In Catchphrase and Message, A Stupid Catchphrase can’t Save Shujin (Chapter 76)

Hi hi hi hi hi and welcome to my read-through of Bakuman Chapter 76: Catchphrase and Message in which Catchphrases are a gimmick on several levels, and Shujin is on the struggle bus.

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Catchphrase and Message Summary

I’m gonna be the king of the Pirates!

At the studio, Shujin is playtesting ridiculous catchphrases with Saiko. One of them involves a house and a mouse; another involves a salmon he drew on his forearm. They are lame. Shujin continues providing awful catchphrases, to the point that Saiko questions the wisdom of this idea.

All of Shujin’s ideas – which are elaborate and obscure – confuse the beta audience but Shujin’s logic is that the catchphrase doesn’t have to make sense, it just needs to be something that kids will emulate.

After another gag related to Tanto’s hair, Saiko is still noncommittal, but Kaya thinks it might work. Shujin enjoys the support of his wife, though Saiko points out that knowing how something works and doing something about it are not the same thing.

Datte bayo!

At Jump, Yujiro, Hattori, and Sasaki discuss the offers for documentaries about Eiji Nizuma given the fact that he’s working on two popular series. Yujiro was aware of the anime rights being fiercely debated for +Natural, but didn’t realize even TV series want to be involved. He’s a hot commodity, right now.

Yujiro is iffy on whether presenting Nizuma’s eccentricities to the public is a good idea, but Hattori knows that his zaniness is at least partly an act, and when he needs to be sane Eiji is on the money. Yujiro agrees that it would be good publicity so he’ll ask bout it. Hattori asks Yujiro to get coffee with him.

Aida notices the two Hattoris getting buddy-buddy and Miura assumes it has to do with +Natural’s comical success.

Get Excited!

Yujiro is shocked to learn of Akina’s crush on Hattori and asks for more deets. Hattori played it politely and professionally: “I’m sure you’re attractive to boys your age”. Yujiro thinks he should have leveraged this attraction into a relationship which Hattori – and I – disagree with.

Yujiro then explains his ulterior motive for romance: if she’s enamored of Hattori she’ll be likelier to do better, more intense work as a way to please him and try to impress him.

Fucking. Yikes.

Hattori rightfully pushes back on all o’ that nonsense and when he points out the manipulative nature of that tactic, Yujiro expresses simple jealousy at Hattori’s situation. Hattori also points out that despite Iwase drafting the storyboards, he’s the one effectively telling the story before she gets her hands on it.

Yujiro sees that as further evidence to go for it. Yujiro is also considering his own skin in the game on this one, but Hattori wants advice on how to reject her without making the situation worse. Yujiro finds Hattori’s timidity at odds with his work demeanor, and is surprised Iwase didn’t developed a thing for Nizuma; although Hattori, again, rightfully points out that they have zero chemistry. He’s the go-between.

It is then that Yujiro drops the bombshell that Nizuma doesn’t read Tanto. Hattori is both shocked and excited by the news and immediately bounces from the conversation before Yujiro can offer advice. Hattori wants to take Miura on a date for a change.

He goes over to Miura’s desk and asks to get food.

El Psy Congroo!

Catchphrase and Message Hattori's Angry Manipulation face

At a Soba shop, Hattori and Miura marvel over +Natural’s anime rights already being fought over. Miura chalks it up tot he Nizuma effect. Hattori abruptly lets slip that Nizuma no longer reads Tanto and then forcefully commands Miura to tell Ashirogi about both these facts. Miura wants to know what’s up with the scary face so Hattori switches gears: he thinks they’d work harder knowing that. Miura agrees to tell the boys.

True to his word, that night Miura lets slip that +Natural is already in talks for an anime, a drama, and an offer for a live-action movie and that Niuzma isn’t reading Tanto anymore.

Saiko is floored and thinks Nizuma lost interest, then asks why he’s telling them this. Miura thinks about the wisdom of it, but then mentions Hattori told him to. Saiko sees Hattori’s play and then gets the news that Tanto remains comfortably in 12th place with the latest chapter. Stable, but nothing mindblowing.

