Yellow and welcome to my read-through of Bakuman Chapter 87: Cake and Rival, in which Friend and Rival have the same Kanji.
My apologies for posting on Saturday. My Friday became unexpectedly busy, and I could not post in time.
If you’re not caught up, please use this index over here. There are no spoilers past the current chapter. Read easy.
If you would like to read along and support the mangaka, please consider buying a tankobon of the current volume, subscribing to Shonen Jump, or signing up for Mangaplus. I recommend Jump because that’s what I like, but I’m not affiliated with VIZ Media; I just like it when artists make money.
Cake and Rival Summary
Picking directly off from last chapter, Sasaki gives the final no vote, condemning Perfect Crime Club to the nay pile because it won’t beat Nizuma.
Meanwhile, the junior editors wonder what’s taking so long; one of them – whose name I’m not going to look up right now – speculates to Miura that they’re debating Ashirogi’s work based on the actual stakes: surpassing Nizuma and Ashirogi’s future at Jump. Miura thought the quality was all that mattered but realizes Hattori pieced this together earlier, thus his concern.
When Miura asks Hattori whether Ashirogi can beat Nizuma, Hattori’s response is simple: it’s up to the bosses.
Meanwhile, at the Takagi household, Saiko and Shujin are worried about the lateness of the call; Kaya wants them to start eating the cake, but they want confirmation first. Shujin’s relying on the handy rule of threes to save their ass on several levels. Saiko reiterates that they’ll beat Eiji in a different magazine if it doesn’t work out.
Saiko wonder if they could start from scratch with Jump should they let go, like Taro did after he was fired. Shujin reminds him that the condition was NEVER work again if they ended Tanto.
Kaya tries to keep the energy up as the boys sulk at the very real possibility of no longer having a career.
Onishi coming in with the Clutch
At the same moment, Onishi interjects. Onishi asks about the stakes, and the head of the meeting confirms that Ashirogi will never work again should that be the case.
Onishi changes his vote to win. Onishi realizes he can be a swing vote and allow them to enter the yay pile. He rationalizes that it’s totally silly to destroy Ashirogi’s career over this, and he wants to retain them at Jump. There are other magazines that would be happy to take them; they can’t be taken for granted.
Aida re-iterates with his leitmotif that “we’re in a position to alter some lives with our choices radically.” Onishi votes yes.
The landslide begins as Heishi switches his vote to yes as well, agreeing with Onishi’s stance that it’s absurd to let a manga artist go for such a petty reason. It would be different if it were 7-0, but it’s 4-3, which is too close.
The forum to decide whether Ashirogi can beat Nizuma is in Jump, not at the editorial table; Heishi votes yes. More, he votes with the hope that they will be Nizuma.
*fist bump* fuck yeah.
Nakano? realizes that PCC would be a winner, no doubt, under normal circumstances and that the readers should decide. So he changes his vote to a yes.
The leader of the meeting asks Sasaki – the lone holdout – what his choice is.
Perfect Crime Club is a Yay and Awkwardness
But he still votes that they will lose.
With that decided, PCC and John, the God of Catalogues by Shigeo Amada will be serialized. Aida is in charge of both series, then.
Sasaki then asks about any new business. Aida mentions that Hattori and Iwase’s meetings for +Natural have become “awkward.” We don’t get a chance to find out what that means because Aida comes back to let Miura know
ASHIROGI GOT THE SERIES.
Everyone celebrates, and Miura tackles Hattori into a hug to thank him, much to Hattori’s chagrin. Miura decides to call Ashirogi before being debriefed; despite Hattori’s demeanor, he’s also relieved.
The boys get the call and get the good news, celebrating and letting themselves relax. Miura will have details later; he just wanted them to know at the moment.
The knife having disappeared, all three start chowing down on Kaya’s cake with their hands in celebration. The boys discuss the practicalities of their win – a mix of hindsight and relief flooding the convo – while Kaya expresses her own relief. They know that they will have to beat Eiji, even though they don’t know what that means.
They wonder how they’ll fight Eiji but decide to let the issue lie for now and just celebrate.
At the office, Yujiro congratulates Miura and resolves not to let them rise above Crow. He’s going to let Nizuma know.
Nizuma, predictably and incredibly, gets incredibly excited to be fighting his rivals again before jumping into brass tacks: are they good enough to compete with him? Yujiro, surprisingly, is optimistic and wouldn’t be surprised if they did overtake +Natural or Crow. Once Nizuma has confirmation, he hangs up.
Nizuma then calls Ashirogi to congratulate them but also lets them know it’s on. Saiko resolves not to lose to him. Shujin asks to speak, and lets Eiji know that he’s partially responsible and explains how they became rivals pretty much the moment they saw him win the Tezuka award at the convenience store in middle school. They also wanted to cancel Tanto to be a proper rival.
Nizuma agrees and quite manga-dramatically states that theirs is a rival ordained by fate itself, that the kanji for rival can also be read as “Friend,” which suits their relationship well.
At Jump, an email is sent with editor reassignments. Saiko explains that any time personnel change, the editor and deputy editor notify the department by email.
