Hello, my friendly friends, and welcome to my read-through of Chapter 94: Tea and Tone, in which Screentone is a key component of battles, and that makes me squee, and Yamahisa and Yoshida make me so angry I can’t see straight.
If you’re not caught up, please use this handy-dandy index here to do so. There are no spoilers past the current chapter, so read confidently.
If you want to support the mangaka and read along, please consider buying a tankobon of the current volume or subscribing to Weekly Shonen Jump or Mangaplus. I’d go with Jump but make the decision that works best for you.
If you want to support this content so it can continue at a regular pace, please like my Facebook page, Twitter, or comment down below. I do read those comments, and they are always appreciated. Or if you want buy me a cup of coffee here.
Tea and Tone Summary
The Race Begins
Continuing directly from the last chapter, Iwase tells Shujin to give the new chapter everything he’s got. Now that she’s let him in on the secret, he has no excuse not to do good. Shujin’s confused, so Iwase elaborates: she wants to beat Shujin fair and square at his “full potential.”
Shujin takes the note behind the note and thanks her for the heads-up as well as the obligatory promise to give it everything he has. She’s equally ready to take him down.
Both the boys recognize how great their rivals are.
Hattori and the boys strategize over Nizuma’s words. They assume it’s not actually that PCP can’t beat Crow or +Natural, but that if it were changed it could possibly win. Hattori sees that as confirmation that the boys are close to victory. Hattori pores over the text to see what could be wrong with it.
They then compare Crow and +Natural to PCP to see what PCP is missing. The boys get a genuinely good gag in about the title missing a “+” before Hattori gets them back on topic.
He then wants them to compare their stuff to popular manga like One Piece, Naruto, Fist of the North Star et. al. When asked what seems to be the common thread they think it might be masculinity, although that doesn’t apply to PCP’s age demo at all. Shujin wonders about that and asks why the extremes of the demographic split were 10 and 18.
Hattori reasons that it’s likely due to 10-year-olds relating to the kids, and 18-year-olds reminiscing about Elementary School, but that alienates the middle group. Shujin considers ramping up the action. Hattori warns him to maintain the realistic tone.
They continue to discuss the story’s “weakness” but don’t find any other issues and wonder how to make the story more “interesting”.
Saiko, however, compares the side-by-side of each manga together.It’s subtle, but he seems to notice a difference between their work. He reasons that it doesn’t matter that they figure it out now as long as they figure it out in six months.
Someone’s Running out of Ideas
And that person is Yoshida. After hearing the news that Shizuka is addicted to hostess clubs (sigh) and chewing Yamahisa out, Yoshida suggests a “tea party” with the girls from Aoki’s team. Yoshida is also thinking of Hiramaru with this scheme, and he reasons it’ll be a double date, I mean, “Tea Party.”
Yoshida doesn’t bury the lede: he’s running out of ways to exploit Hiramaru’s crush on Aoki to churn out manga chapters. He’s ready to scrape the bottom of the barrel to keep Hiramaru in line.
Oh good, we’re honest about it. Yay.
Yamahisa is reluctant but decides it’s probably a good idea although he’s uncertain whether Aoki will agree to it. Yoshida asks about the fact that one of her assistants is an Otter fan to use it as leverage and asks for her schedule so he can take care of it.
Meanwhile, the Abbott and Costello bit of Yoshida and Hiramaru continues with Hiramaru bitching about work, and Yoshida dropping the Tea Party carrot. Hiramaru reacts with predictable shock, awe, and lust before Yoshida proffers him a…tea party contract?
The contract is simply a means that Hiramaru will continue churning out chapters for the next 6 months, which Hiramaru doesn’t even bother to read and signs immediately. Hiramaru asks for the deets and Yoshida explains he’ll be using his posh apartment to entertain.
At the Takagi household, Kaya gets frustrated with Shujin’s working while eating breakfast and wonders why he seems so worried given that PCP is doing well. Shujin keeps his concerns to himself, proving he hasn’t learned a whole hell of a lot. He decides to focus on fixing it, rather than telling her.
