In Thrill and Come On, The Ashirogi Touch is Sadly Missing (Chapter 81)

Hello hello hello, and welcome to my read-through of Bakuman Chapter 81: Thrill and Come On, in which we talk the rule of threes, greatness, and I underestimate Saiko.

If you’re not caught up, please use this index over here to do so. There are no spoilers past the current chapter. So read easy, my dudes.

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Thrill and Come On Summary

Miura’s Changed

Picking up directly from the last chapter, Saiko is fine with Miura’s evolution and his disinterest in serialization over beating Eiji, and the decision by Miura is a good one. Shujin points out that the bosses made the decision, not him, and he starts freaking out about not being able to come up with a better idea than MIA.

Saiko thinks it’s a matter of revision and asks what Shujin was told. Miura wants to meet tomorrow for details. Kaya finds that kinda sus given his lack of other serialized manga. Shujin agrees it’s a little weird.

Thrill and Come On Saiko has faith in Miura

At Jump’s office, Yamahisa goes to meet with Shizuka while Miura raises holy hell about MIA not getting serialized. Aida explains that quality isn’t the issue; it’s Tanto’s recent cancellation. Hattori comes over to calm Miura down from his hissy fit and takes him to get coffee.

Miura assumes revision is in the cards, but Hattori tells him that MIA is done forever. Now that True Human has been added, it has no shot at success. Miura disagrees vehemently and thinks MIA would win in a competition. Hattori doesn’t disagree but thinks he needs to submit something different anyway.

Miura asks what he has in store next. Another cult manga?

No. A…

Mainstream Manga

Miura is shocked, given how Hattori has been pretty gung-ho about not going the mainstream route and how Ashirogi’ll never beat Eiji with one.

Hattori then suggests a light-hearted fantasy adventure with lots of humor then.

Oy very.

Thrill and Come On Hattori tells Miura to make a mainstream manga

Miura protests, but Hattori tells him if he wants to do this on his own, he can make his own damn decisions, but Hattori is offering the best advice he can. Miura doesn’t understand Hattori’s play but decides to think about it.

Meanwhile, at Shizuka’s apartment (squee), Yamahisa gives Shizuka the good news that he will appear in issue 41. Ashirogi is defeated on their own turf. Yamahisa wants some input.

Shizuka quietly agrees with a ‘yes.’ At all of Yamahisa’s encouragement and suggestions – including ordering Shizuka to buy chairs and desks for his assistant – Shizuka remains monosyllabic, and Yamahisa offers to help him any time he needs. Despite his shyness, Yamahisa is confident that Shizuka will be fine.

Abruptly Shizuka gets up and thanks Yamahisa for everything.

Very very sweet.

At Miura’s, Miura mulls over Hattoris’s suggestion, wondering what is up with it. He wonders if Ashirogi even has the ability in them, given that their fantasies are often placed in the real world with fantasy elements. Miura has a realization, but worries about only two serialization meetings left.

A Good Faith Effort

The next day, the boys are anxious and shocked to learn of Miura’s newest suggestions. They wonder if he remembers the stakes here. He does. Shujin still believes he can’t come up with something better than MIA right now. Miura asks them to have faith in themselves and then drops the bomb: mainstream fantasy next. One with melodrama and laughs.

The boys react predictably to this news, and Miura is firm: something like Dai’s Big Adventure or One Piece.

Shujin protests that he would if he could but it’s not his style. Miura calls bullshit and tells him to give it his all. Saiko asks calmly why and Miura explains that they’ve never tried to genuinely create a fantasy world before.

Shujin still thinks it’s bunk, and there are plenty of other genres they haven’t touched. Miura remains steadfast and for them to put everything into it for the next two months. Saiko, seeing the resolve in Miura’s eyes decides to follow him and give it a try.

Shujin points out that he’s the one making the story, so Saiko offers his and Miura’s help. Saiko thinks there is a method to this particular madness.

In a particularly inspired gag, Miura does not know why he’s doing this, but he’s too far in to stop it now.

