In Assignment and Standoff, Eiji goes Chaotic Good on the Treasure Rookie Award (Chapter 57)

Hullo, and welcome to my read-through of Bakuman Chapter 57: Assignment and Standoff, in which we talk about Soul in the Game, Eiji’s Chaotic Good, and Soul in the game, again.

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Without further ado.

Assignment and Standoff Summary

Missing Something

Picking up directly where we left off, Yoshida gives them the ultimatum from the previous chapter: they will be entered into Treasure Rookie without a prize. Miura also mentions the storyboards for serialization. Then, satisfied that they’ve gotten their way, Miura and Ashirogi jump into editing Hitman 10.

Yoshida’s astounded by the two and their work/work ethic. Hattori wonders how good the one-shot is, and Yoshida hands it over.

Hattori thinks it’s well put together and distinct from Trap. Yoshida is incredulous that 18-year-olds could make it. Their series is sure to get serialized if it’s nearly as good. Their potential is off the charts. Hattori agrees

But he thinks they are missing something. Yujiro, eavesdropping, agrees privately, although he doesn’t know what it is. Yoshida believes it’s their characters: they aren’t very well written. However, because the manga isn’t about personalities, it doesn’t matter all that much.

Hattori doesn’t know how to put it other than, rather ungenerously, that the fact that they can churn out high-quality manga-like machines makes their work come off as superficial or lacking soul in the game. Yoshida sees what he means.

Yoshida speculates what he’d do as their editor and might push them to make new stuff until they make something genuinely profound. Hattori agrees that there is no rush.

Between a One-Shot Rock and a Gag Series Hard Place

Saiko and Shujin are glad about the meeting results and that Eiji and Sasaki will read Future Watch. But, they realize that the timing of the next serialization meeting gives them enough time to ramp up the quality of Hitman 10 to a point where it’s comparable to Future Watch.

Assignment and Standoff Future Watch cover

Saiko thinks that Miura – being a one-trick pony – will ultimately kill it like Toshiro Hijikata kills everything with Mayonnaise by putting too many jokes and killing its timing. Saiko is confident that Miura will fuck up Hitman 10 with his editorial blindspots, even though Shujin is accounting for the possibility of serialization.

Shujin also points out that Adults have a different sense of humor from kids, but Saiko has enough faith in Sasaki to have his finger on the pulse of kids’ sense of humor.

It doesn’t matter in any case; if they don’t put a good-faith effort at Hitman 10, it will all be moot. Ultimately, this decision is in the hands of the editors. But the boys are convinced they’ll prefer Future Watch and agree that that is the creative direction Ashirogi should take.

Shujin reminds him they need to keep their eyes on the prize.

Eiji’s Judgment

The boys revise Hitman up until the last possible minute. The goofy illustrations frustrate Saiko, and both boys suffer under the stagnant weight of not having a deadline to work against. Without the pressure of the weekly deadline, their revisions feel achingly slow.

Saiko is getting enough sleep, but he dreads the possibility of having to commit to Hitman weekly, given how bored they both are. One extreme or the other, no in-between.

Of course not. Not for 18-year-olds.

Shujin suggests Saiko go on a date with Miho since they have more time on their hands. Saiko counts the hospital as a date. They debate why he didn’t go in for the kiss when he had the opportunity.

Meanwhile, at Nizuma’s, Yujiro brings over the review sheet for the Treasure Rookie award, but Eiji doesn’t want to review the rookie’s (shitty) manga. That is until Yujiro mentions Ashirogi’s submission.

Eiji’s already floored by Future Watch, just looking at the first page. But he’s confused why they would submit to the award. Yujiro explains it’s too much of a slog to get through now, but long story short, they want him to look at it.

He loves it so much that he declares it the winner before reading any other manga. \

Never change, Eiji. Never change.

