Howdy Amigos, and welcome to my read-through of Bakuman Chapter 48: Life and Death and Stationery in which things get infinitely stupider, and I get infinitely more tired of it like some Tanach Barski paradox.
If you are not caught up, please use this index to catch up. There are no spoilers past the current chapter.
If you’d like to read along, buy the Tankobon here or subscribe to Weekly Shonen Jump. I recommend WSJ because it’s cheaper and you get more content, but I’m not affiliated with VIZ Media. I wants artists – no matter how successful – to get paid.
Without further ado, the chapter.
Life and Death and Stationery Summary
Taro and Saiko
Sasaki explains his decision is due to Saiko being Taro Kawaguchi’s nephew and his death from overwork. Fukuda, Hiramaru, and Miho all react with questions about this new information. Miho remembers an earlier conversation, Fukuda’s lost, and Hiramaru fears for his life from overwork.
Saiko angrily points out that it’s irrelevant what happened to Taro because he’s not Taro (although he is living up to his reputation) and Shujin joins in. Sasaki’s unmoved, explaining that they took his parents into consideration when making this decision. His father lost his brother, and his mother’s afraid for his life. No one wants to lose their family to preventable death.
Saiko ain’t having any of this perfectly reasonable adult shit and he plans never to go on hiatus and he goes over all the dumbass nonsense Taro pulled in pursuit of manga, literally risking his life and limb when he was sick or had a fucked up back. He never missed a deadline.
Sasaki respects the hustle but notes that the office – despite their reputation – don’t actually want Mangaka to kill themselves to meet deadlines. The need to work is up to the mangaka themselves and if they need to rest, the magazine will intervene.
If that’s the case, Saiko chooses to keep working.
Sasaki gets to the point: him working on a series in his state is nothing but a liability right now and a nuisance to boot. Sasaki says he needs to heal and rest.
Fukuda and Saiko’s Gambits
Fukuda sees through the bullshit, though. Regardless of his health, they’ll be on hiatus until next April. Sasaki confirms that. Fukuda pressed the point that they’re overdoing it given that even if Saiko does recover quickly, he’ll still be on hiatus.
Sasaki goes into politician mode and deflects about being clouded by the genius of Eiji Nizuma. The office now realizes Eiji is more of an exception than a rule. The offices at Jump were wrong and they won’t greenlight another high schooler. Fukuda gets angry about the fact that their manga is already running and finds it totally unfair that they’re playing “lord giveth, and the lord taketh” with manga like they’re high and mighty.
Saiko decides he’ll quit school. Followed by Shujin. Sasaki refuses to lift the hiatus even if they decide to do so. Fukuda thinks Ashirogi is making more sense than Sasaki. But Sasaki is simply asking for some fucking empathy for his parents.
Sasaki and the boys go back and forth about whether Saiko’s parents even matter – the boys live for themselves – and as the argument heats up a nurse interrupts to calm them down and tells them to be quiet. They apologize.
At the office, Yujiro, Aida, and Hattori all discuss the situation. Hattori’s confused by the bloated timeframe. Aida was bugged as well, which is why he asked, and they answered about not wanting him to die. Hattori remembers Saiko’s relationship with Taro Kawaguchi and realizes what’s at play.
Hattori worries over the fact that the boys will probably misunderstand and might take it the wrong way. Aida agrees, but Hattori explains that it’s not their eagerness that’s the issue.
Hattori asks whether Aida remembers Taro Kawaguchi. He does and remembers a rumor about him working himself to death to avoid being a one-hit-wonder. Hattori explains that Taro’s real name was Nobuhiro Mashiro. Saiko’s uncle. Aida connects the dots but Yujiro – like Fukuda – thinks it’s bullshit that the boys are being punished for the sins of the father. Or the uncle, in this case.
Aida agrees with the Editor-in-Chief given just how bad the situation could become. Hattori thinks it’s bad if it doesn’t consider the mangaka feelings. Yujiro agrees with Hattori and some other editors overhear the conversation.
Stand off and Hiramaru’s standoff.
