In Love and Denial, Hattori and Saiko reach a boiling point (Chapter 77)

Hi there, and welcome to my read-through of Bakuman Chapter 77: Love and Denial in which Shujin is a mess, we get a nice little bromantic moment, and Hattori takes off the kid’s gloves.

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Love and Denial Summary

Saiko’s Two Great Loves

Saiko announces his desire to stop drawing Tanto to Miho. Miho asks for calm and to explain the situation so she can understand. It’s going nowhere. When she asks if it has to do with their promise he explains that he’s still game for that *stupid* plan, but he wants to stop drawing because he’s not living his best mangaka life and he wants to make Eiji happy through competition.

Miho confirms that it’s about Eiji and not her which throws Saiko off before she gives her approval. Saiko explains the problems with Shujin’s nature and Tanto and Saiko’s desire for him to do something more serious. Miho asks whether Shujin is struggling with the gags.

Saiko confirms her suspicions and talks about the possibility of shifting tones but he doesn’t think Tanto is suited to battle manga, nor does Shujin make good battle manga, either.

Love and Denial Saiko calls Azuki in frustration

Miho then asks whether Eiji’s voice is more important than the children who seem to like Tanto; why not wait until cancellation instead of using Eiji as a barometer?

Miho, you know what magazine we’re in right?

Saiko asks whether Miho was watching Get A Laugh. She didn’t, so Saiko explains Eiji’s declaration of their Rival status.

Miho gives her blessing to jump ship after hearing this because she’s fundamentally selfish and wants what her heart wants’ she’s stubborn too. She’d consider quitting. She then asks whether he’s discussed this with Shujin. He hasn’t which is why he called Miho first.

Saiko explains that Shujin’s hung up on his responsibilities as a married man so Saiko’s hesitant to bring it up. She asks whether he saw the program as well: Shujin recommended it to Saiko. Miho doesn’t know how Takagi feels but suggests waiting until after his honeymoon to bring it up.

Saiko’s one hope is that there is a serialization meeting the week before, so if they’re in danger he has an opportunity before Miho reminds him he still has to try his hardest even if that happens.

She then mentions that her feelings about this situation wouldn’t change, even if she and Saiko were married. Saiko agrees to talk to Shujin after the honeymoon. She then thanks Saiko for talking to her on the phone about his issues. Even though they’ve promised to tell each other everything, they’ve mostly done it through email to this point. With this call, she can feel their love growing stronger.

Saiko’s paralyzed by the admission and Miho orders him to wait until after the honeymoon to talk about it. Saiko feels much better after Miho’s confession of love.

Awww.

The Serialization Meeting

On June 4th, Shujin is confident the serialization meeting is fine: they haven’t fallen below 15th yet. Saiko is morose at the fact that Shujin no longer cares about winning, but simply holding steady. He decides not to bring up his concerns.

Shujin then brings up Kaya and his honeymoon plans: A trip to the hot springs in Kinugawa for three days and two nights. Kaya brings up that they initially wanted to go overseas, but with the short time for a break, they decided to stay close to home. Shujin wanted to go to Disneyland; Kaya finds Disneyland distinctly unromantic.

They two start bickering like a…well, newly married couple, and Miura gives them a call about the meeting.

They’re in the clear about serialization: nothing to worry about.

Shujin is a little more at ease given he was worried about cancellation right before his wedding. Miura does mention, however, that their safety is not absolute. There were remarks that Shujn needed to put more effort and rise in the ranks. Shujin gets defensive given the arrival of a new series and brings up switching gears to a battle series.

Miura shoots the idea down immediately: more humor is key, according to the editorial staff.

So far, Miura’s only actual note. Jesus.

Shujin is devastated at the idea of adding more gags. Saiko gauges his willingness to do this: he’s at his limit, right?

Shujin lies to himself that he can still do this, but even Kaya isn’t convinced.

Training Shizuka

Meanwhile, at Shizuka’s yamahisa is there for their usual meeting and notices a storyboard. He’s ready to grab it privately frustrated that it wasn’t ready for the current serialization meeting, but nevertheless pleased. He holds back, however, and decides to wait until Shizuka asks to give it over in a conversation.

The two start gaming and Yamahisa loses, as per usual. He then peaces out without the storyboards in hand.

Love and Denial Hattori gives a speech

The Wedding and Going Downhill

Two days before the wedding, Kaya is concerned about the consistent all-nighters and Shujin’s total lack of creative energy. She reminisces about when he was writing Trap and happy.

Miho gives Kaya a call about her wedding. Kaya wonders if she’s looking forward to seeing Saiko; Miho actually wants to talk before the wedding and honeymoon. Despite Kaya’s protests that they won’t be gone long, Miho wants to talk now and brings up Kaya’s tomboyishness and her desire to never get married.

The conversation continues into the night with Kaya listening.

At the wedding itself, everyone is present and Kaya is beautiful as a speech concludes. Hiramaru complains about the distinct lack of Iwase at the party but Fukuda tells him to pipe down.

Hattori is the next up to give a speech.

