In Restart and Low Rank, Trap loses its Momentum and things Look Bad (Chapter 51)

Hi there, humans, and welcome to my read-through of Bakuman Chapter 51: Restart and Low, in which Momentum is key, and a fuck of a lot happens. Also meta jokes.

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Without further ado, the chapter.

Restart and Low Rank Summary

Back to School and Work

At Yakusa, Kaya expresses her relief that Saiko’s back by poking fun at him. Saiko wonders why there were no changes to the seating arrangements. Kaya asks if he doesn’t like sitting next to her. He reminds her that Azuki sat next to him until yesterday. While Saiko draws, Kaya tries to dig up the hot goss on Miho and Saiko’s private time. Saiko demurs that when he gets married, she can see.

Saiko laments that he can’t miss more school or else he won’t graduate. Shujin notes that they’re ahead on chapters, so they don’t have to worry about it.

Back at the office, Saiko is given a welcome back party by the assistants. He apologizes for worrying them, covered in confetti. Kato gives Saiko some homebaked cookies as a welcome back gift. Takahama wonders if she’s actually gotten over him. Since they’re on schedule, Ogawa gives Shujin the rundown on their schedule and asks if they want to continue working ahead. Shujin wants to wait until that night and explains they might have to take time off, but they’ll still be paid.

Ogawa and Kato are grateful, although guilty about being paid not to do work. Saiko takes the blame for getting sick.

Rumbles and Changes

At Shueisha, Miura’s frustrated by Heishi’s constant oversight to ensure the chapters they produced are already done. Aida reminds him that this was the point of his strategy: to lighten the load on Saiko and Shujin; it’s decent as a setup, especially for dressed out highschoolers.

Miura reminds Aida that popularity could affect the story’s direction and, what’s more, Phantom Thief Cheater starts the next issue after Trap starts up again. Aida asks what he expected given the Hiatus. Besides, Cheater has been in the works since before Trap even got the green light, but it kept needing revision. So what’s wrong with some competition?

Hattori points out competition is fine as long as they don’t cancel each other out but points out more significant issues than Cheater.

At the office, the assistants pack to leave except for Takahama. Nervously, he asks if Ashirogi can look at the final draft for his new manga. He explains that with Saiko in the hospital, he couldn’t chat them up and that after reading a bunch of manga, he felt comfortable creating this series, but he still wants their input.

Shujin is self-conscious, but Takahama tells him not to sweat it and not worry if his style is similar to theirs, given they mentored him.

They read the manga Business Boy Kenichi.

In Business Boy Kenichi, 300 Million yen will change everything (Business Boy Kenichi Chapter 1)

Welcome to my read-through of Business Boy Kenichi, in which a boy finds 300 million yen, and we talk about rough drafts of manga. You can’t follow along with the mangaka just yet, cause this is a rough draft. And there is no index because this is a rough draft.

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Without further ado, the chapter

Business Boy Kenichi Summary

300 Million Yen?!

Kenichi Tsubaki and Kintaro Tsubaki discuss Kenichi’s decision not to go to high school. His teacher asks Kintaro whether he’s ok with this. Kenichi is an excellent student. He is.

The two leave, and Harita comes to the student-parent meeting. Kenichi and Harita, who are best friends, offer to meet up afterward

They meet up in the park and offer to share secrets. Kenichi reveals he’s gotten 300 million yen, and Harita is unsurprised by this news. However, he’s not deterred because his father died last year and left him a fortune way more incredible than 300 million yen. They discuss where they got their cash, and Kenichi explains his dad bought an absurd number of lottery tickets, and two ended up being winners, which blows Harita’s mind.

Kenichi explains that he’s been given a debit card and access to the account to do with as he pleases. He’s going to drop out of school and start a business with the money because only stupid people coast. When asked what kind of company he wants to start, he thinks a melon bun company would be good. He invites Harita to join him on his venture.

Business Boy Kenichi Reaction

Panel of the Week
Restart and Low Rank Business Boy Kenichi Panel.

I love the expression on this guy’s face as he says he’s got three hundred million yen. It’s the right kind of weird and twisted and overly detailed. Sells that this guy is a little crazy after getting all that money.

Will this business be a success?

I really like how this chapter establishes who Kenichi is as a character. It reminds me a bit of The World is All About Money and Intelligence, where its focus on excess greed is paired with the shonen attitude of being a go-getter and not coasting in life even when you’re handed a shitton of money.