Saiko asks whether Sasaki would be so heavy-handed if he wasn’t related to Taro. Sasaki says no. Ashirogi is furious. Surprisingly, Hiramaru steps up to the plate. He calls that logic ridiculous and goes home to …draw manga?
Fukuda follows suit and finds this entire situation ridiculous. He bluntly calls out Miura and thinks he’s a yes man for bowing to Sasaki’s whims. Sasaki defends Miura who fought this decision to the bitter end. Fukuda says he’ll never agree with this decision and peaces out.
With the two gone, Sasaki reiterates that, no matter what, they will not be permitted to be published in Jump, even if they do something new, until April. That said, they will restart the series after he gets treated and graduates high school. He tells Miura he’s leaving, but Miura stays.
Miura apologizes to the devastated duo much to their chagrin. Saiko apologizes for getting sick but Shujin tells him to cut out that nonsense. Shujin puts the blame squarely on the editor-in-chief.
Miho meanwhile, is relieved to hear the news. She tells Saiko to take his time to recover. What she said after graduation will always remain true. When asked, she lets slip that she promised to wait forever. Saiko has a borderline panic attack but Shujin sees the move for what it is: a means to protect Saiko from himself but he also is impressed by her commitment.
Shujin asks what they’re gonna do now. Saiko’s going to work. Obviously.
At Nizuma’s place, Eiji and Fukuda discuss the situation. Nizuma finds Sasaki’s behavior unforgivable and irrational. Fukuda plans not to draw for Jump until Ashirogi is restored. However, Fukuda alone will not make much impact, so he recruits Nizuma to join his hiatus. Nizuma being, well, himself immediately jumps on the hiatus train and plans to join Fukuda.
Nizuma realizes that perhaps Ashirogi might take this the wrong way, but Fukuda says they’ll keep it secret from them until the editor-in-chief recalls his decision.
Fukuda explains he’ll recruit Nakai and Aoki as well. Nizuma gets pumped at the idea of Team Fukuda reuniting for the boycott and Fukuda thinks he can persuade Hiramaru as well. Nizuma jumps into action as only Nizuma can by calling Hiramaru.
At work, Nakai gets irritated by Fukuda’s call and almost turns down the invitation until he realizes Aoki will be there, at which point he offers to shave. Hiramaru thinks the boycott is magnificent because of course, he does.
At the editorial office Yujiro, Aida, and Hattori continue arguing over the Editor’s decision, the argument getting increasingly heated over whether it is too severe or the right call.
As the teams argue, Sasaki returns from the hospital to total silence.
Meanwhile, Team Fukuda + Hiramaru discuss the plans for a boycott. Nizuma explains he’ll break his contract with Jump and move to another magazine in the meanwhile. When asked about his contract, he’s willing to pay his contract fee back and move to a different magazine and he offers to pay the others so they can also migrate.
Nakai recognizes the major risks with this plan, but Aoki thinks he needs a spine; she disagrees with the Editor-in-Chief’s decision. Fukuda’s shocked to agree with her on…anything. She agrees that a boycott is the most effective way to go. Hiramaru and Fukuda fawn over her. Nakai being
hard-up for Aoki righteously indignant on Ashirogi’s behalf offers to join the cause.
At the office
Miura, depressed, comes back to the office unusually quiet. Yujiro explains they found out about Ashirogi. Yujiro thinks they should take this to the editorial team before Aida chimes in with the “you’ll be fired” defense. Miura agrees with Aida, noting Sasaki’s immovable resolve.
Yujiro gets a call from Fukuda and is delighted to hear about the boycott. He relays the plans to Miura and Aida who collectively freak out at the news. Once Yujiro explains Crow is also going on Hiatus, Aida freaks out. When they hear about Otter No. 11 it gets worse.
When Yujiro mentions Hideout Door also going Aida’s not as worried until he remembers that’s his series.
Aida has a panic attack at the realization that with one-fourth of the magazine- three of which being heavy hitters – being left out of the magazine, it would be unpublishable. Yujiro thinks Fukuda set this all up and goes to tell the Editor-in-Chief the news.
Aida stops him and reminds him that as their editors, it is their job to reign in their wards and make them deliver. They can’t allow a boycott. Hattori interjects and asks if the boys + girl are all in the same place right now. They are. Hattori offers to intervene to steer them away from this dangerous course.
