Hohoho, Happy Holiday, Merry Christmas, and welcome to my read-through of Bakuman Chapter 59 in which Miura does something right, Yamahisa continues to disgust me, and the boys continue to be a pain in the ass.
If you are not caught up, please consider using this index to read previous read-throughs. There are no spoilers past the current chapter, so read at your leisure.
If you’d like to follow along, and support the artists, consider buying a tankobon of the current volume, or by subscribing to WSJ. I recommend Jump because you get more bang for less buck, but you do you. I’m not affiliated with VIZ media, I just want artists to make monies.
Experience and Data Summary
The boys are shocked to learn that Future Watch only made 9th Place despite their high hopes for it. Saiko in particular is gobsmacked given his faith in their lack of a sense of humor. Shujin asks Miura if their deal is still in effect. He’s shaky, but it’s still the case.
Shujin asks to talk later, given their being in class at the moment. Shujin’s relieved that Future Watch won and Kaya congratulates him. Perpetually unhappy, Saiko thinks ninth place isn’t good enough. He even uses Miura’s talking points to support his argument. Damn son, you just can’t be pleased.
Shujin thought they’d do better too, but Kaya thinks the story was too complex. Agreed, Kaya; recapping that shit was a nightmare.
They rationalize their failure remembering how regularly Detective Trap ended up in the double digits after their initial good ranking. Ninth place isn’t THAT bad.
They discuss their expectations and how it’s probable that because they’re being compared to Trap, they likely had no hope of ranking well. Saiko finally relents after taking so much copium and agrees it’s good that Future Watch did better than Ten.
Saiko thinks they should start making chapters for Future Watch and stake their careers on it. It’ll be a gamble; high risk and high reward. That only freaks Shujin out though. Saiko’s asking if their current predicament of potential cancellation after 10 chapters isn’t hellish. They need to do everything they can to not let that happen.
Shujin asks what Miho thought about the One-Shots. Apparently, she didn’t realize Shujin was capable of stupid gags.
There appears to be a type and Shujin “resembles” those gags and then asks about Future Watch. Saiko volunteers not to read but Kaya steals his phone and reads Miho’s excessively lovey-dovey remark about time travel and getting married.
Kaya points out that they’re almost normal in text.
Back at the office, Yujiro asks if Miura’s struggling with his veritable Sophie’s choice of Ten and Future Watch. Miura’s confused by the framing. Aida gives the green light for BB Kenichi and gives the rankings: 6th for Chapter 1 and 8th for Chapter 2. Aida thinks the humor helped its quality.
Aida then gives him the skinny on how serious stories starting out in sixth tend to fall out of the top ten by chapter 2 and can, at worst, tumble straight to the bottom.
Miura jumps into Hackerman mode and starts looking at historical data on Gags and Serious manga rankings. He brings up a series of convincing-looking trends. According to the trends, gag manga that does poorly do so from the get-go, but overall, they tend to get more stable rankings over time.
Takagi calls as Miura reviews the data he came to looking for an answer and asks if they want to meet after class.
Miura stalls for time and asks to let him call back. Takagi, confused, agrees.
Shujin and Saiko discuss how odd Miura is acting, and why he couldn’t just tell them the results of the survey over the phone. They overlook it, given how much he’s been doing for them and how attentive he was during their series.
Meanwhile, Miura asks for more historical data about past surveys from Aida. Aida’s confused, but Miura’s persistent. Aida explains that they didn’t start digitizing results until 1999 so there’s no way to look them up on the computer. He’ll have to go look at the tally sheets in the office.
Aida doesn’t know where they are. Miura asks about the reference library. Aida tells him they wouldn’t be there. Just every single copy of JUMP ever released in chronological order which cannot be removed. What’s the story, Miura?
He needs all the numbers he can get. Aida suggests he talk to Sasaki about it.
Yamahisa & The Male Perspective
At a cafe, Yamahisa and Aoki discuss her storyboards. He compliments her on them and wanted to meet ASAP. He learned so much about girls in love. It could be a textbook for romance. However, it’s a female-centric narrative. A distinctly not-shonen viewpoint. He asks it to be redrawn from the male POV.
Yamahisa then acts creepy and promises he’s NOT trying to sexually harass her, just let him know if he’s overstepping and all that: has Aoki ever been romantically entangled.
An average amount.
He apologizes but asks if she’s dating anyone now. Nope. He asks if she has any idea on the male vision of love at all currently. His perspective is that she doesn’t have enough insight into the male psyche to write convincingly from that perspective and she needs it to write convincing romance.
Aoki thinks she’ll be fine. He lest the issue slide but re-iterates that that is what he is looking for.