Yamahisa and Yoshida are surprised to learn that Miura will not be in charge of PCC, but rather Hattori will take charge. Miura is equally shocked. Aida apologizes, but Miura wonders if the higher-ups figured out that Hattori was helping, which prompts Yamahisa and Yoshida to scold Hattori for being a sneak.
Miura offers to apologize to the editor – while getting egged on by Yoshida and Yamahisa (yikes), and as Sasaki comes to the office, Miura asks for forgiveness. Sasaki’s nervous – he wants no more chicanery for the time being. When Miura apologizes for getting help from Hattori, Sasaki gently explains that there isn’t any problem with getting advice from another editor, especially when it requires setting aside ego and listening.
Sasaki congratulates Miura because it was his will to do the thing that got it done. Awww
With that in mind, he could see Hattori’s influence on the piece, which motivated the decision to let them work together. Now it’ll be time for Miura to help Hattori out, who had to talk with his captain.
Miura’s confused, but Sasaki continues: it’s natural to compete as editors, but it’s equally important to help each other out. Sasaki thinks it’s the spirit that saved the boy’s bacon this time. Miura’s confused, but thanks Hattori nonetheless.
Hattori’s New Digs
Yujiro and Hattori discuss Ashirogi’s tendency to shake up the status quo: having gotten serialized three out of four years with two cancellations. They’re in the danger zone now, though.
Yujiro is confused, though, as Hattori doesn’t look thrilled that he got exactly what he wanted.
At the same tie, Miura calls to tell them they’re getting a new editor. The boys freak out, but Miura’s sure they’ll be pleased with the choice. Saiko realizes it a second before the news is official.
Hattori is their new editor.
The boys try to spare Miura’s feelings by feeling bad on his behalf, but he wants them to be happy. He wants them to make Perfect Crime Club a hit. They promise to, and Saiko nabs the phone to talk to Miura.
Saiko thanks Miura for all his work and swears to make PCC popular. Miura tells them to bring it because He’s the editor for +Natural: they swapped the series. Miura wants them to do well but vows not to let them win. They make the same promise. Miura promises to drop by the studio to take care of the transfers.
Meanwhile, while eating, Kaya admires how manly they are about manga even though Iwase and Aoki are other girls.
With Hattori on their team, the Perfect Crime Club is complete; Saiko thinks they should do what Miura suggested and be happy and do their best.
Meanwhile, as the chapter concludes, Hattori wonders if it’s really ok to be the boy’s editor.
Cake and Rival Reaction
The Kanji for Friend and Rival
WOOOOOOOOOOOO we did it, we finally have a series that is both creatively satisfying and potentially popular, and also Hattori is going to be running the show. YUS.
I am so pumped, and even though this chapter wasn’t really a conflict-heavy chapter, it was a resolution-heavy chapter which, as the boys discovered in Detective Trap can still be extra satisfying. I don’t even care that it resolved positively that everyone collectively realized how idiotic the stakes were, to begin with.
I’m so satisfied right now, this has been one of the best volumes of the series to date, and I’m pumped to move forward.
But onto the point that this chapter demonstrates beautifully and that Sasaki underlines in a lovely way at the end of the chapter: Friends and Rivals are mutable concepts and reflect two sides of the same coin.
I like that Eiji actually pointed this fact out because, as I’ve discussed, it’s one of my favorite tropes when done well. And in my mind, the best stories often feature a simultaneously antagonistic yet friendly relationship at their core.
Given the end of Better Call Saul, I’ve decided to rewatch Breaking Bad, and Breaking Bad is fundamentally centered around Walt and Jesse’s relationship at its core. Same with Kim and Saul/Jimmy. These stories are not just good because they’re intricately crafted narratives with wild turns and violence and darkness, they’re also fundamentally about people who love and hate each other in equal measure.
And that ambiguity makes for narrative richness. It’s also why Justified became one of my favorite television shows. Raylan Givens and Boyd Crowder are neither friends, nor foes, but a little of both, and even if their narrative paths don’t always cross, their relationship drives the narrative forward. Griffith and Guts; Musashi and Kojiro; Naruto and Sasuke; Asta and Yuno
But what I love about the particular dynamic between Eiji and Ashirogi – and to a lesser extent, Yujiro and Hattori, Miura and Hattori, and Yamahisa and Miura are that their rivalry isn’t predicated on life or death drama, but rather the more mundane, but no less narratively satisfying battlefield of self-expression.
In this case, they aren’t trying to be the wizard king, or Hokage, or the world’s best hero, and so violence and existential threats are non-existent. It is instead the ability to tell the best story.
It pings all my pleasure centers and satisfies me narratively in a very unique way. I also like it because Eiji can be simultaneously encouraging while not giving an inch of quarter.
But I’m rambling; let’s talk about some other stuff in this chapter.
While I’m fine with the result, this is one of those narrative designs that was never going to be satisfactorily resolved in a way that didn’t require some element of Deus ex-machina or a last-minute change that saved them. But that’s endemic to shonen storytelling, where the main antagonist has to be invincible to the last possible moment, so I’m willing to overlook it, especially given how generally satisfying it was.