Yujiro, Aida, and Miura all quickly offer to join him in this request. They ask Aida to remain in the office since he agrees with Editor-in-Chief. He says they’ll need to him to balance the argument. They also ask Yoshida who immediately jumps into action. Yujiro calls Team Fukuda to talk about the situation. Fukuda agrees.
Fukuda explains the editors are coming to talk.
The chapter ends at a restaurant with the boys ready to negotiate.
Life and Death and Stationery Reaction
Panel of the Week
The last series of chapters have had a relative dearth of excellent panel work – or superlative, I should say – so I’ve been skipping Panel of the Week unless there is something truly excellent.
This…well, it’s somewhere in between. But given that it’s suitably epic, and compellingly framed and, in context, feels larger scale than it really is, well, it’s the panel of the week.
Of course, my abject rage at this dull as ditchwater arc has blinded me a bit.
I like the arrangement of the editors standing in line, while the mangaka are all seated, ready to negotiate. It sets up an interesting implied power dynamic. Even though the mangaka traditionally serves their editors, in this case, despite the angle of the shot suggesting the editors would be the party with power, because the mangaka is closer in the frame, they look more imposing.
Another nifty little quirk is that the layout is right to left design-wise so that the most theoretically powerful player – Eiji looking like himself with the fucking pencils – is the first thing we see in the frame while Miura – who should be the most powerful – is the farthest away, and smallest in the frame. The distance gives us a visual of the current dynamic.
Is it the best the series has to offer? not by a long shot. But is it very good? Absolutely.
Now, to more complaints.
I’m (Mostly) with Sasaki
This arc isn’t going away anytime soon, is it? Goddamn it.
I cannot stress enough that I was done with this arc pretty early on, but it’s gotten somehow both exponentially sillier in trying to prolong the drama, and infinitely more frustrating.
Because, guys, I didn’t realize I need to say this, but the actual argument that Sasaki makes here is, in fact, correct. Full stop.
Do I need to explain this?
Do I? Because this manga apparently thinks that there is an actual debate to be had about whether Saiko should be allowed to be taken off hiatus after the shit he’s pulled. The manga is presenting a dialectic when there’s only one reasonable argument to be made.
Saiko isn’t just related to Uncle Nobuhiro by blood. He is repeating his behavior and using him as an aspirational figure. He is repeating history. History isn’t even fucking rhyming here. Saiko is quite literally killing himself for deadlines.
If you don’t understand how outside the context of a shonen battle manga this isn’t even an actual debate, I don’t know what to fucking tell you.
Now, Sasaki’s timetable is exaggerated, yes. He probably doesn’t need to be taken out for an entire year. He’s recovering at a reasonable pace, and drawing relaxes him. All good stuff.
But his major character flaw means that this shit is likely to happen again or get worse.
So no, Fukuda, Sasaki’s not actually being unreasonable for choosing to consider Saiko’s health, wellbeing, and the wishes of his fucking family.
Jesus fucking christ.
I think I’m probably going to reiterate this rant several times until this idiotic arc has concluded. But there’s more to talk about here than just my absolute frustration with the mangaka. SO let’s talk about it.
Nizuma and the Key
As much as I enjoy Nizuma being himself in this chapter, I wish he wouldn’t. It’s amusing that he’s so comfortably enmeshed in his prodigy status that he basically can do whatever the fuck he wants without consequence but he’s in favor of an idealized version of reality that really isn’t a reflection of the working environment for mangaka.
As we’ve discussed Nizuma in many ways, especially as a rival, but even more generally now, represents an idealized mangaka for Ohba and Obata. His ability to see the way forward for the boys, his absolute dominance in the surveys, his ridiculous storyboarding and output. His sixth sense for publication. These things all give him more weight than other characters as a functional mouthpiece for the authors.
And here, he’s off the mark. 100 Pa-sen-to.
Because it’s not clear to me that the time frame is the issue. It’s the hiatus itself. At least, that’s what Fukuda’s bag is. It isn’t clear to me they want him to go on hiatus at all. Or get rest. Or heal. They want him to follow his stupid whims to death.
