In Ending and Code, Shujin’s Fond Memories Will Lead to Victory (Chapter 97)

HIIIIII THERREEE AND WELCOME to my read-through of Bakuman with Chapter 97: Ending and Code, in which Hattori makes a logical leap, and I finally hit the pinnacle of the series.

 If you’re not caught up, please use this sweet index here to do so. There are no spoilers past the current chapter. You’re good.

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As for scheduling: I’m figuring out when a good day to post is

Ending and Code Summary

Commence the Arc!

Hattori and the boys resolve to do a five-chapter arc, an opportunity for Shujin to shine. Hattori gives them the deadline (ticking time bomb): there are only six chapters left until chapter 25, but because of the Bon Festival, there will be a week off, and because they don’t want to stall the momentum for the climax, they only have five chapters for their arc.

That means they have to start next week. Shujin hasn’t thought of anything yet, but he’s determined to finish it in a few days and will start immediately.

However, two days later, Shujin hits a rut after the first three chapters. Hattori asks for the deets to see what can be done. Shujin gives them the skinny.

Shujin’s primary plan is to introduce a genius rival character named Akechi, who can deduce that the “Crimes” are, in fact, connected, and he’s dead set on finding the culprit. The PCP finds out and works to stay hidden.

The first chapter ends with a note: Something good will happen to class 3 of grade 5 during lunchtime today.

Hattori points out that would immediately kill the suspense since it outs PCP. Shujin points out the deeper idea: if the prediction comes true and say, everyone gets pudding, the one who would look suspicious is Akechi since he brought it up.

Ah, the classic He who smelt it defense. Brillliant.

Shujin continues with the idea that PCP will continue to post announcements only after everything is in place while Akechi tries to figure out who is framing him. It backfires because of the Streisand Effect, where his behavior makes him look more suspicious. Akechi will then ask for 24-hour surveillance to put PCP at an impasse.

Akechi will reason that multiple culprits are at play here instead of one. He’ll use the printer’s model to trace the person making the announcement. He even makes deductions regarding the puddings being bought from 12 different places to avoid leaving a trail. PCP, despite being up against the wall, admires his tenacity.

Episodes 1-3 will cover all that, leaving plenty for Shujin to work on. Hattori is getting more on board.

But…

Shujin is stuck

Ending and Code Shujin outlines the five chapter arc as best he can.

Shujin can’t think of anything for the following two chapters. Shujin spitballs a potential idea of PCP offering to reveal themselves should Akechi stop them. Saiko believes the idea is excellent, but Shujin can’t figure out what a satisfying challenge would be. Hattori sees the issue: this is the hinge point of the arc.

Hattori also points out the ending has to be top-tier. The best-written work will still be defeated by a bad conclusion. Shujin agrees: it has to up the ante and live up to the hype of the arc itself.

Hattori thinks it might be interesting if Akechi’s attempt to stop the crime was part of PCP’s plan the whole time. That’s the challenge.

Shujin outlines the five-chapter arc, which looks good if you don’t include the final battle being absent. They all agree it’s good, minus the final battle component. I.e. the most important part.

Ah, that old chestnut.

Shujin wants to catch the readers off guard. Saiko suggests working on the other three chapters while planning the other two. Hattori immediately nips that in the bud: each chapter has to build up to the grand finale. You write with the ending in mind.

He do have a point.

Hattori thinks this is their best chance at beating Crow and +Natural, so starting without a conclusion is a non-starter. If he can’t come up with an ending, short stories are the best alternative, as they have been doing.

Shujin vows to come up with the best ending possible. Shujin muses: the chapter will be released in the summer, so why not make the ending something seasonal?

Saiko offers up the idea of using fireworks since it’d be visually impressive. Shujin remains uncertain about the internal logic of getting Akechi to set them off. It doesn’t work in the setup.

Hattori also points out that it’s illegal to set off large fireworks without permission, and it would push the bounds of realism too far.

Saiko offers fireflies as an alternative. Shujin immediately questions the logic of that. Hattori sees their brainstorming session as going about it wrong, but Shujin sees the light, albeit dimly in the distance.

Spongebob Voice: Six Hours Later…

The team is well and truly stuck now, having exhausted potential summer activities. The more they think, the harder it is to get through. The hour is late, so Shujin offers to end the meeting for the night and think about it at home; Hattori reminds him of his responsibilities as the author.

Ending and Code: Shujin wanders through the rainy streets in search of an answer.

Shujin walks home in the rain, sad and realizing winning against Iwase without his own story would be spiritually pointless. He has to think of something to stump Iwase Akechi for good.

The next day, Shujin calls his old elementary school to do research. He meets with the Vice Principal, puts on his visitor’s armband, and talks with the principal about his status as a mangaka for Jump. He knows Shujin’s work is popular with kids and lets him mull about it for the next hour.