Saiko puts his faith in Hattori Miura which Miura shakily accepts. Shujin agrees to try.

Miura thinks the story should be as simple as possible.

Hattori Herding Cats

At Nizuma’s, Nizuma lets slip that Yujiro let slip Ashirogi’s existential threat, which mostly surprises Hattori with Yujiro’s big mouth. Eiji asks if Hattori is trying to make it easier on Ashirogi. Hattori thinks it’s the opposite.

Nizuma hands Iwase’s storyboards back to Hattori and asks for them to be rewritten. When asked why, he explains that Iwase is ambivalent, sot he stories lack oomph. Hattori agrees, and his meetings with her have been tense, but he’s shocked that Nizuma sussed it out from her writing along.

Eiji compliments Iwase’s genuine talent but thinks she’s losing her edge.

At Iwase’s editorial meeting, Hattori approves her revisions. Iwase is upset that he hasn’t been complimenting her lately.

Uh-oh.

Hattori plays it off as a matter of her consistent quality. She wonders if that’s all there is to it. She accuses him of not wanting her to be happy and makes the mistake of assuming Iwase’s speaking at one level of conversation here. As he explains, he thinks she’s talented; she wants to be complimented as a woman.

Sigh.

Hattori is as exasperated as I am. She asks again whether she’s “That bad as a woman,” so Hattori drops a truth bomb: she liked Takagi; Takagi is married now so it’s wrong to like him; please stop transferring feelings plz thank you. She protests, but he can’t shake the feeling anyway.

Hattori tries to calm down and tells her to look for guys her won age at university.

Hattori then suggests she try to win him over at their meetings, which Iwase – being oblivious – agrees to, not seeing the bluff.

Bruh.

Easy to Follow

Shujin still doesn’t understand why they’re going the mainstream route now of all times, but Saiko points out he came up with a story easily enough. Shujin plays it off as a matter of keeping the story simple, so it wasn’t a huge challenge.

Kaya actually likes it. She rationalizes it may be her simple tastes, but she likes how easy it is to follow. Shuijn explains it has to do with a kid going to a volcano and fighting monsters there. It even has a classic case of a 9-year-old with daddy issues looking for his father who went to the same volcano a la hunter x hunter and several million other manga.

She also notes that in Shujin’s version, a scene where the boy is trying to prove himself was humorous, but when Saiko made the art she cried.

Saiko – still smirking and cool – realizes maybe they were kind of able to do Traditional Jump Manga (TM) the whole time. Shujin thinks it’s possible, if unlikely. He’s also glad they didn’t make the rookie mistake of overloading the story. Kaya thinks all it needs is a cool fight scene.

Saiko wonders if they can do a simple story, and Shujin will feel stupid if so. Kaya thinks he could be more optimistic about his skills improving.

Thrill and Come On Hattori and Miura come to talk to Ashirogi

They give the manga – Stopper of Magma – their all, and Miura approves chapter one.

They work through October and are on track to meet the deadline. Shujin isn’t getting writers’ block, but he’s still challenged by the possibilities the story offers and revisions to make it potentially better.

Kaya reassures him that it’s good, but coming from her, that’s not saying much.

While Kaya puts Shujin in an affectionate chokehold, Saiko points out that Kaya’s tastes align with the Jump readership. Shujin remains unconvinced despite it being the best possible work they could have done. Harder than MIA, easier than Tanto.

They work up until the last minute and submit it to Miura.

Strike number 2

On their way to Yana University, the boys discuss their poor attendance and get a call from Mr. Miura unexpectedly. Shujin’s shocked to learn that their story didn’t even make it to serialization. Shujin yells frantically at Miura, asking what could have gone wrong. They should have stuck to MIA.

Miura tells them it lacked the “Ashirogi Touch.” Shujin screams that he already knew that. Miura gives a limp-wristed apology while Shujin goes nuclear because of his really dumb bet with Sasaki. Miura points out that Shujin set that condition and tells him to calm down: he’s on his way over and asks to meet at the studio in an hour.

