In Just So and Secret, I’m Absolutely Petty about Shujin’s Idiocy (Chater 64)

Hi there, and welcome to my read-through of Bakuman Chapter 64: Just So and Secret in which we read Akamaru, Saiko and Shujin eat the right amount of shit, and Fukuda does something that doesn’t drive me nuts, for once.

If you are not caught up, consider using this index all the cool kids are using here. It has no spoilers past the current chapter, so read at ease.

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Without further ado,

Just So and Secret Summary

Akamaru

True Human

The True Humans find the ecological grumblings of man are tiresome. If humans don’t exist there will be no ecological catastrophe. If Humans want to save the planet, the True Humans – who do not need the things that destroy the planet – will kill them. They don’t even fart!

Metal.

Saiko thinks it’s dark and also bleaker and more gruesome than money and intelligence, as well as more on the gory side. But he sees what Eiji saw in it. Shujin’s concerned and asks why Saiko has read ahead: because he already knows what happens in their manga. He drew it.

True Human reminds Saiko of “The Two Earths” and that it’ll appeal to an older demo. He finds the thematic elements of kill all humans childish, though.

Shujin’s distracted with Aoki’s one-shot: Time of Greenery

Time of Greenery

Shoichiro Mame is a 15-year-old starting at Aoba Private School. He chose the school because the girls have the shortest skirts and they must wear white underwear and shorts are forbidden. He plans to ask every girl he likes out and even at his part-time job because one has to try no matter what.

Saiko finds it way more shonen than Hideout Door. Shujin prods him to keep reading it. Saiko’s miffed as he reads and Shujin tells him not to worry about the panty shots.

That’s not it.

Saiko’s pissed because Aoki’s ripped off he and Miho’s dream as a major plot point. Shujin’s surprised he noticed. He didn’t expect her to use that in her manga. Saiko’s pisssed.

The two worry about whether Kaya will put the pieces together about Shujin and Aoki after this. Saiko thinks he can explain it away as a function of romance stories: She wrote a cell phone novel on the same subject, after all. Shujin doesn’t want to be the one to break the current stalemate by calling first.

They notice a panel that is ripped directly from Saiko and Miho’s relationship and they freak out about how screwed they are with Kaya when this hits the shelves in 2 weeks. They need to fix it immediately. Shujin doesn’t know how he’s going to explain both Aoki and Iwase and sees it as only likely to piss Kaya off further.

Shujin tries to figure out if Kaya knows who Aoki is – their age and pretty – and Shujin reminds him of the Nakai incident in the snow in which he saw her. They yell at each other over Shujin’s *professional* connection with Aoki as an artist. It won’t read as Professional to kaya.

Oy.

Aoki’s Feelings And Relationship Troubles.

Shujin also realizes Aoki has a crush on Nakai. He points out that there is a chubby P.E. Teacher who confesses his feelings to the gymnast who is not at all into him, but his persistent approval/grooming tactics and their relationship culminate in a private practice session on a snowy day.

Jesus fucking christ, Ohba. I mean Aoki.

Aoki is drawing on experience here. Saiko’s still pissed about the whole stealing his lifestory thing. He’s even more pissed at the possibility that their peccadilloes will be more exciting than their gag manga. Shujin sees that this was not some Fullmetal Alchemist Equivalent Exchange and she got way more out of it than he did.

Saiko finally realizes that maybe, just maybe, Shujin secretly talking to Aoki was a bad idea. Shujin cops to it and takes responsibility. Saiko, resigned, tells him he needs to work things out with Kaya. Neither knows what that would look like though.

Saiko mentions in narration that his own relationship is in danger, but he doesn’t know that just yet.

Nakai’s Stagnation

Fukuda’s pissed that Ashirogi’s drawing a gag manga but Yasuoka thinks it’s funny. Fukuda chastises his assistant until Yasuoka points out that his enjoyment of gags is why he works for Fukuda.

Fukuda probes Yasuoka on Ashirogi’s chances of getting first: Akamaru is read by older audiences, and their only real competition is True Human, so it’ll be tough, but not impossible.