Shujin wanders the elementary school halls, looking at the classrooms and the gym; he watches kids playing in the field. He reminisces about his time there.

Lines of Text

When he returns to the studio, he reminisces with Saiko, although he doesn’t get any new ideas. At that moment, Miho texts Saiko. When asked, Saiko explains it’s a rando text that Miho sometimes sends out for no reason: she daydreams.

These kids are too darn cute, man.

The text is about how some people like rain and others…don’t like rain. That’s…a thought.

Shujin, equally perplexed, wonders what it means, but Saiko, being a good boyfriend, just agrees with her because she wouldn’t be able to actually answer.

I know it’s not a gag, but that made me laugh.

Shujin agrees that Miho’s an oddball and finds Kaya much more straightforward.

Shujin has an epiphany: he asks how many letters fit into each line of text: 12, same as Shujin’s. He could use that as a plot point: the challenge letter.

Shujin runs home, explaining to Saiko that Miho’s cryptic text gave him an idea. That night at home, Shujin’s so absorbed in his writing he misses dinner and thinks about the solution while eating. He continues writing even after Kaya goes to sleep.

The next day, he has it. He’s finally come up with an ending for the arc. When asked, Shujin tells him he can’t explain on the phone.

The thrilling conclusion

At the studio, Saiko is eager to hear about the idea Shujin still has in his head.

Shujin jumps to it: it wouldn’t be unreasonable for the gang to have a secret phone with a confidential number that would be untraceable. Saiko questions it but also grants that it’s manga, so they have some leeway.

It also would be normal for them to have their classmate’s number, right? That’s right. In fact, Akechi may have exchanged emails and numbers with everyone to help find the culprit. Saiko sees the light: PCP can send a challenge via text.

Shujin provides a potential ultimatum re: Fireworks and revealing their true identities should Akechi foil their plans.

Saiko wonders about the fireworks: Shujin’s found a way to keep it realistic by having the City’s Firework Festival go on simultaneously. He then guides Saiko through Akechi’s logic: if he can’t figure out who it is, he’ll be forced to watch the school field all day.

Shujin draws a quick – crappy – sketch of the setup. Akechi will also have his cell phone handy since he received his text. At 7:55, he’ll receive this text:

The text explains that, of course, they’re not shooting up fireworks since they’re kids; they’ll just shoot up a rocket from the schoolyard. Plus a taunt. Additionally, a code is provided relating to school lunches featuring Suika, Purin, and Ikura. (Watermelon, Pudding, and Squid)

Saiko sees the spacing is weird and asks what the code is. Shujin explains the code and that when you solve it the location of the fireworks is “Sprinklers” (Su-purin-kura) which excites Saiko.

The group will put the fireworks in the sprinklers and Akechi will search for them among the sprinklers, however he’ll be stuck because he doesn’t know if he’ll set the sprinklers off and he can’t yank them out by force. In so doing, he’ll set off the plan by trying to stop it.

Shujin continues guiding Saiko: what would you do in a similar situation?

Saiko would look for the sprinkler switch. That would be in the faculty office: Akechi will get permission from the faculty on night duty to both watch the field and turn off the switch. How will PCP Get out of this one?!

The answer is in the original code: when re-arranged, the actual location of the fireworks will be the SANDBOX. OH SHIT. That’s the place farthest from the faculty’s office. The culprit, therefore, is impossible to make out in the distance. Makoto will send a text to Akechi explaining their whole plan.

And then Akechi will realize he’s been fooled. Makoto will light the fireworks triumphantly. Saiko’s thrilled by this conclusion. Hattori is equally thrilled when it’s run by him.

Hattori gives them the go-ahead to finish this chapter and win this bout between Crow and +Natural

On that thrilling note, the chapter concludes.

Ending and Code Reaction

Is this McDonald’s?

Because I’m lovin’ it!

I don’t hate myself, I’m not sponsored, but that brought me dangerously close to self-hate.

Trying to summarize this behemoth of a chapter – thanks, Ohba(ma) – notwithstanding, this arc continues to ring all my particular bells as the focus remains: how do we overcome our rivals and make good manga? By getting *M E T A*

I’m a man of simple tastes. I see metafiction, I gush.

But honestly, this arc has been a home run from start to finish. And the fact that the solution to their rival problem is to….create a rival in their own work is such a delicious MC-escher, Douglas Hofstadter Godel Escher Bach strange loop inception of a plot point that I can’t help but love it.

And the fact that this arc is building to their first, true, honest-to-goodness success as mangaka is just icing on the cake.

Because that’s the underlying beauty of this whole arc, almost 100 chapters in, and the boys are still shy of an out-and-out victory against their rivals in a way that’s undeniable.

