In 18 and 40, Everybody Gets the Worst News (Bakuman Chapter 53)

I’m BAAACK. Sorry everyone and welcome to my read-through of Bakuman Chapter 53: 18 and 40, in which the true feeling of rejection and loss is put on beautiful display and Yamahisa fucking disgusts me from the word go.

I was off last week unexpectedly because my script placed in the Austin Film Festival (Yay) and I was there doing the networking and friend-making and the like, which feels somewhat dissonant with this chapter – and its contents – but I had wrapped up this chapter the week before. My apologies for the delay.

If you would like to read along but are a newbie, use this schwifty index here to catch up. There are no spoilers past the current chapter. So read without fear.

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18 and 40 Reaction

4 Chapters…

And the axe falls on Hideout Door and…

Detective Trap.

Yep. There it is.

Aida is bummed that both cancellations were in his group, but Sasaki compliments Nakai’s artwork; now that he’s not attached to Aoki, he should be considered a free gun for illustration and he recommends submitting illustrator requests to Aida. He gives Aida orders to work with the Editor-in-Chief to get Nakai illustrating again.

He also commends Ashirogi for their raw passion for manga that’s rare in the modern-day, especially Mashiro who pulled that whole ass stunt. He wants them back in the pages of Jump asap.

Sasaki pulls back a bit and sees their impatience as a downside and orders Aida to slow them down and make sure they don’t go all Ashita no joe and burn themselves out. He also wants Aida to run interference on submissions to other magazines in case their impatience has them submit elsewhere.

Yoshida pipes up about Team Fukuda’s dangerous loyalty to each other over Jump. Sasaki tells him to just keep them motivated to work on their series.

The editors come back from the meeting and Miura sees Aida’s disappointment, although he rationalizes it may just be about Hideout Door’s inevitable cancellation. The lieutenants call their editors to their groups for the announcement. Aida’s clearly nervous.

He first announces new series: Strawberry Shoot and Silent thunder will premiere in issues 47 and 48. One of the editors is shocked that Miura’s gag manga Irresponsible Lalala didn’t get in. The board panned it. Not only did Miura’s manga not make it, Detective Trap has officially gotten the axe.

Miura panics and apologizes to Hattori for ruining his series. Hattori is generous – pointing out the hiatus did it in – and that he can’t control artists getting sick. Miura laments having to tell the boys, even though it’s his duty as their editor. Aida continues with the brief of the meeting.

The boys get a call and are informed they have 4 chapters to wrap up Detective Trap.

Despair

Both Saiko and Shujin immediately get into theatrical despair and fall onto the ground in shock. Shujin logics it out: the only one doing worse was Hideout Door and tells Saiko Miura wants to meet at 10:00 o’clock. Saiko blames himself for getting hospitalized.

Dramatic sighs commence. Kaya doesn’t even have the will to cheer them up. They thank her for not trying.

Woof.

Aida gives Nakai the bombshell: 5 more chapters and then hangs up. Nakai explodes in furious anger at having lost. Aoki handles it gracefully and is given free rein to tell the story how she chooses. Aida suggests that this could be a good way to find the next story by going all out.

Aoki thanks him, but finds herself a poor match for Shonen storytelling and decides to go back to Shojo manga. Aida notes that because she’s not exclusively contracted to Jump she’s free to do so. Aida lets everyone know and an editor – Yamahisa comments that they will be losing the most attractive artist in Jump.

…Gross.

Yamahisa volunteers to be her editor and says he can “seduce her”…back to Jump. Aida, reasonably, struggles with the notion that his motives are lily white and just business. Yamahisa swears he’ll do whatever it takes to get a good manga out of her.

Mega super gross.

Aida is annoyed but lets him know he’s powerless in this situation anyway. Tough titties. Yamahisa tells him to find someone who is.

When asked, Yamahisa tells them that the editors at Jump SQ heard about Hideout Door and have used the opportunity to poach her, whispering sweet nothings in her ear.

Aida realizes that Aoki’s popular because she’s pretty – which Miura thinks is unfair – and Aida relents and tells yamahisa to ask the higher-ups. He bounds off to poach her himself. Aida warns him to wait until her series is actually dead before doing anything.

