Howdy humans, and welcome to my Read Through of Bakuman Chapter 52: Suggestions and Rush, in which everyone’s sad, and things get Taoist, and also Too Many Cooks, for some reason.
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Without further ado, the chapter.
Suggestions and Rush Summary
Suggestions and Meetings
After the news that they may be canceled comes, Saiko and Shujin elect to pander to their readers. Ashirogi reviews the fan mail, and Shujin finds the most common requests are for more of Trap’s school life. Saiko asks if they should look for the most popular characters and focus on them.
Shujin points out that character popularity isn’t going to save them: their current best bet is Trap, Ami, and Ami’s father solve a case at high school right now. So Shujin asks to postpone the storyboards until tomorrow. Saiko’s fine with it, and since it’s already two AM – and Saiko doesn’t want to overdo it – they decide to call it a night.
Meanwhile, at 3 A.M. Aida, Aoki, and Nakai still haven’t broken the newest chapter. Aoki’s bullheadedness is on display as she doesn’t care how long it takes, but Nakai’s responsibilities as an artist call him. Aida asks if she’s sure she can’t make more changes. No, it would cease to be her work if they made anymore. Given the choice of sacrificing her vision or keeping the series alive, she’s ok with it ending.
Nakai is at odds with that and privately hopes Aida will push for the series, but Aida understands her perspective. He asks Nakai for his opinion. Nakai’s honest: he doesn’t want the story to end, and they should do everything in their power to keep it running.
After getting mad stink-eye Aida points out Aoki’s stance, and Nakai fumes that it’s his job to convince her as editor.
Aoki decides to let Nakai write the story if he’s so married to it. But if he does, he has to remove her name from the piece. Aida says they can’t Alan Smithee this project. Nakai volunteers to write the story. Aoki asks for the title to be changed and leaves the cafe, but Aida points out that they’re not allowed to write the story, so they’ll go with her storyboards. Nakai worries about the cancellation.
On Sunday, Saiko reviews Shujin’s new storyboard and sees… a lot of fans’ suggestions there, to the point that he doesn’t know if it’s good or not. So they fax it over to Miura to get his perspective. Miura takes their call, eating instant ramen at home, and receives the fax. He immediately asks to come and see them.
He then chews them out for going too far with pandering. These storyboards are hot garbo. They’re so bad that Miura asks who wrote them because he can tell it isn’t Shujin’s normal caliber of storytelling. He explains he did come up with it, but with fan mail incorporated. Miura tells them that’s the worst thing they could have done.
It’s one thing for a mangaka to shift their style now and then; that’s natural. But if you take all the fans’ suggestions, you end up with unreadable “Gibberish” like the storyboard. Fan mail is for encouragement, not for ideas. It will no longer be Muto Ashirogi, it will be the committee of fans, and you’ll get a too many cooks situation.
He also points out the gender disparity in their fans and that, although all genders should be respected, they work in SHONEN Jump. A magazine geared towards young boys. It’s going to end up catering to girls. Although there are female fans and there is nothing wrong with that, it’s still a shonen magazine, and they are shonen fans. It’s their job to create something that is fundamentally Shonen. They apologize.
Miura tones down his frustration and discusses how fan culture permeates the internet *looks around self-referentially* and it’s the Mangaka’s job to disregard the noise to find one’s signal. Miura never thought they would stoop to this level, but they’re all grasping for straws.
Shujin explains he didn’t want to make it a battle manga.
Miura pulls out his planner and gives them the schedule: five chapters they can redraw and three chapters connected to the current arc. Finish the current arc as is, then go ham with the final chapter. Shujin’s onboard but asks whether they should use battles.
Miura says to go with their gut and do whatever they feel is good. But he thinks they should consider battle elements.
Frustration and Gloom
At Kyotaro Hibiki’s office – the author of Phantom Thief Catcher – he complains to his editor that he submitted Catcher because Trap was going on hiatus, and now they’re going to go all MAD on each other. He throws his Manga at his editor, and at this rate, he’s going to get laughed out of the industry.
