In Waste and Challenge, I get Simultaneously More and Less and Annoyed by Proceedings (Chapter 103)

Hi ho Christian Soldier, and welcome to my read-through of Bakuman Chapter 103: Waste and Challenge, in which we discuss the pitfalls of Luck of the Draw Syndrome, and Saiko is more interesting than usual.

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Waste and Challenge Summary

Across the Jump world

On November 21st, the boys receive an advance copy of Jump with Loveta & Peace. Kaya thinks it’s really good. Shujin thinks Saiko’s artwork is better. Saiko demurs on the flattery.

Kaya asks whether it’ll do well and Saiko thinks it will leapfrog PCP in votes because it’s a one-shot with a color page. Shujin ponders this sophie’s chocie as to which series he wants to do better.

At their Editorial meeting, Iwase discusses her drop to 7th with Miura. He explains it’s blowback from the crossover: now the readers have higher expectations for the work that follows.

Ohba is telling on himself here.

She asks for Intel on PCP: they’ve been vacillating between 4th and 5th week after week. Miura points out that Crow is doing even better. It’s moved from consistently third to second. Eiji’s determined to beat Ashirogi.

Waste and Challenge: iwase and miura have their editorial meeting

Iwase tries to trap Miura; So Eiji doesn’t care about +Natural?

Miura’s answer is hilariously straightforward: yeah, the story is her responsibility, so it’s up to her to beat their asses into the ground. Iwase then asks who Miura thinks is a better writer: her or Shujin.

Miura avoids the bear trap but still steps on a rake: he can’t determine tha on his own, he can only go by the ranking.

Derp.

When is furious at the presumption that Shujin is a better writer. Miura futilely explains that +Natural did better than Shujin for a long time.

Speaking of Shujin, he brings up Loveta & Peace and compliments Shujin’s skills as a storyteller for having accomplished it.

Whether intentionally or through sheer dumb luck, Miura fires up Iwase to do the same and beat him at his own game. Miura does her best to keep her focused on raising +Natural’s rank.

waste and challenge: iwase is not happy

Eiji’s Frustration & Miura’s Headache

At Eiji Co, Ltd., Yujiro compliments Eiji for getting second place and how his rivalry with Ashirogi benefits him as well. Eiji breaks the fourth wall and admits that because Iwase was beaten, he has to go even harder to make sure his final rival battle is satisfying and has to go extra hard to make sure Ashirogi doesn’t catch up to him.

PCP also hasn’t gotten anime.

Yujiro explains that it likely never will, which baffles Eiji, who points out it’s amazing. Yujiro explains the whole—crimes are bad—philosophy of the television station, and Eiji thinks they don’t have guts.

(Lol)

Yujiro thinks it’s the limit of non-mainstream manga. It’s something only Ashirogi could come up with and suits them perfectly. But they’re unlikely to overcome Crow. Yujiro thinks that if Eiji keeps pace, Eiji will never have to worry about them overcoming them.

At that moment, Eiji finds something weird. He asks if Shujin wrote Loveta & peace.

Yujiro confirms it is and that the name is anagram for Takagi. How did Eiji know? Because Eiji’s got that manga sixth sense and because he could see all the hallmarks of Shujin’s writing.

He then asks Yujiro whether PCP‘ll ever beat him without an Anime. The answer is it’ll be tough unless they get an anime. Eiji flips shit at the idea that Shujin is wasting his time with another story if they need to get an anime. He throws a tantrum.

At Shueisha, Miura complains to Hattori that, due to Shujin’s writing for Loveta & Peace, Iwase is all riled up to make another manga, too. Hattori laughs at Miura’s not-quite issue but mild headache. Hattori thinks it’s a good thing for writers to be on the rise like this—not just the two writers in question but also the Story King Contest.

Aida thinks it’s good, although they’re short on artists. He’s looking for an artist to cover the 4.8-foot Goalie entry. When asked about the number of good rookie artists out there, Aida explains that you can’t get them to do only artwork unless they’re truly hopeless at writing.

Miura sees his points, and Hattori muses on the artist shortage.

Saiko’s Ambitions

At the studio, the storyboards for PCP are completed, and Saiko calls Hattori to set up a meeting. Hattori asks them to fax the boards to him. Before Shujin goes, Saiko asks for Hattori’s revision notes. Hattori gives them the go-ahead to do the final draft.

As Shujin and Kaya leave, Saiko plans to work on the linework for the final draft. Shujin and Kaya are both shocked- Kaya thinks he needs a break (same bro), but Saiko is fired up, so he might as well ride the wave.

They leave him to it, and Saiko focuses on building up speed. He doesn’t want to let his new skill with written storyboards go to waste. The specter of Eiji’s abilities haunts him as he practices letting the art fall into place based on the story.

