Yo, my dude, and welcome to my read-through of Bakuman Chapter 61: Alliance and Classmate, in which Shujin and Aoki engage in totally not inappropriate behavior and I do not get frustrated by their totally cool actions.
If you are not caught up, please use this sweet index to catch up; it has all previous read-throughs to this point. There are no spoilers past the current chapter, so read at ease.
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Without further ado
Alliance and Classmate Summary
Shujin and Aoki definitely doing nothing shady
Continuing right off from the previous chapter, Shujin and Aoki agree to help each other. Shujin says, however, that his girlfriend may not understand that this is a professional endeavor so keep it on the DL and only on the phone. He will tell Saiko, though. She agrees to keep it hush-hush. They hash out the details and agree to call each other at 10 o’clock.
It’s a date.
Aoki’s having tea when Shujin calls at Ten on the dot. Shujin’s nervous because he only ever talks to his girlfriend on the phone. He then asks whether Aoki goes to the Tokyo University of the Arts since she’s close to the zoo. She tells him it’s To-Oh to his shock: he wanted to go to To-Oh until he was a third-year middle schooler when he wanted to become a mangaka. He really respects her ability to juggle both work and the rigor of To-oh.
He asks additional probing questions about her year and studies. She’ll be a teacher in case the manga thing doesn’t work out.
Shujin fantasizes about Aoki as a teacher and gets a little flustered. He switches gears to manga.
Aoki presents her dilemma to him about needing male perspectives and asks about how he met Kaya. It started as a misunderstanding. They go over the events of a very early chapter and Aoki asks if he just went with the flow: yeah.
She thinks it’s a bit iffy and he apologizes, but he explains that men tend to just run with a situation and, while attraction matters, you won’t really know anything until you’re going out. Plus, there are guys who are more pure-hearted like Saiko. Aoki asks about what’s up and he explains Miho and Saiko’s
dumb pure relationship. Aoki finds it ideal, but Shujin thinks it’s strange.
Aoki thinks it’s lovely being so chaste, and Shujin identifies Aoki as a romantic at heart. He asks whether she’d want to see her beloved given the opportunity.
Aoki is happy with her decision to talk with Shujin and has learned lots already. She tells him her plan to make a romance manga and he puts the pieces together for the male perspective thing. He asks whether Nakai knows. Yes. He was shocked. He asks about his relationship status and she stills him she’s not seeing anybody but he has to keep that secret.
A Long conversation
Kaya tries to call, but she’s miffed that she can’t get through. She calls Saiko to see if he’s talking to Shujin. He asks what’s up. Shujin has been on the phone for three hours and she doesn’t know who it is. Usually, their editor is the one he talks to for any length of time.
Meanwhile, Aoki and Shujin over here are discussing the meaning of love and life and reciprocity. Aoki uses a particular circumstance in which simply repeating “I like you” enough times leads to liking someone.
Shujin sniffs out an anecdote in there.
She recalls Nakai but demures. Shujin’s really into the conversation. He thought she was stuck up initially and she asks if she’s a tsundere. Shujin laughs it off saying she ain’t like that.
He asks her opinion on Future Watch. She found it impressive and more shonen than The World is All About Money and Intelligence. Shujin thinks their next manga should have sci-fi elements and explains that gag/serious situation to her.
They talk into the morning and Aoki sees how this could evolve into a romance. Shujin gets flustered, again, and offers to talk later.
Ideas for the Gag Manga
Saiko freaks when he learns what Shujin was up all night doing. Shujin’s wiped out but he found the session productive, especially given that it was a girl. He now has ideas for their manga. Saiko warns Shujin not to do anything that would jeopardize his relationship as if he weren’t doing that with this whole hare-brained scheme, to begin with.
Saiko then asks for his new ideas.
Shujin decides a Doraemon-like idea should be good. Shujin points out that Doraemon gets pretty dark so he can implement sci-fi in there. Saiko sees that as a good compromise, and Shujin explains how they can’t have the character make inventions out of nowhere as that would be plagiarizing.
Shujin’s idea is an elderly inventor and his grandson a la Rick and Morty or y’know, a million other stories. It’s so generic it won’t be copying. The elementary schooler will be the main character and his grandpa will make all kinds of inventions while his parents remain none the wiser.
The grandpa has a crush on the homeroom teacher so he goes to school often. One idea is to get her to drink a love potion; the teacher always sees through him creating absolute chaos or ends the shenanigans on her own.
Saiko sees the potential and given how boilerplate gag manga sounds, the inventions will be the secret sauce to be inventive. And there’s an avenue with battles with an evil inventor, should they choose.