Meanwhile, at the studio, Orihara lets Saiko know they’re almost out of screentone. Saiko’s confused about how they’re going through it so fast, but Orihara points out they’ve been given directions from Saiko directly. Moriya then gives some advice as a graduate of design school: Saiko is overreliant on screentones which makes the work look flat.
Shiratori grumbles to himself about Moriya’s pretentiousness.
He does have a point, though.
Shujin asks Kaya what the chief difference between Crow, + Natural, and PCP is, and she points out the obvious genre difference. Shujin agrees and thinks it’s a fool’s errand to compare the two stories.
Saiko, however, takes Moriya’s note to heart and starts comparing other works for screentone usage (compare screentones from earlier chapters). He looks through popular manga and notices they tend to be pretty light on screentones overall. He reasons that his realistic artwork requires it but then has a silent epiphany.
Dueling Rivals: The Next Day
The next day, Iwase goes to Nizuma’s apartment alone, which Nizuma points out is dangerous. Iwase can’t tell if he’s serious or not. Iwase asks Nizuma to elaborate on what PCP‘s chief weakness is.
Confident that he won’t lose anyway, he explains that PCP is too plain right now. Iwase agrees; the story is very simple. Nizuma corrects her: The artwork is the problem.
At the studio, the boys wonder what to change about PCP to make it better and Saiko offers that the pages are too dark. Saiko points out the overuse of screentone. Shujin agrees but sees that as a function of their being more niche than other manga. Saiko pushes back: Tanto was also overreliant on screentones, a habit of Saiko’s.
Shujin sees the light. Saiko pushes on: they’ve been too concerned with realism, and it’s influenced the screentones. He reviewed the more realistic works of the past, and they are also more upbeat.
Eiji confirms this to iwase in so many words: if things get too realistic, it’s no longer manga. Manga needs pop, style, pizzazz, which Nizuma demonstrates by drawing on the wall.
Good to see Ohba’s the master of lampshades. Iwase sees enough. She came to his apartment not to figure out the weakness, but to have Nizuma refrain from telling the boys because of his “Soft Spot.” He is their fan. Iwase tells him she shared his prediction so they can’t reveal any more.
Nizuma takes her hands and agrees to it. He wants to win anyway, and he thinks Iwase is talented, which makes Iwase blush like the college-age girl she is.
The Tea Party from Hell
At the “Tea Party”, Aoki’s Assistants, Aoki, Hiramaru, Shizuka, Yamahisa, and Yoshida, sit in awkward silence in the most predictable turn of events ever.
Hiramaru uses his Aoki Tidbit (shiver) to ask about Earl Grey before she pops that bubble by explaining that she likes Darjeeling. A fact which surprises both Yoshida and Hiramaru. Hiramaru takes Yoshida away to give him a tongue-lashing before shifting the blame to Yamahisa. Yamahisa pullin’ that Kermit the frog “ain’t none of my business” tea sippin’ shit is taken back by Hiramaru to eat shit.
Leaving Shizuka alone with the girls in silence. The assistants find him “gloomy,” which embarrasses him horribly.
While the Three Musketeers of idiocy are duking it out, Aoki lets them know that Shizuka went home, which has Yamahisa bounding off after him. The girls, brought down by the mood all decide to leave themselves leaving Hiramaru in the dust. Yoshida sees the situation as hopeless.
Meanwhile, Yamahisa chases after Shizuka, pointing out to him that the hostess clubs aren’t real life; they’re paid to be nice to him. Shizuka refuses to listen and goes to the Hostess Club, bringing Yamahisa in tow.
At the club (yikes), the girls see that Shizuka is quiet like “the first time,” and Yamahisa wonders if Shizuka has learned nothing. Shizuka explains it’ll be his last time here and that, with his romantic dreams up in smoke, his goal is to be a manga artist now. He vows to make True Human even better by showing the world how women are “two-faced” with their “Two-faced” kind of love.
Yamahisa – somehow totally missing the misogynistic undercurrent of all this – is thrilled to see Shizuka ready to churn out better work and thanks Mr. Yoshida for his assistance.
Holup. We’re gonna react to this shit.
