In What Fits and What You Like, I get Frustrated By Some Unintentional Metafiction (Shocking) (Chapter 107)

Yo ho ho, chum, and and welcome to my read-through of Bakuman Chapter 107: What Fits and What You Like, I continue to be grumpy about a new low-stakes tournament arc, and I complain about a central conceit of the story

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What Fits and What You Like Summary

Saiko’s Request

Shujin lists their competitors for the Super Leaders Fest: Arai, Eiji, Aoki, and Hiramaru. The calendar will be about five to seven weeks, and they have to produce something that will win, baby, win, in this ultimately fairly low-stakes competition for them.

what fits and what you like: Saiko wants to go his own way

The deadline is set by order of release, but Shujin wants to know how much time Saiko can prepare in advance to make a draft, considering PCP. Saiko requests that he handle this one-shot. He wants to see what he can do on his own.

He reminds Shujin of what he said to Mr. Hattori about keeping Muto Ashirogi at the forefront, and he appreciates it: they’re Muto Ashirogi to the end, regardless of what Shujin does with Shiratori. Shujin agrees.

Saiko thinks Shujin chose to do the one-shot for Saiko’s sake, and Shujin confirms his suspicions, but he still thinks he should write it.

Saikos says no. He doesn’t want to hold Shujin back, and if they both focus on it, Loveta and PCP will fall behind. He also wants to grow as an artist, give it a try, and see how it goes.

Shujin will work on Loveta and PCP while he works on storyboarding this one shot. If they can expand this, they’ll expand their possibilities, and it will make Muto Ashirogi go even further.

Shujin sees Saiko’s keikaku doori, having them both grow individually to strengthen the whole and sees Loveta as a means for Shujin to improve.

Yeah….sure, that’s it, that’s it exactly.

No matter what, they’re still Ashirogi, and he agrees to let Saiko fly solo for this one-shot. Saiko’s pumped to show Shujin some storyboards soon. Shujin asks him to let him know if he can’t handle it, though. He isn’t Mr. Hattori, but he doesn’t want their reputation destroyed. Saiko promises to let him know if things go pear-shaped. He doesn’t want him to wait until the last second if things go badly. Maybe Shujin could just write something, just in case.

Saiko lets him know that he’s got this. He has Loveta & Peace to worry about and he’s got PCP and the one-shot. He’ll just have to pick up the speed.

Woof.

As the two head home for the night, Shujin asks whether Saiko has any ideas. Nope, he’s been thinking about ideas, though. Shujin’s surprised; he thought Saiko had something. He asks again if he really wants to do this. Saiko plays it down: given the schedule, he has until mid-February to make it happen. Shujin points out that that is coming soon. Saiko knows.

Shujin also pesters him to make something that could become an anime. Saiko mentions he had an idea that wasn’t super anime-friendly. Shujin’s encouraging but also wants an idea that’s animateable.

Saiko got lost in a reverie about Miho at that moment. Shujin asks if he thought of something awesome, and he did: azuki.

Awww.

A Romance

At her editorial meeting, Yamahisa apologizes to Aoki for putting the burden on this new one-shot after her recent cancellation. She asks why. He explains it’s…really difficult to come up with a one-shot on a dime, which, you know, true.

Aoki, however, is honored to have the opportunity and thinks it reflects Jump’s assessment of her as valuable.

Yamahisa asks if she has any ideas, though. No, but she’d like to do a Romance. Yamahisa disagrees because Time of Greenery was already a super successful romance, so doing another would set the bar impossibly high. He is willing to compromise, however. If they do something that’s not as provocative…

Wait, what? Yamahisa is not suggesting panty shots? What character retcon is this?

Aoki’s thrilled by the idea of not having to draw panty shots, but she asks what he thinks. Yamahisa ponders and suggests a supernatural romance – a ghost, or an angel, or something. Aoki listens in silence, embarrassing Yamahisa. She’s thrilled by the idea, however, and wants to try to a romance with a straong fantasy element.

It is at that point that Yamahisa realizes that Aoki’s strength is fantasy and that pairing it with romance is just the right call. He has to get the best story out of her.

Romance?

