In Hint and Best, The Punchline is Deadly Serious (Chapter 82)

Yo, my dudes, and welcome to my read-through of Bakuman Chapter 82: Hint and Best, in which we talk about meta-jokes, War and Peace, and setting.

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

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Hint and Best Summary

A Hint

Picking up where the previous chapter left off, Miura and Hattori encourage Ashirogi to incorporate all they’ve learned into their writing to beat Eiji. Miura then asks the obvious question: uhhh…how?

Hattori reminds them there are no guarantees, but he has a potential Eiji-killing Idea. The boys ask him to stop being a cocktease, so Hattori asks how they felt writing Stopper of Magma. They didn’t like it. Tanto? Shujin’s blunt: it was torture.

Miura takes the news well enough, although he recognizes they liked MIA.

Miura confirms with Hattori that the first step is that Mangaka have to like the manga they’re working on. Hattori confirms this fact, but also thinks MIA being turned down is a good thing since it’s not Eiji-level work. He also brings the advance copy of Jump featuring True Human: Shizuka will have to be a sub-boss and their direct competition before they can think about Eiji.

Miura and Hattori agree that the story is super dark and, therefore, a niche story. The story features monsters – true humans – coming to annihilate humanity for its greed. Saiko sees the cross-over with MIA. Miura thinks MIA is better. Hattori thinks that’s mostly true, but there are ways True Humans exceeds MIA.

For one, MIA‘s setting is too complex while the main character is not: MIA needs to rely less on its setting.

Miura doesn’t understand why that matters since it was Hattori’s suggestion.

Shujin sees what Hattori is getting at: Stopper of Magma was used to simplify the process. Make it as simple as possible. Miura finally sees the light while Saiko explains that Shonen manga – regardless of its appeal – it will fail if the setting is too baroque. Miura wants to confirm this insight for himself, so he asks Hattori.

Hattori wanted them to take one not away more than anything.

HUMOR

Bruh.

Miura is confused since we just had a whole arc about Ashirogi’s lack of humor skills. Hattori explains that MIA, True Human, and +Natural are all humorless. Saiko thinks humor distracts from the narrative.

Hattori explains he wanted them to figure it out themselves, but he realizes he should have had them make a non-mainstream story with humor. Hattori points out that Shujin can write for any genre, as he has proven with all their previous works, but unconventional stories will be his strength. To beat Crow, + Natural, and True Human, adding humor will be vital. But not jokes or gags.

Humor with a serious delivery

A joke that will make the reader laugh without trying to make them laugh. Only serious stories can accomplish this.

Sounds like a koan.

Miura is confused, but the boys pick up what Hattori lays down for them. This is the key to victory. Make people laugh at serious things. It’s not only good.

It’s an Eiji killer.

Miura’s confused.

Saiko explains using Otter as an example

Serious Humor

Saiko explains that you’d think the story was a gag manga based on its setup, but it’s actually funny because of its serious moments. He pulls out Issue 27 from summer last year and shows a sequence in which Otter No. 11’s friend – the human-faced otter – is exploited on Sumire TV.

So Otter crashes a truck into the station to save his friend.

Wild.

Hint and Best: True Humans first volume

Miura laughs, remembering the sequence, and realizes that, were it not for the otter, he’d find the moment badass. Hattori points out that Hiramaru was so serious about the sequence that it’s funny, regardless of whether he was trying to be funny. And even though it would fly over kids’ heads, they’d still like the otter itself.

Hattori reminds the boys of the two types of successful mangaka: the genius who just writes and the mastermind. Hiramaru and Nizuma are simply geniuses, and Shujin is a mastermind. Shujin confirms that he has to come up with humor that seems unintentional, then: yes, and Saiko’s artwork will clinch the sale.

Seriousness and Humor will work alchemically.

The boys, like Senku, get excited at the prospect of doing this. Miura admires Hattori’s ability to invent a genre for the boys.

