In Spies and Next Time, Bakuman Delightfully Breaks the Formula to Commit a Perfect Crime (Chapter 83)

Howdy homies, and welcome back to my read-through of Bakuman Chapter 83: Spies and Next Time, in which Bakuman breaks with tradition, the boys get embarrassed, and Hattori gets stalked, and I’m almost ok with it.

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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As for scheduling: I am hopeful that I will be back to a more regular schedule in the near future. August was a weird, frustrating month, but I’ve made every effort to make sure that the series can keep running. It’s been a juggling act. I am, however, committed to finishing.

Spies and Next Time Summary

Shujin’s Scheme

Picking up directly where the previous chapter left off, Shujin looks at a letter from Hattori and dials Saiko, who is asleep. Shujin asks Saiko to skip their only class and hang out all day, starting at 7. Saiko asks to be woken up at 6:30.

The next day, Shujin and Saiko meet for Shujin’s plan: to tail Hattori. Shujin even bought pre-paid Suica cards to keep things anonymous.

Uhhhh…wat.

Saiko wants some clarity as to why they’re doing this. Shujin is not precisely sure, which only alarms Saiko further. So Shujin clarifies that he wants to outfox the fox. Does that mean finding a weak point? Yeah, functionally. Saiko points out they should be doing this via making a manga. Shujin is aware, and Saiko pieces together that this is likely to do with making their next manga.

The boys get near Hattoris’ residence but have trouble figuring out the map to find where he lives. Then, Shujin receives a call with a fancy ringtone and tells Saiko to mute his phone. Fortunately, Saiko’s already done it.

The call is Kaya wondering where Shujin has gone. He explains he’s at Kikukawa station, which alarms her. He has Saiko confirm they came in with commuters and that it’s to gather ideas for their next manga. Saiko has a realization, and Kaya tells Shujin to be more upfront next time.

Shujin then suggests disguises of hats and sunglasses, which Saiko thinks is kinda ridiculous, which it kinda is.

Stake Out

The boys get the disguises and find Hattori’s apartment. Saiko points out the editor’s day doesn’t start til 12, and it’s only eight o clock. He might not even leave his apartment today. Shujin says they’ll go tomorrow if that’s the case.

Saiko is grumpy about the mask, not having a car and their lack of a driver’s license, and the fact that he’s hungry and cold. Shujin explains they’re both there in case they need to grab stuff, should they need it.

Shujin thinks they’re lame and look like hobos.

After Five hours, Saiko complains about how lame being a cop must be and asks whether Shujin wants to make a cop manga. Shujin hasn’t come up with an idea yet.

At that moment, Hattori leaves his apartment, and the boys track their target. Saiko remembers the time they staked out Miho’s house in middle school, and Shujin remembers their immaturity. Back then.

Pffft.

The boys follow their mark as he heads to the train station. Saiko assumes he’s headed to Shueisha, but Shujin is uncertain.

Saiko is on the money, and the boys have to wait until he leaves the office to continue following him; Saiko grumbles about potentially having to wait all day to see him again. At that moment, Saiko notices Takahama walking toward them. Saiko deduces he’s meeting with Miura, and Shujin points out he might be their competition.

Saiko is concerned they might be fucking around, but Shujin is dead serious.

They then see Yujiro humming, Ibaraki prancing around like a jackass, and Takahama coming out with a smile on his face. Saiko asks to say hi, but Shujin thinks it won’t be the perfect crime if they talk to him.

Saiko asks what he means by that phraseology. He just doesn’t want to be noticed by anybody. The two assure themselves that what they’re doing is definitely not criminal. Definitely.

Hattori’s Day

At that moment, a wild Hattori reappears to the boy’s relief, and they wonder what he’s doing. Lunch? Maybe, even if it’s at 4 in the afternoon.

