Hiya humans, and welcome to my read-through of Bakuman Chapter 74: Classmate and Rivalry in which Rivalries heat up, new characters are introduced and yamahisa is still *gag*, doing ok.
If you are not caught up, please consider using this schwifty index over here. It has no spoilers past the current chapter, so read at your leisure.
If you would like to read along, and support the artists, consider buying a tankobon of the current volume, or subscribing to Weekly Shonen Jump. I recommend Jump because you get more for less, but do what you need to do. I’m not affiliated with VIZ, I just like when artists can eat groceries with money they’ve earned.
Classmate and Rivalry Summary
As the new year’s party winds down, the editors invite people to join them at the after-party, including Arai who wants to ditch the editors for an after-party of his own.
Hiramaru invites Team Fukuda to go to an after-party, but Ashirogi, Nizuma, and Iwase are all underage. Hiramaru – smashed and desperate – offers to go to a restaurant but Fukuda notes that Iwase wouldn’t join them anyway and they can’t find Nizuma.
Nizuma – with Yujiro and Hattori – is accosted by Hiramaru to join the party but Eiji is going home to continue working on manga after the party. Hiramaru protests, but Yujiro reminds him that with his new schedule he doesn’t have any time to do much outside of manga production.
Except Eiji – being himself – is already finished with all his work for Crow and +Natural up to three chapters, even though he wasn’t asked to do so. Hiramaru sees an opening but all Eiji wants to do is
play elden ring make manga. He didn’t even want to come to the party.
He peaces out with his editors in tow after the latest chapters. Hiramaru tries to talk to Iwase, but she too has left.
The boys, fired up, go home to work on Tanto. HIramaru is gonna party without them, but everyone’s already left except for Yoshida. Hiramaru gives Yoshida the bracelet back: he couldn’t give it to her.
Rivals and Motives
Miura sees Ashirogi off and promises to bring a new assistant at four o’clock the next day. Saiko agrees to an introductory meeting. On the ride home the boys discuss Eiji’s passion and fire as well as Hattori’s very conspicuous cold shoulder. Saiko finds it unsurprising given their newly minted status as rivals.
Oh, you sweet summer child.
Shujin was expecting something friendlier maybe a “ganbatte” or something but he admits he’s even more fired up to beat Eiji, Hattori, and Iwase. Saiko points out the reverse is true, but still thinks it’s not cool that he snubbed them like that.
At Nizuma’s studio Yujiro and Hattori caution Eiji to slow down a bit since his work is already so good they are in no hurry right now. Eiji replies that he doesn’t need or like sleep. But that he still gets enough of it.
Yujiro also cautions Eiji not to speed too far ahead since they have editorial meetings on Thursdays. Eiji will work on +Natural in the meantime. As Yujiro and Hattori prepare to leave with drafts in hand Eiji asks Hattori to consult about Chapter 7.
Yujiro departs and Eiji reveals his knowledge of Hattori’s plan to help the boys surreptitiously. Hattori explains he’s going about it in a roundabout way because it’s frowned upon to encourage other artists. When pushed harder, Hattori explains he believes that Ashirogi will be one of the top performers in Jump like Nizuma one day.
Eiji has that same belief and will help facilitate that win, on the condition that he will not lose.
Hattori’s shocked about how perfect the storyboard for chapter 7 is that Eiji whipped up that moment.
Hattori worries about what they’re up against, especially with Tanto.
The next day Saiko looks over the details of their new assistant Orihara while Shujin stresses about not having come up with anything after 20 days of working on Chapter 4.
The bell rings and Orihara immediately makes a hell of an entrance.
Saiko and Shujin greet themselves as does Kaya as Shujin’s wife (awww) to Orihara’s surprise. Miura plays straight man to Orihara’s excessively chaotic excitement, which is so overblown that even Kaya and Shujin are turned off. Orihara, in his continued attempts at ingratiation mentions that he’s read all of Taro Kawaguchi’s manga before coming over to start work. Saiko thinks it’s a bit excessive and is surprised by his enthusiasm for specific characters and arcs. He is also thrilled to be working with Takahama of BB Kenichi fame.
The boys + kaya find him a little much, but at least he’s cheerful. The first chapter is finished on time which Orihara celebrates.
On February 12, Miura comes over with advance copies of Issue 11 with +Natural. Issue 11 itself milks Nizuma’s status by having Crow and +Natural get color pages. The boys read the manga. Saiko thinks it’s good, but Shujin is absolutely shocked by its quality. It’s rulebreaking and mainstream at the same time.
