the hospital. He explains that Mashiro collapsed and muses on how this is the worst thing that could happen. Hattori decides to join Miura at the hospital.
They find Shujin, Kato, and Mashiro’s mother in the hall looking stressed. Hattori asks Shujin for an update, but they haven’t come out to the exam room yet. Shujin finally sees how strenuous high school and manga are and apologizes to Hattori for not believing him.
Mashiro’s mother introduces herself and Miura and Hattori apologize for the situation. She tries to calm them down as they don’t actually know what’s going on yet.
The doctor comes out and he’s bumrushed by everybody. He asks for Mashiro’s parents. Hattori explains how Takagi and Miura are his coworkers and the doctor lets them in. Miura tells Kato to leave despite her protests and Shujin looks in shock at Saiko in bed hooked up to an IV.
On that note, the chapter concludes.
Cool. A totally foreseeable consequence of overwork occurred. And now Trap is in danger. yayyyyyy.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that the thing that threatens Trap in this first part of this story is Saiko himself. He is, at the end of the day his own worst enemy to like a comical degree.
But man, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t bummed out based on those opening bits of the chapter. The chapter-opening was just pure delight and it was really really great to see everyone so excited, and to see what are considered some threshold’s for long term success including 500,000 manga sales, the color page introduction, and the track to anime.
Everything was coming up Milhouse. And now they are distinctly not coming up milhouse, and I am distinctly sad about it.
Especially since I’m feeling it. The impulse to overwork in the face of success is an allure and I have a habit of overworking because I have this need to get through with things as fast possible. Hell, I once wrote a million words in a month (you can read about it here), and it’s that impulse to push forward no matter what that ends up fucking the workaholics like myself. I got very sick during that month – not hospitalized – level of sick. But sick.
So, like, I get why Saiko would want to move as quickly as possible, get a head start on his work, and go for it. But also, there’s the Taro of it all.
Anyway. How much you wanna bet that this is the thing that fucks over Trap?
Maybe. Perhaps it will get through somehow by magic but I don’t see it. Not really if I’m being honest. But moving backward, let’s talk about some other parts of this chapter:
Hattori x Ashirogi OTP and Miura
The Miura questions have come up again, albeit in a less overt way. In this case, it’s the fact that Hattori was on the money for Ashirogi’s career trajectory that sets him apart from Miura.
And look, we can give Miura the win here for keeping the boys on the straight and narrow and not letting them veer off into panderville; we can also give him big ups for suggesting they improve dialogue and even doing research on what works. But the inexperience shows. The moment where he suggests an Anime might be forthcoming feels premature, although exciting, and his generally carefree attitude seems a bit. Off.
Hattori, however, gets the boys. He understands them to the point that he can accurately track their career trajectory down to the year. And that sets him apart from Miura in this chapter because he’s been doing something that Miura hasn’t.
He’s set realistic expectations.
While I think Hattori would be equally excited by how good they’re doing, part of me can’t help but think that he’d also rein it in and force them to do even better than they are by all means. While Miura is taking from the hattori playbook of good strategy, he’s not quite at the same level of cultivation and he’s not pushing back against their worst impusles nearly as much as Hattori has been.
All that to say, he’s still a question mark.
Speaking of things that are still question marks.
Yeah. That peeing blood thing was gross, especially when directed at Kaya and I did not appreciate it. I get that he’s one of the team now, for better or worse, but goddamn that was a real turn-off just by being so goddamn creepy. Like, the idea of catch-me-if-you-can escape artist shit is actually pretty funny; and I even like his dynamic with Yoshida.
But that peeing blood thing. Gross. Gross for lots of uncomfortable reasons.
And while I appreciate that there was a little nod to not being able to work on manga in the hospital – a nifty bit of foreshadowing to Saiko’s own plight – we didn’t fucking need Hiramaru talking about his dick to Kaya. Just. Ew.
I think if it weren’t for his shameless lecherousness, I’d probably be more chill with Hiramaru’s whole schtick, but given that, he’s also a perv, I can see his joke wearing out its welcome quickly if he doesn’t chill out.
Team Fukuda’s Assistant Dynamics
Ironically, now that we’re in the actual horse race of manga production, I find Fukuda infinitely more likable as a character. Partially it’s because I like when characters are kinda nuts and carefree at the same time, and don’t let the stress take them out, even if their tactics are still kinda lowkey skeezy.
Like, his relationship with Yasuoka is by all definitions fucking skeezy: paying to get ideas from your assistant and tkaing credit for them is very ehhhhh, but the way he appraoches it, with Yasuoka being his only assistnat, and his general laissez-fair approach towards paying him, and even agreeing to pay more beacuse he subcontracted. It’s weird, but it also just feels like two bros broing out on a couch in their apartment who decide they want to start making a manga. It gives off a more asymmetric Ashirogi dynamic with a lot less class and refinement.
That is to say, I like it.
But what I don’t like is Nakai’s dictatorial regime. Seeing Nakai handling his responsibilities as poorly as he does is really, well, sad. Especially since I’ve been rooting for him even when he’s being a fucking creep. Like, man. His iron fist makes sense given that he’s hitched his wagon to an elaborate art style, but, like, he can be more sanguine about it.
Or maybe not, I guess he’s also freaking out about popularity and getting things done on time, and trying to get Aoki’s affection which, ew, but also that’s a lot of stress, and he waited for a long time.
I’m inclined not to be generous though, as he has a veritable army of assistants, and while he does need to have a firm hand to deal with them, he doesn’t need to be a total asshole about it, which he is very much being right now.
Speaking of assistants
Poor Kato and Narrative Engines
So, to get this out of the way, dating co-workers is always kind of a sticky proposition, but it makes sense that she would be into someone so driven.
That said, oy.
Kato seems sweet, and though the age difference between her and Saiko – 8 years – is not unheard of, it’s a little alarming that she’s caught feelings so quickly. I guess dating is pretty difficult when you’re working on Manga day in and day out.
But overall, I just feel bad for her. I don’t know if this will pan out, given just how much Miho means to Saiko, but it’s something to keep my eye on just because it really reinforces a strength of this series to date: threats from all sides.
One of the thigns Bakuman does well, perhaps better than a lot of shonen manga, is that because the threat isn’t an existential life or death threat, but rather a threat to success and continuing to make stories and a career, there are a lot more avenues of conflict and attack, which is ironic, when you consider the story circles around drawing for 16 hours a day.
And yet, Ohba has managed to inject conflicts from cancellation, from romantic entanglements, from overwork, from editors, from popularity, from the competition without letting up. Everything is potentially deadly to the manga.
That is just good writing when alls said and done.
While I don’t foresee Kato’s feelings being like Nakai’s and getting out of control – she seems too sweet and godawful shy for that – I do see it as another thorn in the process of making manga. And this bramble is already thick with those.
And that is another threat to keep track of.
Hopefully, we get out of the hospital soon and back into manga production.
Until next time.