Howdy-ho neighborino and welcome to my read-through of Bakuman Chapter 70: Third Try and Second Series in which I’m reinvigorated, I have a peripatetic moment, and I talk about Elden Ring, for some reason.
If you are not caught up, please use the following index to do so. There are no spoilers past the current chapter, so read at your leisure.
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Third Try and Second Series Summary
Hattori and Iwase meet at a cafe to go over her chapter revisions. Hattori’s impressed by her following his notes to the letter. Hattori compliments her and decides to go forward with his plan. He asks if she can continue with this story.
She asks about its status as a one-shot. Hattori wants to know what happens next. Iwase admits she forced the ending so it would be a one-shot and Hattori agrees about the incompleteness. She’s ready to keep working but Hattori asks her to continue on her own with everything he’s already told her in mind.
The story itself features a boy who realizes he has psychic powers after watching a television program and after testing out his abilities finds they can grow. The chapter ends with him creating a creature neither human nor monster in a chicken egg after incubating it for 20 days.
Hattori finds the story simple but extremely engaging nonetheless. He asks her to think about how to excite the readers: him and the boys who will read it.
Iwase is surprised by his faith in her abilities. Hattori mentions he’ll help her with revisions on what will or won’t work, but for now, he wants her to explore.
Jokes and Serialization
At the studio, the boys go over their revision for Vroom Tanto with Shujin strained at the number of jokes he has to tell. Shujin’s nervous about serialization: this is round 3 after 2 failures and he’s no longer confident in Miura’s optimism after the last serialization meeting.
Saiko tells Shujin to cut the complaining and get moving or they’ll be late.
Meanwhile, at Shueisha, Miura is gloomy about losing BB Kenichi and having no running manga in the magazine. He was banking on Tanto making it. Aida points out that because he wasn’t assigned a new series, the editorial staff still have faith in Ashirogi and Takahama. That said, if they don’t work out he needs to find a new series to latch onto.
Miura recognizes he needs to get Tanto serialized ASAP when he gets the phone call from the Boys. As he leaves he asks Aida what to change about this draft: he can’t find anything wrong with it. Aida offers to have him resubmit the same draft, which Miura does not appreciate. He tells him to let the boys know what the editors actually thought of it.
Meanwhile, Yoshida chews out Yamahisa for Shizuka’s problematic writing and Yamahisa explains that Shizuka has given up entirely, sending him a chat that says “Game over” which the conservative Yoshida takes issue with. He orders Yamahisa to go meet Shizuka in person and stop dicking around on the computer. Yamahisa promises to get him serialized next time.
Takahama’s Boiling Point
At the serialization meeting, Miura is shot out of a cannon in desperation and he yells at them that Tanto felt flat in comparison to their one-shot. He goes on about how manga lose their savor after one read-through which is worse for gag manga. Their manga got first in Akamaru: figure something out.
Ashirogi is at a loss on how to proceed: they think only more jokes will help. Miura suggests a rival character. Both of them have a moment of insight about a potential evil inventor they’ve been working on. Miura tells them to do it when he gets a phone call from Sasaki: Takahama has come to his office. Miura wasn’t told beforehand he was coming.
Sasaki asks Miura to come up and bring Ashirogi with him. Ashirogi wonders what’s going on as they join Miura but Miura suspects a reason.
Miura chews Takahama out for breaking rank. Takahama apologizes while Ashirogi hangs back to watch. Takahama asked Sasaki for a new editor. Takahama brings up that he hasn’t been able to draw what he wants or do what he wants to do. Sasaki asks if that is all.
After confirmation, Sasaki dresses Takahama down: if he’s complaining about not being able to draw what he wants, it’s a reflection of his own inability. Sasaki goes all the way back to his introduction: if you’re good, it would be in the magazine, but you’re not that good, so you can’t, Takahama.
He denies Takahama’s request for an editor change and emphasizes that it has nothing to do with Takahama being a rookie: he’d say it to any mangaka, even someone famous. If he can’t work with the assigned editor, he’ll terminate Takahama’s contract and let him join a new magazine. Takahama sees the point and apologizes.