Fukuda then steals the magazine to get a look at Aoki’s one-shot. He’s shocked by the gym coach and calls Nakai to see what his thoughts on the manga are.

At Takahama’s studio, Nakai is still buttering up Kato with niceties and she’s still receptive (oof). He answers Fukuda’s call, content with his lot. Fukuda asks about Akamaru and he’s sanguine about her one-shot, surprised that she included panty shots in it too.

Fukuda’s stunned by his relative disinterest in her work. Nakai moves on to Ashirogi’s Doraemon stylings. Fukuda beats around the bush trying to suss out Nakai’s feelings on the gym teacher but Nakai is either willfully – more likely actually – ignorant of the subtext.

Fukuda asks whether Nakai will ever stop being an assistant: he heard he’s decided to stay on past his temp contract as a permanent assistant for Takahama. Nakai feeds him a line about not finding a story yet.

Fukuda chews him out for blaming his editor and wonders if Nakai’s mangaka aspirations are being sacrificed to be an assistant. Nakai gets indignant and Fukuda finally loses it: Aoki was too good for him.

Nakai provides a genuinely mature response – she wasn’t into him – and then undercuts it with his bald interest in Kato who seems surprised by the news. Fukuda hangs up, confused and angry.

Yasuoka reminds Fukuda of his responsibilities with Kiyoshi and its potential cancellation next meeting.

Fukuda grills Yasuoka for the arc he came up with and they continue fighting.

Master of None

At Eiji’s, Yujiro picks up the final draft of Crow and asks about Akamaru. Eiji admires Ashirogi as always but thinks that despite their quality he wants them to focus on story manga. He also likes True Human more. Eiji worries that Ashirogi will become a jack of all trades, and a master of none.

Yujiro remembers Hattori’s mentions of superficial cleverness and wonders if the two are connected.

At Hiramaru’s, Yoshida asks his prisoner about Akamaru and prods him with a potential rival. Hiramaru is himself so Yoshida brings out more beautiful ladies to check out.

Just as Hiramaru plans to jump into the pics Yoshida refuses him and will only let him see the ladies once he finishes the final draft. And he can even meet them after 3 more final drafts. Hiramaru remains histrionic, as Hiramaru does.

But then Yoshida assures him that the girls he’s chosen are even prettier than Aoki-Sensei and that he would never get a chance like this otherwise. That said, mangaka can never fall in love because their work falls apart and they have to go on hiatus, which Hiramaru would love. Yoshida builds a Catch-22: only a good job will catch a beautiful woman, and he’ll only have a good job once Otter gets an anime adaptation and shittons of cash. If he gets dropped with loans he’ll be another loser.

The solution: let Yoshida take care of everything.

The assistant cracks up but Hiramaru’s fired up.

Ashirogi and the Skill Gap

At Shueisha, Miura’s rooting for Vroom, Tanto while worried about its chances. Aida tells him not to focus on it but Miura’s dead set on first. First doesn’t mean serialization, though.

Yujiro asks Hattori for a cup of coffee.

Yujiro probes Hattori about their gag manga. Yujiro mentions Eiji’s concerns about Ashirogi and how he has a sixth sense for the manga, then about Hattori’s own comments on their work. Hattori thinks Master of None is apt, though not a concern of theirs. Yujiro sees past Hattori’s bullshit and recognizes he wants them to do story manga.

Hattori brings up Two Earths and its similarity to True Humans, then One Hundred Millionth, then The World is All About Money and Intelligence and he confirms that he thinks they excel at cult-y story manga but that doesn’t mean anything about Tanto’s chances.

Yujiro recognizes Aida’s own preference for Gag manga: he started Bo-bobo and Reborn!. Yujiro aspires to climb up the ladder so he can more freely express his thoughts.

Hattori wonders about Yujiro’s worries for Ashirogi. Because of Nizuma’s rivalry, Eiji’s been in a slump since they got canceled. He’s really wondering why there’s such a gap between Eiji and Ashirogi.

