In Win and Lose, A Shocking Cliffhanger is also Silly (Bakuman Chapter 86)

Yolo my humans, and welcome to my read-through of Bakuman Chapter 86: Win and Lose in which cliffhangers are unnecessary but still fun.

If you’re not caught up, please use this index over here. There are no spoilers past the current chapter. Read at your leisure, my friend.

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Win and Lose Summary

I’ve never seen anything like this!

Miura presents the storyboards for Perfect Crime Club to Aida, who reacts with shock that it’s not MIA. Miura is deadly serious. Aida chills, given that it’s a week out from serialization, and he’ll be ok if it’s good.

Aida likes the tense mood before laughing hysterically and quickly reading the rest of the chapter. He thinks it’s great; he’s never seen anything like it. He also gives a little tip: longer comments mean a more boring story, as they can be excuses for poor writing or explanations. Aida chooses to turn it in as is.

Hattori congratulates Miura on the reaction, but Miura won’t relax until Hattori provides his own insights, which is why he photocopied the manga. Hattori thinks it’s exactly what he was looking for and congratulates Miura.

Win and Lose Aida gives Miura the go-ahead

Miho’s Perfect Crime

On December 24th, Saiko joins Kaya and Shujin for Christmas dinner. Saiko is uncomfortable, given that this is the married couple’s first Christmas together, but Kaya promises that they’ll save the *ahem* lovey-dovey stuff until after he leaves. Saiko brings Fried chicken.

I retract my former statements about this series’ chasteness re: Kaya and Shujin.

Shujin’s in a good mood now that the storyboards are off and they have some time to relax. Saiko is equally relieved: he’s never put in work so good. Shujin’s extremely confident about this series and thinks Miho should be there to celebrate. Kaya reminds Shujin of the plot contrivance meant to drive the narrative promise, and Saiko’s already seen her like, twice already, bro.

That said, this work is it: he’s gonna get married like Kaya and Shujin with this one. Kaya is congratulatory and presents a homemade Christmas cake. Saiko’s surprised that Kaya made this.

Kaya gives Saiko the part with the chocolate. Saiko thinks it’s delicious and that Kaya should become a baker; Kaya would, but Miho made the cake’ an Azuki homemade cake. It’s a little surprise as thanks for his birthday gift. Saiko’s bowled over, and all adorably goggle-eyed when he finds something in the cake: a USB drive addressed to him.

Kaya was not informed of this, and Shujin asks whether Miho’s cool with them all looking at it. Kaya calls Miho for permission. Although embarrassing, she allows it, so they hook up the USB, and it’s an audio message of her voice since Saiko gave her an illustration. Kaya was hoping for a video.

Kaya, damn girl.

Miho’s gift is her singing, which has improved since she started taking courses after Saint Visual Girls. Shujin’s shocked by her dramatic progress, but Kaya chalks up her lack of ability to shyness, not inability, and thinks anybody can become a singer.

The drive is packed with Christmas music, making Saiko feel a little guilty. Kaya makes fun of Saiko for being on the verge of tears, and Saiko reaffirms their future success with Perfect Crime Club.

Serialization Meeting Entr’acte

The day before serialization, Aida confirms PCC is going all the way; Miura already read the reviews. Yamahisa is disappointed that it’s going to get serialized no question. It’s even got a young kid demographic appeal which he never expected; although he supposes not being in direct competition with True Human is to his benefit.

Yoshida thinks it draws on Ashirogi’s novelistic storytelling. Yujiro’s expectations have been thoroughly surpassed, and everyone’s surprised that Miura made it happen. Miura’s aware of the truth, however. Yujiro thinks it’s the only good work being submitted, so it’s got it in the bag, no matter what.

Win and Lose Saiko eats a special cake

Aida gives a preemptory congratulations, but Miura’s still cautious: it ain’t over til it’s over. Hattori is secretly on Miura’s side. Besides, being good isn’t the only consideration.