Saiko has a moment of clarity and realizes he’s been having the same petulant fit Re: Miura
Miura asks Takahama to air his grievances directly, next time, so he can change.
Sasaki continues his takedown: he’s biased, but as an editor, he sees mangaka who blame their failures on editors as whiners. Make a good story, so good that it will overwhelm the editor’s complaints. The ones that have done so are truly great, in Sasaki’s humble opinion as the head of Shonen Jump.
On the train, Saiko and Shujin discuss their own habit of blaming their failures on Miura and vow to get better. They were frightened by Sasaki.
Hattori’s Gambit, Part 2
Hattori asks Yujiro to get a cup of coffee. Despite hesitation, Yujiro joins and reads Iwase’s one-shot and finds it to be of good quality, although he can’t remember where he saw the name. Hattori mentions that it’s Shujin’s rival. Yujiro wonders who will get to do the artwork on it. Nakai maybe?
Hattori has a different idea: Eiji.
Hattori wants to rile up Ashirogi and get them motivated to break past their limits. Yujiro thinks that’s impossible given Eiji’s extant obligations. Hattori points out Eiji’s slump since Trap ended. It’ll break his slump with Crow. Hattori explains their rivalry with Eiji as a key motivator for both artists and how Eiji will jump at the opportunity.
Yujiro wonders what Eiji has to gain materially from this additional responsibility.
Hattori recognizes that Eiji is pure soul in the game and wants some good competition from Ashirogi. Their rivalry is inspiration enough. Yujiro agrees but finds the one-shot’s length to be a deal-breaker even if he is out of high school now. Hattori mentions it just has to be done before the next serialization meeting.
Hattori confirms there is no rush and then gets mad intense about inspiring Iwase, Shujin, Saiko and Eiji and also tangentially Aoki who he just so happened to remember is Iwase’s upperclassman and also all the other mangaka of the world inspired by their hard work.
Ok Hattori, chill a bit.
Yujiro is still dubious, but agrees to try it. Yujiro wonders at his confidence.
at Eiji’s studio, Eiji loves the story the moment he reads it and asks for the next chapter immediately. Hattori mentions there are no new chapters yet which blows Eiji’s mind.
Hattori – knowing exactly which buttons to push on Eiji – entices him with the possibility of doing the story justice. Eiji immediately asks to work on it.
Yujiro runs interference to point out he has a manga in progress at this moment that he can’t drop to do this storyboard. He also can’t phone in the writing of it.
Hattori keeps playing the devil on Eiji’s shoulder and doesn’t care about character designs, but would like a storyboard. Eiji immediately jumps into it and goes all Eiji mode on that storyboard with Yujiro lamenting how easily he was played. Eiji enjoys drawing for something he hasn’t written and proffers them a storyboard in exactly 4 panels.
Damn, I wonder how jealous Obata is of that.
Yujiro picks up on the enthusiasm of Hattori now that he sees it in storyboard form. Yujiro immediately gets overwhelmed and sees that it has to be made now. He immediately gets nervous about whether it will get popular or not.
Hattori offers to talk to the brass to see if they can have him draw this on the condition that he continue making Crow good. Eiji’s down to draw if he can draw it as a series.
Hattori’s down to clown and offers to get Iwase to draw chapters 2 and 3 for the next serialization meeting. Yujiro tries to pump the breaks but Hattori’s all for bringing the best out of all 4 mangaka with both rivals drawing the chapter. Eiji’s going to make a series of it no matter what.
Yujiro immediately sees the problem of having two series but Eiji envisions himself as a modern-day Osamu Tezuka working on multiple series at a time. Although he realizes he’d have to do multiple magazines to do that.
Yujiro puts the kibosh on those plans immediately because of his exclusive contract so Eiji offers to do it with Jump. Yujiro’s at the end of his tether trying to pump the brakes but Hattori is all gas and breaks through all his defenses. Eiji mentions his ability to make storyboards in a day and a final draft in two days. Yujiro starts to see the light and Hattori reminds Yujiro that he’d only be drawing the series, not writing it. Eiji’s all aboard.
Yujiro feels the heat that will inevitably come from having to talk to the top of the editorial staff. but Hattori orders him to draw storyboards so they look like someone else. Eiji’s onboard and offers to submit under a pseudonym as a mysterious rookie.