Skill. They’re still closing the taste gap because they’re just 18 and they’ll hone their skills and improve over time as they get older.

Fumbling Jokes and Phone Calls

Shujin’s panicking over the number of jokes he has to write when the boys get a phone call from Miho. Shujin thinks Kaya snitched – I mean, asked for advice – but then why would Miho call the boys?

Shujin answers and Miho’s to the point: has he been seeing Iwase. Shujin explains it’s a misunderstanding. Miho gets that, and now that he’s finished working on his manga he can explain it to her directly.

Shujin makes the amateur mistake of not seeing what he’s done wrong, like a fucking dingus, and thinks he doesn’t have to apologize. Miho decides to call Mashiro instead and asks to put him on. Shujin gives him a warning before they speak.

Miho asks the same question of Saiko and Saiko backs his boy up. She asks about the letter.

The letter?

The boys read the incriminating letter and Saiko panics wondering if he can talk about Aoki. Shujin can’t.

Saiko tells her he can’t explain the situation. Miho gets “sad”. She mentions that she pieced together that Taro – his uncle – was her mother’s true love and she reminisces about those days.

She asks why Saiko asked her mom to hide that information from her. Saiko thought it wasn’t important to their present-tense relationship, but Miho disagrees. She doesn’t like the secrets that keep them apart aside from their stupid fucking vows to stay apart.

When she uses this as leverage to get the skinny on Shujin, Saiko fumbles the ball and Miho hangs up, she can’t trust him.

Miho might have just dumped Saiko, as the chapter ends.

Just So and Secret Reaction

Panel(s) of the Week

Just So and Secret: Cover of True Humans

In a turn of events, no one should find surprising, I like these panels a lot. I will always stan versatility and metafiction. And these are prime examples of both. Just like in Chapter 30? I think, I never get tired of having several layers of reality operate at the same time. I also love the detail of the magazine pages – which was probably traced – but is no doubt exquisite.

I also like how clearly the mangaka love manga enough to have studied various styles, down to the more Shojo stylings of Time of Greenery and the more Seinen-y chaotic styles of True Humans. It speaks to a breadth of knowledge, and appreciation for, the various genre and their artistic trappings.

Anyway, now to laugh at Ashirogi.

Ashirogi: You dun Goofed

So, I could be gentle now that Saiko’s relationship might have just ended (lol, of course, it didn’t), and now that they’re reaping their just desserts for being such fucking morons.

But nah, I’m going to be a petty bish this time.

Like, honestly, everything about this chapter was funny to me re: Ashirogi’s abject stupidity to the end. Granted, I suspect that was by design given Ohba’s pretty meticulous with how he tells stories, but yeah, the fireworks were funny.

Because even though it’s possible to get yourself into these types of situations, in this case, Shujin had every opportunity to say no to Aoki, establish healthy boundaries, and loop Kaya in. He chose not to. He even made it worse by assuming a lack of transparency was the right tactic.

Maybe he would’ve been right, but Kaya’s not a dummy – at least outside of academia – and she *Probably* would have understood if Shujin explained. Sure she’d put up a fight and be grumpy about it, and they may have fought. But it wouldn’t have been deception and relationship-breaking behavior. Fights are normal. Fights are healthy.

They’re also 18, I should probably be a little more generous.

….NAH.

What’s even funnier to me re: Saiko is that it does not occur to him until Akamaru is released – and that Aoki has stolen from his life story liberally – that this may have been an error to engage. He’s like an Anti-Gay Republican senator who realizes that maybe homophobia is a bad thing when their child turns out to be Gay. Like, bro. You’re smarter than this.

I also didn’t mention it in the read-through where Shujin tells Aoki all about Saiko’s love story, but now I feel like I missed out on not mentioning it. Mannnn.

Fortunately, these foibles are derived purely from the character flaws of our main character and are thus entertaining more than frustrating. Even the bit at the end is Saiko being loyal to Shujin and blind to the possibility of finding a meaningful work/life balance.

But this is a manga, so they have to learn the hard way.

Speaking of learning the hard way

I agree with Fukuda?