Aoki gets to her apartment and muses on the truth: she’s never been in a real relationship outside of crushes. She also doesn’t have many male friends.
She abruptly remembers her rejection of Nakai and has a probably true revelation that she definitely isn’t going to plunge right now because it’s not narratively relevant. So she denies the possibility outright.
At Takahama’s studio, Nakai is asked about his own prospects for a new series. He makes some non-committal statements about his editor searching for a good story.
Kato admires their go-getter attitudes and expresses her appreciation for her role as assistant. Nakai is WAY too eagerly involved in this conversation with Kato about how nice it is to be an assistant: no pressure at all and it might be nice to be an assistant forever.
Kato is still anxious about just being an assistant, though. When asked, she explains she is turning thirty and she needs to start thinking of marriage. Nakai perks up when he learns that Kato is still, in fact single.
She is an otaku after all.
Nakai is, conveniently, also into manga and he likes ladies who are also into mangaka. She doesn’t look a day over twenty. More buttering up and more buttering up. He’ll nominate himself as a boyfriend candidate.
Takahama is tortured just listening.
At Hiramaru’s, Yoshida asks about Ko Aoki. Hiramaru points out he was constantly saying “I Love You” (gross) at the meeting for the Boycott/Strike. Yoshida vaguely remembers although he’s used to filtering out Hiramaru’s constant bullshit at this point. He was too shy to say it any other way. Yoshida shows him some potential matches he’s rustled up.
Hiramaru then lets Yoshida know he doesn’t like that girl either. He likes women who are younger than him.
Yoshida points out he wanted a girl who would pamper him. He meant a younger one.
He asks for an Aoki/Mashiro’s girlfriend type. Yoshida points out he’s a fucking mangaka and beautiful women don’t just grow on trees. Hiramaru points out it’s Yoshida’s carrot, not his choice. And what’s up with the series being animated, anyway? Yoshida demurs on the offer: wouldn’t it be nice, is what he means.
Miura grabs an enormous box of data and finally calls Shujin to arrange a meeting at their usual spot. Shujin agrees, but it’s been a week since they last spoke. Miura apologizes.
Miura bolts out, armed with facts and data at his side, to the surprise of Hattori. Hattori recognizes the pressure he’s under but realizes he can’t really question another editor.
At the meeting, Ashirogi already has their storyboards ready but Miura thinks about resubmitting Ten to the next serialization meeting, stunning both of them.
They think he’s reneging on their deal.
Miura, however, has receipts. Let’s take a look at the numbers, shall we?
Shujin looks at the data and sees what Miura sees: one-shots at tenth have a good shot as series and sometimes become hits. Miura goes further: BB Kenichi has remained in the single digits its entire run so far. Most manga without humor fall to double digits by the second chapter. More gags correlate with stable ranking. Even though humor has a point of diminishing returns and has to be good, a manga with gags has more staying power than a manga without.
Finally, the average reader age demo for Ten was 13.6 while for Future Watch it was 18.7. 13.6 is a rare demo for Jump these days. Younger is better because a younger convert to the manga will be more loyal moving forward.
Saiko rebuts that with the fact that there are fewer children being born, so the historical data isn’t a good actual indicator of quality. Miura reiterates: the younger audience is better and more stable.
Saiko doesn’t just want to coast. He wants to create a hit. He thinks Miura’s idea is a recipe for mediocrity. Saiko then asks to continue Future Watch. It’s not that the numbers are wrong, but Shujin is more suited to Future Watch. Shujin, however, sees the data and sees the natural conclusion: he’s a numbers guy after all.
He lists off a series of manga that started off as Gag manga that switched to a battle manga that ended up successful: Kinnikuman, Reborn!, Seikimatsu, Leader Den Takeshi et. al.
The battle route can be built into the process, which means that it’s likelier to succeed should the gags initially fall flat.
Shujin sees the information: it’s good. But he wants Saiko’s approval.
Saiko rejects it because Assassins aren’t good fodder for an anime. He’d prefer a gag with a friendlier story were that the case. Miura offers an alternative where there isn’t death at the end of the assassination but Saiko also doesn’t want that.
Miura thinks Shujin’s sense of humor is classical so it’ll appeal to kids more. Shujin thinks it’ll work if the humor never goes above the level of Ten.
Saiko still thinks this is all nonsense and it won’t become a hit. Miura’s pissed that Saiko is being such a POS about this whole process, especially given Shujin’s openness to it. Saiko is convinced that only serious stories will make Muto Ashirogi successful.
