Bow-wow-wow yippee yo, yippee yay, and welcome to my read-through of Bakuman Chapter 92: Stubbornness and Decision in which I wax enthusiastically about romantic dummies not being total romantic dummies and indulging myself shamelessly in it.
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Stubbornness and Decision Summary
+Natural Seiyuu Surprise
At Iwase’s editorial meeting, Iwase reiterates her goal never to let PCP or Ashirogi surpass her again. Clear? Miura’s sure they’ll be fine since the anime arrives in April.
That reminds him that he has finalists for the potential voice actresses for Sayano Mimiya: a character who shows up in Episode 16: they want Iwase and Nizuma to listen to samples and make the decisions as well as be present during final auditions. Iwase is surprised to see Azuki Miho as a front-runner.
Iwase mentions that they were classmates in middle school, which surprises Miura. He then remembers that she’s Saiko’s girlfriend. Iwase makes the connection and gets a determined – smug – look on her face.
Meanwhile, Saiko and Shujin are conveniently discussing Mai Annojo and whether it would be too much to make her good at sports. Saiko’s fine with that before he gets a call from Miura.
Miura asks after Miho is in his middle school class, and marvels over how many successful kids ended up coming from that group. He then relays the “Good” news about Miho’s placement.
Saiko seems alarmed, but Miura tells him that the audition is on Saturday, although he’s surprised Miho didn’t tell them because he has reasonable expectations for people who claim to be in a relationship. He tells Saiko to wish her luck. Saiko immediately panics about Miho appearing in +Natural.
Saiko explains the situation to Shujin and Kaya who are equally shocked. They’re confused on several points: why did Miura tell them? Saiko concludes it’s because he’s the editor for +Natural; Kaya wants to know why she’s even auditioning, given she’s destined to be Mai Annojo in PCP.
Shujin’s concerns lie in the fact that, despite the fact that she comes in late because there aren’t other leading female characters she could become the main heroine. Kaya uses that to confirm her own fears about losing Miho as Mai. Besides this is an issue with rivals so they should stop her.
Saiko, however, puts the kibosh on all of this alarmism: it’s a good role and will help her career. Work is work, and they’re both doing everything they can in their respective fields to pursue their dream; Nizuma and Iwase are ahead of them right now with +Natural, and nothing can be done about that.
Kaya’s confused and upset: the point is Miho’s supposed to be Mai. Shujin calms her down: it’s not their decision to make. She’s just thinking of the boys, bless her heart, but as Shujin points out, that won’t help.
After this nasty shock, Shujin elects to do his work at home with a sniffling wife in tow. Saiko is left alone with his thoughts, clearly upset.
A Different Tack
On the way home, Shujin explains that simply rationally explaining things to Saiko won’t get him to change his behavior since he’s stubborn as hell, even if deep down, he doesn’t want her to do it either. He’s committed to respecting her decisions, which, you know, there are worse character flaws.
Kaya realizes that Saiko rarely says what he wants out loud. Shujin’s also bugged by Miho’s decision to take the role in the first place: most girls wouldn’t want to be a VA for their boyfriend’s rival’s series. But her mindset is probably: a job is a job, so I gotta do my best.
Shujin recognizes that it’s ultimately her decision but that it wouldn’t hurt for Kaya to have a chat about the situation tomorrow. Kaya agrees to it.
The next day, Shujin, Kaya, and Miho discuss the situation. She explains that her boss did it without her permission, and she just made the cut. Kaya asks what she plans to do, which confuses Miho. So Kaya clarifies: Miho shouldn’t take the role.
Shujin explains that if she got the role, then should PCP get an anime, she would probably not be considered as she was already a lead in another popular Jump franchise. She asks if Saiko has the same feelings. Kaya gives the usual Saiko answer: the choice is yours.
Miho recognizes her boyfriend in that immediately.
Shujin points out that Saiko’s just that kind of guy, but Shujin would prefer she didn’t do that given the uncertainty of the situation regarding PCP’s anime and her being their first choice. Kaya points out that +Natural isn’t the only anime either, so Miho shouldn’t be stubborn, and, of course, Saiko would be happy.
Going for the jugular, aren’t we Kaya?
Kaya continues to speak on Saiko’s actual perspective, which he’ll never say, and how Miho wants her boyfriend to be happy, right? In so many words.