At the studio, Hattori brings up what he believes to be the problem with PCP: it’s not the story it’s…the artwork, as Saiko points out. It’s too subdued and needs to be brighter.
Hattori is delighted and surprised to see the boys read his mind.
They high-five each other and show him the newer – lighter – pages. Saiko explains they’ve been experimenting, and they want to make a gradual change art-wise, so they’ll change it little by little.
Hattori gleams at the boys overcoming their problems on their own like a proud mama hen and not a surrogate father figure. The metaphor you were expecting me to make.
Two weeks later, Saiko decides to drop out of college because he no longer needs a career to fall back on: he just needs to improve his skillz. He hasn’t paid tuition for their next semester yet, and he’s convinced both his parents and Miho. He doesn’t have time for college with a series now.
Shujin sees the logic: he can write anywhere, but Saiko is more confined. Saiko thinks he should keep going because it’ll help fuel his ideas for new stories.
Shujin also notices the new art is significantly different, even though Saiko said he wanted it to be gradual. Shujin warns Saiko to get sleep, too.
The Race is On
On April 4th, the final results come in: +Natural made fourth place. Hattori has been aware of PCP’s gradual downward slip, with the most recent chapter hitting only 8th place. It can’t drop further….
Which is why Hattori is thrilled to see that the 8th chapter made 5th with only a 6-vote differential from +Natural. Hattori excitedly calls the boys and confirms their mutual suspicion: the artwork was key. Saiko doesn’t have the hang of it, and he wonders if other extenuating factors could have skewed the results.
Hattori lets Saiko know that the artwork is key and to keep it up. Saiko takes the news calmly: they’re not out of the woods yet, and they have a long way to go. The two resolve to improve both their skills and beat Nizuma.
Meanwhile, Iwase is pleasantly surprised by the news, although she makes sure Miura didn’t squeal about their weakness: he didn’t even know there was one.
Miura thinks it’ll be fine, given that the anime is starting next week.
Yujiro is less positive: the jump in rankings is considered a fluke at Jump, and they’re going to increase scrutiny. PCP is now in even greater danger than it was before.
Nizuma has a different tack: at the current rate, PCP is on track to surpass both +Natural and Crow.
On this exciting note, the chapter concludes
Tea and Tone Reaction
This Chapter Epitomizes the best and worst elements of this series
This chapter was fucking great on many levels and also fucking terrible. I’ll let you guess which part of the title pissed me off and which one thrilled me.
Let’s start with the good since there was A LOT of good in this chapter. Namely, making Screentones interesting. Holy shit, what a feat.
Ok, so for the readers who are not familiar with the makings of manga, screentone is a type of sticky patterned design used to fill in the grey scale of a page after you have applied the final inks. It’s a finishing process, and it generally gives manga that specific pop. The way it’s applied is by using an exacto knife to cut out little blocks of it and applying it to the page at your description.
Here’s Naoki Urusawa applying it. Watch from a master:
When applied well, it gives an image a visual flair. There is a rhythm to the use of screentone that can give the story an extra layer of emotional depth by creating a nice visual contrast between lighter scenes, and heavier scenes. It is a valuable tool that is essential for making manga.
Welll…not totally essential, but it defines the aesthetic heavily.
And guess what series relied on it heavily in the early chapters, a fact on which I have personally commented?
DING DING DING. METAFICTION BABY. Jazz Hands.
Awww yiss, I had a fit when I saw that Screentone was one of the keys to winning this competition between Nizuma and Iwase. Iwase, we’ll also get to, because squee.
But this is great. On its face, Screentone is a super fucking boring thing for non-artists and those who have never cut themselves with exacto knives. But Ohba has successfully translated artistic and aesthetic considerations into….a battle sequence.
It’s fucking great, man. And what makes it more fun is you can go back to earlier chapters of Bakuman and see this progressive shift from heavy use of screentones to progressively lightening up; it’s partially because the demands of a weekly publishing schedule mean you need to think on your feet, and you also need to be less precious with your time when making stuff.
But also, the difference in this series is super fucking noticeable. These chapters read considerably easier than the first ones because Obata has lightened up on his use of screentone.