But I have to wonder, do a teen boy’s goals mean he can make it in the competitive industry of melon bun making? I Mean, Melon Buns aren’t particularly a hard sell – you can buy them at any nearby konbini after all – so it should be an easy bet. But it’s going to require a lot of design and process. Not to mention food industry is notoriously challenging to turn a profit because of all the upfront costs and overhead.

If it’s anything like The World is All About Money and Intelligence, it should be a procedural look at the complicated process of starting a business and the bureaucratic hoops one must go through to get a business started and even make a profit.

But I’m excited and really looking forward to seeing what Kenichi and Harita can do.

Until next time,

Takahama’s Got IT

Saiko and Shujin like it. They think the premise is a little too good to be true, but it’s fun. Better than most other one-shots. Shujin likes how the story is designed around businesses and how it has a remaining sum of yen counter at the end of the one-shot. Takahama agrees and explains that it can be used to track the businessmen’s progress and how they can spend wisely or poorly, and that’ll keep readers coming. Shujin’s surprised by his business knowledge.

Takahama is a real one: you can find anything on the internet.

Amen.

Saiko thinks his draftsmanship has improved dramatically. Takahama’s thrilled and now more confident that he has Saiko’s vote of confidence. He’ll create some storyboards in case there is potential for a series. He wishes them luck on their meeting, and Papa Ashirogi takes pride in their boy growing up and potentially being their rival.

Competition

Saiko and Shujin are alarmed to learn about a new Detective Manga written in Shonen Week by Kyoichi Mursasaki, a famous mystery writer whom even Saiko has read. Miura tells them it’ll be Detective Gosuke Akechi, and he heard it from Hattori today. Saiko asks who the artist is: Shun Hanasaki, a talented artist who has published many one-shots.

Week is running the series because of Trap’s popularity. On the bright side, if mysteries get popular, it’ll be due to Detective Trap’s popularity.

Shujin asks about the new series Cheater and how booms don’t guarantee success. Saiko asks about volume 1’s sales and how it did well. Miura explains it did great, getting reprinted three times and selling 200 000 units…but Hideout Door sold better.

Miura points out the irony that the weekly readers rank Trap and Kiyoshi above Hideout Door, but Hideout Door does better in volume sales, with Kiyoshi coming in last among the three. Miura reads between the lines and sees that Hideout Door is bought for its artwork, and Kiyoshi is bought primarily by boys.

Miura tries to remain positive and points out the release of volumes 2 and 3, giving it some momentum, and they increased the “story so far” pages from one to three. Shujin’s relieved by the extra space.

Miura also gives them fan mail from when the Hiatus began; this shows how popular Trap is and that they are going to run the already completed chapters regardless.

Return and Returns

On September 28th, Gosuke Akechi starts in Shonen week, and Shujin’s depressed by the quality of the storytelling. Saiko thinks it’s better than Shujin’s writing and wonders whether they’ll be ok.

On October 3rd, Trap restarts in Issue 44 of Jump with a color page, and Miura and the boys are thrilled by the early results coming in 4th. Shujin reminds Saiko of their promise to surpass Eiji with these color pages, Crow is probably in third, or maybe even 1st or 2nd now. Kaya reminds them that Crow’s anime starts today.

They all admire the opening and translation of Eiji’s work into a moving medium. Saiko laments that this will only boost Eiji further and bolster his general sales upwards of a million copies and make him a huge hit.

Saiko takes comfort that, despite that, they’ll be able to watch Trap like this with Miho voicing Ami.

On October 7th, Phantom Thief Cheater debuts in Shonen Jump, and Shujin’s frustrated by how similar it is to Trap. Kaya tries to placate Shujin, but their rank drops to 12th place. Cheater ranks fifth, which means nothing for the first chapter.

Miura lets them down easily and explains that it was going to happen with Cheater debuting, but Shujin’s still processing the defeat. Saiko asks about the next serialization meeting, October 28, but Miura tells him not to worry. Keep slow and steady. Shujin reminds Miura of what happens if the next two chapters don’t go well, but Miura points out a case resolution should give them a bump.

Patience and persistence.

Shujin wonders if they should keep working ahead of schedule like this at the office if they risk cancellation. Saiko tells him to stop being a negative nancy in front of Takahama. Takahama gives them his good news: Kenichi made it to the semi-final in the Treasure Rookie Contest and will appear in Issue #1 on December 5th. The boys congratulate him and compliment his work, and Shujin notes he’s jealous.

Takahama tells him not to be jealous when he has his own series. Shujin vents his fears and frustrations by telling Takahama not to overtake them.

Turning tides

The final chapter before the serialization meeting only gets 14th place, and despite their hopes to the contrary, Miura tells them they’re on the chopping block in the next meeting. Shujin sees that after the case resolution only made 14th place, two other series have already been canceled.