Kaya gets fiery about their collective stubbornness and says that Miho needs to stay away from Jump, please, and thank you. Shujin is calmer and sides with Saiko, but he still wants Miho to refrain from applying because he knows Saiko won’t say anything.
Miho promises to text Saiko about the situation later. Kaya’s concerned because she knows what he’s going to say; Kaya prepares to resist, but Shujin reminds her they’ve done all they can do.
At home, Saiko struggles with the news, remembering their promise. He gets a text message from Miho asking if they’re both too stubborn.
Well, yeah. But I’ll overlook it for now.
He answers that he’s not sure, and that’s the only thing they say to each other all week.
In happier news, PCP overtakes +Natural again at Second Place, while it only takes fifth. Shujin celebrates the news, although he relays the warning from Hattori that they are not out of the woods with +Natural’s anime airing in a month. Saiko, however, still ruminates on the situation with Miho and his actual feelings about it.
Shujin checks on why he’s a space cadet, and he gives a half-hearted cheer.
Shujin tells him about his meeting with Miho and his request, which panics Saiko. Shujin wants to probe further, respectfully, but Saiko shuts it down. He remembers that Miho is working on her dream, too.
Saiko doesn’t see his behavior as stubborn; miraculously, it’s his conscientiousness and respect for her wishes. He won’t get in the way, but he wonders if he’s just pushing the decision-making onto her.
Miho reviews his text and is equally unsure about the situation.
Miho’s Decision and The Next Step
At Eiji Co, Ltd., Miura asks about the Voice Actresses for Sayano; they’ll take Mangaka’s notes into account. Nizuma is noncommittal about the whole thing, except…
He doesn’t want to use Miho because he knows her relationship with Saiko and Shujin and thinks they don’t want her to be in +Natural. Miura doesn’t understand the logic because he’s, y’know, doing his job and asks Nizuma not to turn her down for that reason alone. Nizuma agrees to that.
Damn, Nizuma. Good on you.
The next day, Iwase, Nizuma, and Miura get to the studio early and Iwase notices Miho. She greets Miho, and mentions that she figured out that Ashirogi is a combination of hers, Saiko, and Shujin’s names and means “Dream Will Come True.” What does that mean?
Miho ain’t takin’ none of Iwase’s shit and tells her up front it would mean that she will voice the heroine in Saiko and Shujin’s manga when it becomes an anime.
Nizuma is 100% on board with this plan. Iwase is furious at the idea that that is their motivation for drawing manga. But Miho came to tell them that she’s turning down the role.
Nizuma’s impressed, but Iwase’s more determined to get her to play the role and make Sayano the greatest heroine. Iwase guarantees to make life difficult for Miho. Miho doesn’t care.
Miura and Nizuma commiserate about women being frightening when simultaneously Saiko bursts through the door. He runs up to Miho, gives her his hand, and announces they’re getting out of here.
Iwase tries to stop them, but Nizuma calls out to them and tells him: that’s so cool, leave it to him; he’ll just tell them he turned her down himself. He makes a heart symbol as Saiko thanks him for coming in with the clutch.
After they leave, reality sets in for Saiko a skosh; Miho is happy he did it, even though he ruined her shot. She explains that she turned it down and that they were on the same wavelength.
She also points out that they held hands; Saiko immediately snaps back to reality and apologizes. Miho doesn’t know why.
After a pregnant moment, Saiko apologizes. Miho compliments him on his reliability which is unusual for anything outside of manga. She also gets a jab at his stubbornness. He points out she’s the same.
They discuss how they are ruining their dream plans by doing stuff like this; this was an emergency and that’s just reality. Saiko is disappointed that he couldn’t do this when his dream finally came true, which prompts Miho to recognize the true extent of his stubbornness.
Because they are finally holding hands as the chapter concludes.
Stubbornness and Decision Reaction
I gotta say, I’m loving this run of chapters so far. This mini-arc has been delightful. And while I think the underlying premise of Miho and Saiko’s relationship is….uhh…faulty, to put it mildly, it is fucking adorable to see them fumbling around like two idiotic chinchillas who don’t know how to do basically anything.
I have no idea where that came from, but this was nice.
But this is one of those rare character moments where I’m OK with their mild plot-induced idiocy because this conflict isn’t centered around that; it’s mired in a realistic internal conflict: do I get in the way of my partner’s dreams because of my own dreams, or do I let them advance their own agenda.
