In Dress and Surprise, the Best Surprise of All is Another Delightful Chapter (Chapter 84)

Hello hello hello and welcome to my read-through of Bakuman Chapter 84, Dress and Surprise, in which we continue the no-hitter with another delightful chapter.

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

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Dress and Surprise Summary

A Perfect Crime

Picking up directly where the last chapter left off, Shujin declares that this excursion has given him the idea for their next manga: A Perfect Crime Manga.

Called it.

Saiko freaks out and points out they can’t write about Crime in a shonen manga magazine. Shujin clarifies it will not be about bad people or legit real bad crimes like murder. It’ll be like the minor crime of stalking like they did with Hattori.

Wait.

Shujin reminds Saiko that he enjoyed their day of “crime,” and Saiko thinks the concept of a “perfect crime” is pretty cool in the context of something so silly and minor. Silly and serious: serious humor. Boom shaka laka.

Saiko remembers the hijinks with Iwase and Hattori, and Shujin thinks they must have looked very weird, trying to stifle their laughter. Shujin reiterates that the humor doesn’t come from the prank itself. He then references Miura’s and Hattori’s suggestion of Candid Camera and making a perfect baseball play the joke. The mishaps of creating the “perfect crime.”

Shujin explains the protagonist is a boy who admires perfect crimes, and Saiko picks up the pieces: he admires perfect crimes, but he won’t commit real ones.

Shujin then offers a potential first crime that’s extremely trivial: The character sees a pencil case on a nearby desk. He takes down every detail and then replaces it with an identical pencil case with the user none the wiser. Shujin provides other alternatives that are equally trivial.

The elaborate lengths to which he goes and the pettiness of the crimes will make it exciting and funny.

Dress and Surprise Shujin tells Saiko his idea.

Shujin’s other ideas include breaking into a bank and leaving a note “I was here” without stealing anything.

Saiko’s pumped at that because he loves bank robbers and breakout movies. Although they can’t use those ideas because they’re actual crimes.

Saiko gets his own ideas, such as Nazca Lines and Crop Circles – if aliens weren’t responsible for them, and although Shujin’s pretty sure the crop circle guys copped to faking them, the idea is correct.

Shujin thinks the first idea should be super trivial and it’ll start in elementary school, but then he’ll find other kids doing the same thing; they team up and become

The Perfect Crime Club

Saiko thinks the idea is genius and can implement the serious humor that Hattori told them about. It’s still technically cult because the characters aren’t doing good things, but it’s something relatable to kids and they have wiggle room to build up to something bigger. Bigger and bigger entities will discover what they’re up to and have to hide their identities, etc., etc.

Shujin suggests another perfect crime that’s not a crime. They’ll rearrange their manga shelves from left to right to right to left and then have Kaya look for volumes and see how flustered she gets. The two laugh at the silly idea they’re taking seriously before realizing a crime like that would be too close to a candid camera because they can do it while she’s away.

Shujin plans to start on the storyboards immediately after getting some sleep since the trains should be running again.

Inspiration for Shizuka

Yamahisa informs Shizuka of his lagging popularity at 9th place and that he should aim to improve his standing. Yamahisa thinks the bosses will approve Ashirogi’s series at the next meeting, and because of the high stakes, he assumes they are likely to use a revised version of MIA. Given the crossover between True Human and MIA that means 9th isn’t good enough, and since his work is too dark for kids, they’ll have to think of something different.

Yamahisa asks if Shizuka wants to go to Disneyland.

Yamahisa confirms Shizuka’s age of 20 and thinks since they’re ahead of schedule, they should go have some fun, relax, and get Shizuka some life experience. Yamahisa lists off several fun activities they could do amusement parks, Bowling, Daikanyama, Harajuku… a hostess club.

Shizuka goes for the Hostess club. Yamahisa is all for it.

Yikes.

A Special Birthday

Shujin wakes up after having slept through the whole day. He’s spaced out and staring at Kaya, planning out his next perfect crime. Kaya tells Shujin she won’t be home after 2 PM the day after tomorrow; when asked, she explains she’s going to Miho’s birthday party to give her a present and have dinner. Neither of the boys will be there since Saiko sends a message yearly.

Dress and Surprise Fourth Wall Break at Kaya's Expense

Shujin confirms that he won’t be joining and asks Kaya what she got Miho. Kaya got her a nice dress from Yakusa hill town. Something special for the big day, wrapped up all nice now that she’s turning 20.

Shujin takes that information in and goes off to storyboard. Shujin dials Saiko with his next perfect crime. Shujin confirms that Saiko will be available for that, right? He’ll be at Hill Town at 2 pm

That night Shujin finds Kaya’s gift and photographs it.

Perfect Crime Number 2

At Yakusa Hill Town, Saiko can’t tell where she bought the dress since there are a million clothes stores. Shujin elaborates that it could be a serious humor moment by pasting a serious face on himself in a very meta fashion.

Shujin explains that part of the fun of the perfect crime is figuring out which shop it came from, otherwise, Kaya would have gotten suspicious.