But I will admit that I didn’t put “everyone realizes the stakes are dumb and changes their mind” on my bingo cards. I feel like Ohba recognized that he wrote himself into a bit of a corner with that one and so pumped the brakes at the very last second with that switch. But again, given the medium, I don’t care. Plus, it’s reasonably realistic to have editors realize how monumentally stupid it would be to just jettison a writer to a competing magazine, especially with such promise because of a bet.
I do wonder what would have happened narratively if the boys did have to move to another magazine; they would definitely end up in Jump again somehow, but at this point in the story, it seems like too much of a diversion to have them cut their momentum by failure. Although I’m sure someone out there would prefer that because it’s more “realistic” or some stupid nonsense like that.
Sasaki still hasn’t come around, though, which seems reasonable. And the boys are also clearly not out of the woods yet, since the condition for beating Eiji hasn’t even been outlined, as they themselves have pointed out while mashing their faces with cake.
And on that note, let’s actually talk about Sasaki for a second.
He’s a complex character, which I like, but I still think that his not letting them get serialized is the product of pettiness rather than his sincere belief in Ashirogi’s ability.
Which also makes his gentle acceptance of Miura at the end much more satisfying.
Sasaki has lately been cast in a particularly harsh and extreme light, but it’s probably worth remembering that Ashirogi have been raising holy hell since they got there, and he has to take care of an entire magazine, so he is bound to be tough. That doesn’t excuse his pettiness, but there is clearly good reason for him to be annoyed at Ashirogi.
Which makes it logical for Miura to assume that he would be on the shitlist for seeking help from other editors.
But, as Eiji outlined, that’s obviously not the case. I really like that Sasaki pointed out that Miura was focused not on his own success but on the success of his mangaka, which is what ultimately led him to be successful. I think Sasaki recognizing these things is a beautiful moment of grace for an otherwise aggrieved character.
Sasaki also just generally fits the wise old master who is much stronger than his wards trope very well, so it was good to see him do that. And that emphasis that editors are rivals and friends was a nice little parallel to Eiji’s comment.
On that note.
So it was obvious the second Aida brought up Hattoris’ discomfort with Iwase where that was heading, but I will say for once I’m not totally appalled by Ohba’s use of women and manga together. Mostly because, in this case, it was grounded in something emotionally mature. Namely, Hattori is not being a scummy piece of shit.
I would be more gentle, but holy shit, it’s such an endemic problem with this series I can’t help it.
To see Hattori doing the appropriate thing with Iwase and have it be part of a grander gambit on Ohba’s part to pair Ashirogi with Hattori, I will admit, was an inspired choice. Although I would prefer he not use a troubled girl’s affections as continued professional fodder for the male main characters, this strikes me as a fairly realistic way of getting the editor’s changed.
There is also the other element Sasaki instantly saw through Hattori’s play. But given how consistently it’s been a problem with this series to make women plot devices or rob them of agency, it’s worth noting how this plot turn is not the worst use of that.
Anyway, I’m happy that Hattori is now the boy’s editor, and we presumably won’t have any more arcs on good vs. bad editors at this stage in the game.
Because one of the elements of resolving longstanding plot threads is you remove them from the playing field or morph them into a new conflict. And given how well the boys and Hattori gel, I don’t see this morphing into some new major conflict that’s going to suck all the oxygen out of the new conflict, which will be, and I love saying this:
How will they beat Eiji?
Now that we’ve gotten serialized, the new conflict will take center stage, and presumably, the next volume – which is painfully close to chapter 100 – will be surrounding a direct confrontation with Eiji’s two manga and Iwase, for Shujin, I suppose.
That’s got me fucking pumped, man.
Given that the kanji from Rival and Friend is Identical, I have to wonder if the next conflict will be focused primarily on Iwase rather than Eiji. Iwase’s relationship with the boys is straightforwardly antagonistic at this point, and she still has to overcome her feelings for Shujin/Hattori. Given that I feel like Miura is not done growing, there is a lot of conflict potential there.
Conflict drives the story, after all, and revisiting resolved elements get boring. So let’s see where this goes.
But it’s finally, truly on between Eiji and Ashirogi. The predestined battle takes center stage now. In some ways, I would prefer this be the final battle – and it may end up being that as well – but it’s hella exciting to see since the rival/protag mid-series rival battles are also some of the most satisfying.
Deku v. Bakugo, and Goku v Vegeta these battles can often be satisfying specifically because they are the most emotionally fraught. There’s never just hate between the belligerents; there is no clear delineation between defeat and victory – and because it’s the midpoint, the main character can still get their ass whooped.
So to say I am excited would be a massive understatement.
I can’t wait to see what happened.
But before we get to that we have to
Work out Hattori’s Hangups
It looks like we’re going to get an insight as to why Hattori feels the need to operate behind people’s backs because the fact that he’s not overjoyed that he has metafictionally completed the Perfect Crime Club (love that panel by the by) and is, in fact, quite upset about this turn of events mean that there are some hangups to look at.
And given how often he can’t often say what he wants, I imagine his doing these strategies informs that behavior in some way.
I guess we’ll just have to find out.
Until next time,