His editor snaps and rushes him, enraged that Hibiki cannot see his limitations as a mangaka being the reason his work is trash; he needs to write his way out of it. They argue whether fighting is a sign of poor ratings destroying their relationship and generally gnaw at each other’s throats.
Meanwhile, Kaya tries to cheer the boys up from their gloom, but Shujin isn’t having it. Kaya asks if they’re really in danger. Shujin says yeah, but they hope to make a comeback in chapter 28. She asks about serialization, and they say they have until December to pull their asses out of the fire.
A car almost knocks into them with Hiramaru. They admire his new Porsche, which he bought on loan. He explains how, now that he’s rolling in the yen, Yoshida suggested he buy a car with a GPS and a condo with a garage which Hiramaru, not entirely understanding how things work, fell for hook line and sinker.
Saiko and Shujin explain that Yoshida played him, and now that he’s going to be paying ga shit ton in taxes and will be in debt up to his eyeballs, he’s going to NEED to draw Manga to pay it all back. Hiramaru gets defensive before realizing he got conned. He deflects, though, pointing out Otter’s current arc – where Otter goes on trial – is super popular, and there are talks of anime in the works.
Ashirogi is taken aback by it since Otter started around the same time as them. Hiramaru decides to go back to his “extravagant” condo to work.
They all see that he came to brag about his car, and Saiko points out that Hiramaru thinks deeply about stupid shit but doesn’t consider serious things. That said, he’s jealous that he’s so popular.
More Success, More Progress
On November 5, Miho’s birthday, Saiko decides to text her about her 18th birthday while feeling bad that he hasn’t gotten an anime at 18 yet. However, he gets a response back telling him that she got a role in The Doctor Family in a recurring role, and she’s excited to be doing well.
Saiko has a moment of frustration at the signs of visible progress everyone is making. Crow, Otter, and Miho, while Trap languishes. He gets a phone call hoping for Miho only to get Shujin. Shujin tells him he got a Chapter 28 that will pull them out of hell. Saiko heads over to the studio.
Shujin explains his tactic was to make it a battle for wits and reintroduces plot elements from previous chapters and a new character. Saiko thinks it’s a winner and takes it to Miura, who also gives it the go-ahead. Even so, Chapters 26 and 27 were ranked 17th, and they’re up against the wall. The axe of Damocles hangs by a thread.
Issue 1 is released with Business Boy Kenichi in addition to Chapter 28. Takahama’s thrilled to be in the magazine and wants to go buy ten copies of Jump before being reminded that it’s against the rules to send in ten surveys.On the other hand, Shujin’s in full on depression mode and says Takahama will do better than them, even though Takahama wants both to do well.
Shujin takes his frustration out on Takahama, noting if he can’t do better than Trap, he won’t get serialized.
The Axe Hangs
Takahama gets second place in rankings, which is extremely rare for a rookie, and Traps’ Chapter 28 ranked fifteenth. However, Takahama stays silent on the matter out of respect.
At Famire’s, they lament how badly the hiatus affected their fanbase, given how good the work still is. Not to mention Gosuke Akechi doing very well also. Their graphic novels also haven’t been selling as well. The boys realize their ability as detective writers are necessary to save them.
Shujin asks about the serialization meeting and whether Chapter 29 will help. Probably not, as the results won’t come out until after the serialization meeting. They’ll have to rely on the 15th place for Chatper 28 going into the meeting. Given that they won’t cancel any series within ten chapters, it’s either Cheater, Hideout or Trap. Miura tells them to prepare for the worst.
On December 16, Neither Saiko nor Shujin head into the office since Ogawa is finishing up, even though Saiko always goes there to check on them. Shujin and Saiko are just too depressed and preparing for the axe to come swinging. Kaya asks whether Shujin’s going home, he will be, and wants her to be there with him.