The day of the serialization meeting, the other editors all speculate it will be a short meeting and that PCC and Tadokoro will get in, while the bottom two will get axed. No dark horses this time. Miura’s still cautious even though he’s confident in the work itself. He won’t relax. Miura’s more concerned by Hattori’s demeanor. He looks glum even though he didn’t submit anything.

Meanwhile, at Shujin’s apartment, Kaya wants to prove her baking Bona fides by baking a congratulatory cake, even though the boys are also not confident; she amends it to “congratulations, probably.”

For his part, Saiko remains uncertain, even though he’s confident. That’s because it’s not just the quality that’s in question. It’s whether they can beat Eiji and Iwase with it.

Kaya reminds them there are more magazines than Jump. Shujin wants to work at Jump, and Saiko brings up the very real possibility of having to move to another magazine if they fail. They’ll do that, if it comes to it, even if neither wants to do it. Saiko’s more confident now that he knows they’re going to keep going no matter what.

Shujin will die penniless before giving up manga.

Kaya is pumped by the boy’s optimism and besides they can binge the cake no matter what. Shujin’s still confident they’ll make it, and kaya remembers to keep it positive.

Serialization battle!

At Serialization, Perfect Crime Club is brought up. Aida brings up their editor and his own thoughts that the work is exceptional. Aside from Yoshida, everyone thinks it’s top tier. Yoshida’s logic is that the depiction of actual crimes – breaking and entering and illegal trespass – are bad messages to send to kids.

Aida points out that were they to go with that logic, most of their action series wouldn’t be runnable, so what’s the big deal? Well, it’s the art and the realism make it easier to imitate.

Sasaki agrees with Yoshida, but sees realism as essential to the story. They can’t worry about the potential for copycats, but they do have to be careful. It can be managed. Other than that, Yoshida thinks it’s the best of the bunch.

Win and Lose Miho sings for Christmas

Heishi is pleased to see Ashirogi finally realizing their potential, and the other editors agree. They find the serious humor delightful, and it makes them reminisce about their own childhood. Aida likes the secret club aspect, which reminds him of childhood. They all reminisce. One editor remembers following a girl home to see where she lived; Heishi laughs and points out that’s stalking.

Yikes.

The editor adjacent to Sasaki thinks PCC is a done deal, then, given how much everyone likes it.

But Sasaki says no.

The Conditions

Sasaki reminds them of the conditions: it has to surpass Crow and +Natural. He gave it good reviews, but if they can’t clear that bar, it’s done.

The other editors scramble to figure out whether it’s better than those two or not. The editor running the meeting decides to switch gears – this being the case – and asks everyone’s opinions on whether PCC is fit to fight against Crow and + Natural. Aida’s firmly in the PCC camp and wonders why they’re even debating it. He’s yay, it can win.

The square-chinned editor thinks there’s sufficient bias to taint that opinion.

Both Heishi and Square Chin recognize to beat Eiji will require being at the top of the magazine, which will be difficult. Aida points out that it’s speculative unless they give it a try. Heishi reminds him that no piece is theoretically incapable of surpassing NIzuma. It’s their job to figure it out.

Sasaki pulls the focus back to the question at hand: will they beat Nizuma or not? Yoshida thinks its novelty and quality will be advantageous and that it will likely do well.

One Hour later

The debate rages on; they debate Nizuma’s literal years of experience vs. Ashirogi’s pure grit and hardship. The argument has run off the rails now that they’re comparing their backstories.

Sasaki offers to put it to a vote. Win or Lose.

Aida’s freaked out that it’s coming down to a vote on whether Nizuma can be beaten. Sasaki goes on with it, starting with Onishi. Onishi votes no, citing several reasons working against it.

Yoshida votes win.

Nakano votes lose

Aida votes win

Heishi votes lose

Square jaw – who is also conveniently not named at this moment, and I’m not willing to look up his name at this point – votes that they will win.

A tie.

Sasaki is the tie-breaking vote.

Before Sasaki has the opportunity to vote, Aida reminds them all of the stakes here and their future. Square Jaw is aware, but Aida should be grateful Sasaki even took a vote.