Hattori offers to reveal his identity after it makes it through serialization. He thinks they’ll have no choice but to greenlight it once they see the quality. Yujiro looks at him incredulously while Hattori bathes in the glow of having pumped Eiji up to make Crow better and also to get his own plans in motion.
Eiji celebrates that he will become the number one artist in Jump with two series.
Yujiro and Hattori discuss who gets the credit for the series after serialization as the chapter – and volume ends.
Third Try and Second Series Reaction
We are fucking back
Goddamn I fucking loved this chapter. It got all my motors running and I am fucking PUMPED for what might happen next.
Yous guys, this hit the exact right spot for me with that final little twist.
We got the Hattori gambits, we got the metaficciones, we gots Shonen platitudes that I’m somewhat iffy on but mostly agree with, and we got a female character being used in an interesting way.
WOOO. let’s take a victory lap for this chapter. Bakuman is firing on all cylinders again.
As you may have noticed, I’ve not been particularly jazzed about this leg of the read-through. Since the hospital, the series has been a combination of outright frustrating, narratively squishy, and engaging in frustrating wheel spinning, as well as leaning super hard into the comedy, when it works better with more serious overtones.
And while I don’t hate it – it’s still an enjoyable read and it’s still well done – I’d be lying if I said that this wasn’t invigorating to get back to.
Let’s start with the best part
The Evil Inventor’s Iwase, Eiji and Hattori
As you well know, I’m a fan of meta-hints. And the Miura line “use the evil inventor to make the series more interesting” is the most on the nose use of meta-fictional foreshadowing given the final stretch of this chapter. Because baby, Rivals are my favorite characters when they’re done right.
And I’m grumpy that I didn’t see Iwase filling out the role of rival for Shujin sooner, but it makes perfect sense. She has the opposing hair color – black to Shujin’s blonde – she’s hyper-intelligent and even more competent, and she has all the opposing flaws to Shujin. She embodies everything that Shujin is and could be. Which I gotta tell you, makes me very happy.
And with Eiji doing Art, like now we have opposing teams, which just makes perfect sense in hindsight. Obviously, Shujin himself needs a rival that is a match for him. And unlike Near and Mello in Death Note, this feels way more intentionally done.
But really, as always, Hattori is the star of the show. I know he’s a foot soldier for Jump right now, but his gambits seem as buffed as his ability to cultivate talent, and if anything, he serves the role of evil inventor even better than the two characters who are the actual rivals.
But he just wants to make good manga and understands that one of the best levers for that – specifically in Ashirogi and Eiji’s case – is good competition. Healthy competition. But competition nonetheless. And roping in Yujiro is just, well frankly hilarious, given how easy it was.
I particularly find it funny that given the unreality of the situation, Eiji’s ability to just shit out good manga is used in this way. I don’t know if he’ll actually get more or less stressed out, but I think it’s great that he’s so competent he can casually do two series at once.
Although this brings up a slightly muddier part of the chapter…
So I’m of Two Minds on Sasaki here. On the one hand, I don’t think Miura is a good editor, using the most generous example of litotes that I can muster. In fact, he’s a very not-good editor.
But the exchange between Takahama and Sasaki at the very least has me reconsidering that stance. If only because it’s not very shonen of me to put the blame on another person.
If the series has been building up to the “You’re not as good as your editor, you are as good as your own limitations, and you need to push past those to be the best” I can kinda get behind that. Mostly because it tends to work well in most situations, ‘cept the hospital arc that shit was dumb as shit.
But that idea of pushing past your own internalized limitations to make something great is why I love shonen as a premise and philosophy. It’s less about you being unable to think you can do something, and more about holding yourself back by blaming your failures on others.
For a topical example: I’ve been playing Elden Ring because I’m becoming more of a normie as I age. One of the elements that makes Elden Ring so compulsively playable – aside from the love and care that’s gone into it and literally everything about it – is that in order to enjoy the game you have to slow down and overcome your own bullshit to progress. The enemies don’t get less punishing, you have to overcome them through learning how to counter them, and overcoming your own limitations as a player. And once you do, you not only get better, but you get a high from having overcome something difficult.