Nope, he’s going to a bookstore. The boys put on their disguises of glasses and a mask and head in. They stand beside him while he seemingly speed reads the books, much to Saiko’s chagrin. Shujin wants to see what he’s reading, so they tail him. Hattori goes to pay, and Shujin catches what he was reading.

It’s a book about relationship etiquette, and Shujin assumes he has a girlfriend or a crush. The boys get a laugh out of Hattori’s human foibles and start to have fun doing something that’s definitely not illegal.

Spies and Next Time the boys spy on Hattori's reading habits as they tail him.

The boys continue following him as he walks around, much to Shujin’s annoyance, who wants to have more faun tailing his car. His next stop is a restaurant. Saiko wants to stop here, but Shujin demands they keep going, and Saiko shakily agrees to it as long as it’s from a distance. Nope, Shujin wants to sit right next to him.

Saiko is exceptionally anxious as he’s straight up stalking Hattori, but Shujin tries to ease his mind with the sunglasses. The thing that is totally appropriate for being indoors.

Jesus.

They hear a familiar voice talking to Hattori, turn around, and find…

A Dolled Up Iwase

The two speculate whether this is why he bought the book, but Saiko remembers this is probably their editorial meeting because she lives in Ochanomizu. The boys are gobsmacked at her choice of attire, and Shujin’s never seen her in a short skirt.

The two discuss her outrageous clothing choice, with Saiko describing in uhm…uncomfortable detail her very short skirt, low-cut top, and makeup. Shujin wants to ogle, but Saiko warns him not to. Shujin reminds him that even if Iwase is…well, nuts, she’s hot, so he wants to see. Saiko offers to tell Kaya about all of this, which keeps Shujin in line.

Saiko reminds Shujin to keep things lowkey for the time being so they don’t get noticed. Shujin wants to eavesdrop anyway and confirms it’s their editorial meeting. Saiko still hasn’t picked up on what the big deal is.

Saiko then asks Shujin about Iwase’s interest in Hattori, and Shujin explains he thought that was a bluff.

At that moment, Iwase asks Hattori whether she’s pretty. And she drops her jacket, which, understandably, freaks Hattori out and makes him do a spit take.

He politely asks Iwase to sit, but she refuses to sit until he answers her question. The boys struggle to contain their laughter. Hattori makes a gentlemanly statement about how she’s too young for him, which cracks the boys up even more as they realize this was the book’s purpose.

Saiko wants to leave before they die too loudly when Iwase asks what Hattori does for fun.

Saiko can’t handle how basic Iwase is and Hattori’s equally basic answer of “reading.”

Iwase then asks Hattori to watch a movie. He’s OK with that as long as it’s as her editor. She wants a date. The boys are shocked by how strong she’s coming on and see a storm coming should Hattori reject her.

Hattori returns to the subject at hand but Iwase will not let this go. The boys are about dead as Hattori rejects her, and they escape before they reveal themselves from laughing their absolute asses off.

The Next Stop

The boys cannot believe Iwase’s behavior and wonder what she’s thinking. However, Saiko brings some humility to the table by reminding him that she’s a super successful author/mangaka, and they’re twice canceled.

An hour later, the two leave the restaurant. Iwase is clearly upset, and the boys commiserate with Hattori’s girl trouble. Shujin thinks Iwase might be too good for Hattori. Something Saiko warns him not to repeat lest he tell. Saiko believes he’s headed back to Shueisha, but Shujin insists on following him.

Hattori makes a call and goes to…Shueisha.

Outside the building, he meets with Yujiro and Miura. Miura explains that Yujiro overheard Miura talking to him, and they all go. They all grab a taxi, and Shujin is thrilled to be able to get a taxi and should “Follow that taxi.”

The taxi driver hasn’t heard that in Five years.

uhhh, what?

At the bar

Saiko debates going into the bar because of their age, but Shujin thinks they should lighten up, given they are in college and all their compatriots are already drinking. Besides, they can order cokes. They go to the rose bar on the fifth floor. Saiko asks about money and girls, but Shujin brought all his money.