They discuss whether Miura should be trusted, but Kaya reminds them even if they’re good, it’s no guarantee of serialization.

An hour later, Miura shows up with Hattori in tow.

Saiko breaks the act and calls out the fact that Mura’s heel turn was abrupt, and Miura reveals he’s been asking for advice since Tanto ended. He’ll do anything for their success.

Hattori interjects: the next meeting is it, and they can do it without his help. They just need to incorporate everything they’ve learned into this next work.

The boys process this info as the chapter ends.

Thrill and Come On Reaction

Panel of the Week

I chose this panel of the week partially because I like wordplay but also because it’s just a really good character moment for Miura. This is the first time we’ve seen Miura stand his ground in a way that doesn’t come off as a manchild. One of the things I’m learning about in my own comic-making endeavors is that expressions are both simple and universal but take real effort to pull off subtly.

And here we have an example of real subtle face work that would do Scott McCloud proud. A look of sheer, confident determination. And we have Saiko with a mild degree of shock, muted by his own internal machinations. It’s really really subtle, but the cast of Miura’s mouth and the angle of his eyebrows, even the centering of his eyes all convey determination.

The art of comics is rendering simply, what is ultimately extremely complex. So this wins.

Speaking of things coming in threes:

Rule of Threes Rule of Threes Rule of..

So yeah, I think this chapter was almost a little too on-the-nose with the rule of threes thing here. Although I am surprised, they already chambered the cartridge for round 2 after just starting this arc. I still assume this will take most of the volume to see through, but I guess Ohba didn’t want to waste time when we know the second serialization meeting was not going to be it.

And I’ll admit, even though I know for a fact that they will make a successful series – it’s not even a question at this point, and it’s not just because I know writing we’ll get to it – there is some level of tension to the proceedings at this point. And it’s only partially due to the stakes being so comically high.

The real reason is a little more esoteric.

The goal of this arc is not to have the boys make a successful story; it’s to finally dial into what the screenwriting gurus call “great writing.”

Screenwriting and The “It” Factor

There is something of a truism in the screenwriting industry about great scripts that “great scripts have legs” because a truly good script will make its way around town, no matter what happens. If your script doesn’t make those particular rounds, it might be very good, but it’s not great.

And what separates a good script from a script with legs?

Well, as I am coming to learn, it’s only partially to do with the technique of writing. You need a theme, subtext, good dialogue, and interesting characters. But more than that, there is a desire to continue reading and turning the page to the next point. The person reading needs to want to keep reading.

Because the industry is inundated with merely good scripts and above-average scripts, those are in the tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands. But a great script keeps you pushing through it, and you lose track of time.

And I feel personally close to hitting that level of writing myself. Egotistical as it sounds, I’m finding my footing in this regard, and I, too, feel on the cusp of writing something truly worth reading.

So the tension of this arc is not “Will they succeed” that answer is a foregone conclusion, the tension of this arc is “how will all their writing practice add up, and what are they going to create that will make them great?” or, as the editors put it “The Ashirogi Touch.”

And the answer apparently isn’t a death note-style story a la MIA. MIA almost feels like a bait and switch at this point because the premise is so similar thematically to Death Note. I honestly don’t know what kind of story they’re going to do, but I do want to highlight something

Great Writing: Discarded Bits

I didn’t mention it in Chapter 79 because I was so relieved, but a great little piece of writing and foreshadowing came in with Shujin shitting out a satisfactory ending for Tanto and surprised Miura with how good it was.

It’s a throwaway line that’s coming back more significantly and is highlighted in this chapter: Shujin has trained himself to read manga like a mangaka, so he has the beats in his brain on autopilot. But his style is not conducive to open-ended stories. He needs closed loops with a definite beginning, middle, and end.

And that is the Ashirogi Touch.

All the way back in Volume 1, Shujin’s storytelling was noted as being “novelistic” and concretely designed to follow a linear narrative. That’s pretty unique for a mangaka where open-endedness is actually far more ideal a storytelling strategy because you have to curry the favor of the readers as well as tell your story. Normally, a mangaka needs enough wiggle to pivot in the event their original story goes south.