Saiko points out that this has been all part of Hattori’s keikaku (that means strategy) since pairing Nizuma up with Iwase and the speech at the wedding. Hattori demures, explaining the serious humor was an invention he came up with courtesy of Miura.

He explains that when reading Tanto he found the gags impressive, but felt they were wasted on that story and thought of ways to better utilize Shujin’s gifts. He ends the spiel: nothing you’ve done has been a waste to this point.

Saiko confirms while Shujin starts brainstorming ideas. He realizes that they’re going to need to do something closer to Detective Trap, rather than something like MIA.

Miura sees potential in a Candid Camera-type story. Hattori reminds him they’re not going for laughs explicitly.

Brainstorming Session

Miura then suggests something like baseball bloopers; but Hattori reminds him, again, they want the home runs to be funny. Miura’s down for it either way and thinks the calculation is cool.

Miura apologizes for missing all the very obvious hints on Hattori’s part. But Hattori reminds him it’s just an idea and that there are no guarantees it will work. Saiko and Shujin agree that it is the best approach before the next meeting. Hattori is confident the boys can come up with something. With that, he takes his leave and wishes them the best of luck.

Shujin thinks Hattori should consider acting, given how well he’s manipulated all three of the them. Miura thinks they should be grateful, but Shujin can’t quite put his finger now what’s bugging him about it. He feels like he’s been played.

Miura suggests making the main character like him, but Shujin reminds him they have to focus on a simple setting first.

Otter’s Anime

On October 16th, at 1:15AM, Otter No. 11′s anime commences. Shujin grinds his teeth at Hiramaru and Eiji’s natural genius. He vows to use his calculating mind to overcome them.

Hiramaru is thrilled to see his Otter in motion – even though he’s already watched the advanced copy “millions of times” – and wants to continue watching in lieu of doing work. Hiramaru sees an opportunity for a break now that the anime has started until Yoshida cuts that crap out immediately: he should have taken time off before the anime started.

Now that there are episodes to produce, the staff will want a stockpile of chapters to work with and that will depend on Hiramaru’s hard work. No one likes a manga artist who makes the studio’s lives difficult.

Hiramaru gets surly about this news and pushes back against Yoshida, blaming him for everything. Yoshida points out that Hiramaru was the one who planned this whole thing and the onus of it rests on him. Hiramaru whines about Yoshida being a slave driver and decides to take a break regardless of what Yoshida says.

Hint and Best: Otter No. 11 crashes into Sumier TV to save his human faced otter friend.

Yoshida decides to take a break from providing info about Ko Aoki Tidbits (yeesh) which changes Hiramaru’s tune instantly. Yoshida having quieted his mangaka, gives his tidbit: Aoki likes Earl Grey tea.

Hiramaru is thrilled until he realizes that tidbit is like pulling a common pokemon card but Yoshida pulls his slimy salesman tactics to point out that knowing her tea preferences as he can now order tea for her should they be together. Hiramaru is excited about the next tidbit. Yoshida points out that Yamahisa is his subordinate, and he is her editor.

Oy. Oy. Oy. Oh lawd that’s all kinds of messed up.

Getting the News

In late October, Shujin still hasn’t figured out a setting for the manga, despite having a clear direction. Shujin struggles with the idea and frequently meets with Miura. Shujin realizes the serious humor is even harder than gags which compounds the setting issue. Saiko suggests they also revise MIA just in case as True Human isn’t doing very well. Shujin is convinced that the humor route is key and MIA isn’t the right story. Shujin vows to keep tinkering right up against the deadline.

On October 31st, Aida chews Miura out for not having their storyboards, and he told him not to wait for the 11th hour like last time. Aida reminds Miura of the stakes.

Another editor asks if Sasaki will really follow through with banning them from Jump. Aida confirms it as obvious as otherwise it will make Ashirogi seem like they’re getting special treatment.