The boys are at home, waiting for their success or failure to arrive. Shujin asks Saiko whether he thinks that PCC can win against Crow and + Natural.

He remembers that they once caught up with Crow using Detective Trap: he’s sure it can win.

When asked the same question – the deciding vote by Sasaki is.

No….

As the chapter concludes.

Win and Lose Reaction

Whhattttt

Ok, so either this is the biggest jebait in cliffhanger history – may be slight hyperbole – or a deus ex machina is about to come out of here like Promare and pull the boys out of the fire because I do not believe for a second that Sasaki’s going to get away with this no.

That said, the cliffhanger do be working good and I’m eager to find out what’s next. But I don’t buy for a second that this is actually going to be the end of PCC. But we’ll get to that in a second.

Again, we have an excellent chapter in a veritable no-hitter run of chapters for Volume 10.

Of all the volumes I’ve covered so far, this has got to be one of my favorites because it’s keeping tension – relatively – high while also being focused on the conflicts I’m genuinely interested in, without pandering too much to melodrama to keep it going. Mostly.

There are a lot of weasel words in the above statement, but just like the editors in this chapter, I’m willing to overlook some of the more contrived elements because when reading a story, it’s all contrived, so neener neener.

But as for why I don’t buy that Cliffhanger

That ain’t Shonen

So, while it’s not common, in western storytelling a character can lose at a critical juncture and have to pivot to something else this far into the narrative; if it happens, the narrative pivots to a different route. But that’s a western point of view.

This is shonen, baby.

And the one thing about shonen, above all else, is that its storytelling has a code of honor. The genre’s earnestness will not permit it to broach a possible alternative narrative route. When someone is fighting larger-than-life stakes, the only way out is often an act of god because the characters have to be pushed to the absolute limit, and there can be no pressure valves or alternatives.

Just look at One Piece, Hunter x Hunter, Food Wars, Gurren Lagann, or even seinen Manga like Vagabond and Kingdom. When a character enters into a vow that’s existentially threatening, they are required, narratively, to see it through or die in the attempt.

Often, this means that the narrative gets cheapened with some industrial-grade asspull like many of Jojo’s endings, but it will never end with the character losing.

Especially in Jump, where it’s in the masthead: Persistence, Friendship, Victory.

So while the cliffhanger is an excellent cliffhanger, there is no way that Saiko or Shujin will ever actually work for another magazine, nor will Perfect Crime Club not be serialized. It is an almost immutable property of shonen manga that makes it an impossibility.

Do I know how this situation will be resolved, however? No. I don’t, which I like a lot.

But there were other things worth bringing up in this chapter.

The Editor’s Struggle Part III

In my third part of a series that I’ve not officially codified, I like that this chapter, again, goes into the many considerations of what constitutes serialization. Which is, as often as not, the quality of the manga.

While I think it’s true that you have to be good on some level to get made, it’s also true that external forces are going to make some things impossible to serialize. Or something will get serialized even if they don’t strictly observe it.

What I like about Yamahisa’s observation about the cut-and-dried nature of this particular meeting was something that has occurred to me, but not in this way: if there aren’t any truly excellent manga submitted to serialization, a manga of lesser quality will likely be chosen.

I can totally see this happening too. There will be situations in which the applicant pool is weak, but it’s all they got, and they have to choose something. It’s how some series I’ve read in Jump likely got their chance. Cause I’ll tell you this, after 4 years of reading Jump, not all manga are created equal.

But by that same token – stupid stakes notwithstanding – it must be something else to finally get a piece of work that is true, blue, good manga. Like, ‘s so good it’s not even comparable. If when I read the first chapter of a manga, I know it’s good, that bone-tingling sensation, that sense of flow, that it factor is there, that was present at the serialization. And by that same token, if I feel nothing, I feel that the editors may have similarly felt that nothing was there.

But there were no other alternatives.

And that’s not to mention legality, which PCC brings up, which I guess we have to talk about because…

Real Life Considerations

I think it’s fair to debate this, but at what point is something truly unpublishable by virtue of its problematic content? This is a more ongoing debate in the world at large and it’s largely a silly debate because it reveals inborn biases about the person, rather than the question.