So in that sense, Sasaki is right on the money. It is incumbent on all of us as people, if we want to grow, to examine our own failings first, see what they are, and do our best to either work through or around them.
And in fairness to my own previous (shitty) editor, I was too precious with my words, at first. And I didn’t try very hard to write the pieces to the best of my ability by pushing through my own inertia. Granted, that got reflexive over time because it stopped mattering whether I did a good job or not because he’d be the hatchet man no matter what I wrote.
But with all that said, the burden of quality is not solely on the writer. The editor has to steer the ship, and Miura is not a good rudder. He’s too enabling and limited by his own personal biases. He refuses to grow by examining his own failings, and he’s fallen into desperation as a direct result of that.
Again, two minds.
I think an editor does have a profound impact on a writer and can severely influence the trajectory of their writing. But ultimately, what is written is the product of one’s own ability and grit. So one has to be able to take responsibility for the weaknesses.
So I half agree with Sasaki. And it is the party line. But ugh.
I guess we should talk about Miura for a bit, on that note.
Sigh. The perennial problem child who isn’t Nakai of the series has kinda gotten set up to eat shit from Ohba here. And now that we’ve had this kink, it’s less clear that he is a problem child. This whole chapter muddies the water, which I appreciate. But I am still not really convinced of his ability. It’s going to take a lot of work on his part to reestablish his reputation as a solid editor for me to really think any more of him.
Which, given the genre, is entirely possible. And as a foil for Hattori, he does prove more Shonen-y. He’s almost like the editorial Naruto to Hattori’s Sasuke: loud, brash, and good-natured, but ultimately lacking in the areas that matter at the start.
And if he does prove himself, that’d be great. But he needs to do something about this shit. It’s getting worse. And I partially blame the series stagnation on the lack of an antagonist as compelling as Iwase/Eiji.
But there is a good argument that he totally shanked Takahama’s manga by salting it with humor. Is that the only reason? Probably not, but there is enough setup to establish that Takahama was not suited for the direction he was pushed in.
It’s also alarming that he doesn’t see the problems with the one-shot despite it not getting serialized. He’s clearly read the notes and there is a very straightforward issue with his conception of Humor. Miura needs to reassess his strategy and find a way to balance out that impulse. He keeps going at Margit with button mashing, when he needs to read Margit’s moves, and maybe use a summon and cooperator.
Let me say this, though: if you ever want to do something meaningful with your life, you cannot excuse yourself when you fuck up. That doesn’t mean beating yourself up mercilessly, or engaging in a shame spiral, or acting in self-loathing: that’s narcissism.
What I mean is that when you fuck up, own it, learn from it, and move forward. When you don’t give yourself room to breathe on your excuses dispassionately without self-hate, you can find the lesson in them, and move on.
Someone who clearly doesn’t take that advice would be…
Shizuka & The Je Ne Sais Quoi
I am not sure whether Shizuka is going to continue being in this series, given the game over thing. Probably – law of character conservation being what it is – but he’s not looking great. And he clearly lacks the level of grit he needs to push forward. Though seeing Yamahisa eat shit was nice.
I’m still salty about Yamahisa. Can’t stop won’t stop.
Anyway, I want to talk briefly about Iwase’s manga because it reminded me of something about Manga that has grown increasingly clear.
It’s rarely the tangible elements to a series that make it work well. Her story sounds very, very basic, but everyone loves it, finds it engaging, and wants to read more.
This is the je ne sais quoi. The it factor. I suspect Shizuka has the potential to have it once he gets over the problematic shit. But “Good” is entirely subjective.
However, whenever I read a “good” manga, and you know the feeling when you do, as much as there is subjective taste, there is also a quality to it. A spiritual feeling of connection. Something on the margins that make it work. And I think Iwase’s got that “It” factor.
It’s not something you can force. it comes from beyond, and can only be tapped into with openness like Zazen. And I say this because there are some new manga in Jump that have that It factor, but they’re also very straightforward basic shonen manga.
And goddamn, Manga fans cannot be chill about anything.
I frequently see criticism of tropes for merely existing, and when done poorly, or with a boilerplate attitude, it can be very frustrating. But tropes are tools. Rivals are a trope character, friends to lovers is a trope. Love Triangles. The super weak boy is actually a super strong good boy. All tropes.