Fukuda is shocked to learn of the stakes they’ve been working under; Yujiro only informs Fukuda because of his own concerns. He doesn’t want Fukuda making another scene, though. Yasuoka is bummed that they’re on their last life in this particular video game.

Yasuoka suggests giving the boys a pep talk, but Fukuda – knowing them – thinks it’d be best to leave them alone. Yujiro’s more worried about Nizuma losing motivation if Ashirogi gets blacklisted.

Nizuma sees Hattori’s been aiming for the final serialization meeting from the start, and has faith in Ashirogi’s ability. He’s excited to see what they come up with.

Hattori also has faith in their abilities now that it’s a do-or-die moment.

Kaya is informed by Aoki of the stakes and she immediately starts to worry. She calls Miho to discuss the matter, who also was not informed. Miho tells her to be quiet about it for the time being.

Shujin is at his desk and takes out a letter from Hattori as the chapter closes.

Hint and Best Shujin picks up a letter from Hattori

Hint and Best Reaction

Humor, huh?

So, I think the best joke of this chapter is, obviously, the meta-joke with Hattori and his major note. Maybe it’s not obvious though, so let’s get into it.

Miura’s one-note character beat has been his one-note of adding more humor. Here we are, waiting for Hattori to provide an insight that will break through the boy’s barrier – like, say, a conveniently timed truck – and the note?

More humor.

Iunno, it got a chuckle out of me given just how brazen that setup is by Ohba on this one. But the fact that the key is, apparently, humor is one of the better uses of hiding in plain sight I’ve seen in a while. Especially given this particular setup. Because, I dunno if you noticed it. But I noticed it.

It’s an example of the type of humor that Hattori has suggested for the boys.

In fact, the punch line is played so serious that I didn’t even realize it was a joke for a few seconds. So on some level, I guess it fails as a joke. Maybe others got that bit? Lemme know. I’m curious to hear.

In any event, I think this whole gambit has a lot of potential and since it is what the series wants Ashirogi to do, I’m curious to see how it will pan out.

But I would be lying if I said it didn’t surprise me that the equation featured humor at all. I mean, I guess it makes sense, since.

Great Art is often Funny

I’m not saying that you need a million gags an hour. But you do need to have humor of some kind in most really good stories. In fact, I’d say the thing that often separates truly great literature, movies, and art from merely good art is a leavening of some humor.

For example. I’ve been reading War and Peace because I’m one of those people, and at least in the early parts of the story, when we’re getting introduced to the aristocracy and the front, there is a very candid description of events and people down to the last nose hair and little gesture that defines the characters. And in observing the characters and situations in such minute detail, everything reads as slightly satirical, like it’s taking the piss out of these characters, even though it’s a very earnest depiction of them.

So far, my favorite “funny” sequence is the one in which Pierre Bezukhov is engaged to Helene Kuragin without actually specifically proposing to her. It’s tragic – especially as later parts bring it to bear – but the fact that Pierre doesn’t even technically ask for her hand in marriage, and everyone acts as if he does is some comedy gold.

Is it meant to be funny? Well, I think so, given how frankly absurd some of the things that happen are. The description of Anatole Kuragin as being fundamentally decent but blind to the needs and lives of others; Berg being entirely self-involved, but in such an earnest way it reads as endearing rather than obnoxious; Prince Vasily’s not even feigned indifference to everything, but understanding the levers of power and how to play people.

It’s funny.

And this is a common feature of other great stories. Casablanca is humorous but not ha ha ha funny. One Piece is gag filled and humorous. Hell, Berserk for all its darkness still has its moments of brief levity.

Because you need to cut the tension sometimes. I honestly think one of the reasons Marvel has sustained itself so long is, despite how cloying it sometimes is, its inherently snarky attitude towards its subject matter gives it a generalized appeal that really sets it apart from DC.

So I think this tactic has a lot of ground.