Kaya asks what that means and Miura explains there isn’t a bad guy, and the story doesn’t wrap up, but it’s still great regardless. Shujin foresees it as being a pokemon type series with all sorts of new creatures.
Miura mentions that Sasaki and Heishi said that the series lends itself well to a lot of ancillaries (card games, animation, video games); Shujin wonders if it was written with those materials in mind. Miura doesn’t know but thinks it’s good either way. Saiko recognizes Nizuma’s work all over it; neither of the boys wants to lose to the duo.
Miura also brings news of Otter and its anime adaptation. The boys are shocked and remember Crow got an anime in its second year; Kiyoshi and Greenery are doing well, too. Both are in the top ten.
Hiramaru is shocked by +Natural’s quality and how it’s going to hurt his ranking. Hiramaru is already going into spiral mode; his rank might drop for successive weeks, so maybe break?
Yoshida immediately kills that and attacks Hiramaru’s lack of work ethic. Hiramaru explains the lack of Aoki in his life has led to a slump. Yoshida then reveals that Otter has gotten a late-night (shinya) anime. Hiramaru is bowled over by this news and iterates his faith in Yoshida, who he’s always thought of as a “long-haired self-interested jerk who kept leading me on”. Yoshida is surprised by the – accurate – description of himself.
When asked why it’s a shinya anime, Yoshida explains that the negative tone contributes to the decision. Yoshida privately muses on the fact that Jump was gunning for an early hour slot but because no offers were forthcoming, they caved to the late-night slot. Yoshida decides not to mention this.
With the news, Hiramaru is spurred on to keep working and avoid vacation at least until the end of the year.
Gags and Shizuka
Shujin mulls over the success of literally all of his colleagues and his desire to do something about it. Miura cautions patience since Chapters 1-3 are already locked up. Miura then asks for invention ideas: Shujin wanted to wait for the results of the first chapter before committing. Miura points out how much that’s going to screw up his schedule so Shujin agrees to jump on the inventions while Miura ends the meeting.
Saiko sees Shujin’s stress and wonders about his well-being.
Shujin then asks for the results of +Natural, but Miura urges Shujin to focus on Tanto and not get in his head about his competitors. That said, he agrees to let him know the results.
At Shizuka’s, Yamahisa leaves the advance copy of Jump for Shizuka and mentions the artist is Shizuka’s age.
Shizuka focuses on his video game.
Yamahisa mentions Ashirogi also being the same age and then complains about losing again. Yamahisa leaves, and Shizuka flips through the newest issue of Jump.
On February 18th, +Natural is released and Shonen Jump Orihara rushes to let the boys know that it’s already sold out in record time. Shujin chalks it up to the Nizuma effect. Kaya thinks it’s a coincidence.
Takahama confirms Shujin’s suspicions since the internet was abuzz with rumors about +Natural’s quality . and then it was confirmed to be good. Orihara agrees.
At the editorial office, the editors are fielding calls about selling out and by Friday, Yujiro and Hattori see a clear, unequivocal victory for +Natural. Not only that, Crow is 4th. Hattori feels greedy hoping for both to do well.
Miura takes it stoically and goes to deliver the news to the boys. The boys take the news and are frustrated because they want Tanto to be Number 1 and Beat +Natural. Miura tries to keep their expectations in check which Shujin understands, but they still want to be Number 1.
Can Shizuka Do it?
On February 25th, Vroom, Tanto Daihatsu! is released in Issue 12. At Shizuka’s, Yamahisa admires Shizuka’s orderliness. He also notices that Shizuka bought a copy of Issue 12 himself. He asks Shizuka what he thought of Tanto since the creators are the same age as him. he then remembers Shizuka hasn’t talked to him at all.
To his surprise, Shizuka asks if he has what it takes. Yamahisa has to suppress his glee at a response. But he plays it cool: he doesn’t think Shizuka has what it takes yet. He has talent, yes, but so do the other creators. It’s not something a shut-in can just dash off and get serialized with.
Shizuka gets pissed at that and the two get into a staring contest while yamahisa ponders his next move. He tells Shizuka that it’s a hard job because no job is easy and if he wants to avoid reality he should remain in his room.
Kaya and Shujin are depressed to report that there are a ton of copies of Jump on the shelves the week Tanto is released. Orihara tries to comfort them as only he can when Miura calls.
Miura mentions that the ranks of all Team Fukuda’s members have risen and he thinks it’ll lift their spirits to know that. The boys take the news…well enough and they promise to do their best.