Aoki’s bathing in the afterglow of a good conversation with a boy that’s totally not at all shady and strictly professional. She’s broken out of the reverie by Iwase.
Aoki asks why she wanted to see her. Iwase asks if she knows Akito Takagi. Aoki assumes that Iwase is Shujin’s girlfriend but Iwase explains they were classmates in middle school. He dumped her in their third year and chose Manga over academics and she still doesn’t understand it.
Iwase mentions that given his and her success, she is reconsidering her original stance on Manga, in about as condescending a tone as you can muster.
Aoki asks whether she believes Novels are superior to Manga.
Well, obviously. One is high art, the other lowbrow. What are your thoughts, Aoki?
She gives a noncommittal answer and wonders if Iwase approached her because she’s still holding a candle for Shujin. The idea that she likes him is beyond her ability to understand, given her antipathy towards manga.
Or, perhaps this is just another form of love.
Aoki asks if she wants to meet him. She wants him to see that she’s successful but she’s too self-respecting (involved) to seek him out.
Aoki is experiencing the worst case of familiarity breeding contempt and sees her own high falutin attitude on display in full force. Aoki remembers her promise to Shujin but….she also might be able to set up a coincidental meeting.
Aoki wonders if Iwase thinks Shujin will immediately fall head over heels for her now or if she’s just going to show off. Iwase asks to make it seem true like a coincidence and Aoki promises to go through with it.
Another totally above board conversation and meeting with Aoki
Shujin is thinking of inventions for the new series when Aoki rings him. She mistakes his confusion for frustration and apologizes but he enjoyed the conversation as much as she did. Shujin gets confused as to why she’s calling.
He asks what’s up and she asks if he wants to see her…panties?
Shujin has an appropriate panic attack *sniff* at that and Aoki doesn’t realize what she’s just asked. He wants to know why he’d want to see her panties.
Aoki realizes her Freudian Slip and Shujin takes the rationalization at face value while Aoki melts down: she meant panties in general.
He asks why and she explains it’s for Yamahisa. She needs three panty shots a week.
Shujin asks who her editor is and agrees that it’s a clever idea likely to attract readers but the panties have to be drawn as realistically as possible.
Shujin then explains that boys really want to see girls’ panties. When asked even if in a manga, he says yeah and the key is that it can’t be too blatant. It has to be visible in a way that’s realistic and accidental.
Aoki thinks wind blowing would get tired quickly so she wants to ask Shujin how he wants to see a girl’s panties.
Fuck everything and everyone. Oh my god, these two are dumb.
He asks if that’s a serious question: she is dead serious.
Shujin then lists several potential ways in which a girl could naturally let her panties become visible. Quick glimpses and the girl needs to be embarrassed. Aoi starts taking notes.
Kaya is losing her mind being forced to wait. Aoki thanks her and asks whether Shujin needs any advice. He explains the animal situation. She suggests he could make up an animal since girls will like pretty much any animal.
Shujin has an epiphany at that moment and thanks Aoki.
Aoki then requests they meet in person at the Zoo.
The Thrill of Collaboration and Totally Appropriate Phone Conversations with Compatriots
Shujin tells Saiko of his new idea immediately. Two short stories. the first one will feature a body swap with the grandpa and grandson to get a sneak at the boy’s teacher’s panties. She finds out, he’s punished.
Saiko thinks it’s stupid but it’s stupid enough for kids to enjoy it.
At least they know their demographic.
Kaya busts in and immediately gives Shujin a verbal thrashing for being on the phone for ages and asks what the hell is going on. Panicking, he chalks it up to the Akamaru one-shot work. Saiko backs him up and makes up a line to defuse Kaya. She’s ok if it’s work.
Bless her heart.
Shujin goes further on the story creation: the grandson has a classmate who is the female lead who has a chihuahua. he wants to get her attention and wants a pet. His parents don’t want to get him one, however. On his way home, he finds a dog. His parents oppose keeping it but the dog is smart and housebroken so they let him keep it. The Dog is an invention by his grandfather.
The main character doesn’t realize it was created for him.
Saiko likes the idea but wonders if that should be the first story. Sahujin thinks it’s fine and offers suggestions for conflict. Saiko thinks the pet could look pretty weird. It could potentially be a mascot. Shuijn remembers Aoki’s request and decides to go to the zoo again.
Kaya wants to join but Shujin – in a totally not guilty way – tells her that it’s for work but offers to take her on a date there later.
A “Chance” Encounter
Yamahisa is on the phone with Aoki reading off her fax and thinks everything in it is great. He asks for storyboards immediately. She wonders about being Akamaru and he tells her she’ll get the middle color pages since Ashirogi has the front color pages. She’s in the same issue as Shujin.