I don’t hate Fukuda, but he can be grating when his rancor is directed poorly and at everyone. I’m not about that rebel without a cause lifestyle because in the real world all it does is alienate you, and it certainly doesn’t turn you into James Dean.

But here, I was pretty much on board with his assessment of both Ashirogi and Nakai, who is becoming the perennial problem child of the series, more on that in a moment.

Ashirogi doesn’t seem to be suited to a gag manga which Fukuda, and Hattori are more or less nakedly honest about this chapter. And his recognition of what Ashirogi is genuinely interested in and good at is on point. There is also a fun little character moment where Yasuoka points out the pot calling the kettle black.

Which now means in my headcanon of Kiyoshi Knight, it’s something similar to GTO which I just started reading. And adore. It’s a pervy mess, but it’s also so well done.

Anyway, seeing Fukuda be honest about the abilities of the boys was refreshing after seeing the entire rest of the series seemingly cave into the gag manga being a good idea thing.

But the real standout with the Fukuda confrontation was Nakai and how the series is recasting his permanent assistantship. I’m worried. Especially since Kato apparently didn’t realize that Naaki was replacing Aoki with her and is interested in her. Which, oh boy, that should be fun once it comes to light.

Fukuda bitching out Nakai aside, we do have to bring up something a little more unsavory since the series has been kinda hard pressed on this for a minute, and now it’s becoming a more overt issue especially with the Aoki subplot.

The Commodifcation and Objectifciation of Women has gotten out of hand

I’ve been putting up with the series tendency to conflate women with manga since the beginning, even though I’ve held my frustration in…eh, mostly. But here, it’s gotten completely ridiculous.

While Nakai’s continuous obliviousness and professional conflation of women and manga are the most overt – and often the most upsetting examples of this objectification – no one here is really treating women like people. To wit, a number of the arcs in this stretch of the story relate not to any sense of agency women have – minus Iwase and Aoki – and more how they can bolster sales.

And if you think I’m just being a paranoid SJW Triggered Wokescold let’s consider the following:

  1. Aoki has to get three panty shots per chapter to sell her manga at Yamahisa’s demand, which because he’s her editor she must adhere to
  2. Kato is the object of Nakai’s affection and makes work “fun” but is also professionally holding him back because he wants neither the stress of lonelines of being a mangaka
  3. Miho and Saiko’s love story is being capitalized on by Aoki for money
  4. Hirarmaru is being prodded by Yoshida to make final drafts with the incentive of being matched with a pretty girl literally selected out of a catalogue.
  5. Aoki’s latent feelings for Nakai which big oof

And look, Ohba is doing better. Iwase’s great, and Aoki is too, and Kaya and Miho are generally good characters. But for the last few chapters, this series has been comically horny and not in a funny way. And the focus on T’n’A and how women are valuable as a means to push magazines and spur on mangaka to make manga is starting to fray my nerves.

I know it’s a vain hope that any of this will change. Shujin stated toxic beliefs as early as chapter 2, and this was written in 2009 when there was no expectation that these kinds of gender dynamics can or should be challenged in a meaningful way. In Japan, no less, where apparently sexual harassment is an ongoing, and very real problem.

And that is to say nothing of Aoki’s subconscious attraction to Nakai which is a trope as old as time and we pretty much get a solid confirmation of it here. It is genuinely disturbing how Aoki’s fictional interpretation involves a wildly inappropriate dalliance between a probably less than18-year-old girl and a Gym Teacher in what is more or less explicit grooming on the part of the PE Teacher. It’s sickening.

It’s really exhausting now that it’s the focus. And I think it’s the focus partially because Shujin (as Ohba’s literary familiar) equates humor with raunchiness and naughtiness.

But my deeper speculation is such.

The Aida Meta

So in the real world, Aida was the editor on Bakuman, the real-life one, not the in-story one. More importantly, Hattori makes a comment that he helped Edit Bobobo and Hitman Reborn! which the real-life Aida evidently did, after some cursory research.