Miura and Saiko butt heads over his frustrations and he thinks his art isn’t suited to gag anyway. Miura loses his temper and tells him to change his style or let someone else draw for Shujin. Miura thinks Saiko’s being too much right now.
Shujin snaps and decides to leave the meeting abruptly. If it’s not Saiko and Shujin, then they won’t work with Miura at all. Saiko runs after him as the chapter concludes.
Experience and Data Reaction
Panel of the Week
There were some good panels this week, but I chose this one for a reason that is more troll-y, than usual.
It’s literally just a picture of the reference library in black and white. Which means that they likely didn’t have time to draw over it. And that the reference library exists is also super cool. But mostly, I just get reassured by literal pictures of bookshelves being used due to time constraints. The only other time I’ve seen it this blatantly was in Dr. Stone where a picture of the Ocean was used for a double spread.
It makes me appreciate just how difficult this job is, but also how often shortcuts are utilized to make content.
Good Job Miura?
For the most part, this chapter fires on all the narrative cylinders on which Bakuman has rested its narrative engine, and mostly to gangbusters results. Especially the final sequence.
But let’s talk about the perennial problem child of the series Yamahisa…I mean Miura. We’ll get to that other one in a second.
Miura kinda did…. good? here, sort of. Though also it’s not as good as “Good” would seem to imply. Just he actually did his job in a way that felt more competent than what I’ve been seeing. And I’m a sucker for that go-getter attitude.
Granted, he’s STILL not really listening to either of the boys Ashirogi, as exemplified by the final moments of the chapter.
But it was cool to see Miura try to – statistically speaking – put his money where his mouth is.
As I’ve said before, and as is the rule above all for statistics: Correlation does not equal Causation. M. Nigth Shymalan’s shitty movies are not related to declining newspaper sales, although they have a correlation between them. The same is true for Manga.
But, and I will concede this is a big but, Miura isn’t really wrong either.
I’ve been reading Jump for a bit now. I’m no super stan who has that glorious black and white photo catalog of every jump ever issued and I’m not caught up on all the classics by a longshot. But I’ve been reading it now for going on three years with an intensity one might call religious.
Comedy sells. And I like comedy. And most of the most popular manga that are serious have major dollops of comedy.
Even the gag manga at the bottom survive through some magic, although plenty of good comedy manga have kicked the bucket before their time (R.I.P Mitama, you are missed).
Hell, even Ingmar Bergman, master of dark depressing art films believed that all great art has humor in it.
And that Miura did the research and brought the receipts is commendable. He’s not really shown himself to truly throw himself into his work and use data in such a robust, methodical fashioon.
But that’s not why he actually did kinda good.
he did kinda good because he wants to use the Gin Tama gambit.
The Gin Tama Gambit
Miura to this point has not actually strategized because he’s too desperate, but here he showed some cogent thought about how to leverage their abilities and stay in the magazine. The gag to battle route is a tried and true method for sustainability.
It’s what Gin Tama did.
It’s one of those surefire strategies that in the right hands can one hundred percent pay off in spades. Starting off a gag – assuming you’re actually funny – will naturally lend itself to some high concept elements. And those high concept elements usually, though not always, lend themselves to serious moments, and dramatic moments, and battles.
Magu-Chan has the chibi elder gods and has incorporated serious arcs. Especially more recently.
DandaDan is bordering on gag manga all on its own with its current style.
Ayakashi triangle is a sex-comedy that has leveraged its high concept ninja vs. spirits with Ranma 1/2 style gender swap premise to an interesting mix of action, comedy, and shamelessness. I feel weird reading it. But I read everything in Jump.
Mission Yozakura has spies, Slice of Life and action, and comedy.
And of course, One Piece is half comedy on a good day.
So Miura actually has a really solid point and seeing him go above and beyond to come to this conclusion. Seeing that literal photo of the reference library cracked me up a bit, but it really went far beyond the call of duty.
And I appreciate that. And I’m tempted to be with Shujin here.
Miura still isn’t listening to his wards. He’s concerned with getting something to serialize, and he’s not considering the boy’s willingness to do it. Even though Shujin is on board with Miuras’ plan, and could probably come up with something good, I don’t see him sustainably making a quality gag manga.
And that’s why the last little twist at the end really works. because Miura doesn’t consider Saiko and Shujin a team. He doesn’t see they are friends, in addition to co-workers. True Nakama.
And, again, he’s going for just shy of Friendship, Persistence, Victory: the masthead of Jump. He’s settling.
So as good as Miura did this chapter, it still hasn’t pulled his ass off the coals for my opinion of his editorial ability.
And that’s nothing to say of him forcing the boys to doa gag manga and not considering how to pepper a serious manga with humor. He’s still full steam ahead on appealing to a younger demographic and all the things except what Saiko and Shujin are interested in.