Hattori congratulates his disciple and reminisces about the day he first came to Jump’s offices. he mentions he believed they would one day be pillars of Jump. Saiko sees Hattori’s baiting tactics for what they are immediately.

Hattori then goes into a, well, let’s just call it spontaneous tangent about +Natural’s art and story having chemistry. While Eiji plows through the food Hattori goes over their initial submissions of Two Earths, One Hundred Millionth, and The World is All About Money and Intelligence he mentions those works were the result of their chemistry. He was impressed that they were students.

Saiko does not miss that Tanto was not mentioned there. Saiko sees this and Eiji’s declaration on TV as a coordinated assault while Hattori concludes his speech.

Miura is then brought up to the stand.

Shujin muses over Hattori’s words.

Saiko’s Fury

As Miura stutters through his congratulations, Saiko sits next to Hattori and wants to get a straight answer out of him: he doesn’t think Tanto suits the boys. Hattori – given his profession – can’t tell Saiko that, it’d create chaos in the editorial department. Plus, two series ending prematurely could be a death knell for rookies. And it will ruin their relationship with Miura.

Saiko sees through Hattori and how he’s treating it as though the boys really will quit. he then mentions Takagi’s desire to continue. Saiko continues to get more and more frustrated and lashes out; he asks Hattori to tell them his real thoughts and tell them to quit.

Everyone’s surprised by the outburst and Hattori, ever the gentleman asks him to take it outside. The two depart to hash it out and Shujin wants to join them to see what’s wrong.

Kaya stops him though: she understands what’s going on, but no matter what the groom has to stay.

Love and Denial Kaya dolled up for her wedding

Shizuka’s Breaking Point

Back at Shizuka’s Yamahisa loses again and prepares to leave. But as he does, Shizuka goes up, grabs the storyboard, and with absolute terror asks for Yamahisa to look at it.

My boy, he’s growing up. Brings a tear to the eye.

Yamahisa is similarly proud of Shizuka’s progress and he vows to make Shizuka a popular artist.

It’s not good

Outside, Saiko chews Hattori out for being so roundabout and avoiding the topic. He wants Hattori to just come out and say what’s on his mind. Hattori remains stoically silent. Saiko asks if it is because Hattori is not their editor that he can’t say what he wants to say. Hattori asks Saiko not to put words in his mouth.

Hattori then bites back: does he need to tell Saiko to do everything, or can Saiko do anything himself? He and Takagi need to hash this out and decide for themselves then follow through on that like they always have. Saiko points out he’s dodging the question, again and refuses to judge Tanto’s merits or lack thereof. At least let him know if it’s good or not.

Hattori finally says what he thinks: it’s not good. Although it’s his personal opinion, he thinks Saiko could learn from +Natural. He then goes further: he knew the boys had talent 5 years ago and he believes they will pass Eiji at one point.

He then asks Saiko to come back to the party, Saiko’s face totally shocked as the chapter concludes.

Love and Denial reaction

Well, thanks for pointing out the obvious

Do I really need to talk about that cliffhanger? We were all thinking it. Hattori is just coming out and saying it.

This means, and I’m thrilled to announce that we’re probably at the end of the Tanto arc. Probably.

I mean, the opening of the chapter also basically confirmed that Tanto is not long for this world. Although, if I’m being honest, I don’t see how they could end the series of their own volition. I don’t see Jump playing that game.

Mostly because Jump is kind of historically notorious for doing the exact opposite of that. Especially with series that are at least somewhat popular; or a gag manga that isn’t super popular, but can lead to ancillary sales in the future because it capitalizes on Jump properties or is conducive to expanding the existing Jump demo with young readers.

Honestly, I may be the only person happy with the fact that Me & Roboco is getting an anime.

The irony of the fact that people are collectively losing their shit about Me & Roboco getting an anime while Ayashimon got canceled is not at all lost on me when reading this chapter specifically.

And Me & Roboco is actually a good point of reference for Tanto, since the schtick of a robot maid getting into hijinx based on her robotic nature runs parallel to Tanto. Even the main character’s name is reminiscent: Bondo, an elementary schooler.

Me & Roboco is hardly perfect, but it is an enjoyable, often funny, and sweet manga that I enjoy the hell out of. It also has some absolutely savage jokes at Shueisha’s expense and has a duo of aspiring mangaka named Saitei and Yujin, one of whom is blond with glasses and the other black-haired wearing a striped sweater…

A gag that is a hundred times funnier in the context of this read-through and my now very basic understanding of Japanese. Those puns are hilarious.

Anyway, I’m way off track.

The point I’m trying to say is that Me & Roboco isn’t necessarily a huge series in Jump, but it’s made enough numbers to consistently sell and it appeals directly to young teens with an emphasis on parody of popular manga in Jump.

So the fact that Saiko wants to end Tanto of his own volition strikes me as, unlikely, at best. Impossible at worst given that Tanto is doing in-universe the same exact thing, minus the parody. Although that’s a route Shujin could go if he really wanted to. It’s a staple of the gag series these days, especially after Gintama’s success.

But this is a shonen manga.