And to make that a point of character growth – seeing the boys actively consider their rivals’ notes in ways that make them grow – is my self-improvement crack, bro. I eat that shit up.
What I loved even more though…
Iwase is finally acting like a fucking adult
THANK FUCKING GOD. She’s interesting again. She’s doing something that isn’t being pissed off about being jilted. Thank fuck. Fucking fuck.
It’s so great, dude. It’s soooooo great. It’s great because, goddamn, we finally have a female character who likes making manga and wants to win like a boy. But she’s still feminine and still has her own weaknesses – hardheadedness and a stubborn streak – but not in a way that makes her a generic strong independent female.
Let me relish this for a bit. Cause goddamn; it’s been so irritating.
Iwase still has potential, and I’m glad to see, at least to some extent, Ohba either recognizing that or just acting on it. Because I’ve missed this side of her. I sincerely hope we keep up this habit of having Iwase being interesting as a person rather than as a jilted lover whose sole motivation is revenge.
And honestly, I don’t mind the fact that there is still an element of Jilted Lover in here, but it’s because it’s also mixed in with non-romantic inclinations that I’m willing to overlook it.
What I am quite a bit less willing to overlook is…
Yoshida, Shizuka, Hiramaru and Hell
While I will admit that I found the Tea Party sequence both funny and painfully – PAINFULLY – relatable – being both shy and gloomy in real life, and only periodically charming – I hate literally everything that led up to it and everything that followed.
Yoshida and Yamahisa – who for this chapter I will call tweedle-dum and tweedle-dipshit – were truly fucking contemptible this chapter. Just every instinct they have towards both women and their mangaka is just so, so, so, fucking skeezy that I cannot wrap my head around it without being reflexively disgusted.
At this point, even Yoshida is tired of this gag he has going with Hiramaru, or else he’d be dangling this tea party even more than before. I want it to change because, dear god, it’s so exhausting.
And Yamahisa, this chucklefuck is the MVP of dogshit, both because he’s A.) spying on Aoki in an explicitly manipulative way, and abusing his power, B.) Somehow still fucking that up, and C.) Not understanding Shizuka’s needs.
Yeah, so right now, I’m so thoroughly pissed about Yamahisa’s prioritizing Manga over Shizuka’s clear radicalization towards straight-up misogyny and incel bullshit that it’s hard for me to focus on, y’know, the chapter.
And it’s especially frustrating because we’ve seen Yamahisa demonstrate the capacity for caring and taking a gentle approach to encourage growth and positive behavioral changes. So for him to overlook the fact that Shizuka is struggling with women in a way that makes sense given his sheltered lifestyle but is still wildly and aggressively toxic is actively infuriating.
What’s even worse is that he doesn’t see the clear red warning sign with Shizuka’s new ideas for the manga and his desires for revenge. Were this the real world, I feel like someone would have to take Shizuka aside and actually try to talk him off the fucking ledge.
Anyway, this shit is infuriating. But the tea party itself was fine. It’s good to see Aoki, and her crew can handle Hiramaru and his hijinks. And it did have a three stooges flavor which made it almost, tolerable from the above perspective.
But back to the shit I liked
Recognition by the Rival and the heating up of this arc.
This arc is truly heating up in a compelling way. Having Nizuma recognize the boys as a genuine challenge to him was a next-level thrill on my part. Not only that, but having Hattori see the boys realize what their work was missing, independent of him having to tell them, was equally thrilling.
But, mostly, seeing the tension ramp up because you know Nizuma will not take this sitting down is the best part. That means he’s going to retaliate.
Even more, than that, it’s nice to see that Moriya – despite being kind of pretentious – is still demonstrating his value as a character and plot device – assisting in pushing Saiko in a direction that improves his art. I also love that Saiko’s art improvement is a major plot point. Overall, this is great.
I’d say we’re about halfway through this rival doing battles arc and seeing the focus shift on being the best mangaka one can be and growing past your limits in thrilling competition is just everything I want this series to be. Even the shitty tea party notwithstanding, this is truly a golden section of the manga that has been well worth the wait.
Hopefully, this arc can stick the landing.
I’m fairly confident it will.
Until next time,