Yellow, amigos, and welcome to my read-through of Bakuman Chapter 91: Vote and Chart, in which I simply relish the joy of a good climactic chapter.
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Vote and Chart Summary
Team Fukuda: FACE OFF
Ashirogi and Hattori meet, and Saiko is determined to get first no matter what: they’ve given it their all. Hattori sees popularity is on their minds. Saiko explains the discussion between the assistants and what the main goal should be. Hattori sees it as a natural question all Mangaka eventually asks but thinks focusing on telling a good story is the key and not worrying about it.
Hattori makes sure that popularity isn’t actually a concern of theirs, but Shujin reiterates the faith they have in themselves. Hattori brings up the only issue: Fukuda’s one shot will be running alongside their chapter, much to the boy’s surprise.
Meanwhile, at Fukuda’s, Yujiro and Fukuda are butting heads about Fukuda’s time, or lack thereof. Fukuda wants Yujiro to jump in and help to meet the deadline for both Kiyoshi and his one-shot: Road Racer Buchigiri. He’s convinced this series will be a winner and will start a tricked-out motorcycle trend just like popular racing series did to cars.
Fukuda also thanks Yujiro for telling him to focus on his passion. Yujiro OK’d the idea because he heard about motorcycle races that kids can sign up for. Fukuda complains about the lack of assistants who can draw cool motorcycles. The bikes are key here. Yujiro thinks they’re good enough.
Yasuoka is concerned about running along PCP’s first chapter.
Yujiro explains that a lot of thought went into that: they want to match Buchigiri against a new series to see how well it will hold up. Yasuoka infers that Buchigiri is being used to test PCP. Fukuda is certain they’ll get first place.
Meanwhile, Saiko draws the storyboards for chapter 2 based on Shujin’s written ones. Shujin worries about how hard Saiko is pushing himself. Saiko justifies it as a new series crunch time so that a few all-nighters will be all right.
That night, Hattori gives them notes to beef up Mai Annojo’s character design to give her some more character. They argue about changing outfits regularly or featuring her in a miniskirt; no panty shots, though (thank the lord). Shujin offers that she wear tights, but Saiko thinks that’s weird. Shujin assures him kids do that.
On February 11, the preview copies are provided to the boys. They immediately read Buchigiri and see a classic shonen manga with Fukuda’s signature panty shots, including speeding past a girl to see her panties.
Hattori agrees with Saiko that the series is a classic shonen and agrees it’s good. Shujin worries about the non-mainstream nature of PCP, and Hattori confirms they’ll have to beat out Buchigiri at least. Saiko believes their work is better but is still concerned.
At Shueisha, the editors on Aida’s team argue about Fukuda’s one-shot. They’re pretty sure votes will be split between the two manga. One editor – whose name escapes me – is not certain the motorcycles will have mass appeal. While Aida agrees, he thinks Fukuda did a good job broadening the appeal; as long as readers connect, a manga can be about anything.
Miura has a question for Aida about Surveys. People say that One-shots and new series get lots of votes because of extra space for comments. Aida thinks comments and survey rankings have little to do with each other. Miura doesn’t bury the lede: will they get first place?
Aida lays out that Buchigiri has a classic story of a boy striving to be number one, so by comparison PCP looks a little more plain (see: boring), but the story for PCP is great. All that matters is how many people include it in their top three rankings. Aida sees this as part of Sasaki’s plan, though.
Eyes on the Prize
On February 17th, PCP debuts to the public. They pass a crowd picking up Jump, and Shujin wants to watch, but Saiko tells him they need to finish chapter 3. Kaya takes a look and sees one reader skip all the way to Fukuda’s. Shujin decides to leave it.
At the studio, kaya asks about the early results, but Shujin explains they’ll only look at the final results. Kaya wants to know, and Moriya is also interested. Shiratori thinks he’s back on his high horse before he mentions he hopes the series does well.
The next day at the Jump offices, the votes are being counted. Yujiro wants to see how the series are doing. One of the editors – Onodera – is reading off the results while another editor tallies. Number 1 is a vote for PCP, Number 2 is for Racer; Crow and +Natural are 11 and 4, respectively. Road Racer is doing well with thirty out of two hundred votes.
The next few results put Road Racer first, with Yujiro getting even more pumped.
On Friday, Kaya asks about the final report. Though exasperated by his wife, Shujin mentions Hattori was in a good mood, so they’re probably fine.
