In Art and Merchandise, We Get a Great answer to an Eternal Question (Bakuman Chapter 90)

Hisashiburi Da Ne, welcome back to my read-through of Bakuman Chapter 90: Art and Merchandise in which we discuss Japanese puns, the meaning of art, and new characters.

I am incredibly sorry about the last several months of silence. There was a lot going on – some of it I can talk about, some of it I cannot – but I want you all to know what is going on so we can be on the same page. Yay accountability. I’m working on an explanation post.

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

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Art and Merchandise Summary

Cool design and Assistants

Shujin admires the dual look of the main character; Saiko’s excited for a name. Shujin, however, is struggling with the number of potential choices he could use. Saiko tells him to take it easy until he finishes drawing the piece, at least.

Dropping the issue for the moment, Shuijn lets Saiko know he’s finished chapter two and that the final designs can be implemented with Hattori’s approval. He’s worried about how close Saiko’s cutting it, though.

Saiko calls Hattori at the part and lets him know about the character designs. Hattori managed to sneak out of the party to check out their work so they can gets started. Hattori is blown away by the cell phone strap idea and asks if Saiko would like the new assistants to come over the next day. Saiko wants to wait until he’s gotten some work done to save time.

The main character's new art and merchandise drip

Saiko and Shujin discuss assistants coming over on Thursday. Hattori has found two for them, but he hasn’t mentioned anything else. Shujin was hoping for Nakai, who would be perfect, but Saiko didn’t want to ask him, thinking it rude to interject in his life and if he were to come back, it would be for his own work.

Meanwhile, in Akita, we see Nakai again for the first time. He’s bored, eating junk food and watching TV while his mother scolds him for being a petulant shit. She invokes his dead father and his uselessness before he throws a hissy and goes back to bed, his shelf still holding Hideout Door.

Well, that, unfortunately, checks out.

Names: Moriya and Shiratori

At the Takagi Apartment, Shujin struggles to come up with names, now relying on puns related to the word zero. Kaya’s both confused and bemused by his punny names.

Shujin beta tests the name Goemon Nezumi, but Kaya thinks that sounds like a gag manga name. How about Lupan Aruse? Kaya does not appreciate the pun about…eating bread? Shujin is at wit’s end because he can’t think of a name that ties to perfect crimes. Kaya wonders whether the name needs to be related at all or if it just has to be cool. Shujin prefers to make their names relevant to the story. He promises to think harder as he goes to bed.

On Thursday, Orihara tries to dig up some information on the incoming assistants Moriya and Shiratori. He sees Moriya was short-listed for the Tezuka award, and his artwork is good, but on Shiratori, there is nothing.

At the same moment, the two arrive. Saiko’s a bit nervous as his new assistants arrive.

Hattori introduces the two. Moriya is younger than the boys and attended design school but dropped out to pursue manga. He’s serious and wants to improve his craft. Everyone is happy to meet him and introduces themselves.

Shiratori has just graduated high school and sent his illustrations to join Nizuma’s team, but because nizuma was covered, he was brought to Ashirogi instead. He’s been dependent on his parents, so he’s eager to make some money doing something he likes. He doesn’t, however, have any manga experience.

Moriya is confused as to why he’s even bothering with manga.

Shiratori continues with the unnecessary self-effacement: he couldn’t get into art school to become a painter but saw an ad to work as an assistant for Jump and thought he’d give it a try. Moriya is even more concerned by his lack of dedication to manga and disdains Shiratori’s lack of seriousness. Hattori explains that they live very close to the studio, so they don’t need to stay the night; they are both very talented.

Orihara, uncomfortable, makes a self-effacing comment about being at the bottom of the pile but Shiratori sees him as a senpai and Kaya thinks he’s being modest.

Hattori takes Saiko aside and confirms that Saiko knows how to handle this, having been the third time he’s gotten assistants. He confirms he can and Hattori peaces out.

A test

There’s an awkward silence and Saiko decides to take charge. He provides some pages with outlines for backgrounds. He wants a uniform style so only one person will be drawing them. When asked, Saiko confirms that is currently his preference.

Orihara is ready to prove himself; Moriya is outwardly inexpressive but believes he’ll beat Shiratori easily; Shiratori notices his confidence.

At their desks, Shiratori asks if he has to draw along the provided outlines directly. Saiko isn’t too concerned either way and is looking to see if their instincts are good and if they’re quick.

Moriya and Shiratori quickly finish before Orihara and take their work over to Saiko for review, but he won’t review until Orihara has finished. 15 minutes later, Orihara brings his over, which makes Moriya very confident.

And Shiratori gets to do backgrounds to everyone’s shock. Orihara is congratulatory, and Moriya is furious.

Nakai living his best life without art and merchandise

When asked why Saiko explains that Shiratori’s style is closest to his own so he wants him to do backgrounds until things settle down a bit. Moriya accepts this answer. For now.

Art and Merchandise

Orihara, meanwhile, is excited to work on Perfect Crime Club as is Shiratori; as is Kaya, but Shujin is still deciding on a new name. Orihara likes the name, but given the existence of a foreign film with the same name, they want to be safe. He also explains to them they’re trying to change the name as well.