Saiko then realizes it’s not Eiji spurring everything. It’s Hattori.
Shujin denies that Hattori could be so forward-thinking, and he wonders why Hattori was so cold at the party. Saiko has suspicions as the chapter ends.
Classmate and Rivalry Reaction
Yeah, I’m a sucker for a good “oh shit, the rivals whipping our asses five ways from Friday” type chapters and that was this chapter in a nutshell.
In particular, I like Eiji Nizuma as much as ever, because he’s really showing a.) wish-fulfillment of these mangaka and b.) that he ain’t no dummy, and c.) he’s going to ruin Tanto without even trying.
I’m still not on board the Tanto train, although if anybody was at this point, I would be genuinely amazed.
But yeah, this chapter was filthy with Nizuma being totally based af and just doing whatever he wants. In particular, the fact that he sniffed out Hattori’s whole plan and not only is fine with it, but plays into it to get the best out of Ashirogi is kinda fucked up, but also kinda sweet.
I do feel bad for Ashirogi taking several L’s this chapter, courtesy of Not-L, but also kinda L. Particularly with Hattori. Given that their relationship is the most intimate of the series, and maybe the most important, as the surrogate father figure/mentor often is in Shonen Manga, it really sucks that part of the play is that Hattori has to be cold to the boys.
But we all know it’s going to have the intended effect, so I’m not too sad about it. I do hope the boys are let into the loop sooner rather than later because it would suck for them to think that Hattori doesn’t want them to succeed.
This chapter also really re-contextualizes the earlier instances where the boys asked for advice and he deferred to their editor. The social hierarchy at Jump is very strict, and it’s kind of war, as we’ve discussed. He can’t just openly support their endeavors, as much as he wants to because he needs to save face and support his own mangaka.
It’s a relatable problem when people who are above you, who show you support, also have to do it obliquely or risk rebuke and censure.
It does suck, though.
It was also weird that Iwase seemed to be totally absent from this chapter, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just a thing.
Speaking of not necessarily bad things.
Orihara and Breaking the Rules of Jump
So Orihara feels like a character everyone despises because he’s so extra and over the top, but in spite of that, I find myself liking him. Yes, he is obnoxious and he needs to rein it in, but I like his character design, and I like earnest characters who may be a bit too earnest for their own good, and goddamn it, I will continue to like them.
Anyway, back to the “it” factor and +Natural, it seems that Iwase’s presence is more literary than literal in this chapter because she’s doing the thing that truly great writers often do: whatever the fuck they want.
I’m in somewhat of a liminal space right now with my writing. I’m working on a new screenplay – as one must – and I’m working on several short screenplay ideas for manga and I’m disembarking from the world of “Rules”. For a long time, and I mean a loooonnngg time, I’ve been very beholden to the rules of dramatic writing. Not the dumb ones that often pertain to formatting, or the rigid baroque nonsense of something that feels like Hard Bop before Miles Davis decided it was too much of a pain in the ass and went Modal and then made Kind of Blue.
I’m talking simple shit like conflict, rising action, negative space, character tropes, three-act structure, theme, statement of theme, off-the-nose-dialogue.
I know this stuff intimately and often read with that frame of mind. And often, I prefer a story to be excellently told than break the dramatic mores that make good stories. Which is why I like Bakuman. It’s not re-inventing the wheel, it’s just doing things very well in its own way. But it still has all those tropes, and arcs particular to manga.
But now that I’m writing with the rules internalized, I’m working to break them. Because I’ve found that the shit I need to say often requires that I not be a rigid stickler for the rules. and My writing improves. Imagine that.
I’ve also been struggling hard with my current screenplay and while I have been writing, I’ve been blocked in a spiritual way. So I’ve really been feeling Shujin this chapter. Finding the right angle of attack sometime can be an absolute pain.
That is to say, Iwase is writing with a literary bent, and because she’s good at it, she can get away with a story that feels literary while being Shonen. Also being receptive to criticism helps.
If I had to guess, if +Natural were real, it wouldn’t really be breaking rules in a significant way. It’d be breaking some trope that are common like a standard big-bad and ultimate end-goal and being more open-ended, and just doing it very well. There’s a vehicle for conflict, which will create a larger storyline ver time. That’s all you really need.
At the risk of pointing out the obvious, Bakuman does not have a standard big-bad, it just has an absurd, seemingly unattainable goal.
And a statement of the theme, and a good character. But rules in drama are flexible and dependent on the project.