Saiko’s relieved that there aren’t any girls, and Shujin admires the bar. They can take off their hats because of the dim lighting. They find the three and take a seat. Hattori asks how Ashirogi is doing; Miura hasn’t heard from them in three days, so he decides to give them a call. Ashirogi remembers to turn their phones off.

Miura finds their phones are off, and Yujiro – already slightly drunk – rambles on, hoping for the boys to succeed. Yujiro continues his drunken ramble about having the drive to succeed and how the young need to aim high and need ego and the thrill of adventure. They are the only two rookies with the ambition to be on top.

Spies and Next Time Iwase Dolled up for her editor's meeting with Hattori

Hattori reminisces on their first meeting and how Shujin wanted to gauge the commercial viability of their series while Saiko wanted to gauge whether Hattori was a good editor. They were only third years in middle school. The boys seem embarrassed to hear this about themselves.

Hattori then gives a delightful little monologue about how five years on, he still hasn’t found a rookie with even a little bit of that fire and drive. They’re destined for greatness, and he’s been behind them from the start.

Miura apologizes for being their editor. Hattori’s indifferent to that; he wants the boys to prove his faith is well placed, or because he believes it is well placed, he wants them to succeed.

The boys are moved by this and follow Hattori back to Shueisha, then one of the last trains home.

The Idea

It’s almost 3 A.M. by the time they get back home. Instead of finding Hattori’s weakness, they found out just how much he cares. Saiko was motivated by Iwase and Takahama.

Shujin decides to go to a restaurant to kill time until the first train in the morning. He asks Saiko about what he thoughts of the day. When Saiko says he was motivated, Shujin asks whether he had fun. Saiko thought it started rough but got fun, especially with Iwase. The fact that she was so serious made it hilarious.

Serious humor, Shujin’s eyes light up. Tailing + Serious + humor = our next piece.

Saiko’s shocked: their next piece will be about following people. No, but Shujin now has an idea.

With that good news, the chapter ends.

Spies and Next Time Reaction

Delightful

This chapter was a pure delight to read on basically every level. It only reassures me that we’re headed into more significant territory now that the boys are, quite literally, on the trail of their next big hit.

Also, I totally won’t gloat about the story as an equation thing, but no, wait, I am because I called it. At least in the sense that Shujin has finally put the pieces together to make their next story.

Tis excitin’ y’all.

One thing I liked about this chapter specifically is that it’s a proper break from the Bakuman formula in a lot of key ways. Most notably, it relies on real-life dramatic tension rather than the more mundane dramatic tension of trying to get your manga turned into a successful series.

I still like the latter, but it’s nice to see the former done so well and humorously, yet totally seriously, like Hattori said.

I’d go so far as to say that Ohba is pulling the metafictional card again and showing us just how satisfying this type of storytelling can be because, on some level, he wants to prove to us that he’s capable of it and because he knows that the boy’s path to success is not necessarily with a Death Note-esque cult series, but something different.

Either way, I’m here for it.

The Importance of Stakes

I think one of the reasons this chapter works so much better than, say, the Hospital arc *shiver* is that the tension and stakes are so relatively and comically low that the tension feels just right. But, to be clear, and god, I have to make this shit clear or else someone might mistake me:

DO NOT STALK PEOPLE LIKE THIS. It is illegal.

OK, cool, now that we’ve established that this is genuinely illegal behavior and you should not do it, in context, I was OK with it, if only because Hattori and Ashirogi’s relationship is one predicated on the ambitious pursuit of manga at all costs. A fact underlined by the very heartwarming monologue at the end of the chapter, which we will get to.

Like, I think if Hattori caught the boys performing this chicanery, his response would be bemused, at the very minimum. Still, Shujin would explain to him his goal or play it off as being in service of their next piece, and he’d be cool with it because he knows they need to pull off a straight miracle. Plus, I think he’d appreciate the hustle.