Nakai has a panic attack with Aoki’s attitude. And Shujin prays at home for the series to succeed.
At the serialization meeting, Sasaki green lights Strawberry Shoot by Ayuhito Bori and Silent Thunder b Kazuki Kimura before cancellations.
There are no long-running series ending, so it will be from the three lowest-ranked, so they choose two. The editors all know the lowest ranking one. “They got a warning” last time, and they didn’t improve.
So the two Manga that will be ending are Hideout Door, and the other one is a mystery because the chapter ends on a goddamn cliffhanger, as does the volume.
Suggestions and Rush Reaction
Well, fuck that cliffhanger.
I cannot decide whether this, Trap‘s death or if, by some magic, Phantom Thief Catcher did worse and it somehow got its balls pulled out of the fire. Part of me desperately hopes it’s the latter.
But I suspect that Trap is not long for this world.
This chapter had A LOT going on. Of course, that’s true of every chapter of Bakuman, most of the time, but it’s particularly true. And even most of Volume 6 has been an exercise in abject frustration because dumb kids being dummies constitutes 90% of the conflict; this chapter successfully conveyed a feeling of abject despair that comes when nothing seems to work.
That is to say, it was a great chapter at accomplishing what it set out to do, but it was a hard chapter to read.
It hurt to see both Saiko and Shujin feeling so desperate that even Miura is the voice of reason here. Taking fan mail seemed like an iffy idea, but when Miura laid it out, it made sense just how foolish that decision was. Holy shit.
On a quick sidenote, that bit about Internet Culture has not only gotten more true, but has gotten infinitely worse. Point one, this blog exists.
But, I mean, I’ve watched Too Many Cooks on Adult Swim. And we all know how that ended up.
Go watch Too Many cooks, sometime. It’s delightfully fucked if you missed that internet cultural milestone.
But really, eek. This is where the seesaw of momentum and timing is all off, and the loss of momentum fucks the author over.
It’s tragic to see.
But it’s also the fate of most business ventures, which, although the magazines technically employ Mangaka, Manga as a premise generally is. You are a small startup, and your work is serialized with the hope that it picks up steam and becomes a sustainable IP that can then be licensed for merchandise, anime, and what have you. Most successful properties end up functioning similarly to a small business, especially when the associated overhead is dumped onto the Mangaka themselves.
Granted, Mangaka aren’t the owner of the means of production, so that metaphor doesn’t work perfectly. Something something Marxism, something something Russian theme music, something something class warfare.
But in all cases, once that window of opportunity is missed, it’s tough to come back from it.
And what’s really frustrating is that if they hadn’t been forced on hiatus, they probably would have been able to handle the speedbumps that come their way.
But this is the first time the series has leaned into the Taoist element at the center of art and Manga.
Even though I touched briefly on this last chapter, here we see a peripeteia of epic proportions, and it functions as a narrative volta for this particular arc.
Things are never static—everything changes. Good becomes bad, and bad becomes good. Failure turns to success and vice versa. One can roll with it, or one can be knocked down by it. But Change is always happening. Very Taoist idea.
And the reason it hurts so bad is that feels so real trying to fight futilely against what is increasingly inevitable, and even though it feels like something works, there is just something in the air that tells you, deep down, you’re fucked.
And that’s emphasized by the forward progress of everyone but Shujin, Saiko, Aoki, Nakai, and Hibiki – who we’ll touch on in a moment. Miho’s doing good; Crow‘s doing good; Otter is doing frustratingly good because Hiramaru is obnoxious; there is a robust thematic parallel in which our characters are at their lowest point, while their mirrors are doing particularly well.
This has been an ongoing element of my life currently. Although, however, I have had some recent minor successes with screenwriting – I did well in a particularly well-known screenwriting competition – I still feel very much behind my peers who have all been working in the field. Their hours of digging the hole to reach the spring water for their wells of success are starting to spout out. It makes me feel like I’ve wasted time. And that shit gets to you, no matter how well you’re own stuff is doing.