But with this, we’re close. And maybe also close to an anime.

However the fact that there are still 90ish chapters to go makes that second part unlikely. But I digress.

After four years of coverage, I want the boys to WIN. An undeniable, unqualified victory.

Although it isn’t clear to me that they’re going to beat Eiji, Iwase is going to eat shit, for sure. But Eiji, well, he’s too OP for them to just trounce him this early in the game. But one can hope.

As for the actual contents of the chapter.

Hatttori dropping the right writing advice.

This is a truism at this point in the writing world, but it’s a truism because it’s real important. No matter how you write your story, write with the ending in mind.

Of all the important writing advice you can have, this one is perhaps the most essential. You need to write with an ending in mind, or your story will go nowhere. Having a potent finish is how you make everything connect.

It’s similar to the advice of the first draft, where you tell the story to yourself, and then you make it work in revisions. That’s essential advice for any writer, but of all the advice that matters, writing with the ending in mind is even more existential

For manga, it’s a bit different because the nature of a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly serialization will change the calculus considerably. However, for an arc, you should have your ending mapped out.

And I have a feeling Ohba has mapped out the story for Bakuman through to the end. Because he’s constantly telling on himself, he’s good at novelistic narratives, so he’s keeping it focused with short-term arcs to keep things focused so that the ending is focused.

But even more than that, one of the reasons shonen manga tends to work is that in the first chapter, the ending is given to you out of the gate: I am going to become {x} greatest thing, or I’m going to beat this thing. How you get there is wide-ranging and non-linear, but the goal is always at the forefront.

So yeah, Hattori is dropping the right knowledge, as always.

Aside from the chapter’s delightful storytelling and meta-focus, however, I gotta say

The Slice of Life Stuff Really Worked.

As much as Bakuman is a plot-focused shonen battle manga in a non-conventional battle setting, I have to say the things that often work to give the series texture are its slice-of-life moments. The little moments between Kaya and Shujin when he’s at home, Saiko being a dipshit with his girlfriend, and, in this case, getting nostalgic for elementary school.

I adored the sequence where Shujin revisited his old elementary school and quietly reminisced. Sure, part of it is that it’s mercifully light on dialogue and is, therefore, somewhat easier to recap. But more importantly, it effectively utilizes one of Manga’s most valuable elements.

In Scott McCloud’s excellent treatise, Understanding Comics, McCloud highlights one of the chief differences between manga and western comics: space to breathe.

Unlike Western comics, which are action-heavy and focused on continuous movement, Manga frequently has moments of quiet, contemplation, and background scenery where nothing happens other than the scenery existing.

The effect is twofold: it gives a greater sense of place to manga that western comics may lack, but it also creates moments to breathe, admire, and be still. It introduces serenity and contemplation.

And in this chapter, Shujin revisiting his childhood is a beautiful example of that. He’s walking around the school, just looking at the kids, looking at the lockers. We’re not being transported with him, but as you get older, there is that pregnant sense of time passing when you walk among places that used to dominate your life.

Shujin’s walk is pregnant with subtextual memory, and it’s conveyed through the scenery and the quiet. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this quiet is what ultimately leads into Shujin’s revelation.

Personally, I’ve been a bit non-stop lately because I have to be for several reasons. But it is only when we allow ourselves genuine quiet in our lives that we can actualy start to think. So on the one hand the creation of arch-rival to push us to our greatest heights is essential. Equally as important are those moments of rest and contemplation.

A feature of which is one of the key reasons I prefer manga over comics.

I also liked Miho’s derpiness. Even though it was effectively utilized as a plot device by Shujin, it was a nice moment of texture for Saiko and Miho’s kinda dumb but generally pretty healthy relationship. Also, it was just cute as hell.

But speaking of the resolution.

Verbosity saves the day

This resolution is almost as on-the-nose with its metacommentary as the decision to beat a rival by making a rival character. But it is a legitimately clever solution to a problem in a story we’re never going to read.

The utilization of text to create clue – su-purin-ka – is actually genius like a legit well well-thought-out way to mislead someone. It works within the context of Shujin’s storytelling because he’s all about realistic approaches to these problems.

Although I’m kinda dumb sometimes, so it really took a minute for me to figure out.

But, just like Shuin’s chilling, this chapter was very much the calm before the climax. It’s a lead and it’s building the tension. We’re also getting a lovely blend of PCP and Bakuman, which I so dearly love.

But more importantly, this means this arc is definitely going to be resolved next chapter. And we’re going to win. Just like the quiet leads to creative coups, it builds tension when done with properly.

i’m so excited. And I’m ready to move to the final stages of the story. Even though we’re halfways, I’m ready for thi victory

I’m ready.

Let’s do it.

Until next time,

Peace

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