Shell Shock and Practicalities

Kaya asks how many more hours the two are going to sulk. They’ve been catatonic for almost 2 whole hours. They tell her she can go home but she offers to stay for a while longer. She asks about the assistants: they’ll have to let them go. They explain that some mangaka keep paying assistants to keep them on retainer, but they can’t afford that. Ogawa alone would ruin them, and only big-name mangaka can get away with it.

Additionally, if they’re not famous there’s no guarantee of another series. they’ll have to be really careful moving forward. Saiko gets all mopey about fucking up Trap’s momentum up and Shujin – and I – are about ready to pop him which Saiko’s game for. Shujin would do it if it guaranteed continued serialization.

They finally admit defeat: they won’t have an anime by 18 and Eiji has won, for the time being. Kaya asks whether it’s too young to get married at 18 anyway: the younger you marry, the higher chance of divorce.

Both Saiko and Shujin remember they have to break the news to the assistants and have to go to the office.

Fall out

Ashirogi bikes as fast as they can to deliver the bad news to the crew. Ogawa asks about who is following them since he needs the work to support his family. They haven’t asked yet. Ogawa flips from anxiety to good boi shonen energy and rouses them all to put their best effort forward in completing these last four chapters.

At their editor meeting, Miura offers two alternative routes: \remain the same tonally and go for a proper conclusion, or get wacky and experimental and try different genres that wouldn’t normally fit to try things out for a new series.

Or, they could use four of the eight chapters made in the hospital. Miura suggests going with new chapters. If they don’t want to use those chapters, they’ll be combined with their Gold Future Cup One-shot and made into a special volume of Trap. If they create four new chapters they get an extra volume out of Trap.

Shujin and Saiko – currently not in the best place – sarcastically celebrate having five whole volumes to sell.

Miura sees that the grief is too fresh for the meeting and Shujin points out that he can’t focus on anything right now. Miura calls it off and tells them to try again tomorrow and think of the direction they want to go in. He asks whether they’re going to take a taxi, but they elect to walk back to the office to clear their minds.

The Cold Truth

On the walk back Ashirogi laments on the cold, and the proximity to New Years. They’re going to have to go college now, as Shujin reminds him: a mangaka without work is a leech, after all. They discuss their options and decide that taking a break is unreasonable.

Saiko can at least work as an assistant. He’ll still go to college, so that’ll be part-time. They lament how normal their lives are now that they’re going to college. Shujin explains he’s going to be paying for his own tuition so he can go to any college he wants and offers that they should go to the same college and major in the same subject. Saiko objects to the premise because Shujin is way smarter than he is and can go to a better school. Shujin thinks that only makes sense if they give up manga entirely.

Neither is giving up, so they should go to the same school and major in these same subject. Saiko thinks Shujin could have done something incredible with his life but Shujin counters that he was the one who wanted to get into manga in the first place.

Saiko thanks him for that.

4 Chapters

They get back to the office and warm up with some drinks and discuss telling Miho about the situation. Saiko realizes that their accomplishment of getting serialized in high school is still amazing. They celebrate their success before Shujin kills the vibe mentioning that Eiji is even more amazing.

At the meeting, they elect to throw everything against the wall with the final four chapters. A gag, a Rom-Com, and a Battle chapter. The weeks pass by quickly now that they’re canceled.

The rom-com is well received by the assistants who find the chapter really funny. Saiko thinks it’s a matter of experience given that Kaya and Shujin’s relationship is itself a rom-com.

On January 13, 2012 they finish the final draft of the last chapter. Miura offers to throw a party but no one is in the mood for it.

Saiko is sad to see his assistants go and apologizes for his shyness getting in the way of them getting to know each other. Kato offers to work for them again anytime and Takahama says he learned a lot.

After seeing the assistants off, they give Miura the final chapter who gives them the usual better luck next time. he gives them the release date for the final chapter as well as an invitation to the New Years party before leaving.

After he leaves, the boys sit and discuss that uncomfortable sensation after you’ve finished a big project where you’re energized and excited but also sad that it’s over. Shujin gets it but feels more frustrated than anything else.

Meanwhile

Over at Nakai’s, Nakai ponders his future as an illustrator, although he’s not jazzed about not being paired with Aoki. His assistants are ready to leave. At Fukuda’s, Yasuoka sees Fukuda is bummed about something but he doesn’t know what.