Yujiro tells him he can’t play favorites and has to read all the manga. Eiji says it’s not playing favorites; he loves their manga. He explains that because they don’t put themselves into their work, the characters are weak or inhuman; they lack a heart.

Eiji finds another manga he likes, Shapon, the end of Japan, featuring a grizzly cover that says “Die Humans.”

Yujiro tells him that Shapon can’t be the winner since it’s wayyyy too dark to be put in the magazine. Eiji pushes back that this one is pure heart and soul and self-projection of the author. The rest are boring.

Eiji declares Shapon semi-finalists and Future Watch finalists. Both are from Saitama prefecture. Eighteen years olds from Saitama are the best.

ONNNE PUNNCH.

Yujiro explains the conditions of Ashirogi’s entry and points out the Judging Committee will be deciding. Eiji asks about the judging but Yujiro bats the suggestion away immediately.

Being himself, Eiji asks to come to the judging and gives his heavily biased review of the one-shots, which is largely “boring” and 1s, except for Shapon and Future watch.

Judgment of the Treasure Rookie Award

On March 15th, the Treasure Rookie judging occurs with Sasaki and Heishi attending and the editorial group, including Yoshida, Yamahisa, and two other editors who submitted. And Eiji Nizuma.

Eiji lobbies passionately for Ryu Shizuka’s Shapon. Still, Sasaki and Heishi both tell him in no uncertain terms that they can’t run it in the magazine even though they’re going to run the other honorable mentions on the website because it’s so excessively dark. Eiji points out the darkness is a good thing.

Sasaki mentions offering an honorable mention with an addendum: “Something more suitable for Jump” as a consolation and offers to give the Eiji Nizuma award if he’s so passionate. Eiji’s all for that and makes them add “most talented of all applicants” under the award.

Never change, Eiji.

Heishi recognizes the other works are well below par, and the presence of Ashirogi’s manga only compounds their mediocrity. Nevertheless, they discuss how Ashirogi is the real thing and that Trap wasn’t a fluke. Eiji’s pumped at the idea that Future Watch will get a series before Yoshida takes the wind out of his sails by mentioning another series in the works.

Yoshida gives the skinny on their dilemma to Eiji, but Heishi points out that there are no guarantees in the world of manga production: you can have talent and ability and still never succeed. Besides, serialization means another series gets the axe.

Eiji loudly thanks the group for their lessons and vows to be quiet from the point on.

Pfft.

Results of the Treasure Rookie

Miura gets the results, and Future Watch annihilated the competition, much to Miura’s dismay. He asks Yoshida not to tell them the results until after the serialization meeting. Yoshida pushes the responsibility onto him. Miura tells the boys he won’t tell them what happens until after the serialization meeting and orders them to do the work.

Saiko sees through the gambit immediately and theorizes Miura would have been over the moon if Future Watch had done poorly.

To decide the contest winners, the editors assign the finalists amongst each other so they can cultivate their talent and potentially get them serialized. Yamahisa thinks it’s a crock. Yoshida believes it’s an excellent opportunity, although he concedes there is a large element of luck even between the monthly competitions. It depends on the applicant pool.

One of the new editors remarks that they like getting the first pick as the least experienced. Yamahisa thinks it’s a case of shit rolling downhill and punting grunt work to the younger editors.

Yoshida tells him to quit his bitching and choose. He goes for Ryu Shizuka – the author of Shapon while the other still nameless editor picks Tadokoro. Nakaji – another editor – elects not to select any new mangaka, so Yamahisa takes the only female entrant: Mitsuko.

Ew.

An Old Face and A New School

On April 6th, Kaya, Saiko, and Shujin walk the grounds of Yana University for the entrance ceremony. Shujin bitches about being there early until he sees the fresh faces of the cute cheerleaders. While Saiko and Shujin admire the new talent of the school, Kaya is appropriately disgusted by their behavior and goes to look around on her own.