They can find the same wrapping paper and the same size. Saiko doesn’t know what Shujin was expecting, given that they gave identical instructions to Kaya. The two-part ways planning to reconvene later.

That night, while Kaya is sleeping – and Ohba slips in the most blatant fourth wall break in the series – the boys slip past her while Saiko wonders at the propriety of showing off his wife to “people.”

Meanwhile, Miura worries because he hasn’t heard from the boys in five days. He’s panicking because of the stakes and how Hattori and Miura’s futures are also at risk if the boys fail.

Miura decides to call Saiko instead of Shujin because of his anxiety and hopes that Saiko is awake, given that it’s 1 am.

The call comes right as they pass Kaya, and they panic as Saiko shuts his phone off.

Kaya rolls over in her sleep adorably.

Shujin chews Saiko out for having his phone on, but Saiko reminds him that Shujin wanted him to keep it on him just in case, and besides, he wasn’t expecting a call.

Miura finds the fact that Saiko’s phone is off suspicious, even if he is asleep.

The two part ways.

Success and Success

The next day the boys go over their successful “crime” while working on the storyboards. Shujin finds the phone debacle hilarious in hindsight, even though Saiko thinks it’s too cliche to actually use in a manga.

Shujin’s pumped at getting insight into his character – the excitement and feeling of accomplishment afterward – and claims he might be hooked on crime afterward.

Amazing.

Saiko is already done breaking even remotely bad, knowing that Kaya would have whipped his ass five ways from Sunday had she woken up, and they only have a month left to focus on storyboards.

Shujin is on fire, his hand moving of its own volition to get the storyboard. He hands the first 8 pages over to Saiko. Saiko is shocked.

These are the best storyboards Shujin has ever given him. Shujin’s confident they will only get better from here.

The next day – November 5th – Shujin goofily tells Kaya to say hi to Miho for him. Kaya takes it totally the wrong way and is ready to Sock Shujin. Shujin explains he’s just going to be working on storyboards.

The boys commit to finishing the first chapter today. Saiko also tells Shujin that it was Miura who called them; Shujin’s unworried as it’s probably just Miura checking in on their progress.

At Shueisha, Aida yells at Miura to have Ashirogi get a move on because the deadline is dangerously close now. Even hattori is sweating at the possibility. Sasaki watches impassively while Yoshida and Yamahisa speculate on Ashirogi’s demise. Miura calls the boys and asks in a panic what’s going on.

The boys assure him they’re working on their new series, and it’s a hundred times better than MIA. Miura’s shocked.

The Perfect Crime Executed.

At Miho’s birthday party, Kaya gives Miho her “Dress,” and Kaya wants her to open it toot-suite. Upon opening it, Miho thinks it’s the best gift she’s ever received.

Kaya’s thrilled and tries to play off the compliment until Miho asks if Saiko was asked to do this. Kaya then sees what the “Dress” actually is.

It’s a beautiful hand-drawn portrait of Miho saying Happy Birthday. Kaya thinks it’s beautiful. She wonders if it was from imagination. She denies that before Laya remembers that she also got Miho a gift.

Dress and Surprise a surprise for miho's birthday

At that moment, there’s a delivery from Kaya with her dress, which Miho also likes, but Kaya feels disappointed about after following up Saiko’s gift.

Saiko receives a call from Miho and instantly panics. She thanks him for the gift and asks for the generally reasonable gift of drawing her every year, even though he’s a professional mangaka. Saiko’s totally cool with it. Kaya wants to know when they swapped the gifts. Saiko concludes the call and reminds the audience – I mean Shujin – that surprise is a key feature of a perfect crime.

The chapter concludes with the complete storyboards for Perfect Crime Club chapter 1. Saiko wonders if the similarity in name to a movie about murder will be a problem; they can change it if they need to.

Dress and Surprise Reaction

Aww Yeah Baby

We’re back. Still feels good to say. I have to say that now we’re in the “proof of concept for perfect crime serious humor manga style,” and we’re just on the cusp of the boys finally nailing it; there has been a definite sense of energy building that I am 100% here for. And I’ve said that for a few chapters now, but it bears repeating here because the momentum for this new series is building.

And hey, look, that narrative underline of “perfect crime” ended up being totally relevant. So yay me. Called it.

As with anything the series does, whatever the boys are doing, Ohba himself is doing as we’ve been over so many times it’s almost not worth repeating, but I like it, and I like commenting on it because it’s commenting on itself and that particular recursion is one I fuck with.

Anyway.

In hindsight, this is kinda the perfect series for Shujin to indulge in and is the more or less perfect solution to the disparate elements that birthed it. Detective Trap has a very similar premise and relies on these elaborate plots while still being a detective; Tanto relied on nifty inventions that create situations which is a bit of an inversion, and MIA is just dark and brooding and about crime. Shujin’s nothing if not consistent, and this idea is a clever mixture of all three that creates a unique flavor.

And I think that’s no more evident because it seems this chapter is the most fun Ohba has had in a long time with the series. And clearly, the conceit works.

The Perfect Crime

Even though the perfect crime is one that is never found out, I still like the basic premise, given that it’s going to be small potatoes, not actual crimes that the protagonist is going to engage in. It makes it more comparatively wholesome while still being kind of dark and a little messed up, but also funny because of how that darkness is being subverted due to, well, the silliness of it all.