Waste and Challenge: Moriya having a panic attack

On Friday, November 28th, Shiratori is nervous about Hattori’s call regarding Loveta and asks about its ranking. Shujin confirms for Orihara that a series of 7th or above will be more or less guaranteed. Saiko thinks it’s premature to be thinking about that.

At that moment, Hattori calls Shujin. PCP got forth. And Loveta...

Fifth.

Shiratori is thrilled, and Shujin and Saiko are shocked by the success. Moriya is hilariously devastated.

Orihara is the first to congratulate Shiratori: he can submit to the next serialization meeting.

Shujin kills that train of thought: Shujin hasn’t yet agreed to write for the series.

Shujin lets Hattori know that despite Loveta’s success, he still needs to consider PCP and will need time to think it over. Hattori agrees: PCP should be his top priority. Hattori suggests they talk about it at 7 o’clock at their editorial meeting. He asks Shiratori to stay there with them as well.

Shujin asks Shiratori to stay around. Moriya crumples into a depressed ball.

Saiko’s character flaw

At the editorial meeting, Hattori approves the final draft and moves on to Loveta & Peace.

He won’t ask Shujin to submit anything to this or the next serialization meeting, as he wants Shujin to really think about it. Saiko, however, thinks he should just go for it.

Saiko explains that he’s fine where he is and that Shujin should do his damnedest to improve as a storyteller. Before Shujin can resist, Saiko points out that if Eiji can do it, so can Shujin. Shujin’s not so confident in his abilities considering, well, the Eiji of it all.

Saiko reminds him that if he pulls this off he’ll be a genius too. He’s also glad that Shujin is getting the opportunity to grow. Saiko also thinks of Shiratori: he must want to give it a shot. Of course, but he doesn’t want to cause problems for Ashirogi.

He also explains to them that his parents don’t want him to make manga but would rather he go to Paris to study art instead.

Hattori asks for Shiratori’s preference: manga or Paris. Manga is the obvious choice.

So Saiko yells at Shiratori to do it and asks Shujin to write for him. Everyone’s surprised by his outburst, so he apologizes and explains: Shiratori’s new, so he doesn’t know how difficult getting a series is, but Shujin does. Shujin privately reasons that that’s a good reason to stay the course with PCP.

But Saiko goes even further: some people push themselves to the limit and never get published. This is the opportunity of a lifetime. How could you turn it down?

Hattori agrees with Saiko: Shiratori and Shujin are talented, but short of a gift, talent isn’t enough to get a series. Shujiin triples down (ohhh shit) getting a series in Jump is no easy feat.

Emboldened by the other two, Shujin agrees to try it. He qualifies, however, that if it starts to affect PCP, he’ll back out. He asks Shiratori if he’s ok with that. Shiratori is. Hattori decides to hold a meeting alter to discuss Loveta but they get started on PCP as Shiratori leaves, thrilled and delighted that he did it.

Truly adorable.

Drama (CD)

After their meeting, Hattori is confident that Shujin will be able to handle Loveta. Shujin demurs: it takes him a week to come up with a good story. As Hattori heads out, he remembers to give them a sample of the drama CD.

Saiko is thrilled to hear Miho but offers to wait until Kaya’s available to listen. Shujin wants to listen right away, Fuck kaya. (in so many words).

The boys listen contentedly to Miho’s acting as Mai. The boy admires Miho’s voice acting, but Shujin is still disappointed that PCP isn’t getting an anime. Saiko’s frustrated, but hearing his girl play a manga character makes him hopeful.

As they go hom, Shujin wonders aloud if he made the right decision. Saiko thinks he’s being stubborn.

Shujin truly isn’t sure and asks if he could say no. Saiko is insists: take the opportunity.

Saiko then reveales he’s going to take on a challenge, too:

Once he learns to draw faster, he’s going to start another series on his own.

On that dramatic note, the chapter ends.

Waste and Challenge Reaction

Sighhhhh

Okay, okay, I’m going to try to be diplomatic since I saw this coming and pointed it out several chapters ago, but yeah, this is quite a bit less interesting than the last arc by a pretty wide margin.

Now, that’s not to say it’s bad by any stretch – even the worst chapter of Bakuman is still more frustrating than actively bad – but we’re definitely in a bit of a slump here. I’m repeating myself. But I’m a little stretched here and it’s glaringly obvious.

That slump manifests in two ways: the boys might be split up again, redux, and Saiko might overwork himself to death, redux.

So let’s get into it.

As I predicted – and as was forecasted, pretty obviously, the last chapter – Loveta & Peace is going to get serialized. At this point, it has to because Shujin is committed to helping it succeed. If I’m being less generous, I’d almost say it’s approaching Shark Jumping territory, or, as I might also put it, what I’m going to call:

Luck of the Draw Syndrome

Bear with me for a second.