At Hiramaru’s new Condo, Yoshida tells him about his color page and how that can contribute to covering the condo’s loan and Hiramaru laments getting tricked so badly. That is until Yoshida mentions he’s been giving Hiramaru the glow-up to his wife who’s been getting good female attention from her friends because of his condo and Porsche and Hiramaru falls in line, as he does.

Eiji is in a bad mood, Yujiro notes.

The day after the final chapter is released Saiko sends Miho the bad news. She gives him the “you did your best” and also adds that she’ll wait forever….but she doesn’t want to wait until she’s 40 to get married (LOL).

Saiko, falling hook line and sinker calls Shujin, pumped, ready to get new chapters out. Shujin thinks it’s premature, but is taken up by Saiko’s excitement.

With that, the chapter concludes.

18 and 40 Reaction

Panel of the Week

18 and 40 Saiko and Shujin experience depression at having been cancelled

I love how overly dramatic yet perfectly apropos this image is in detailing the boys’ abject misery. The expressions on their faces are somehow devoid of feeling but also convey such abject despair at the same time. The dull drudgery of failure.

More to the point, their disheveled appearances – especially their ties and jackets for their uniforms being in disarray while there is a beautifully detailed rigid tatami divides the frame. Ugh. Just good visual storytelling. I also like how the speech bubbles are arrayed vertically from left to right along the Y-axis. It lends to a moderate sense of disorientation since manga is read right to left.

Gotta love it.

Called It

It is a genuine bummer, but it’s not like this was unforeseen. In some perverse way, I’m glad that obnoxious cliffhanger didn’t actually do a bait and switch where it’s like that one Jojo Reference where you thought it was a cancellation, but it was…

It Was Me, Dio! | Know Your Meme
ME DIO

…anyway.

I felt this chapter. Hard. mostly because a few months ago I started getting my screenplay rejected from Festivals to Which I Submitted. Shit sucks, man. It’s not the same as a cancellation, but that petulant sulking, staring into nothing, and trying not to fall too hard into imposter syndrome; figuring out where to go next and if you’ve even got the chops to do so. Yeah. I got all that.

And in some ways, this is one of the strongest chapters in a while. Both visually and narratively. partially because we’re through the dumbest arc of all time, but also because Obata isn’t doing his workhorse Point A to Point B artwork. Also, there are genuine emotional lows that are poignant because we want the boys to succeed.

Overall, it works.

I particularly like that Sasaki recognizes that Ashirogi is an asset, even if in the context of their dipshittery with the hospital. It’s reassuring in a narrative sense to have characters who do the hard thing but make it clear it isn’t personal. Because often, cancellation or rejection can feel personal to an artist, but it rarely is. More on that in a bit.

Now let’s talk about Miura.

Miura’s Status as An Editor

The series has been playing “will they/won’t they” but with Miura’s abilities as an editor for a hot minute, and while the jury is still *technically* out, this latest bit of evidence suggests that the guy is really a weak editor. Now that it’s confirmed that Trap was his first major success and that his next attempt fell through, the evidence becomes just the slightest bit more overwhelming.

And I like Miura as a person. I think he’s affable enough. But it seems like Shueisha measures their editors by hits, apparently, and their ability to cultivate talent. And with a year under his belt, it’s probably hard to say that he’s failed. But things are certainly looking bad right now.

Since this plot point has been building for a while, I’m sure it’ll take some focus sooner or later, but now, just keeping an eye on it.

The Boys

The Pair Ashirogi got me hard in this chapter because, as I said, their despair felt painfully real. The feeling of wanting to feel bad when shit sucks in particular was a pretty compelling moment, emotionally, because it really drives home just how bad it feels.

And I get it, this time. They were working on this thing for almost half a year, and they’d devoted hours upon hours of their life to making the story work and making people like it. They were getting all that sweet fan mail and they were seeing success. They had the tantalizing possibility of an anime adaptation dangled before them.

So to have it abruptly cut short must suckkk.

And, as a reader of Jump, it’s good to see how these cancellations work and it really does give a perspective into just how stressful this job is. Imagine every three months you have the possibility of your series being abruptly canceled without more than a word other than how many chapters you have to close it. And any plot threads you were slowly unfurling and any characters you were creating now need to be thrown out.

And then also having to break it to your staff and tell them they’re out of a job because your storytelling wasn’t engaging enough for XYZ reasons. Man. The scene with Ogawa, Takahama, and Kato – while they were genuinely sweet about it – was absolutely brutal.