So I’m going to speculate that in the case of this particular strain of the story Real-life Aida is pushing the story in a more gag oriented direction and that this whole sequence of gag manga is largely at Aida’s behest and that the frustrations the characters express here are partially their frustration at these actual notes.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Aida and Obata, and Ohba had a less dramatized version of the exchange in Chapter 54, and we’re still bearing the brunt of it. It might also be because of lagging popularity in the magazine; I don’t know, I haven’t seen the ToC’s for 2008-2009 SJ year.

I’m speculating, I have no way of knowing if that’s really what happened. But I would absolutely buy it because say it with me:

Bakuman comments on its creation as it is being created. The beauty of metafiction. That’ll be my new catchphrase.

And if the real Aida is pushing the series in a more comedic direction, I’m not sure how I feel about it, given that Ohba is funny, but he’s not laugh-out-loud funny. He’s good at naturalistic in-the-moment humor. And the humor continues to increase with each passing chapter. This would be great if it weren’t for the fact that most of it is about harassing women.

Or doing stupid shit like not telling your girlfriend you are talking to another girl or a Freudian slip about panties. Few of the gags are genuinely funny outside of that context.

So, uh, it’s a thing. I’m going to put up with it.

But I would like it if we moved past this whole thing.

Anyway.

The Jack of All Trades & The Skill Gap

It’s good to see the Hattori’s combining their forces to talk about Ashirogi, and it’s interesting to hear that Eiji’s been in a slump since his rivalry was abruptly cut short. It speaks to a healthy rivalry that Eiji cares about having good manga to fight against.

What I found more interesting than the slump itself, however, was Hattori and Yujiro’s discussion of the Skill Gap which is making its round on social media increasingly, and the jack of all trades scenario

I’m learning to make several things at once including manga, and to a degree, I have a jack of all trades problem because I like doing things and I like doing a lot of things and I am also ADHD, but that’s aside from the point.

I’m aware that I’m hamstringing my progress in all the things I’m interested in by focusing on all of them at once. I’m mediocre and don’t wish to be mediocre.

Which is why some things I have put more focus on. Including drawing, writing, and Japanese. The basic truth is that if you give more time to certain activities you invariably improve them, or emphasize poor habits. Or both.

Given that truism, it’s interesting that Hattori thinks it’s less to do with their lack of commitment to one style and that their actual issue is a matter of the taste gap being a thing.

Basically when you start out your taste is excellent and your skills are zero, but as you put the work in you improve and get closer to your taste. Because Ashirogi is so young, they have a gap that only experience can fill. Watch the Ira Glass video I’ve linked, he’s way more eloquent than I.

While I see that as part of the case, I’m more inclined to agree with the jack of all trades issue. They haven’t committed themselves yet to a specific style of manga to excel in see my rants on the soul in the game for more info. But there is obviously also a gap in skill that cannot be overcome through talent alone.

Which as I grow older become more and more self-evident. One of the downsides to modern storytelling and monomyths is the idea of talent surpassing skill, but honestly, the more experience you have, the easier things become. You have to be taught the proper ways, but 2 years of skills beats out 0 years of raw ability any time. because you learn to see where the curves in the road will buck you are, and you internalize the muscle memory and all that.

I think that’s only part of the problem, and Hattori is only partly right though.

In either case, I’m with Fukuda, especially given Shujin’s panic about making jokes before the explosion with Miho at the end of the chapter.

On that note

How will the boys do?

I’m inclined to give this one to True Humans, given Miura literally praying for a first place, and True Humans and Time of Greenery doing well. but I also don’t want Yamahisa to get any wins.

So here’s hoping that the boys do well and beat out yamahisa. Not for Miura to be a snot, but because I want them to succeed, even if they are dingbats.

It’s also nice that the manga has more or less dropped a hint that the end game is Hattori x Ashirogi making cult manga, and it was actually pretty funny to see Saiko being so judgmental of True Humans as childish. it’s a mark on his growth as mangaka that he can see ideas he used to think are cool having flaws.

So the skill gap is closing.

Anyway, I’m going on too long.

Until next time,

Peace

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