At that moment Shujin rings her and tells her he’ll get there in an hour.
He arrives at the zoo and finds Iwase to his utter shock as the chapter – and the volume – end.
Alliance and Classmate Reaction
Panel of the Week
Whenever Bakuman goes meta with its art style and apes a different art style, I love it. So it’s basically no contest that I would choose this panel in particular. The frenetic energy of the thought bubble, the lighting, and the detail on Saiko as he cogitates on the idea. All great. The detail in particular on the potential main characters for the series – which are evocative to a more detailed chaotic Dr. Slump – are just so vividly rendered. Love it
And although it’s subtle, clearly Saiko is reading Shujin’s mind because the teacher looks like Aoki.
Speaking of which…
SHUJIN. WHAT ARE YOU DOING DINGUS?
Holy shit. Just, I can’t even comprehend the sheer level of willful ignorance going on in Shujin’s brain to allow to him bury himself balls deep in this totally not inappropriate work-based relationship. To the point that he’s even actively lying to his girlfriend about the situation because he assumes that there is no way she could misinterpret the situation if she found it out on her own.
Like, the level of absolute fucking stupidity is incomprehensible. The only way he can actually sincerely believe this won’t totally blow up in his face is if he somehow believes Kaya is stupid enough to buy that he’s just casually talking for hours with his editor overnight which he’s never done before. Oh my god.
Let’s not even get into the fact that both Shujin and Aoki are clearly vibing each other and there is chemistry. With Shujin imagining Aoki as a teacher and Aoki’s even more overt panty slip, which is a nice little meta-joke about inadvertent panty shots.
But oh my god, man.
This is totally gonna blow up in Shujin’s face. And it’s going to be ugly. And he’s going to deserve it for being such a dipshit.
I can’t really wrap my head around it.
No, I can. I understand it’s a real thing that happens. Co-workers talk and it leads to more. You see it in acting sometimes like with Kit Harrington and Leslie Rose. And in some bizarro world, Shujin and Aoki actually do make a more comprehensible pair intellectually than Kaya and Shujin.
Love ain’t about comprehensibility, and Kaya’s sweet, and Shujin’s hurtin’ her. So I’m grumpy at him. Also, they’re temperamentally compatible in a more intangible way. And the fact that he totally doesn’t see the problem with not telling his girlfriend about talking to another girl – who is pretty – for hours into the night over shared common and professional interests is mind-boggling.
Anyway. there is other stuff in this chapter. Stuff I intimated I was going to get into the last chapter. So let’s talk about that for a second. And also Yamahisa, that scumbag. We’ll get to him.
Iwase and High Literature (Sorry)
So, the last chapter I mentioned I have opinions on high art v. low art. And they are somewhat complicated, but also somewhat straightforward.
But first, poor Iwase. She got it bad for Shujin. And I don’t see that happening, even with the cliffhanger at the end of the chapter. Although she is pretty grating in very obvious ways, I see that as a more transparent way to give her a chief flaw for her to progressively overcome for however long she remains with us. Presumably for a while since she’s now been in two major chapters in a major plot-oriented way.
It’s also nice to see some character growth on Aoki’s part insofar as she’s dropping a bit of her previous high-mindedness. Even though it’s a trope that can be somewhat problematic – in the context of anything to do with Nakai it’s outright toxic – I’m a sucker for Tsundere’s becoming progressively less tsundere-ey.
…so, yeah. It’s nice to see that. And even though what she’s doing with Shujin is monumentally and overwhelmingly stupid on all conceivable fronts, she was very cute getting flustered but also having a genuine connection with a guy and it was very touching that she started to get vulnerable.
The panty stuff, we’ll get to.
but back to Iwase, and Literature (whoopsie). Iwase’s whole highbrow lowbrow art is something I have a complicated relationship with because I used to be very Uhm, gatekeep-y? if I’m looking back on my past, I also desperately wanted other people to like the things I wanted to like.
So you’d have situations where I was in 8th-grade misunderstanding but nevertheless falling in love with Dante’s Divine Comedy, and reading the Iliad, and the Odyssey before high school; devouring Joyce and Borges and Proust and Pynchon. All that good high-brow shit that people love to hold up as paragons of the western canon.
And even though it did nothing for my social standing, I loved it and it made me feel better about myself because it was important “high” art.
By that same token, I also believed that there was no hierarchy between high art and low art, and have since adopted a more openly anti-hierarchical view of literature and art. Mostly because I raised myself predominantly on post-modernism in which the concepts of hierarchies are null, to begin with because post-modernism uses genre fiction to make literary statements.