That detail comes to light with his challenge writing the magma story: the possibilities are too endless here, giving him writer’s block. I think the same thing happened with gags in Tanto. The paradox of choice really broke his brain. He needs concrete rules and a story with clear narrative inflection points to write.

The genius of this, at least on a meta-fictional level, is that Bakuman is doing the same thing. It has a very definite beginning, middle, and end and it even has a pretty clear three-act structure a la screenwriting.

The first 40 chapters were getting serialized, and then we have the muddy act 2 beginning, where there are challenges preventing the boys from success, and now we’re at the thematic midpoint where the shadow and the protagonist join. In this case, that’s finalizing their storytelling style in a way that is both commercially viable and also with their own voice. After this, it will head towards the back half of act 2, where they keep the narrative momentum going.

I assume there will be an all hope is lost moment somewhere in the 120s-130s and then a climax in the last 10ish chapters that lead to Miho and Saiko’s marriage.

That’s not a shonen storytelling style. That’s an Ohba storytelling style.

And if I haven’t put a point on it too fine, that is what takes a good screenplay from good to great. Threading that needle of personal preference and audience engagement.

But there was also a ton of other stuff to talk about. So let’s talk about that.

Saiko Ain’t no Dummy

Ok, I guess I should have figured that Saiko found Miura’s change too transparent to be real, so woops. Totally missed that, but it’s nice to see Hattori finally coming out and announcing himself. It really speaks to the bond Saiko in particular, has with Hattori that he can see through Miura’s change of pace and sees it for what it is.

But I also really like that Miura has grown a bit of a spine. In particular, the fact that he’s willing to challenge the boys to go out of their comfort zone and do something totally out of their wheelhouse was an awesome scene. He’s gotten a little more steel and a little more cold iron, and I’m all for it.

Do I think the change is real? To a degree, yes, but not internalized yet. So I don’t foresee it lasting. I’m going to enjoy it for as long as I can, though.

I also like that Saiko recognizes they now have the ability to do traditional manga. As I was saying up there, they didn’t have that at the beginning because they didn’t have the hours put in. Mileage matters, and experience is king. The more experience you get, the better you get. Obviously, there are qualifiers to that, but it’s more true than people realize.

But Saiko, this chapter was great.

But if there was one thing that drove me nuts.

Iwase and Hattori

While Hattori is always the best, this whole subplot with Iwase being hot for him to get over Shujin is already grating. I like that Hattori is playing it adult, but I’m ready for this to be over. It feels unnecessary at this point, and even if Iwase is honest with her desires, I still don’t like how her attraction to Hattori – or transference, I should say – is being, again, conflated with her manga-making abilities. It’s squicky.

But Hattori continues to be the MVP. He must be tired of winning, pulling all these strings, and making everything happen. I actually kind of like that he’s putting the brakes on his help for the boys at the end of this chapter because now they are ready. And that readiness is exciting enough on its own. And more importantly, for the boys to get to that point, they need to do it themselves.

Do I think Hattori will stop helping? Probably not. But he is going to pull back, which is good.

And finally, there is …

Shizuka and Kaya and the Next Steps

Kaya was great this chapter as a sounding board for what Jump likes. She’s just been playing the best support role ever. Never change, Kaya.

But I’m more thrilled with Shizuka being grateful and awkward. It’s just so nice to see the guy making progress. This has been one of my unexpectedly favorite arcs so far, and I hope it continues to be so.

As for what the next manga will be? I don’t know. There was a panel where they showed the manga they’ve worked on to this point: serious sci-fi one-shots, a detective manga, and a gag manga.

Given that the series has made the first 80 chapters something of an equation for greatness – as a lot of storytelling is – I can only assume that these three stories are going to be key to the story that ultimately makes the boys successful. But I wonder what equation will make a serious sci-fi, detective, and gag manga gel.

Iunno, but I’m looking forward to finding out and seeing them writing something with legs.

Until next time,

Peace

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