And if Ingmar Bergman says to be funny, be funny, man. There is one other thing I liked about this chapter

Narrative as equation

This chapter is very much a culmination of the previous manga as I said last time. And I mentioned that stories are very much equations. What I mean by that is more explicitly underlined by Hattoris’ play here.

I do feel rather vindicated that my prediction that they’re going to combine what they’ve learned from all their previous manga isn’t subtext at this point. It’s really gratifying, y’all.

But this is a feature of narrative that is often overlooked. I think partially because if people came into stories with this mindset, it would rob some of the pleasure out of it. But there is a kind of algebra that goes into long-form storytelling. Especially Shonen.

You start with your end goal which is like an algebraic resolution. Boy wants to be the best mangaka and get an anime adaptation. To do that he needs x + y(4) or something, but with units of narrative, often defined in larger arcs.

Each of these arcs defines a variable that gives us the final answer. Most of them are for soft skills like learning to pace oneself, or learning which skills to play to. Some of these variables are hard skills, like magic or drawing. And in this case, some of these variables are the product of hard work.

Maybe a series of equations is a more appropriate metaphor.

In any event, Gag + Mystery + Serious = Success is the current goal. Maybe sci-fi too, although that seems less likely, given that Shujin has to focus on making a story with a simplified setting.

Which I haven’t touched on but is worth going over

Does simplified setting matter?

I’m of two-minds on this. A lot of the stories I like feature large worldbuilding with elaborately crafted worlds that have their own complex cultures and styles.

But Hattori isn’t wrong.

Bakuman and Death Note are good examples of a simple world with a complex plot and characters. they’re the real world with one element emphasized to create story. It’s a low-calorie version of sci-fi that can yield great returns if utilized effectively.

And more complex world-building is often geared towards an ultimately simple design and execution, relying on tropes and cliches to ground the reader in something familiar, so that the unfamiliar is more palatable. Given the shonen demographic is teens, it makes sense that having a simple setting.

That said, I like rich fantasy worlds, so I don’t totally agree that a complex setting is necessarily a deal breaker, just that it should be in service of the story.

Anyway, we haven’t talked about the other characters yet, since this chapter was really focused on the meta stuff (yay.) so let’s talk about those real quick.

Hiramaru….yayyyy (monotone)

Yeahhhhh, I wasn’t super jazzed this chapter to read about the exploits of Hiramaru and Yoshida. Mostly because the joke continues to wear itself out the further along it goes. But also because Yoshida is getting increasingly scummy as it goes on, and man, I don’t know how they got this past the editorial department with how much mild character assassination is going on.

I guess since this isn’t the real-life Yoshida, it’s probably OK. But I gotta say, using the power differential between you and your editor so that you can get little tidbits about a girl to motivate your own mangaka to produce pages is some peak scuzz shit right there. Like Yamahisa is getting revived bit by bit, but that is genuinely gross. And if I have to explain to you why it’s gross, uhh, we got some problems bud.

I did, however, get a chuckle out of Hiramaru’s planning his break around an anime announcement only insofar as it makes sense to want to celebrate that with a little break, but it’s also theoretically the worst possible time to do so because you need a healthy consistent stockpile of chapters as Gintama so cleverly explained.

But yeah, gross.

Team Fukuda

It was nice to see Team Fukuda’s response, and that they know Ashirogi well enough not to interfere. It was particularly nice to see that Eiji continues to read people expertly and knows that Hattori was waiting for this. His faith is reason to have faith.

Also because there is no story if Sasaki goes through with it.

I do like that Aida also acknowledges how uncommon this situation is with Sasaki’s resolve to shitcan the boys should they fail. I’d be salty as a mangaka if my fellow mangaka kept pulling these hijinks only to get off scot-free each time and face no tangible consequences for their actions.

And Miura is also back to his old self. Sigh.

Anyway, it’s alarming that Shujin hasn’t gotten his shiz together yet, but I have faith he’ll figure it out. I wonder what that letter is.

I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

Until next time,

Peace

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