Saiko and Shujin indulge their inner Eikichi Onizuka perv and extol the virtues of college life and its subsequent joys. As they continue perving, Kaya rushes back to show them something: A manga club. The boys remain underwhelmed until they notice the excellent art – minus dialogue.

They overhear someone – a professional evidently – asking about their output and abilities. A pro? They look inside and see:

Ishizawa, who now works in a podunk magazine called Chara Kira, is asked to join as an honorary member.

All three are gobsmacked that Ishizawa has made any progress and that he’s with them at college before he drops a bigger bombshell by mentioning his connection to Ashirogi: good friends.

The boys, disgusted, leave the club without saying hi.

They check out the magazine and see he has a small three-page strip in a monthly magazine, and Kaya remembers his vows for revenge by success. Shujin doesn’t want to own Ishizawa’s success like that.

Serialization

On April 13th, the boys turn in Hitman 10 – renamed to Ten – for serialization. After that, Saiko is certain the editorial team will go with Future Watch.

On April 17th, the meeting begins. Shujin wants to get serialized in spit of it all, and we’ll be pissed if Takahama wins out. Saiko’s holding out for Future Watch.

At the meeting, their new piece comes up. The reviews are good. Although Heishi thinks it doesn’t need to be so joke-heavy, he’d prefer it be a straightforward battle manga. Aida points out Miura’s a pro-gag manga guy, which probably motivated this.

Sasaki agrees with Miura and likes the humor, and he sees Takagi as an asset. He’s willing to take a bet on Shujin getting better. That being the case, Yoshida points out that Future Watch should get a series.

Aida thinks Ten has more series potential. While riskier, Yoshida points out that Future Watch may prove to sharpen Shujin’s skills even further. Another editor wants to read more of both. It’s more “manga” than Trap. Heishi defends Trap.

The editor imagines what would happen if they let this talent take time and improve a la Hattori several chapters ago. Heishi resists the point. They don’t have the time.

Decision

They get the call, and Sasaki has given them a unique decision: Ten and Future Watch will both run as one-shots in two consecutive issues. So they’ll both be tested on the audiences. Miura thinks they should be happy: The editor-in-chief has high hopes for them.

The results of the survey will determine which series get serialized. The readers will decide whether Ashirogi should be serious or not.

With the decision out of their hands, both sides of the conflict are convinced they will win.

With that, the chapter ends.

Assigntment and Standoff Reaction

Panel of the Week

I could not, for the life of me, explain to you why I like this panel so much. I despise Ishizawa. But the framing of Ishizawa and the manga club, with the artwork on the wall, and Ishizawa made to look like the center of attention looks like a manga cover, for some reason. Not only that, the little sight gag of Ashirogi in the background in utter shock.

Honestly, it may have been just how shocked I was to see him that made this panel stick out so much.

I liked the survey too, but that isn’t really a panel. Technically.

I also like how contemptible Ishizawa is drawn. His design is still as smug and unlikeable as ever, which only adds to my perverse enjoyment of this panel.

Enjoyment works in mysterious ways. Which is a good segue into my first thought.

Soul in the Game Pt. 1

So, as is chronically the case, a fuck of a lot happened in this chapter, but let’s get to a comment by Hattori about the boys writing: it lacks something.

I’ve recently encountered this in my writing, which is why it has stuck out.

I’m involved in a group devoted to screenwriting, and one of the frequent discussions on that group is whether the formatting rules for screenplays are bullshit or not. The answer, as always, is complicated, but you should probably know how to format a script.

I bring this up because, for the longest time, I’ve focused on technique in my writing, my music, and, more recently, my illustration. I get like Shujin and get obsessive over being technically good at things, and reading things with an eye for technic. This blog is proof positive of the amount of time I spend dissecting media for its structural components.

As a result, I’ve found, recently at least, that my writing – while competent – is missing a little zhuzh. A little…je ne sais quoi. An element that propels it from simply good to something transcendent.