And yeah, comparing yourself to others = bad, but sometimes it’s hard not to when you’re behind.
Anyway. I get what Saiko and Shujin are going through, as well as Aoki and Nakai.
Even though Aoki can be, ahem, frustrating on the best of days, here her Spine serves the moment, which emphasizes the whole nature of change theme going on in the chapter. So while Nakai is, understandably, desperate to maintain this Manga, the writing is basically on the walls here.
And it’s an excellent parallel to the boys that Aoki would rather let this fall through the cracks than to actually try and save it with cheap pandering and battle manga switch. It’s in character, and it is a recognition of how things are. I can respect it.
It’s unfortunate that Hideout Door is cancelled , now. But it made sense in hindsight, given how the series was heading for a while now and its unsustainability. So even though the sales should mean something, I guess you need to be in a golden triangle to succeed.
But depressing things aside, it’s probably worth talking about Hiramaru.
Yeah, I only recently learned about this particular con – getting yourself deep in debt to spur motivation to work – and for Hiramaru, it’s kind of perfect. Of course, I wouldn’t wish it on any of my friends in real life. Butbeing convinced to buy something super expensive as motivation to keep working is super fucking scummy of Yoshida. Still, I guess a guys gotta do what a guys gotta to do to get his Mangaka to make pages.
I audibly laughed when I realized how badly Hiramaru got tricked. Because even though financial literacy is not my greatest strength, now that I have a basic grasp on it, it’s self-evident how genuinely foolish it is to get yourself super in debt as a way to motivate yourself to work harder.
A great way to put chains around your neck, is.
But since Otter is doing well, I don’t think he has to worry – for now at least – and even if he does successfully pay down those huge expenses, Yoshida will probably nail him again since Hiramaru has the logic of a straight line with amnesia. Dude’s not playing 4DChess any time soon.
But he also gots an anime in the works, which is pretty irritating because it’s always frustrating when you see people who are openly contemptuous of their craft succeeding.
Now that we’ve met the author of Phantom Thief Catcher. Eek.
One of the things this chapter did well was focusing on how people react to despair and power through it. Despite how frustrating and depressing most of it was, everyone reacts slightly differently. Aoki goes for the proud saunter away from the situation. Nakai bargains. Saiko and Shujin are in Denial and Depressed. And Hibiki, that boy is angry as shit.
Oh, look, Kubler Ross’s five stages of grief somehow made it in here, nifty.
Hibiki’s reaction is understandable, if hilarious in context. I don’t know, but seeing the one dude who directly leeched off of Ashirogi’s success in the most blatant way handling the potential cancellation the worst – and still maybe surviving the ax depending on that cliffhanger – feels, I don’t know, appropriate.
Because he’s not just angry, he’s shifting blame to his editor instead of his own abilities as an author. Granted, given how closely it seems this story is to Trap, that lack of foresight may be endemic.
I can’t say I hope we see more of this fella, he’s genuinely unpleasant, and he got into a fistfight with his editor, but this is Manga, and random side characters reappearing is kinda the nature of the beast.
It seems like Takahama will be getting a manga soon, based on how well he did in the rankings, and he’s probably going to compete with the boys and their subsequent work, whenever that may be. But it was genuinely good to see him moving forward and was one of the success stories that, even though it rankles, was nice to see.
Same with Miho, who is moving forward. It must be frustrating for Saiko, though. And that translated well for me.
I also audibly snorted when Miura talked about Internet Culture because, well, I watch internet culture, and all the armchair mangaka out there is astounding. But you have to stick to your guns, or else it won’t be your work anymore.
Also, Saiko’s initial dream to get an anime by 18 is officially dead in the water. I’m actually really happy that they chose not to make it happen. It makes it feel so much more real that he failed rather than be comically successful.
I hope Trap survives. But it’s hard to be hopeful right now for it.
I guess we’ll see the next chapter.
Until next time,