Meanwhile, Miura is surprised to learn that Shujin hasn’t brainstormed any ideas for the manga even though they have to start penciling tomorrow. Shujin explains the catchphrase fracas took up all of his time. Miura allows for a Monday submission but he doesn’t want to break their Friday deadline. Shujin apologizes and then asks for input on the catchphrase.

I Dunno About That…

Uhh, it’s a catchphrase, I guess.

Miura has the same response I do, surprisingly, and then Shujin explains it’s already said a lot, is catchy to which Miura replies: I dunno about that.

Miura agrees it’s natural but…I dunno about that.

He sees the point and agrees to let them do it, but they have to include it several times a week.

Saiko…doesn’t know about that.

Yare Yare Daze.

Shujin goes home to brainstorm ideas featuring their new catchphrase “I dunno about that” while Saiko twiddles his thumbs because he has no work to do.

On their way home, the boys discuss +Natural’s anime offers and Eiji’s lack of interest in Tanto; he’s a big Ashirogi fan. Saiko wonders what Eiji’s angling for, but Shujin’s concerns about his marriage stability override the bad juju this entire situation creates.

Yare yare.

The two part ways and Kaya worries over her husband’s second all nighter in a row and using their new meta-catchphrase as many times as has been mandated for the joke to work.

Shujin’s schedule, despite their hopes, does not recover and his submissions fall on Monday’s from that point forward. Saiko and Orihara discuss the new schedule, and their upcoming Golden Week vacation and Saiko asks Orihara about his wishes for breaktime. Orihara – being a single pringle – is fine with having weekdays off.

Orihara is off to work with his usual ebulliency until Takahama reminds him to read the chapter they’re working on. Saiko is alarmed to note that Orihara doesn’t even crack a smile.

Kaya arrives sans Shujin who is in crunch mode.

Takahama mentions that it gets harder to write gags the longer they go on, and Kaya sees Shujin’s mood. Saiko recognizes the gags are slipping in quality.

Omae Wa Mou Shindeiru!

Catchphrase and Message Shujin's Catchphrase for Tanto

Shujin’s work continues to fall behind schedule and their meetings become a matter of settling for what they have. Miura even thinks their catchphrase will catch on and finds the Editors at jump using it more and more.

After the introduction of the catchphrase in Chapters 10-12 their rank drops to 12th and 13th. Miura maintains a positive face for them and keeps the faith – as he always does – but as he leaves, Shujin asks how much Saiko has for flex time on storyboards. About two weeks, given Golden Week double issue.

Shujin, visibly drained thinks he’ll be late turning it in. Saiko asks him to remember his own wedding and leave time for it.

As he leaves, Kaya – now Takagi, not Miyoshi – calls about Shujin, worried. He hasn’t slept in 3 days and he’s been skipping school; she’s particularly worried given Saiko’s own hospitalization. Saiko promises to asks for Shujin to take it a bit easier but he sees the writing on the wall. If the quality of this manga is all he can do with all-nighters they’ll never surpass Eiji.

Saiko doesn’t see any future for Tanto.

Who the hell do you think I am?!

The next morning, Shujin looks like death warmed over having only gotten 2 hours of sleep. A Japanese variety show is playing on the background featuring a Seiyuu Kanra Natara who is Lady Crow on Crow. Shujin watches while drinking coffee. Natara invites Eiji onto the show.

Shujin immediately calls Saiko to watch Eiji’s appearance. Eiji takes the call and offers to appear on the show, to Saiko’s shock. All the editors offer to join Eiji on his TV appearance, but Sasaki OK’s only Yujiro and Hattori.

The next day, Eiji appears on the program and is asked about his frankly insane publishing schedule of 150 pages a month which he explains as being a function of always drawing manga, aide from sleep and the restroom. He also does it for fun.

The reporter thinks that Eiji has to be his own worst enemy given his age and race against time. Eiji disagrees. It’s his Rival Muto Ashirogi who is his greatest enemy, and favorite manga artist.

Everyone reacts with Shock, except for Hattori who has a grin on his face. He asks if anyone has heard of Ashirogi. Eiji then does his usual zany sign off.