Kaya asks when the results will be released: anywhere from 3 to 5 o clock. It’s 3:52, and the assistants will come at 4:30. Shujin hopes to get the news before then.
Saiko is stressed about it all but receives a text from Miho where she gushes about the new series and the plan to gather flowers for two weeks to write a message; she drops a totally unsubtle hint that she wishes someone would do that for her.
Ok, that’s cute.
Kaya, still anxious, prods Shujin to call Hattori, but Shujin keeps cool and focused. At the same moment, they get a ring at their door, surprising Shujin, who wasn’t expecting the assistants for another half hour.
They wonder if it’s a salesman or something.
It’s Hattori, and he has some good news. He couldn’t believe it but…
They’re Number 1! & The Others
WOOOO. They got first place by a huge margin: 422 votes total, over 150 votes leading. They all loudly celebrate, much to Shujin’s chagrin, as the door is still open.
Kaya and Saiko start a chant: We did it. We did it.
Even Shujin gets in the mood, but Saiko is over the moon. First place by a landslide. Kaya gets in on the “We Did It” train, and Hattori, who was so shocked – he’s never seen those kinds of numbers before – went over to the convenience store for some snacks. It’s time for a celebration.
Meanwhile, despite only getting second place, Yujiro sees series potential for Roadracer Buchigiri. Even though they didn’t get first, they got second with 268 votes which is plenty for serialization. Fukuda is intimidated by Ashirogi’s quality.
Yujiro points out that Kiyoshi only got 16th, despite never going lower than 15th, which is a sign from the fans: write Roadracer; it lends itself well to sponsors and toys, and there’s even a good possibility of an anime from the beginning. Fukuda does a noodle spit take.
Yujiro then digs up the lede: Fukuda can wrap up Kiyoshi and start storyboards for Roadracer; the editor-in-chief has already given the go-ahead. Yujiro wants it to happen because he’s convinced he’ll be the captain once it becomes a hit. Yasuoka is jazzed at the prospect, as is Fukuda, who is still disappointed about Ashirogi, but retcons his disappointment to be all part of his keikakudoori.
Meanwhile, Miura breaks the news to Iwase that +Natural fell all the way down to 8th for the first time with only 112 votes, but only because PCP and Roadracer did so well.
Iwase takes the news exactly as you expect, with unsuppressed fury and a declaration that she will never lose to Takagi and Hattori again. She also orders Miura to have Nizuma redo everything that he has time to redo. Miura says it is impossible, but she commands him to do it anyway.
At Nizuma’s, Miura asks if he might possibly redo everything he’s already done, including the storyboards he has stockpiled. Nizuma asks if that includes his current work. His assistants balk at the insane request, but Nizuma confirms it’s to make everything even better. Miura confirms that case.
And, Nizuma rips up all the pages, thrilled with Iwase’s passion and willing to let her redo as much as she wants until they’re the greatest, much to the horror of his poor assistants and Miura.
A tribute to Nobuhiro
At the studio, Hattori relays the awe at the editorial office over the numbers. They compare the success to Crow and +Natural, and how easily and clearly it surpassed both of them. Everyone’s amazed.
Hattori qualifies their numbers with Roadracer’s success and says that if the two hadn’t been competing, each of them would have done significantly better on their own. Roadracer will definitely be up for serialization. Shujin asks for confirmation and Hattori explains that they hit their key demo but also attracted both younger and older readers. They’ll have to stay on point to keep up that momentum.
Saiko asks if he can have the survey chart.
Hattori denies him: editors are not allowed to provide that information, even to their own creators. He can write down the numbers on a sheet of paper, but no photocopies. Hattori asks if he wants to write down the results. Hattori also wonders if it’s meant as a souvenir for getting first place. Saiko wants to show it to somebody.
Hattori immediately puts the kibosh on that: they can tell their family, but there is information from other writers which is personal to them and must remain confidential. Shujin thinks Saiko wanted to show Miho. Shujin asks for a photo, but Saiko asks if they could accompany him. Hattori seems to pick up on something, and they leave the office.
They drive to a cemetery, Saiko holding the survey. He shows it to his uncle’s grave: they got what he always wanted: first place in Shonen Jump. Shujin gets emotional at the sight and thinks Nobu would be happy.
Saiko thinks he’d be jealous, laughing, and blame it on having it be their first chapter. Shujin’s still emotional, but then Saiko mentions that Nobu would mention that Fist of the North Star got 700 votes at its most popular, which freaks Shujin out.
Hattori offers that they can come back once they’ve become an enormous success as the chapter concludes.