While Hattori and Miura are a little more level-headed about it, and Hattori’s only gripe is that Sasaki’s time frame is bloated, Team Fukuda – minus poor Nakai – only see Hiatus = Bad. At least as it’s shown here. Honestly, that’s pretty fucking childish.
And especially given the month-long hiatus of Akutami for Jujutsu Kaisen that just happened, I think it bears repeating that Shonen Jump is actually as good as their word. Akutami evidently was in such a rush to finish JJK that they neglected their physical well-being, missing meals, and sleep to get work done. And it got to a point where they were put on an enforced hiatus.
But Nizuma still seems to be fighting against the hiatus itself. Not a reduced time frame. Which, again, is childish dumbass nonsense.
Which makes their own voluntary hiatuses not seem noble, but just kind of a petulant teenage rebellion in the face of someone who is taking the resolute acceptance of death too literally in this case.
To get meta for one moment.
The Resolute Acceptance of Death is a Metaphor Unless You’re a Samurai or a Battle Shonen
I am a big proponent of the Resolute Acceptance of Death and learning to embrace failure and fighting, and giving it your all. I’m also mindful of the fact that getting a story done on time at the risk of your wellbeing is not the resolute acceptance of death. It’s total neglect for your own well-being.
And while I think people should take themselves out of their comfort zones and do more in service of their dreams and goals. And, in certain cases, should break past their limits to get shit done – I’ve even mentioned that in this read-through – that only really works when you’re sprinting, and not running a marathon.
And manga is a marathon with overtones of a sprint. There needs to be some measure of balance. You can’t resolutely accept death to the point where you’ll keel over mid-chapter. And that’s at the heart of this.
Saiko should push himself when there is a good reason to do so. The internal goal of getting an anime to live with your dream girl that you created a self-imposed limitation with to spur you on is not a good reason to do so.
Aoki and Hiramaru and the Hiatus
I recently read about the Virginia Dynasty of Presidents – Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe – and in Ralph Ketcham’s biography on Madison, he goes into great detail about the Embargo Acts of the 1800s. Under the circumstances, Madison hoped to leverage his ideals of economic sanctions to hurt the British empire’s trade with the US to get them to stop impressment (stealing American Citizens and putting them on British Navy ships) and get them to bend the knee to America’s economic might.
It was a logical enough plan and would be a good test of ideals against reality.
In that case, reality fucking slapped the shit out of America. Not only because America is kinda schizophrenic about everything on the best of days. But the British found ways around the Embargo and Americans sorta just traded with the British anyway because they were economically imperiled. So it failed hard and just harmed the US.
Which is what I see any kind of Hiatus for these dimwits amounting to, honestly. The power dynamic is not in their favor here. I cannot see this working out the way they want without severe blowback. Mangaka can be replaced. Jump is an institution. Even if it doesn’t go the way of mangaka scabs, it’s unlikely to bend Sasaki since he has more power here.
As for Aoki and Hiramaru – despite the inherent silliness of this plan – in this circumstance were actually not totally grating this chapter. I appreciate that Aoki is willing to shove a backbone up Nakai’s ass if necessary, and has one of her own, despite the fact that it’s often frustrating and short-sighted. Good on you Aoki.
It’s a nice spin on the shonen formula of sticking up for yourself, but in a way that’s not necessarily combative, just assertive. Which is something Saiko could learn from.
Hiramaru was surprisingly cogent(?) this round. Which is always rare for him. But not unwelcome. If we can get some better dynamics with him, I think he’ll become a more compelling character outside of his one-note comedy schtick.
As for the Hiatus itself. While normally I’m all about reframing life as war and having these negotiations, and these oblique battle setups that revolve around publishing, here it feels empty because I’m so totally opposed to the underlying motivation. Also see above.
I think if they weren’t opposed to a hiatus itself, but just the length, it would be one thing. But it’s not clear to me that that is the case. So I find the whole proceedings silly.
But I’m a broken, annoyed, record at this point. And I’m repeating myself.
Please let this arc end swiftly. I don’t have the patience for this fucking nonsense much longer.
Until next time.