And the key here is not necessarily that a good writer is a good writer a priori. It’s that when something is written with integrity and conviction, it often translates, regardless of whether it’s following any rules.
And integrity and conviction come from writing the story you want exactly, without shame, or fear.
At least for me.
Ok. this tangent went on a while.
Falling Behind and Selling Out
I like this little moment where Hiramaru gets an anime. Partly because I learned what Shinya Anime is only recently and the fact that Otter is too risque for a primetime slot feels accurate to me, but also because the entire sequence in which it is revealed demonstrates Obata’s talent for blending genre and technique
Now that I’m really studying comics for their execution, it’s very clear that Hiramaru’s portions are drawn to evoke a more chaotic cartoony style. If you examine the panels themselves, everything is exaggerated as either too extreme, or too simplified. From the announcement that it’s going to be an anime, to Hiramaru’s boneless twisting in delight when he hears the news. The lines are also simplified, and the lighting is dramatic.
Which sounds like how Otter No. 11 would read if it were real.
Not only that, but everyone is doing well as a result of their collaboration which has to be a real motivation killer for the boys. As if Shujin weren’t already on the ropes with his list of inventions.
It speaks to Shujin’s struggle – aside from the visual cues – that they’re not even on Chapter 4 yet, and he’s already plum out of good ideas and hedging his bets. This is another case of conviction being important. He doesn’t have enough faith in his own property to stick to a single idea and run with it.
Which makes the fact that everyone else is doing well so frustrating. But which makes that sequence with +Natural selling out so exciting.
I’m a weeb at a good time to be one, where the popular perception of anime is softening, although still confined to the margins. But the sequence in which Nizuma’s name causes the magazine to sell out reminds me of the recent release of Chapter 1044 of One Piece with its major reveals about the story.
Everyone was talking about it for the entire week prior to release and you can still feel some of the tangential oxygen of hype escaping the balloon from the moment percolating in the anime circles. I read the releases week to week on Shonen Jump because I don’t want to pirate ALL my manga, so it was a tough week, but finally getting to the chapter unspoiled felt great. But there was such a buildup, and it was wild to see how it trended on Twitter, and everyone seemed to be talking about it. Literally everyone; even the people who pretend they aren’t weebs but still secretly cry at Enies Lobby.
Anyway, what I’m saying is, to see it happen as a competitor has gotta be both thrilling, terrifying, and upsetting.
Speaking of all those things.
Shizuka is growing on me.
Yamahisa is doing… I still don’t like saying it…Yamahisa is doing…*gag* good with Shizuka. And it’s working.
Seeing this slow burn of the Shizuka plotline, and Yamahisa reading him like a book is one of those types of stories I love to see play out, but that I rarely get to see, mostly because it requires patience, and stories don’t always have the opportunity to deliver on patient storylines.
It also deals with slowly overcoming trauma and social problems. And it’s through gentle encouragement and coming down to Shizuka’s level.
Which is to say, I love it. I like these stories. Mob Psycho 100 remains one of my favorite manga ever for precisely this type of storytelling conceit.
I think Shizuka is on the path to becoming a formidable threat, even if he is Yamahisa’s subordinate, and seeing him progressively come out of his shell is a very honest portrayal of struggling with social anxiety. The fact that it’s taken 4 weeks in the real world and literal months in that world, and now the effect is starting to linger. I really love that.
Because even though Mental Illness is often portrayed as something fundamentally insurmountable; something you can only learn to deal with, and never work with and overcome, that’s bullshit. You can learn to harmonize with your struggles and live a fulfilling, full life.
And if Nakai was my dark shadow, Shizuka represents something hopeful.
Of course, that assumes he doesn’t massively fuck this up and become an even greater social recluse.
But I don’t think the stories angling for that. So it’s nice to see.
And finally, there is
We don’t get a confirmation of how well it’s doing specifically, but I assume it won’t be getting first place. Even though that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Man, I’m so unenthused by this manga that I haven’t read nor will ever read, and I already want it to get either the axe or chekhov’s canceled. I want the boys to enter their Death Note phase, but it feels so far away.
I did, however, like the little contrast of the magazine not selling out after the previous week’s sales. Really sold that kinda excitement for what might be and then the immediate gust of disappointment when it doesn’t happen. I also like Oirhara pointing out that that is, in fact, the normal thing to happen.
Stray thought: HIramaru at the party was…entertaining? I dunno man, the less people give him what he wants, the funnier I find it.
-Also, Ancillaries. Sweet sweet ancillaries. Shueisha must be salivating at the idea of selling all those fucking toys and merch.
Until Next time,