Saiko has had enough, he slams his drafting table, shocking Takahama.

Saiko dashes out of his office in a fury. Running running running back to his room up to his room to have a breakdown in frustration. He looks for his phone but can’t find it. He finds the home phone and calls Miho.

In a fit of peak, he announces that he wants to stop drawing Tanto as the chapter ends.

Catchphrase and Message Reaction

That Catchphrase?

I dunno about that.

So, on the one hand, I understand the logic of introducing a catchphrase because it’s a great way to make your series memorable and it acts as a shorthand for any fans to communicate between each other. And, not to put too fine a point on it, almost every popular series has a catchphrase of some kind.

See…the headings joke of this read-through. Of course, I pulled from both anime and manga, but the point isn’t really diminished. Catchphrases are pretty ubiquitous because they are an easy gimmick to start and they require almost no maintenance outside of repeatedly using them.

But as Ohba probably struggled with in this chapter, a good catchphrase requires actual thought and effort. And introducing one as a face-saving tactic is pretty much completely useless.

Why is it useless? Because it’s like marketing: it only works after consistent use.

When you first hear Kamina go “Believe in the me that believes in you!” it doesn’t really mean much. But after using it several times it finally takes on the weight. Marketing does the same thing: barrage you with the same message until you’ve internalized it and start to associate it with that brand.

And just like brands, there is bigger graveyard of failed catchphrases than there are of successful ones. Just like the survivorship bias favors successful business and speculative ventures over the sea of failures.

That said, the opening sequence in which Shujin was beta testing catchphrases was pretty funny. I like the “It’s not a wig” only because it reminded me of Katsura from Gintama’s “Zura janai, katsura da” which was used so many times it became a running gag on its own.

Gintama is so great.

But really, Shujin is clearly up against the wall, if he’s procrastinating by working on a limp wristed catch phrase. Which we’ll get to.

But before that.

Yujiro is currently on my shitlist

Ok, so this is a pretty small moment in a very eventful chapter – as they always seem to be – but dear god, Yujiro, your advice to Hattori re: Iwase was so wildly off the mark, so wildly inappropriate, and so legitimately horrifying that I thought it bore repeating.

Fucking. Yikes.

Like, let’s overlook the fact that Iwase is vibing Hattori and that already poses several very big problems and that Hattori – being the swell guy he is – is appropriately not engaging with that shit.

So to not only egg him on because she’s pretty and technically legal *gag* and also it’s a good reason for her to churn out good manga pages.

Well, just excuse me while I go bash my head into a wall until I forget this line of horrific nonsense.

I think it’s worse that Yujiro suggests this because it’s being played as a gag. But it’s not funny. Because manipulating a teen girls affection to make manga pages isn’t funny. Not to mention the power imbalance at play here with Hattori’s very real impact on her manga career.

And I generally like Yujiro, which makes this whole gag a lot worse. Because so far he hasn’t indulged in this theme of manga = women that has been ongoing since chapter 1, and was even properly disgusted with Nakai’s bullshit a few chapters ago. So like, to have him suddenly do this?

Maaaaannnnnn

Speaking, however of the other Hattori

Akira reins as the editorial MVP

I feel like Hattori is carrying the entire series on his shoulders at this point with all his maneuvering and gambits and playing the sides off each other so they get where he wants them to go. Let’s not forget he engineered pretty much everything so far and he’s been controlling the flow of information pretty expertly to make sure the boys react the way he wants them to react.

Is it moral? Ehhh, questionable.

Is it going to work? Hell yeah.

Aside from the date with Miura in which hattori was – actually hilariously – forceful about delivering key information to the boys, Hattori has been a veritable puppet master for 6 whole chapters now. Maybe 7 and he’s played everything masterfully. And he’s doing it because he has the boys best interests at heart and he has rock-solid faith.

And the reason I’m not bothered by the gambits and how they are impacting the boys is because they are not impacting the boys, the thing that is impacting the boys is, in fact:

Tanto (dun dun dun)

Yeah, it’d be one thing if Hattori were doing these mindgames and it was actually fucking up the boys flow, but as the limp wristed attempt at catchphrasing, Shujin missing deadlines, and even Kaya getting worried about Shujin’s constant all nighters show:

Tanto is absolutely fucking with the boys, not Hattori.