At Jump’s office, Miura discusses his struggles with finding an artist for Akina with Aida. He promises that he’ll supply her with an artist if she can get a story done by January. He’s sure an editor would be willing to provide an artist who would want to work with her.

Aida asks her preferences storywise. Miura tells him she wants to do a romance, as Yamahisa listens on.

Aida isn’t saying no, but he wants to reiterate that this is a Shonen Manga. Most of the time, romances by female authors end up being too shojo.

Oy.

Yamahisa takes the note as well but wonders how not to step on Iwase’s toes with Aoki’s story. He sees a possibility of the girls motivating each other.

On Tuesday, at the boy’s office, Orihara asks about the last session of the year and when he wants to come in in January.

What fits and what you like: Saiko's face is distracteed

Saiko, however, is spacing out and doesn’t listen. Orihara asks Shujin what’s up since Saiko has been in a daze all day. Shujin is also spacing. Orihara is confused about what’s going on, but Shiratori explains that Saiko is trying to develop his own idea.

Orihara is impressed with Saiko for pursuing a second project, but Saiko can’t think of a single idea…

Saiko decides to get some fresh air. Shujin notices how much Saiko struggles to come up with one. However, he recognizes it’s only been five days and that he should give him a little more time.

As Saiko walks, he ponders a story that only he can tell. What is he good at? He reminisces on his uncle and how he aped his uncle’s style with superhero gag stuff. He is kinder to himself, reminded that it led to a Detective Trap, and he realizes he’s not cut out for gag or superhero stories.

He gets a coffee and continues thinking about how, after Nobuhiro’s death, he just played video games at home. All he’s done since starting manga is draw and he hasn’t done anything else, a classic artist crisis.

He considers another classic artist trope of a boring ass slice of life story or a school based story. He doesn’t have Shujin’s ability to make sci-fi or fantasy premises. Fukuda and Shiratori followed their hobbies of biking and dogs for their story. But Saiko doesn’t have those.

Poor guy.

Saiko is about ready to give up knowing he doesn’t have any special hobbies. What does he want to draw? What’s his thing?

Hiramaru’s new plot

At Hiramaru’s studio, Yoshida checks up on the status of his one-shot. He hasn’t started yet; he’s planning to wait until his series is done. Yoshida warns him that waiting too long will affect the quality of the one-shot.

Hiramaru’s smug: it doesn’t need to be good. Hiramaru has, somehow, finally, correctly pegged Yoshida’s whole play: if Hiramaru writes a hit one-shot, he won’t get any time to himself. He’d rather spend time with Aoki instead and having tea with her. Only then will he write a shoddy one-shot for Yoshida.

To Yoshida’s surprise, Hiramaru explains that a shoddy one-shot means more time to himself.

Yoshida is beside himself with fury, but Hiramaru thinks he’s got a checkmate.

That is, until Yoshida pulls out the big guns: He’s been writing Hiramaru’s tea party script, even losing sleep over it. Hiramaru doubts it, but thanks him and reminds him those are just the terms of writing a one-shot.

Yoshida thinks Aoki could marry Hiramaru and asks Hiramaru to think about that possibility. They’d be the perfect couple, on the same path, supportive and understanding while building their true love.

I’m sorry wat.

Yoshida promises to write a scenario that will lead to this. a long slow play to gradually build up Aoki’s feelings for Hiramaru so she realizes it on her own–but only if it gets a good one-shot.

Hiramaru breaks the fourth wall and thinks this is the most brilliant Carrot-on-a stick from Yoshida. Superb Manipulation.

(Lol).

ROMANCE!

On Thursday, at the office, the assistants wish Saiko a happy new year as they leave for the holidays. Saiko spaces out knowing what he wants to write about, now. He only likes one thing.

Jesus christ.

Kaya chews him out for not saying goodbye; he tries to say goodbye to the assistants but they’ve already gone. Kaya chews him out further for spacing out so hard. She tells him to talk to Miho to deepen their relationship. Shujin explains Saiko’s predicament and tells him not to worry about it. But Saiko thinks that is a good idea.

Shujin thinks it’s a… not great idea and wants him to lower his expectations. Saiko is adamant: He knows what he wants to draw and lets himself fall into a goofy gaze, which is a real win for goofy Saiko faces. It’s gonna be a breeze.