Shiratori doesn’t understand why it matters if the manga is already good. Ashirogi wants every last detail to be perfect so they’re making any changes they can now to guarantee being the best, especially for popularity and rankings.

Moriya is disgusted at the mention of popularity and rankings, but Orihara explains that basically, all first chapters get first place and that it’s a truism among mangaka. Shiratori didn’t realize that. Saiko clarifies that not every manga’s first chapter gets first place, but the editors don’t want mangaka to get ahead of themselves.

Moriya thinks it’s wrong to talk about ranking and popularity and thinks manga would be over as an art form if it were simply crassly commercial.

Art and Merchandise debate rages

….uhhh, wut.

Shiratori points out that Jump’s lifeblood as a magazine is saleable – popular – manga; in that frame, all works can be considered a product rather than art pieces. Moriya thinks it’s impossible to create good manga with that mindset and then takes a snipe at Shiratori’s lack of experience. Shiratori bites back: What should good manga be?

Saiko’s concern and Moriya’s answer is straightforward: manga is a form of self-expression, and all manga should be a personal expression of the artist’s creativity. Shiratori ripostes with the obvious: even if you like it, that doesn’t mean others will buy it. Many people need to like it, and it needs to sell, so it needs to be a product; ranking and sales mean everything if you want to draw for Jump and you shouldn’t work for them if you don’t understand that.

Saiko interrupts the conversation by telling Shiratori to stop. Shiratori apologizes for not considering Saiko’s perspective.

Awkward silence.

Moriya asks Saiko’s opinion.

He explains that they are making manga for the purpose of selling it. Shiratori claims victory, but Saiko continues: they’re not talented enough yet. Ideally, they would be writing something that is both artistic and touching to readers.

Back in the day people forbade kids from reading manga because they thought it was infantilizing, but it is now becoming accepted as an art form, so they should make something that aspires to that ideal. Because they don’t have the skill yet, ranking and popularity overtake artistic considerations; not only that, there are many ways to make an omelet, and no two people are the same.

The situation quickly defuses, with both Moriya and Shiratori apologizing for their remarks. Orihara remains his chipper self. Saiko ends the drawing session.

Inspiration Strikes

Kaya decompresses after that stressful situation; Saiko sees them as having totally opposite ideas, either of which could be valid. Shujin has an epiphany.

Art and Merchandise personified by Shiratori and Moriya

When asked what he’s on about, Shujin explains he has an in for figuring out the names of the characters. He figures it out.

Instead of focusing on crimes being a source for their names, he should focus on the good things they’re doing. He provides three names: Makoto Domoto, Minoru Tokunaga, and Mai Annojo. If you connect the Kanji for those three names, you get “Moral and Truth”; the opposite of crime. It’s a nice little bit of irony playing into the serious humor, and the names do sound measurably cooler.

Saiko thinks these are it and Shujin gets annoyed with how easily he came up with them, especially with all the writer’s block. The title is the only thing remaining, and there are ten days til the draft is due so they can take their time.

The final draft is completed on time, with each of the assistants satisfied with their work.

Shujin also created a title in time.

The title is


When asked what this title is – not related to a drug of the same name – he explains he replaced the word “Club” with “Party.” Party in this case being like a political party and the implication of fun and good times. Plus PCP is a fun abbreviation.

In Japanese, maybe.

Shujin even has a logo design tentatively designed.

art and merchandise pCP logo

Saiko is eager to get right on this logo and trace it out. he asks if Shujin has told Hattori about the names. Saiko’s gonna call him; due to the hour, he’s not sure if he’ll come by, though, or wait til tomorrow. An hour later, Hattori thinks the final draft is perfect and that the boys are committed to making a hit.

Saiko confirms that they are going to land first in the ranking and that they’ve put their all into making something the readers will love.

With that, the chapter ends.

Art and Merchandise, Reaction

PCP is…a choice

So there is a lot more substantive stuff I could start this reaction with, but given that I am American and PCP has a very specific connotation over here, I’m just going to giggle at the absolute absurdity of this conclusion to the naming arc. If they thought Perfect Crime Club was bad, I’m not sure how The Angel Dust party is much better.

Hehe. Angel Dust.

Ok, I swear I’m done.

That said, it is a catchy – or should I say memorable – title, and I guess we have some resolution on this arc for the time being. So that is also cool. Also, the whole thing about it being a party was…amusing for all the wrong reasons. But hey, I’ve read Sanctuary; I’m hip to the LDP and the Diet and STUFF.

Pfft. PCP.

Anyway, as always we have more chapter to talk about than should be reasonable for manga, so let’s just jump into it:

Moriya and Shiratori

I already like these two as characters, and I can only imagine that these entire last few chapters is localized around their designs and naming choices. They are both very distinctive characters. Their names are also extremely distinctive and if I knew Japanese better, probably puns.

I can guess at Shiratori since the climax of this chapter is Shujin using a riff on the Japanese word game to come up with the characters’ names. But Moriya I’m a little lost on. Does anyone know more Japanese than me?