But I find it interesting that they have to consider how illegal the actions of the main characters should be before giving it a go-ahead. Even though it may not seem like it to a layman, the editors are entirely mindful of the work they choose to publish, and they know that, whatever the result, they have to live with it. It makes sense that they should litigate its merits and ability to rub off on impressionable children.

Nowhere is this more evident than the panel in which Heishi and Square Jaw laugh about the fact that he stalked a girl, and it’s written off as a joke. In fact, that panel choice was particularly jarring in the context of the discussion. OR maybe Ohba used it to highlight a point.

But where is the line, really?

I like that the answer Sasaki – and Ohba give – is not totally unreasonable: it depends on the story. In PCC’s case, realism is part of the appeal, even if it is impressionable. And this could also be said of Bakuman.

But given Nakai’s own stalking, and some of the other things I’ve personally railed against in this series, it’s interesting to see that Yoshida is the one most concerned by it. Which bears discussion.

Yoshida and Sasaki

Yoshida was a bit of an enigma in this chapter. Lately, he’s been made a lot more…coarse and unpleasant to deal with. Especially when it comes to Hiramaru, and I think that’s partly what makes his final yes so satisfying when we get to it. I can only imagine what the actual real-world Yoshida thought of his portrayal at this point in the series run, but I can’t imagine it’s good.

In any case, Sasaki is also uniquely complicated this chapter, partially because one of the real-life considerations is, let’s face it, a plot contrivance used to drive the story, but I get the distinct feeling that Sasaki is being personally swayed by his feelings towards Ashirogi rather than his editorial instinct.

And that’s interesting to me because Sasaki, in many ways, is kinda the least humanized character in the series. He’s much more representative of this platonic ideal of an editor. If it’s good, it’s good. He doesn’t have those moments of pettiness or frustration in the same way all the other characters do. He’s there to drive the story and be a gatekeeper of particular difficulties.

But I can’t help but feel in this case that the hold-up is precisely a matter of his own petty feelings regarding the whole situation. I do like the little parallel sequence of Saiko thinking they can win and Sasaki thinking they can’t.

That said, hers being overly harsh. And I think he’s mindful of that. Which may have a role in how this all shakes out.

But I have not at all discussed the boys, so let’s remedy that.

Miho’s Perfect Crime and Win or Lose

Miho’s perfect crime was absolutely adorable, and the true fax about singing cracked me up. Also, Kaya was adorable. There’s snot much to say about that.

What I do like, however, is that the boys are confident but not dumb. And trust me, there is a difference.

Narratives love to play this game where when someone’s cocky about the victory they’re going to lose. And that sense of invulnerability comes off as insufferable or desperate. We’ve all been there; it’s a mixture of confidence and foolhardiness that makes you think you got whatever happens but that you’re not going to lose.

But that isn’t really what confidence is about.

As Miura, Saiko, Shujin and Hattori – with his own sixth sense – demonstrate, they’re showing the real confidence that it takes to succeed, and not cockiness.

Because real confidence isn’t assured of an outcome, it’s assured that no matter the outcome, it will be alright.

I like that the boys are practical about what this loss means and the stake here, and I like that no matter what, they are going to pursue it. I have been in a similar state of mind recently, given my shifting careers. I am committed to moving forward no matter what path I take, although there are paths I would rather not take to get there.

And I think that confidence and faith in themselves – but more importantly, their passion for manga – is what will ultimately contribute to their success in why they’ve written something good. Even though Saiko still has a silly reason for doing something, he genuinely loves manga and is willing to go the extra mile to realize a vision.

That love of process creates success. Not through magic but through perseverance and hard work. And It’s why I’m confident the boys will succeed. And it makes me hopeful.

But I don’t have much to say because the boys are in a state of semi-relaxation. They are resolved to move forward, win or lose, which is what true winners do.

And I am here for it.

I’m excited to see how this shakes out next chapter and see what is likely to be Perfect Crime Club.

Until next time,

Peace

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