The sweet thing is that no one’s “Right” here. Either choice would be a reasonable choice to make. Given how popular +Natural is, it wouldn’t surprise me if this were, in fact, a breakout role.
And more importantly, both Saiko and Miho are inhabiting their genuine character flaws of stubbornness and hard-headedness, but they’re not being stubborn in this case. They’re thinking things through.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but when you recognize that you have a character flaw and then think through the behavior to see if it is you acting silly, that’s not a flaw at all that is G R O W T H.
Of all the things I love about shonen manga – and many wish-fulfilling power fantasies on the whole – is the sense that people can grow past their weaknesses and live the life they want on their own terms. I eat that shit up, like Leopold Bloom and Kidneys, with fucking relish.
And here, even though they are being stubborn, it doesn’t specifically feel like they’re being stubborn because the crux of this chapter is analyzing both the situation and their feelings about it in a calm if uncertain way.
More importantly, though, they both prioritize their relationship over their dreams, for once. FOR ONCE, I say.
And that is the truly wonderful thing here.
Plus, they’re being so shameless, holding hands like that. Who replaced my shonen manga with this smut?
Big Ups to Eiji, less to Kaya and Shujin
My continuing love affair with the chaotic good that is Eiji has only grown stronger. He’s how you do a rival. A challenge and a threat but also totally supportive of his rival’s growth and change. It is a treat to see him indulge his whims with no repercussions. And this particular whim was so sweet and so emotionally intelligent that I can’t help but find it even sweeter.
The one thing that I think characters like Eiji don’t get enough credit for is their emotional intelligence, which is less visible because they tend to be chaotic. Characters like Luffy, Gon, or Goku…ok, scratch that last one, he’s actually totally dense. They act like – and to some degree are – idiots, but beneath the buffoonery, they’re paying attention.
Gotta love it.
However, I’m not sure I’m as ok with Kaya and Shujin’s meddling. And the reason isn’t that they’re wrong. I think they’re ultimately right, and the fact that Saiko is well on the path to not having his first kiss until he’s in his early 30s is a good reason for him to get a fucking move on, man.
However, they’re engineering a situation here and more actively manipulating Saiko and Miho to change. Ultimately, it gets the characters to reflect, but they’re not trying to get the characters to reflect; they want Saiko and Miho to hurry up for their own selfish reasons. And I don’t quite fuck with that like I do Eiji and his whimsical silliness.
What I vibe with even less is…
Iwase’s increasing single-mindedness
This is moving from “kind of grating” to “actively problematic” at this point. The fact that her revenge fantasy is getting increasingly intense and, let’s be real, cruel is a definite knock against her characterization.
Especially in light of the other characters’ evolution at this stage of the game. They’re all growing, changing, and assessing, and meanwhile, Iwase is all like, “hurr durr, me need revenge because woman scorned bullshit,” and I am not here for it.
And if she had even an ounce of something else that wasn’t related to her romantic troubles, that’d be one thing. And I’m hopeful that she will not be so hard up for this romantic jealousy and maybe start focusing on her work a bit, but given that she’s using her one-track mind for this one thing, I’m starting to lose hope.
Which is incredibly frustrating, given that Ohba seems to be coming to terms with his own writing weaknesses throughout Bakuman. While he has not been perfect in writing women – to be diplomatic – it is clear that he has come to recognize the flaws in his thinking, if nothing else. So to have a character be such a misogynistic stereotype this late in the game is really…just disappointing, really.
The final sequence
So yeah, looping back. I loved that final sequence. Under normal circumstances, it would be….incredibly goofy. And it kind of is incredibly goofy. But it’s also endearingly melodramatic. It’s like the end of a rom-com where Hugh Grant has finally realized his feelings and has to stop the wedding just in the nick of time to have Andie McDowell emotionlessly return his love in the rain. It’s not cynical and existentially uncomfortable like The Graduate but just sincere and lovey-dovey.
I LOVE that shit, man. And it’s so adorable, too. The synchronicity, Eiji just watching the proceedings with zero chill and Saiko finally DOING something for once.
Fuck, man. Saiko taking charge of his romantic future is so refreshing. And it’s great that after 90 chapters, he’s finally letting loose a bit.
And even though this probably wouldn’t happen in real life, I don’t give a fuck. Let me enjoy this goofy over the top sequence in my broadly realistic story. I will take it and savor it.
They held hands.
I don’t have much else, so I’m going to peace out here.
Until next time,