It sucks to see a series get canceled (RIP Zipman and Time Paradox Ghost Writer), but it must be devastating for the artists. Especially with the uncertainty of getting published again. It looks like Ashirogi is good enough to stay contracted – even without pages – but what if you aren’t promising enough to have a functional retainer.

Speaking on that promise, things are less promising for the other canceled people…

Nakai and Aoki

This chapter was pretty relentless with the misery. Especially the cancellation of Hideout Door. For all of Nakai’s many failings, I still didn’t want to see him go out so quickly.

That said, the way he handles it kinda gives me an inkling that Manga may not be his calling. At least in terms of directing the art and drawing.

We’ve seen previously that he’s a bit of a dictator with his drawing and he needs to be when he’s hitched his wagon to a, particularly detailed horse meme. But this explosion – while understandable – is also totally uncalled for. There are ways to let out your grief that is healthy, but nearly throwing yourself out a window and having to be restrained by your assistants is certainly not one of them.

Additionally, his motivation for his drawing – his crush on Aoki – is a pretty shit reason to get yourself all lathered up to the point of becoming a dictator ready to blow at any moment. Overall, he is not demonstrating the leadership ability necessary to run a successful manga. Or maybe he is. I don’t know any successful manga personally. I can’t even speak Japanese comfortably at N4 yet.

Speaking of Aoki. I think she is probably the most mature of the four, given that she recognizes her limitations and desires and acts on them. I hope she finds peace in another avenue that isn’t shonen because she is not suited for it and recognizing that seems to be the best way forward.

That said, I wonder if already creepier than shit Yamahisa will let that happen.

…Yamahisa (is gross)

Ok, yeah. This guy already rubs me the wrong way. Just…instant dislike. The casual misogyny, the interest in Aoki as an object, and his total willingness to overlook her desires to poach her back to jump. It’s all really really gross. And he was in probably about 4 panels total.

So props to Ohba for making someone so contemptible so quickly. Like goddamn.

He’s also incredibly persistent, like most villains, so I don’t see him going away. And the law of conservation of characters means he’s like to be here for a bit since he was introduced as a named character and named characters rarely get thrown out of a story unless it’s The Room.

Ugh.

I know there is more of a debate to be had on whether Ohba’s treatment of women in his work has matured. And there are arguments to be found on both sides of the aisle. But depending on how Yamahisa is implemented, it may turn one way or the other. because this guy is instantly detestable, I’m inclined to see him as a villain. Especially with his conflation of Aoki’s looks with her ability to make manga and his unsubtle suggestions that he wants to get G-Pen all inked up.

I’ll show myself out.

But this series likes to languish in shades of moral screentone grey, and no one’s truly bad or good. Ugh. And the series also isn’t calling Yamahisa out for being skeezy other than Aida giving him deserved and mad side-eye.

I’m not looking forward to this development.

The last few chatpers

Even more than the despair, the end of this chapter with the sudden burst of positive energy, putting in your best effort because there is no longer the burden of continuing only added to the richness of the honest portrayal of abrupt artistic death. Everyone giving it their all, being happy, and laughing because that’s the only thing you can do feels honest.

But the thing that really sold it was that the boys felt buoyant and unmoored at the end.

I published a book not too long ago and it took a few years to write. The feeling of relief and joy at having it released was quickly followed by a feeling of exhaustion, displacement, and mild depression. The in-between of two art pieces is one of those unnavigable moments where you have to push through feelings that have no center. Just drifting between two creative wharves without direction.

It also happened when I wrote a million words in a month. It also happened in August when I moved. It has also just happened with the film festival I attended because one of them did like my screenplay.

The post-event/project hangover is real, and here, I like how it’s portrayed. Because it’s not necessarily an over-the-top sadness. Sometimes it’s just this weird empty feeling of buoyant emptiness like a balloon that’s become untethered and floats up to the vacuum of space.

I’m sure the boys will navigate past it into new creative waters. But it’s going to take a lot of effort to be certain.

it’s also good to see Nizuma and Fukuda are both pissed off about half their team being taken out.

Oh well.

Hopefully, the next series comes soon, because I’m eager to see the boys jump back into the fray. Just like Sasaki.

Until Next time.

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