And that was all brought to bear in Shujin and Saiko’s birthday hijinks.

We’ve had plenty of subtle meta nods throughout the series – and I have commented on every one of them, thank you very much – but there has never been a traditional fourth wall break, or at least one so blatant as the gag of watching Kaya sleeping. I think that’s the first time where the subtext of meta-commentary was dropped in favor of a Gintama-style joke about showing off Kaya to the audience.

I loved it. Literally squealed with delight like a little girl. Sue me. It was great.

But also, the “crime” itself wasn’t an actual crime, which, thank goodness, because Stalking Hattori was 100% an actual crime, even though the stakes were weird and low. It was actually very sweet.

And if I’m being honest, I love stories with nominally dark premises that end up being wholesome and affirming. So I can get behind it. But I can also tell that the enthusiasm for this style of storytelling is peeking through, which brings me to a point that was mentioned in a previous chapter off-hand, but really bears repeating.

Mangaka have to like the manga they are writing

This is kinda the cardinal rule of storytelling in general, but when someone likes the story they are telling, it always bleeds through. There is a sense of enthusiasm that isn’t tangible, but you can tell it’s there. And it’s clear to me that the real-life duo like this part of the story way more than what they’ve been telling because it’s very enthusiastic.

For one thing, Saiko and Shujin are actually having fun. One of the things I love in particular – and maybe the subconscious reason this is working for me – is that the conflict isn’t centered on Ashirogi struggling at something but struggling intentionally to make something great.

My favorite part of this series is when the manga is the chief focus. And the creative process is very hard to capture in a way that’s narratively compelling, but this is a very narratively compelling way of doing it while also being wholesome and forward-thinking. There is tension not in the possibility of failure – they’re not going to fail – but in the excitement that comes from realizing a truly good idea.

This may be a particular feeling to artists, but feeling excited to be working on something is one of the rarest pleasures. A sense of satisfaction that drives you to take risks and fight for an idea is such a gift. And Ashirogi’s enthusiasm – more specifically Shujin’s – is infectious. He’s executing scary ideas because he wants to make a good idea.

That’s still tension, and there’s still conflict. So it works.

If I had to speculate, though, I feel that there was a change in editors or Aida and Ohba/Obata finally found a way to marry their taste. I have to point out that this is pure speculation on my part, but given that there is a precedent established in the text, I can see it as, if nothing else, a plausible explanation.

Editor Changes

Since I assume Hattori is going to be their editor again at some point – it’s a narrative inevitability. But this chapter is as good a time as any to discuss what appears to have been an editorial change at jump recently.

There is a new editor for My Hero Academia, and it shows. The pacing has changed, and it seems that some – if not all – of the people who liked the series are more enthusiastic about the change in tenor. The editor – who also oversaw the derailment of Red Hood and Samurai 8 if I remember correctly – is apparently not working there anymore.

So the fact that there has been such a change in momentum could indicate a change in the guard overseeing the production of Bakuman at this point in the series. Or, as I just said above, Aida and Ohba/Obata have found a suitable middle ground for their tastes and interests in service of the story.

In the interest of fairness, it is likely that Ohba planned the broad beats of the story beforehand and that one of the arcs he envisioned was the boys having to grind a series they didn’t want to make right before the narrative midpoint. That would make sense.

But as we have seen, manga doesn’t get carte blanche to do whatever they want unless they hit a certain threshold of success, and even then, that’s no guarantee. I would be surprised if the popularity of Bakuman had dipped during the Miura/gag manga arc.

If this way of storytelling is a compromise, it’s one i can get behind because as is reflective in the boy’s writing, it’s one that eminently works for Ohba’s style, and I think it’s the right narrative direction for the boys to take.

I’m also not gonna lie; seeing Saiko get excited is getting me excited.

Miho’s party and Shizuka

Mihos birthday party was very cute, and it’s a reminder that narratively the series has covered five years of time, which is nuts. Saiko’s birthday present in particular, was very sweet, and I thought made the perfect crime proof of concept work all the more. And it was funny too.

As for Shizuka. I may have to reassess Yamahisa’s good influence depending on how this chapter plays out. While I think Shizuka does lack human connection, I’m not sure a hostess club would be an ideal starting point for a shut-in to deal with. There are so many mores and social cues that hostess clubs demand of their patrons that Shizuka does not have and is likely to fuck up. Especially with Yamahisa prodding him.

While I like what Yamahisa has done with Shizuka, I think him not more actively pushing against that suggestion is a…problem. Especially given his relationship with Aoki and women in general. I do not like where this could head. But I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, for now.

As for Yoshida and Yamahisa talking shit about Ashirogi within earshot of Miura. It’s shitty, but that’s just how they do.

And also, poor Miura. Must be a big ol’ ball of stress given the series of events currently transpiring. Yikes.

Anyway, even Hattori’s sweating, so the heat is on. Who will come out on top? Will the boys succeed?

Only the next few chapters will tell.

Until then, I’m excited.

Peace

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