And that distinction is really really key. Even though I don’t think anyone actually wants Tanto to continue – outside of maybe Shueisha because it’s an ongoing stable series in Jump right now, even if its low ranking – it would be fucked up if Hattori shanked the boys career because he wanted them to do something different.

But the series, while not particularly subtle about how unsuited the boys are towards gag oriented manga has basically stripped the subtext of Tanto’s personal erosion of, at the very least, Shujin. Everything is falling apart in very systematic fashion. The assistants aren’t laughing. Deadlines are mounting. Sleep is decreasing. All heinous stuff.

What’s interesting to me at this juncture is just how much Shujin’s struggles have overtaken the series. And that’s not to say Saiko isn’t also struggling – he got the gracenote at the very end of this chapter in which it was finally made text how awful working on Tanto is – but Shujin has become the thematic center of the series.

And I actually kind of like that.

Aside from the hospital incident, right now Saiko’s problems have been on the backburner, and that kind of makes sense. He’s the artist, hisc character can only progress so far when manga isn’t the main focus of the story. And right now, at the risk of pointing out the obvious:

Manga isn’t the main focus of this series right now

Now, I know that statement is kinda obvious, but this has been one of my chief frustrations with the series at this point. The reason Saiko has been (relatively) static is because his chief character flaws of obsession and overwork have been resolved dramatically with the stupidest arc in the series and because he doesn’t have to come up with the ideas for the story. he just has to draw.

So it makes sense that since chapter 59, Shujin has been the one going through hell and high water.

Narratively this is a common problem in longform storytelling, and it’s why serialized storytelling’s twin risks are either running too long, or running too short: once you’ve addressed a major character flaw in a definitive way, going back to it will be repetitive and boring.

So if we had a second arc of Saiko overworking himself or doing something that would imperil his relationship with Miho it would feel played out because that’s already been narratively resolved in a a reasonably satisfying way.

But for Shujin, he simply has more narratively designed problems, and ways to solve them. Namely, he has to come up with ideas, and he has a girlfriend wife. Those create narrative engines for him to continue running into problem after problem.

And now he’s finally hitting the narrative nadir that I assume will eventually lead to him dropping Tanto and pick up a series that will be like death note which is serious, and grounded and story-based.

But I would be lying if I said I was perfectly content with the current status quo. While everything about Bakuman has a base level quality to it, I much prefer when the boys are working on manga and manga is the key focus.

Which is why Iwase and Nizuma was such an exciting moment because I thought: we’re going to switch gears to manga, now. and it’s going to be about fighting manga to manga through a contest of skill.

But Tanto isn’t going to be that, clearly.

I do hope we get to that, because I love competitions like that, and it’s why I’ve started really enjoying sports manga like Haikyuu and Chihayafuru. The thrill of fighting someone who is as good as you to see who does better has a very specific emotional thrill that I can’t help but love.

….Anyway.

Never Change, Nizuma

I say this every few chatpers, but that TV appearance was peak Nizuma. He was great. I like that Hattori also carefully deployed Eiji knowing that he would act goofy, but he’d act goofy only to a point. Continuing the trend that Hattori can practically read people like Eiji reads manga, this was a tactical nuke of a decision to get Eiji to appear on television.

And I love that Eiji did ham it up a bit and remain in character, but he was really saving that final punch to get the boys to do something about their stagnation. This is when the rival does their best work. Eiji continues to be like the best kind of rival who wants their rival to do better to have the thrill of competition.

And seeing him do it on public television is, admittedly, a little credulity straining, but also fucking hysterical.

And it adds a nice little narrative exclamation point to this leg of the journey: the boys are headed down the wrong path. A fact Saiko now can no longer deny. And it’s time to do something about it.

So what will they do?

My money’s on Eiji’s cancelation. But let’s see where it goes from here.

Stray Thoughts:

–I didn’t mention it, but Miura continues to suck. Sucks to suck.

–Shujin looks like death warmed over.

–Hattori’s insistent face fucking killed me.

Anyway, until next time.

Peace


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