Miura gives them the sitch that Cheater only made 11th and is likely to drop further below Trap; he also explains that series doing poorly in the first ten chapters are given cancellation warnings. Hideout, Trap, and Cheater are all on the block. Shujin asks why Hideout and, despite its good sales, the surveys doing worse than Trap still put it in peril.

Shujin recognizes that he’ll likely have to pander in the next chapters. Miura sees it as unavoidable but that they don’t have to do it poorly. Finally, they discuss whether it should be turned into a battle manga, having tried everything else. Shujin’s frustration at the situation reminds Saiko of how the Hiatus killed the momentum.

The meeting lasts twice as long as usual, and the only conclusion they come up with is to make it more like a battle manga.

A Solution

Aida gives the bad news to Aoki and Naka; Nakai is desperate to keep the manga running in the magazine.

That night, Saiko stares down the possibility of making a battle manga. Then, he gets a call from Shujin, who asks if he’s overdoing it. Shujin pauses: he doesn’t want to do a battle manga. They’re only 24 chapters in, but he’s attached to the characters, and forcing fights would destroy them. Saiko agrees but points out they couldn’t think of anything else. When asked, Saiko thinks the battle formula will make it less popular, but Jump’s bread and butter is fighting.

Shujin thinks of a potential solution.

He brings over the fan mail and points out they provide requests for what they want to see. Why not just pander directly to the fans? Saiko notices that this will skew their manga towards a more shojo style; females are their biggest fans, though, and they have more loyalty because they fill out the surveys, and since they’re devoted, they have more pull.

The fans give Trap life, and they are who their careers belong to. They can’t lose them. So Shujin decides to add battles, but only to the extent that it naturally fits the story, and they’ll use ideas from their fans. Saiko resigns himself to try it, even though they’re already doing that. And Shujin resolves to read all the fan mail.

At Nizuma’s place, Fukuda calls to tell him about the news about Trap and Hideout door and asks how they can help the other members of Team Fukuda.

Eiji’s response is cold and to the point: only those who can stay in business get to stay in business. They’ll have to figure it out on their own.

With that, the chapter ends.

Restart and Low Rank Reaction

The nature of the beast

There were great panels this week, but this post is a fucking fattie, so we’re skipping it. I think you can guess which is my favorite though.

This chapter was, well, a lot. a fuck of a lot, given how much longer this summary was than usual. But it was a very focused chapter in one crucial way:

There are no guarantees in creative fields. Like the Taoist vision of reality, change is the only constant, and what might have worked at one juncture does not necessarily remain the trump card in another. Power and influence are relative.

For better or worse, the field of creative arts and serialized art is subject to several conflicting forces, all rubbing up against each other simultaneously and often to the detriment of the others. It’s like the sequence in the Simpsons where Mr. Burns has all known diseases, and he’s simultaneously alive because all the diseases are fighting against his body’s defense at once, but he’s also very fragile indestructible

….

Anyway, this chapter actually re-iterates the debate in Chapter 42 about whether Pandering or Patience is key. I like this chapter’s approach because the answer is not necessarily: always be patient.

That is nuance.

Anyway, let’s talk more about the specifics.

The Perils of Popularity

Ashirogi is a victim of their success, at this point. The fact that Trap did get so popular and sold so well meant that both respected novelists and bottom-feeding copycats both saw a market and went to pounce. That is the danger of success; once people see it works, everyone wants a slice of the pie.

And to Miura’s point, that actually is a good thing in the abstract. They have influence and the ability to affect the market of Detective Manga at large. There is totally a level of power that most people vie for and dream of—especially given the fact that Jump is not known for its detective stories.

By that same token, success dilutes the market, as we see with the comically overt rip-off Phantom Thief Cheater. I’m sure it was in revision, and the artist magically had the idea to copy Trap given how close the title is. It’s also a nice subtle jab at the mangaka that the manga features thief and cheater in its title. That is the opposite of subtle.

I also like that the respected Detective Author manga’s storytelling is better than Shujin’s because obviously that would be the case. Although it’s a bummer because I want the boys to do well, it’s good to see they’re hewing close to reality with someone who is established in the industry being capable write due to experience, rather than raw talent.

Speaking of that combo.

Takahama and BB Kenichi

This was one of my favorite parts of the chapter for meta reasons- it’s always meta reasons. Not only because we broke the fourth wall by having us literally read the rough draft, but also because it gives us a peek into a very real phenomenon in the manga industry of assistants who go on to their own success and partially ape the style of the mangaka they work under.