So I can only imagine this will end well.
And to be fair to Miura, Saiko is an asshole who is going too far, although his point about Assassins is sound. But he’s gotta account for their interests and their professional lives. Balance is key.
But anyway, there are other things to write about such as:
Nakai’s reflection on mangamaking
Speaking of settling, although not in a bad way necessarily, Nakai seems to be doing well as an assistant to Takahama. Which is good? I think. Although poor Takahma having to put up with his constant flirting with Kato was hard to watch.
Ugh, Nakai. yeah, there’s other stuff we’re going to talk about with him – YOU ALREADY KNOW WHAT IT IS – but for now, sigh. I’m of two minds on this particular turn, which I briefly touched on in the previous read-through but is worth reiterating.
Sometimes taking a less stressful job is not a bad thing. See exhibit A.: Me.
My current job is not my dream job, I never thought I’d spend my life doing it. But it is a good job, and it’s one that is sufficiently emotionally low stakes that I have energy at the end of the day, and time to relax. It’s not gonna bowl over recruiters, but it gets the job done. And I can pursue the things I’m interested in on the side.
And with that lack of stress has come an attendant emotional growth and growth of ability in all the hobbies I enjoy a lot – including this blog – so on that front, I don’t entirely fault Nakai for wanting to do a job where all you have to do is take orders from someone above and do them. Without any thought of stress or culpability outside of said responsibilities.
But obviously, this is a manga in Jump. And Just like Miura, this is the opposite of the Jump – and Japanese – mindset of working yourself until you’re an emotional nub who can’t feel or enjoy life unless you’ve devoted 70 hours of your week to a corporation that thinks of you not so much as a person but as an automaton to input information.
So it’s probably bad, in context.
What is, again, alarming, is how he’s hitting on Kato so hard. In fairness, at this juncture, she’s either A.) into it, or B.) politely putting up with workplace harassment. Given how often this happens with Nakai I’m going to defer to B. But Man, I hope it’s A because I think it’d be nice for both Kato and Nakai to find someone who isn’t hopelessly out of their league, wildly too young for them, or designed to be their endgame love interest who in retrospect is horrifyingly toxic as a potential partner.
I guess one can dream.
Speaking of that potential endgame.
Obligatory Fuck You Yamahisa, you’re trash. I still don’t like yamahisa and his whole – please tell me if I’m harassing you even though I’m your editor so there is an inherent power imbalance that incentivizes you to say nothing even if I were, which I am, so let me ask a genuinely unnecessary and uncomfortable question about your romantic life which you’ll answer because you have to was Just ugh.
And look, she wants to do Romance. It’s romance in a shonen manga. I get it. I swear I do. And unlike Ashirogi, Aoki does need soul in the game. So she has to work on some elements like that. I get it.
But also. Gross.
And I don’t know how Aoki plans to resolve this particular dilemma without reintroducing Nakai as her love interest which we already got a taste of in that brief moment of reflection. And here’s the thing. I know it’s likely that they are an endgame pairing of some kind. I really don’t like that fact. But it is what it is. This is 2009 in Japan, there is no way in hell this setup ends with anything other than a mutual confession at the end.
But Nakai has been consistently and aggressively creepy. And he doesn’t actually like Aoki. He likes the idea of her like any shitty rom-com protagonist and he’ll take any girl as long as she’s a girl. And he harrassed aAoki and it’s all awful. And they’re still probably going to end up together because he’s aggressively shown interest in her to a point where her defenses weakened and she’ll settle.
Because that’s the traditional narrative.
God, it makes me sad, man.
And it’s way worse because Nakai is so explicitly unable to handle women. So the fact that he’s miraculously aroused her interest is mind-boggling.
Back to Aoki though. It isn’t *shocking* that she’s never been in a relationship. But it also feels mildly engineered for story because she needs to seek out a guy to help her write from a guy’s perspective. So she’s going to seek one out – presumably Nakai – to get a perspective on the male psyche and enhance her writing.
On a base creative level, I’m fine with that because part of writing is actually living your life. And you need experiences in life to write compellingly. So that’s actually a good thing to explore. How writers get their inspiration and experience to write better.
But also. Ugh.
–Hiramaru was utterly disgusting in this chapter. Jesus. The I Love You bit was actively awful.
–Saiko and Shujin’s whole coping with 9th place was pretty funny to watch and it was good to see them thrown off their game.
–Good on you Shujin, for sticking up for your friend. Hopefully it doesn’t come back to bite you in the ass.
That’s it for me guys,
Until next time,