I’ve been restraining myself from my putting myself fully in the work emotionally. Investment. And it’s a matter of vulnerability. Because the stories within me are not at all adherent to the rules of drama and good writing, and to some degree, I’ve used the ignorance of the mores to justify not pursuing things more aggressively.

So when I read this chapter, which in part deals with Ashirogi’s absurd output, but also, their inability to put themselves in it cut deep. They are good at the technique because they practice technique a lot, but they lack soul in the game—more on that in a bit.

I feel on the same wavelength, at least spiritually, if not materially. And I think Hattori could be the one to bring it out, and based on the events of this chapter, potentially Nizuma.

But not Miura.

Modern Day Dynamics

While Miura is virtually absent the entire chapter, his influence is felt on the boys, and particularly on their unwillingness to work on Hitman 10, which they put a good deal of effort into. It bodes poorly that they’re so bored of the prospect of working on it. And that Shujin suffers from old man humor syndrome – more on that in a moment.

But I think this chapter, more than any other to date, set up a fascinating contrast between Miura and, of all characters, Eiji, and represents, for the first time, tangible recognition of the split between the older and younger dynamics and interests and how that manifests in Jump’s pages to this day.

I don’t know whether Ryu Shizuka will be in this series, based on the fact that his one-shot is “too dark” for Jump. But he’s a named character, so who knows.

Eiji’s interest in an edgy manga – aside from Ashirogi – and Sasaki/editorial team’s enjoyment of Hitman 10 feels more potent a reflection of modern-day critical divides than it did then.

While Shonen Jump has not radically and existentially changed since 2008 for the most part, there is definite evidence that it recognizes that its ways are growing stale and antiquated. But it hasn’t dropped them.

The best evidence for this comes in one of the most popular manga of the last few years: Chainsaw Man.

Chainsaw Man by Tatsuki Fujimoto is one of the most unabashedly violent and gory series the magazine has done (that I’ve read). It thrives on the most basic human impulses to drive its narrative. Gore and horror are vital components, and it borders on the adult. Same with Dandadan, which was just released recently.

But at the same time, there are juggernauts like Demon Slayer, which are the distilled shonen formula down to its fundamental essence. There are also some surprisingly long-lived gag manga running at the back of the magazine despite it all (Me & Roboco, Kokosei Kaizoku, and Magu-Chan) that are there to fill the gag quota.

So, for my own meta-fictional purposes, this chapter is one of the fresher dialectics the series has offered because it seems reflective of Jump’s old ways and new ways and the crossroads they’re at.

And at the center of it is Eiji, who is buffed to know what good manga is. And Shapon sounds in many ways like the more Seinen-y Chainsaw Man and some of the other more adult manga in the magazine.

On the other hand Hitman 10 feels like a classic jump story and one that would probably succeed if given an opportunity. It’s got a lot of elements that work in its favor for Jump specifically which actually is a bit of good character work on Ohba’s part given Saiko and Shujin’s love of Classic Manga.

But…

Soul in the Game Pt. II

Saiko and Shujin’s gift is their technical facility and, their major flaw is their lack of the aforementioned soul. They aren’t putting themselves in their work. At least, that’s how it reads from this juncture.

While no one wants to read a navel-gazing anecdote filled story that’s very specifically about one person *looks around self-referentially, again* and their personal, anecdotal struggles, in a way that feels somehow universal, people are also turned off by soulless storytelling in which there is no spark of the author in it.

And here, there is no spark from Saiko and Shujin because they’ve honed their skills to not need to do that. And now it’s biting them in the ass.

If they weren’t so obsessed with getting serialized for any reason and focused on telling a story they want to tell, they wouldn’t necessarily be in this situation. Aside from the fact that they got dealt Miura’s shitty instincts and old-man comedic stylings, they will do anything well, and that is as much a hindrance to them as it is a help.

I can’t imagine they will do Hitman 10 because the narrative shows us that they’re bored drawing it, but they’re also highly competent and passionate about manga. And that competence might get them serialized.