The example that comes to mind most freely right now is Kenta Shinohara, who was an assistant for Hideaki Sorachi on Gintama and his new manga Witch Watch. The mix of absurdist gag chapters – one featuring an excellent ottoman/Gatchaman pun – and the more recent arc, in addition to genuinely heartfelt character work, make it clear who Shinohara learned from.

Oh, also, Shinohara casually put Oboro and Utsuro as fictional characters too, that helps.

But it’s nice to see that Ashirogi is the victim of their own success in a more wholesome way. Now that Takahama’s spreading his wings, they’re going to lose an assistant, and they are likely to have some new competition in Jump once he gets serialized. I think it’s pretty apparent he’s going to get serialized because they’ve written Takahama in such a way that he has the right stuff to be a mangaka.

What’s less pleasant, however,

The Success of Others

Seeing the Crow anime air and Miho getting her roles is one of those pitch-perfect moments in the chapter that worked for me mainly because I’ve been there. If you spend any time on social media you find people moving ahead in life, often ahead of you, and it can be super demoralizing.

And recently, I’ve seen a lot of friends who are advancing in their similar career trajectories faster than me. Or, if not faster, then at a pace that makes me feel painfully aware of how behind I am. Even though one shouldn’t compare themselves to others, we all started at a similar rate. So to have made virtually no progress for complicated reasons makes me feel complicated.

Given the downward trajectory and decline of this chapter, seeing Miho and Eiji successful is beautifully bittersweet, and it captures that sinking feeling when someone you care about does well, and you aren’t, and you feel like you’re falling behind. Seeing Saiko and Shujin so down and, despite their best efforts, still falling sucks.

I kinda want to listen to the Crow OP, though.

And it makes the question of Pandering Vs. Patience central.

Should they Pander? Or, the importance of momentum

The question of pandering takes on a different tenor here because their ship is definitely sinking right now, and while I hope Trap survives, it seems like my prediction is coming true thanks to all the narrative signposts and length of the manga that suggest it.

But at least here, the answer is a lot less clear-cut. If they pander now, it could revive the series. Demon Slayer famously almost got canceled in its first 20 chapters before Gotoge-sensei introduced the final villain of the series, and its popularity got back up, and Demon Slayer is now, well, Demon Slayer. These gambits can work.

And unlike earlier, where it was just an internalized fear of failure, they need a hail mary to succeed and keep Trap afloat. And that’s for the reason that is the true nature of the beast, and a shitty fact of creative art.

If you don’t capitalize on the momentum, you risk total destruction.

This blog has seen a recent increase in popularity as the result of consistent publishing. But the month away due to moving has taken an axe to the numbers and metrics, which is fine and anticipated. But I have to build it back with consistent publishing again. It will come back.

But for me, there is no financial incentive. This is for fun – and maybe something more down the line – so momentum doesn’t have an impact on whether I can or should do it. But it does for a published magazine with circulation in the millions.

Capitalizing on momentum is a critical element in many creative fields because once attention is commanded it is easily lost unless you double down and go further.

That is the primary reason Trap is likely doomed. And it has nothing to do with their failure as a mangaka. As Picard said: sometimes you do everything right, and you still lose. That’s not a failure; that’s life.

It is possible to commit no errors and still lose. That is not a  weakness... That is life." - Captain Jean-Luc Picard | Star trek quotes,  Star trek, Wise quotes

And that’s what the Boys are experiencing here in the most frustrating way imaginable. It’s also happening to Hideout Door, which is not doing too well, but that can be more easily chalked up to a stylistic misfit that has little sales potential.

All that is to say, even though listening to Fan Mail seems like a bad idea; maybe it’ll work? Probably not. Listening to fans is generally a bad idea, and going the battle route makes more sense. But the boys are desperate, and once you’ve internalized potential defeat, it’s hard to steer the ship away. Sun-Tzu would be very disappointed.

If they went in with the resolute acceptance of death, perhaps they’d succeed.

I think I’ve answered my question about whether they should pander.

Sigh.

Stray Thoughts

Eek, I’ll keep this quick.

–Eiji at the end was pretty frightening but also badass. Good to see him keeping his rival role in the pocket

–How Jump chooses series for cancellation is not clear cut, as evidenced by Hideout Door doing well in sales but not in popularity in the magazine. There must be more hidden factors that define a series’ livelihood. Based on all we’ve seen, sales should be enough.

–On Second thought, given how Kiyoshi does poorly in sales, Jump probably has to compromise between their magazine reading audience and their tankobon audience to find the best choice in a veritable shit sandwich. Blegh.

Until next time.

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