Vote and Chart Reaction
What a Wonderful Chapter
I’m definitely in the wrong business if I want to pursue art because I love all the feel-good moments, more than the moments of action. As always, Bakuman satisfies my very specific – borderline myopic – worldview because it’s fundamentally about making art and telling stories, two things I love. But, aside from some past slip-ups, it’s very organic about its conflicts.
Or maybe I’m just a fan of satisfying climaxes. And this is one of those.
That’s what she said. Ba dum tsss.
Seriously though, this is one of those “Moment of Recognition” beats coming to fruition. I just made that up. But this is the product of the emotional growth of the main characters and organically demonstrates how they’ve changed in a way that led to their victory. As I said when PCP was in the early stages, storytelling is an equation in some respects; this is the other side of the equal sign for the characters.
I particularly liked that Saiko and Shujin approached their submission with healthy skepticism and emotional restraint. They didn’t celebrate too soon and kept their eyes on the prize. Further, they were able to recognize that Fukuda represented a significant challenge to their success, but they weren’t deterred by that.
But also, they were still a little anxious, though that anxiety didn’t keep them from moving forward. They carried their sour stomachs with them through the week and made it.
Beautiful stuff, man.
And Hattori too, bringing a reasonable answer to last week’s socratic dialogue: focus on here, instead of some abstract bullshit. Or, that’s what it felt like, in so many words.
All that is to say, it was a supremely satisfying feeling to watch them finally, unabashedly, win.
The other lovely thing about this chapter is, again, the chief appeal of having a rival character, or, in the case of Bakuman, several. Fukuda, Ashirogi, Iwase, and Nizuma are all technically rivals against each other, and now the fruit of their friendly – but very real – competition is being borne out. They’re working on beating each other by being the best mangaka out there.
And it’s exciting to see Fukuda’s idea come to fruition and do well. Seeing Yujiro watch as Roadracer gets more and more survey votes and seeing Fukuda just putting in the insane hours to make sure his work is the best reads as, well, not particularly healthy, but very satisfying to see.
It was also hilarious to watch his entire team – Yujiro included – helping to finish up Kiyoshi and the one-shot simultaneously.
And, of course, it’s nice to see that the series, like the characters, keeps its eyes ahead for future conflicts. Road Racer, +Natural, and Crow are now active threats to keep the boys on their toes, and they will have to simply be good enough to win.
Speaking of +Natural.
The Iwase Problem
While Nizuma remains delightful as ever, radiating gleeful trickster god chaotic energy, Iwase increasingly worries me with how little her character seems to be evolving.
I haven’t gotten into the, uh, misogyny of Bakuman in a minute because its been mercifully limited for the time being. It’s still there – oh god, it’s still there – but it hasn’t been to the level of, say, Volume 7 or some of its more egregious moments.
But Iwase being so angry about being rejected that she puts all her efforts into crushing Ashirogi and acting in a way that I would describe as “Shrewish” is a…uhm…tired characterization, and it’s hitting one-dimensional levels. Which makes me fucking sad.
I want Iwase to step up her character in some way so that she’s not some jilted lover on a revenge-by-success kick. I mean, sure, it’s a reasonable pathology to have, and lord knows I’ve been there in my younger, stupider years, but like, Iwase could be so much more dynamic if Ohba wanted her to be. She was dynamic in her character introduction.
This is just me being said, and also hopeful, that this will change in time, but until then, I’ll just have to watch as she creates fodder for Nizuma’s chaos.
The last thing I want to talk about is the final moment at the gravesite, mostly because, well, it was a genuinely moving moment, and it really feels like a good cap to this leg of the journey.
It has been four years since I started this journey in Bakuman, and it’s been a juggling act, but I do enjoy the hell out of it. So given the amount of time I’ve spent with these characters – which is a lot more than the average Bakuman enjoyer – this moment of recognition at Nobuhiro’s grave felt particularly poignant.
It was also just the slightest bit funny, making me happy because sappy moments are best when paired with sardonic humor, at least for me. And I love that Saiko knows his uncle well enough to know that he’d get a snarky remark rather than some pregnant moment of epiphany where Nobu looks into his eyes and gives him the surrogate father nod of approval.
It speaks to the character work that a dead guy is drawn well enough that we know that Saiko is right on the money.
And now I’m getting all teary.
But I don’t have much else to say about this chapter.
Until next time
–Cool to know that Jump use to have such massive reach that Fist of the North Star got 700 votes at its most popular. That’s kooky, man.