Speaking of Saiko.

That opening scene

It was really really nice. I don’t know if I have much to say about the mechanics of the scene itself. But seeing Saiko calling up Miho and, y’know, talking about his problems with her openly, in a communicative way was a really good thing to see.

He’s still an idiot for his self-imposed ban. But he’s definitely less of an idiot than he has been historically. And honestly, growth happens in the less than, and the more than, not in the absolute. So I’m all for it.

And what is actually somewhat endearing is that he’s basically announced his not even subtextual bromance with Eiji and how important Eiji’s input and friendship are to him personally. It speaks to a lot of personal growth – and 5 years in the industry -that he’s able to recognize just how important the people in his orbit are and especially Nizuma who is comically gifted in all things manga.

It’s great, man. because I think it’s a healthy means for Saiko to grow into the mangaka he is destined to become.

Granted, he’s still a hotheaded little shit, as that wedding sequence showed so dramatically.

but we can pretend that didn’t happen until I have to talk about it and that Saiko simply exhibited emotional growth by relying on Miho’s input on the situation and recognizing his feelings for Eiji.

As far as conflating men/manga, I’m fine with it. Because it’s not so goddamn toxic.

However, it’s very clear that Tanto is for…

Shujin’s Health

I didn’t comment on it last chapter, but I appreciate that Obata is making Shujin look like the physical embodiment of exhaustion by drawing him like a burrito that’s been in the microwave for too long, or spinach on the stovetop. He’s wilted and aged and I think Tanto has to end or else he’s going to be nothing in a few chapters.

I especially feel for Kaya who managed to get her own little moment of badassery this chapter at the reception. But she must be so worried for her man who is knocking on heaven’s door – and not the Kishibe Rohan type – and continuing his habit of sleepless nights.

But also, the fact that he’s just given up is fucking heartbreaking. Like, he’s the one who got things rolling and now he’s just trying to eke out an existence in the margins. And it’s compounded exponentially by the fact that Miura doesn’t give any other note other than more jokes, plz.

Bro. He’s clearly struggling and you can’t see that? Ugh.

Speaking of Miura

Hattori’s win streak continues.

Hattori is firing on all cylinders and continues to dominate and you love to see it. He’s really accelerating an already dire situation. And it’s clear he’s going to be the boy’s editor at some point. If not now, then ultimately.

And there’s a nice bit of character contrast that we get with Miura and Hattori at the wedding. Namely, their speeches.

Hattori’s speech is crystal clear, a tactical nuke designed to aggravate the boys into action and also give them surreptitious hints on what’s missing from their work. That chemistry bit was so obvious it almost felt out of character.

Meanwhile, Miura’s struggling to rub two brain cells together to come up with something coherent and he has stage fright.

It’s a real testament to Ohba’s ability that this moment can so adequately portray why Miura is not good at his job and Hattori is. And I would feel for Miura if he weren’t doing such a spectacular job of making the boys’ lives harder by not giving them anything to work with.

I want Hattori back. Nao. Please. Pretty please?

I also don’t want to see Hattori and Saiko at odds. it makes me uncomfortable. But Hattori is talking about the thing that we all know.

Tanto isn’t good

Yeah. I know. I’m saying it again. But now I’m going to ask: is it good that we’re going to be moving form this soon?

Well, most of me thinks yes. We’re a little under the halfway mark of the series and we’ve now seen several iterations of failure in manga making. And we now understand the stakes of getting a series and maintaining it. We’ve been taught that in several trials by fire.

But now, well, now we’re on the cusp of true success. And given that Saiko’s goal is an anime, not a successful manga, that means that the road to the climax and endgame requires that we find out about the struggles of a truly successful manga. Because as we’ve seen, this series revels in the details of the minutiae of manga production.

And the world of successful manga has its own traps and pitfalls.

So to be at this inflection point is kind of exciting. I have a feeling Tanto is the last manga that the boys are going to have to suffer through before they do what they were built for.

And that part seems to be the most potentially exciting element of the series yet.

So it is good. I’m very done with the boys struggling to be good. I want them to struggle to be the best and fight with Eiji. I’m sure Ohba and Obata have plenty of struggles that are compelling surrounding that kind of competition.

But since the announcement of a gag manga, it’s been clear that this road has been no good. And it’s been frustrating. We’ve had blips of potential good series. But no real progress.

With Tanto’s emotional failure for the boys, we’re hitting a climax that has been building for the last 20 chapters.

I sincerely hope we get out of it soon. I’m ready for the boys to be successful and compete among the heavy hitters.

And we can’t do that, until after Tanto is over and we start seeing their new series.

A guy can dream

Stray Thoughts:

–I didn’t mention in it the read-through, but the Yamahisa-Shizuka storyline is delightful and continues to be excellent. I really like it. All I really need to say about that.

–Kaya was gorgeous at the wedding.

–Miho’s confession was too cute. But she’s still a bag of mixed nuts when it comes to everything else. That whole bit about thinking about the children, and then flipping a switch immediately. Yikes.

And that’s all I got

Until next time

Peace

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