I could use many other shows, but I’m going to refer to the criminally underrated and in need of another season of anime, Chihayafuru. Chihayafuru is a sports/romance josei about a girl named Chihaya who is super into competitive Karuta. In this game, parts of poems are read, and you slap the card that has the remaining piece of the poem on it. The first to remove all their cards from play wins.

In Season 1, during a tournament, we are introduced to the idea “Luck of the Draw.” This is an exceptionally rare condition in the game where two players have only one card on their side. In this case, the game comes almost entirely down to chance, as it depends on which card is read, not skill, that determines the victor.

This is supposed to be a one-in-a-million occurrence. How many times does it happen in Chihayafuru?

At least four more times. At least.

This is what I call Luck of the Draw syndrome: when you hit a point in your narrative where something that is supposed to be exceptionally rare and unheard of becomes a commonplace occurrence because the story needs to retain a sense of stakes and drama.

This is also a frequent plot device in Haikyuu with their eternal back and forth after they should have reasonably already gotten a setpoint. It’s an issue in Sports Manga on the whole if I had to guess.

For Bakuman, this means multiple characters either aiming for or getting two series in the magazine at once.

First, this doesn’t happen in reality because one manga is already horrifyingly brutal for any length of time. Two would be a death sentence.

But Eiji has opened the door to this plot device, and now Shujin is bearing the fruit of it.

It’s fine

I’m not super bothered by it. But we’re starting to see the narrative strain that continuing the story has on the writing. Now, with Shujin getting a second series – potentially until the end of the story – and a second story being their only legit shot at getting an anime, it currently seems like Ohba plans to have Ashirogi make a new series while working on the series they’ve fought hard for.

And that’s…fine. But it’s not as narratively compelling as I’d like. Especially since I find Shiratori kind of a narrative drag, except for how he affects Moriya – that is fucking hysterical and painful at the same time. Seeing Moriya wilt at the serialization news was cathartic because I’ve been there a lot, and it always makes you feel like poo. But Schadenfreude.

Or it could be Saiko, which I’m *slightly* more interested in than Ashirogi.

Seeing him try to beat his storyboard time and decide to get another series would make sense. Even though technically Saiko and Shujin are the deuteragonist (aren’t I fancy?, eh?) Saiko is without question the actual protagonist of the story. Just like how Kaguya is the actual main character of Kaguya love is war. Fight me.

And if the series needs to be shy of 200 chapters to show how Saiko develops from a team into a solo manga artist who gets an anime, I’m onboard with that.

However, I still think PCP is going to get an anime, so this is all kinda moot.

In any event,

Saiko’s character flaws

This chapter actually does a fairly good job of making Saiko’s selflessness at the expense of his happiness read as a more morally grey flaw than it usually is (I’m looking at you, the entire premise of the story). And that’s because he has Shiratori’s best interest in his deicsion making.

Suppose this were like Miho and Saiko’s VA debacle a few chapters ago. In that case, I’d be a little more annoyed by it. Still, Shiratori is, in some sense, a student of Saiko’s, and Saiko’s responsibility to him is to help him get serialized, similar to how Takahama got boosted by them. It’s part of the artist relationship that is overtly compelling.

And, more to the point, he’s right about this particular situation: Shiratori is in a highly privileged position that few people experience: a direct route to serialization. Anyone who wants to be a successful shonen mangaka would be salivating.

And, for better or worse, using whatever unfair advantage you have over others is necessary in the art world. There’s so much competition, and it’s so hard that you have to use every piece of leverage you can in the industry to get through.

I’m still working on making a creative career happen, and I’ve found that more and more, you have to press any advantage you have.

As a result, I’m more okay with Saiko pushing Shiratori to take his chance here and make a series on his own. This does, in fact, save a lot of the hare-brained parts of this arc from itself.

Saiko is not being selfless purely as a character flaw.

As for the other parts of this chapter,

Iwase and Eiji

It’s good to see that Eiji is on board with not going through with the two-story things as I am. My current headcanon is that Ohba is forecasting that Shujin won’t be doing two series, and neither will Saiko because Eiji has the sixth sense things going for him.

At least, that’s my headcanon. And you can’t stop me from having it until I finish the story in about 70 chapters. Neener neener.

I also think that Iwase is playing the self-insert role for our glorious yet tiny piece of metafiction. The blowback from the crossover is a popularity slump. It’s a real thing. After a particularly big and material arc like the last one, this slump sensation is going to linger for a bit.

It’s nice to see that acknowledged by the narrative. It also leads to Iwase going too hard, which at this point I find a charming character flaw rather than a misogynistic annoyance. Thank you, the last few chapters, for that.

OH, I also really enjoyed the drama CD sequence. Seeing them get one step closer to their goal was so rewarding. It’s so rewarding, hopefully we get more of those snippets soon, or else Saiko will go crazy, and that would be bad.

Anyway, I’m outie 5000

Peace.

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