But it’s that it factor, that sense of confidence, or that indefinable quality that usually separates the good from the great. You don’t know what it is, but you know when you see it.
Let’s hope that is genuinely the case with Iwase.
–Poor Takahma man. Hopefully, he comes back from this setback soon
–Hattori convincing Yujiro was hilarious
–Easy Peasey Japanese and Eiji imagining himself as Osamu Tezuka. Incredibly. Eiji is never not delightful these days.
Until next time,
2 thoughts on “In Third Try and Second Series, An Awesome Team-Up Revs the Narrative Engines (Chapter 70)”
The second half of this chapter – from the Hattoris going for coffee through to that final declaration – is one of my favourite sequences in the whole series. Those two editors are fun to watch when they’re being all crafty, and Niizuma is at his best when he’s excited about something. It’s also entertaining to see the art go back and forth between being more and less cartoonish.
I was going to make a joke about “an egg hatches… what emerges is neither human nor monster… so… a baby chick?” but Niizuma beat me to it.
I can see Sasaki’s point – without a firewall in place, a lot of mangaka would be complaining to their magazine’s editor-in-chief about something or other on a weekly (at least!) basis – but a system like that really lends itself to abuse if you’ve got a bad editor who will consistently reject the brilliant stuff and keep nagging the creator to come up with something mediocre. I just hope any editor like that would get weeded out faster than he could weed out good creators. Jump must do OK to have been on top of the business for so many years.
Great point about how Iwase’s concept is fairly basic, but her execution appears to have that “it” factor, that touch of genius that separates a great manga (novel, movie, etc.) from a merely good one. Remember that scene near the beginning of “Amadeus” where the priest doesn’t recognize any of Salieri’s old hits… but he and the movie audience sure know “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik”? That’s the best encapsulation of the difference that I know.
When you think about it, most of the manga-within-the-manga that have made it to series seem to be equally basic… Crow is about a superhero, Kiyoshi is about a delinquent, Time of Greenery is a romantic comedy, Trap was a detective story… and if Tanto makes it, it will be a gag manga. No doubt Crow also has that “it” factor, which is why it’s the only smash hit among them. Otter has a more distinctive concept, but it likely also has the touch of genius, given what we’ve been told about Hiramaru.
On a related point, all the Ohba-Obata collaborations – Death Note, Bakuman and Platinum End – are the reverse of basic: they have high-concept, elevator-pitch ideas at their foundations. No doubt the collaborators don’t want to count on brilliantly executing something the readers have seen before.
It was real good. Haven’t felt a distinct sense of excitement to this degree in a while. Half the fun of the story is seeing what Hijinks Hattori gets himself into.
Nizuma so buffed he can point out very obvious jokes so the audience doesn’t have to.
I tend to be sympathetic to Sasaki and I think that in real life it’s probably way more complicated as to whether and Editor’s suggestions are absolutely good or bad. If I had to guess, there is probably an element of hierarchy and known success rates and other KPI’s that the editor’s are held to that are more objective than whether the work is good. Given Jump’s status, I assume it’s highly selective with any editors they let into the fold, and I know working at Shueisha itself involves taking an extremely selective exam of some kind, although I couldn’t go into further detail about it.
I feel like Chainsaw Man or Attack on Titan kind of epitomizes the “it” factor being such a key factor in success. The premise is, on its face, very straightforward, but the way it’s executed often gives it a distinct juuj. Especially Chainsaw Man, which I much prefer to Attack on Titan. Same with things like Demon Slayer and some current manga in Jump that I’m enjoying a lot.
As Bernadette Peters says in Sunday in the Park with George: Anything you do, let it come from you, then it will be new. That’s a more artsy encapsulation of that specific je ne sais quoi that I think is present in these works.
I think Ohba and Obata know that that is where they work best. There’s that whole bit about Takagi being good at novelistic storytelling, and Manga is such a non-novelistic medium that carving a niche out of that style of storytelling is its own kind of genius that will sell. But often on the margins. It is somewhat surprising how successful they’ve been in spite of their going against the grain so hard.