Shujin still doesn’t know what it’s about.

At Eiji’s, Yujiro looks over the latest storyboards and asks about Eiji’s one-shot. It has to be ready before March.

Eiji, in character, already has it and gives it to Yujiro. Yujiro wants to know if it is different from Crow and +Natural. Eiji confirms that it is. Yujiro is shocked by what he sees.

Kaya and Shujin chew Saiko out for his choice: a romance story? They thought he liked Manly manga like Ashita no Joe, and shit.

Yujiro is equally perplexed by Eiji’s choice of a romantic comedy. It’s not a thing he’s done before, but (eiji is basically an asexual trickster god who doesn’t understand romantic love). Eiji answers with the Beatles: All you need is love. Da dadadadaaa

Shujin goes nuclear: isn’t romance hard to do in Jump? Siako explains his favorite thing is Miho.

Adorable, but also Jesus Christ, so goofy.

Yujiro is horrified to find the romance isn’t a comedy, but it gets serious.

Eiji explains his motivation was seeing Saiko rush into saving Miho in a moment of pure romantic awe. He wants to do something dashing like that. Yujiro sees the angle but still isn’t convinced.

Shujin sees the light in Saiko’s idea because Saiko is so extremely hopeless a romantic that it would be novel. I’m dead. That is the best self-own I’ve seen. Saiko’s defensive, but Shujin sees it as an opportunity for more serious humor. Kaya thinks that is a bad idea.

Meanwhile, Eiji tells Yujiro that a manga creator needs to watch a lot of movies. Yujiro is surprised to hear that Eiji does anything other than draw manga, but Eiji continues to say that the classics are essential. Eiji war reminded of the….I’m sorry, The Graduate? when he saw Saiko rush in. Yujiro wasn’t there, and he couldn’t comment. (Lol).

Eiji wants something gallant, charming et. a;.

Continuing the cross-cutting schtick, Saiko wants to try something heartwarming, not realistic, and forward. He is reminded of Eiji’s dialogueless chapter of Crow. True love doesn’t begin with words.

Yujiro confirms that Eiji got his idea from Saiko, but he’s concerned it won’t be a hit. Eiji’s confident, and besides, it’s just a draft. Yujiro thinks it looks good but remains uncertain.

Saiko wants to make the story show their love without dialogue. He wants it to start with something like, “How much you love a person can be measured by how much you think about them.”

Shujin remains unconvinced that it’s a good idea. He is, however, reminded of an old manga called Kick Off—the kind of story you can’t help but smile at. Shujin gets further in and thinks it could potentially be a fresh read. He then speculates about a serialized version where they don’t talk at all until the very last panel, a la Sleeples in Seattle.

Kaya correctly points out that would never work. Yujiro points out that Aoki and Iwase are also writing romance stories.

Eiji and Saiko are pumped and promise to rise to the challenge as the chapter concludes.

What Fits You and What You like Reaction

A Nice Setup

So, regardless of how I feel about yet another competition/pseudo training arc for the boys to improve their craft at this late stage, I can’t help feeling a little…muted about the proceedings, still.

And the reason is the….romance setup.

Now, I’m going to be upfront. It’s a rare pleasure when the narrative machinery of a story so elegantly sets up what’s to come. And this “all our main characters have the same idea at the same time” is a beautiful setup. Although it’s unofficial, this reader’s fest is going to be romantic as fuck, which I assume will be revealed at some point to each other. Because, you know, everything in shonen manga is ultimately a competition.

But I’m held back from truly enjoying it for one big reason:

Eiji is clearly wrong about his ability to write a romance.

In what might be a truly brilliant move on Ohba’s part, Eiji has finally made what appears to be a genuine misstep in his manga career, albeit a super low-stakes one. He’s going for romance.

And I have to imagine that Eiji, being the Manga Kami that he is, with his preternatural sense of foresight for all things manga, is actually, in any way, remotely experienced in Romance. So it’s pretty clear he’s going to screw the pooch despite his best efforts.

But I love Eiji being Eiji, so I am all about his enthusiasm. But the dude wouldn’t know a romantic feeling if he character designed the embodiment of love and it punched another character design for despair in the face.