And while it seems that Future Watch will get a shot, and in fact, the story seems to set up that they will be focusing on that. It could be the Death Note copy, maybe. But it’s a genuinely even split.

If they were willing to put themselves more into their work, risk some emotionally vulnerable storytelling with the stuff they care about, rather than just doing what they are told to do, and do it well, they would almost certainly get Future Watch.

But because they lack soul in the game because they are unwilling to put themselves into their work, we’re at the crossroads we currently sit at.

But a lot of other exciting shit happened in this chapter, mainly around the Treasure Rookie Award, so let’s talk about that.

Chaotic Eiji

Eiji is such a chaotic good alignment that it’s not even funny. So while it was cool to see the judging form for the Treasure Rookie Award, it was even better to see Eiji chewing the scenery with his overwhelming bias towards Ashirogi and Shapon.

Eiji has become representative of many things as Ashirogi’s rival, and one of those things is his insight for manga making and recognition of talent. But he’s also still wild around the edges and not entirely in the good graces of the editorial staff, although they are way more permitting of his behavior because of his success.

I audibly giggled at the entire sequence with judging which shows how Eiji is as good as he is. He’s not just good at making manga, he’s willing to learn, and do it his own way.

Although his biases were explicit at the judging, they were also reflective of the accurate judging of the series in the magazine. He gest to represent a more primal understanding of manga, and be the editorial staff’s Id which was hilarious. And he learned something because he was willing to learn.

The fact that he got an award named after him is fucking hilarious

There is a term for this kind of thing too: idiosyncrasy credit: where you can get away with more weirdness in an institution relative to your output and performance. I.e. the better you perform, the weirder you get to act, and the more you can get away with. Eiji is a walking idiosyncrasy bank, given how much credit he has to be a nutcase.

Eiji was just generally delightful in this chapter.

Speaking of not quite so delightful things…

Ishizawa’s back?

This legitimately threw me off. I for sure thought Ishizawa was toast narratively speaking since he was useful only as a comparison of people who dedicate themselves to craft and those who talk big.

Well, he still does that. But I’m shocked he’s back. And he’s somehow even worse than when he was initially introduced?

His character design is just straight up unappealing, but the way he dominates the manga club and mentions his connection to Ashirogi while still thinking he’s hot shit. Eek.

I guess Ohba and Obata know the law of character conservation.

I assume he’s been reintroduced for a good reason. We will find out soon enough, but I will say it’s hilariously appropriate that he’s riding high on his manga laurels despite only making a three pa3-page in an obscure magazine no one reads.

Despite my obvious distaste for Ishizawa, I’d be lying if I didn’t see more of him in myself than I am comfortable with. I’ve started drawing cute anime girls for fun, I’ve name-dropped in the past, and I’ve had short-lived success on minor magazines that no one reads.

….anyway.

It’s also interesting to see how Saiko and Shujin react to college: with indifference except for ogling cute girls. It’s not inaccurate, and I do relate – to a degree – but they both have girlfriends, and that gag didn’t one hundred percent land.

There wasn’t a whole lot to say about this subplot other than Ishizawa, so let’s wrap this up with potentially the most exciting part

Who will win?

One of the hard things making manga the subject of your story is injecting some element of uncertainty and tension into the waiting. But here, they’ve effectively done that with the editorial department’s one-shot idea.

While it seems clear that Future Watch will win, almost without question, the fact that it is up to the fictional audience makes it…undetermined.

As I’ve said, there are no guarantees in a creative field, which Heishi mentioned this chapter, and by having the audience determine its success, there is an element of chance. It might go either way. Especially with the editorial staff liking Ten and Eiji liking Future Watch.

It’s a coin toss

So maybe it won’t pan out exactly as I think. And that’s fun for me.

But of course, we’ll have to wait until the next chapter to see how it pans out.

I’ve been wrong before.

Until next time

Peace

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