That is to say: if you’re reading Ulysses for its seriousness, you are kind of missing the point. It’s written using genre techniques in several chapters – including a saccharine romance novel in Chapter 13 that got it banned – and more importantly, James Joyce is having hella fun using genre fiction to make literary statements while adding infinite enigmas and being a pretentious art snob.
Same with Pynchon. Borges wrote sci-fi and fantasy. Murakami is, well, himself. Need I say more? Mishima well, I don’t even want to go down that route.
All this is to say that I love high literature, but I also love genre fiction and “low” brow fiction like manga because it serves an equally valuable, and yet totally distinct purpose. And that purpose is not solely to entertain – although that is a key feature.
Low art or pure entertainment often gets to the truth of matters without having to gussy itself up with the pretense of literature.
Which is why, in particular, I stan shonen manga, which gets to be earnest, melodramatic, silly, flashy, and endlessly spectacle-driven, and makes anodyne and asinine and obvious statements with total earnestness and openness and come off as completely sincere in doing so. When done well, at least.
And when you experience that in a non-cynical way, it can empower you. it’s empowered me for that reason.
Plus, I like cool stuff like Ninjas throwing energy bombs at each other in shooty shooty bang bang kind of ways and mechas too, oh my.
So with Iwase, I’m in this dissonant space where I both totally understand her perspective but have since come to embrace my real stance on it. I’ve been on both sides of her viewpoint.
I love it, man. A good(ish) female character. She’s still definitely being defined by her relationship with Shujin and her almost certain feelings for him, though.
I also found it entirely relatable that Iwase would try to show off her success, and yet also do nothing to promote her success in a way Shujin would find out about. I’ve been guilty of wanting to indulge in that kind of revenge. But I’m not quite good enough to do it, and also it’s totally silly anyway. Be successful and then move on with your life, Iwase.
But she is a good character so far. I can only hope she doesn’t get royally fucked over writing-wise.
Oh right, the gag manga
I almost forgot to talk about the gag manga. I guess they’re going to go with a Doraemon-type story. If I’m being honest, the way they described the premise didn’t sound like Rick and Morty. If anything, it reminded me wayyyy more of Dr. Slump, which, given Torishima’s cameo in Chapter 37 is probably intentional.
Also, a subtle, but not missed point, the heroine in the manga looks suspiciously like Aoki with long hair and is a teacher. I can only imagine where that idea came from.
I’m not 100 hundred percent on board with this idea. I still think it’s doomed to falter, but it’s getting more interesting at the very least. And I think the Ohba and Obata are also kinda aware that this is more of a holding pattern for Ashirogi than something serious because as important as the gag manga is, the stuff Re: Aoki, Iwase, and their whole shenanigans are sucking up all the oxygen narratively.
Ohba and Obata seem as unenthusiastic about the gag manga as I am. Granted, the boys are getting pumped about it. And I actually love Shujin’s absolutely correct point about basic premises being impossible to plagiarize because they’re so basic. I think people overvalue originality a little too much, and it’s just a good point. But this really isn’t doing much for me.
But it’s where we are right now, sigh. And it’s an engine for Shujin’s continued buffoonery. Also, did I mention how grumpy I am on Kaya’s behalf? Poor girl, she should dump Shujin at the earliest opportunity.
She won’t, but she should.
And then there is…
The Fucking Panty SHots.
Ok. In a comment, it was mentioned that Ohba probably agrees with Yamahisa on the panty shot thing. And given that Shujin does not even blink at the literal fucking quota for panty shots and totally agrees with Yamahisa and gives pointers on it, the narrative seems to agree. So Ohba’s self-insert is totally on board with it – and praises Yamahisa for the idea. Yikes.
Well…points for honesty.
And while it was somewhat cute to see Aoki do that Freudian Slip, the entire premise surrounding the comedic moment is so skeezy I couldn’t really enjoy it as much as I’d like. Also the whole duplicity thing on Shujin’s part.
Basically sums up my feeling on this entire relationship. It’d be great if it weren’t so dumb.
I don’t understand the panty-shots things. But three is so much. And it’s so uncomfortable. Goodness gracious
–Aoki and Ashirogi are both in Akamaru. Incredible how Shujin cannot seem to be using common sense lately.
–Cute creatures of any kind you say will sell? I guess it’s good to know. I wonder if Ohba consulted a woman when coming up with that fact. Maybe?
–That Cliffhanger was dirty, man. What the hell dude. What is Iwase planning?
–Saiko being emotionally absent from this arc so far has been extremely relatable, not gonna lie.
Until next time,