Do I think he’ll ultimately find out about it? Maybe at a time when it’s not narratively important, but otherwise, I don’t think he will because clearly, the act of not getting caught is part of the point.

Speaking of…

A return to crime

There was a bit of narrative underline in this chapter that was so…I don’t want to say blatant, but highlighted a little too strongly to be a coincidence. And that’s when Shujin mentions this being a “perfect crime.” I don’t know what he’s cooking up, but given how regularly his stories revolve around criminals and morally dubious situations and locations, I have a feeling this is a more significant statement than he might be letting on.

And it makes sense, given that their most successful work to date was Detective Trap which featured a con artist detective. So clearly, Shujin has a distinct interest in the law and how its inverse can mirror it. And that’s, well, pretty interesting.

I don’t know if I’d particularly enjoy reading something like that, to be clear – I’ve never read any mystery manga out of the quite unfortunate i tell c. Still, it’s just not my vibe, but I think Shujin’s very interested in it and because I’m rooting for the boys, that makes me interested in it.

So I wonder if sci-fi will factor. I’m not actually sure right now, since it seems that this idea is predicated on something pertaining to crime, but who knows?

I really don’t know what’s going to happen, but I like speculating. And if it’s the “perfect crime,” I wonder what that means. Let’s break it down. That could be a good motivation for a character if it were something similar to a detective trap where the thrill is the process.

…I’m getting sidetracked

Hattori

It was interesting to learn that editor’s days start at midday, I suppose it’s expected that they have to be on call to deal with their mangaka, so they have a late start to the day? It was fun to see how Hattori goes about his day, but also weirdly sad.

Sad in the sense that seeing anybody’s habits play out over the course of the day unobserved always seems more mundane and banal than they would seem when they are still a mystery. The demystification of Hattori’s day felt like when you realize that your teacher’s area actually people with lives of their own, who go to bookstores and go on dates and stuff, and that there is all this white noise between the exciting moments.

Which there was a lot of white noise, given that the boys spent almost 24 hours tailing Hattori. There’s something about that solitude that feels kinda…lonely. One of those lonely sensations that you can never quite escape, especially as you get older. The loneliness that comes with adult life.

But the peer into his life was enlightening in other, more rewarding ways.

Spies and Next Time Shujin and Saiko React to Hattori's faith in them

Mostly that final monologue and going for a beer with the bois. We’ve had these semi-lonely, but still rewarding, moments in the past between Yujiro and Hattori grabbing drinks late into the night, but it always does me good to see these moments in little snatches. But that monologue was truly delightful.

We all secretly hope that when people talk about us behind our backs, it’s good things. It is something I myself have made a good faith effort to do as I’ve grown older because I realized it sucks talking shit about other people behind their backs. I’m not always successful, but the effort is there.

But what I liked in particular, aside from how moving that monologue was, was just how embarrassed the boys seem to be hearing about themselves, even though they’re being lauded for their drive. That’s a really honest approach to that kind of eavesdropping. Chagrin.

I also like that Hattori’s first course of action when dealing with a problem is to speed-read a novel when it comes up. Which brings me to a moment I’m still not sure about.

Iwase

Guh. I really don’t know how to feel about this. On the one hand, this bit did elicit a bit of a chuckle from me, only because of how outrageous Iwase has become with her fixation on Hattori. And it was also nice to see Hattori a little off his game and out of his depth because he’s usually so controlled and subdued. But also…

I’m not sure if the joke is on Hattori, or Iwase. I’m more inclined toward generosity only because Hattori is still acting appropriately in this situation and not entertaining this youthful flirtation. But there is also the blatant attempt at fanservice going on with Iwase, which was almost certainly done with forethought and the fact they’re leaning into Iwase’s character flaw being her inability to snag a man.

I like Iwase as a character, and she has more interesting character flaws, and I wouldn’t mind seeing those get a little more play, or at least play in a different context. But for now, I suppose I simply have to dream.

And that’s about all I have in this chapter,

Until next time,

Peace

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