They’re also metonymous characters, which we’ll get to in a sec.

As far as liking the two characters, I prefer Shiratori over Moriya for a few reasons. First, familiarity breeds contempt, and there are parts of me that are pure Moriya with his pretentious views on things and art. But also, even though in real life, people like Shiratori make me insecure, I tend to like good-natured relaxed people who just kinda go with the flow.

I’ve been trying it out lately, and it’s pretty nice. Do recommend if you ever get the opportunity.

One of the struggles lately for me has been that I’ve been saying yes to a surfeit of things and just rolling with it, and I’ve gotten further on my intended career paths than ever as a direct result. it’s been an adventure.

I’ve also been comically busy.

But I digress. I see the more likable part of myself in Shiratori, so I like him more; I see the less likable parts of me in Moriya, so I like him less.

And egotistical as it is, these characters being so archetypical actually works in their favor since there are so many fucking characters in this story that having them be no more complex than “Pretentious Art Weirdo” and “Gentle Softboi Good at Art” trope is enough for me.

Plus they also bring up the chapter’s central dichotomy and question:

Is Manga art?

This is a debate as old as time: should we make *snooty voice* ahhht, ars gratia artis, or should we treat stories as a way to peddle merchandise and make oodles of money for capitalists who use it for investment portfolios?

The answer, at least to me, is that that is a very binary view and therefore not nuanced enough. And I love me muh nuances in stuff and things. I sorry, for all the people who hoped I was more surface-level and likable.

But really, I think the distinction is moot. It’s what we in the biz call a False Dichotomy because I’ll be straight with you: art has always been about money. Always.

Dante didn’t just write the Divine Comedy because he was an obsessive artist who loved his craft and wanted to craft a piece of literature that would be the definitive Italian text for centuries.

He wanted a fucking patron.

Leo Tolstoy wrote War and Peace in increments in a magazine to make monies, even though he had monies.

Picasso was absolutely shameless about wanting money and painted things on commission to make assloads of money.

Charles Dickens: wrote serialized stories to make a fuckwad of cash.

Filmmakers do not become filmmakers solely for the love of the medium.

And that’s the squeeze: the people who are most famous for art were often the most aggressive in their desire to monetize it. And back in the day, I mean way back in the day, artists would pursue patrons – as in “patrons of the arts” – who were rich people who wanted to give artists the space to create by not having to worry about a paycheck.

So I think this debate is largely a modern one because now we’re expected to earn money sustainably to get by, and we can’t rely on Patrons. And because Patrons are so few and far between, the market for art is often high risk, high reward.

As a compromise, we developed this idea that we have to do things for the art of it alone because the money is an impure unguaranteed secondary part of it. But, again, that’s simply not true.

So I think Moriya and Shiratori are both right. And I actually think Saiko’s answer is the best possible middle ground. Focus on making something people want to read – and Shueisha can merchandise into oblivion – but focus on making it the most genuine expression of you that you can do. And then you will make something good.

Obviously, you can go too far in either direction, and I have a feeling Moriya and Shiratori are going to pull apart in those directions of their own volition down the line. But for now, the debate is settled.

No, it isn’t, but I will pretend it is because there is other stuff to talk about.

Shujin’s naming problem

This little thread was one I enjoyed quite a bit, not because the puns mean anything to me – it’s been three years, and I’m only now starting to appreciate the puns in Saiko, Shujin, and Ashirogi’s names – but because it’s such peak creative process bullshit.

Like, the idea of doing everything in your power to come up with a name, or something creative, and then trying everything – and I mean literally everything – until you randomly just stumble on the most obvious option that was so obvious it is physically painful to think that it didn’t immediately come to mind.

Obviously, it’s not actually obvious; it’s just your brain rearranging the creative box until it finds the right angle, which also makes Shujin’s comical efforts a bit more funny. He’s trying to come up with a name the way he always has instead of trying other angles, and it’s the other angles that help him.

In any event, given my limited knowledge of Japanese names. I don’t know how well this pun translates, but given how punny shonen manga is as a whole, I imagine once I’m further along in my journey, I’ll have a greater appreciation for it.

That said, there is the elephant in the room.


Sigh. This dude makes me sad. He was dismissed 20 chapters ago, and he’s finally reappeared, and I could not be less thrilled.

It’s a throwaway moment in Akita where he is pushing 40 and doing precisely nothing with his life, but again, I have a feeling he will return somehow. The law of conservation of characters being what it is.

What I do like, however, is that they haven’t actually made him a badass and have kept him a fucking loser. Which feels more, uh, realistic, given his previous behavior. And it’s a nice little undercurrent to the brutal nature of manga: you have the skill or you don’t.

But the pregnant panel of Hideout Door on his shelf and the fact that his sulking also reads like an all-hope-is-lost moment to an uncomfortable degree, and the fact that we still have about 90ish chapters to go make me distinctly worried about where and how Nakai will come back into the narrative, and what havoc he might wreak.

But I guess we’ll save that for another chapter.

Until next time


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