And that, at least for me, signals something of an anti-climax because it’s setting up a battle where Eiji is going to lose in some capacity by being out of his element. And given that the Eiji/Saiko rivalry is the beating heart of the story’s primary conflict – outside of Miho and Anime – it really puts a damper on my excitement.

There are other contenders here – Aoki and Hiramaru – who are both currently sans series in Jump and are using this as a springboard to get serialized again, which actually seems to be the setup of this arc. So maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this isn’t a tournament arc.

But it feels like a tournament arc with low stakes for our heroes again. But speaking of Hiramaru and Aoki

Their editors Were Enjoyable to be around for a change?

I’ll admit that I’ve kinda been enjoying the fracas between Yoshida and Hiramaru, if only because it’s so knowing and meta about how silly it all is at this point. But, more to the point, Hiramaru is hip to Yoshida’s antics and so can counter him more effectively. I audibly guffawed at the notion that he would half-ass his one-shot because he was abiding by the letter, if not the spirit of their agreement.

I do not, however, like Yoshida’s continuing use of Aoki to manipulate Hirmaru into writing. It’s gross—it will never not be gross—and it is genuinely frustrating to see it continue to be used as a plot device. The script may be amusing, but he treats her like meat—sort of since it’s a shell game—and I don’t like it.

What I’m way more okay with is the fact that Yamahisa *seems* to have chilled out with his creepiness. I don’t remember the last time we saw Shizuka. Still, it seems that Yamahisa is maturing and targeting his editorial skills to his mangaka rather than going for what is likeliest to sell.

In particular, the fact that he didn’t need panty shots from Aoki signalled some kind of growth on his part, which astounded me. And the fact that he was able to hone in on Aoki’s particular strengths really gave me a warm fuzzy feeling. He’s the opposite of Yoshida in a lot of ways, and I really, really like that because Yoshida is icky, and I don’t want any of these editors to be icky.

But yeah, this tournament arc is setting up Hiramaru and Aoki to be the forefront of it, so I can see why Romance is being chosen. But, just like Yoshida’s transparent gambits with Hiramaru, I don’t like how obvious it is that some people are going to lose. It kills the tension.

Well, there is one *other* thing that this chapter unintentionally calls attention to.

Woman As PLot Device

I don’t know if Ohba intended to bring this little metafictional bit out to the forefront at this point, but Saiko’s epiphany about making a romance because his entire joie de vivre is his relationship with his girlfriend felt a little unintentionally on point.

As much as I despise Yoshida’s behavior with Hiramaru in getting him to churn out pages, it’s worth remembering that this entire series is predicated on the same basic plot movement that Yoshida uses to get Hiramaru to write: Saiko’s carrot is Miho, for better or for worse. And I’ve been thinking about that lately because I’ve realized that, on some level, I have a similar view in my head. I’m actively working to undo it, but I’ve been unlearning for a long time how to separate the notion of a romantic relationship as a reward for good behavior.

But this, and many many many many many many other stores engage and encourage in that notion, rather than treating relationships as an aspect of your life that you have to cultivate and maintain like work, or hobbies, or day to day things. It’s something to attain rather than something to work through.

…that’s also what romance does.

But in any event, I’ve been working harder on digging deep and not holding these toxic notions myself. Fortunately, I’m making a lot of progress, though I’d be lying if I said I was 100% there.

Which may be why I find this so distasteful – aside from the overt misogyny – and maybe the other reason why I’m….bemused at the idea of an arc devoted to Romance.

Now, in fairness to everyone, they’re all gifted dmangaka who can write worth a damn, so maybe I’m overthinking it. But the one thing I did like, and one of the other reasons I’m not super looking forward to this arc, has to do with Saiko’s inspiration problem:

None of these Goobers Know What Romance Is

The sequences of absolute brain-crushing lack of inspiration hit very close to home. When I’m feeling uninspired, it’s like pulling teeth trying to generate ideas for stories that I’m interested in. I’ve even been on an almost identical loop to Saiko about getting life experience to use as an interest to write about, only to find that my narrow band of interests includes writing.

It’s a real ourobouros, I’ll tell you what.

But Eiji isn’t the only one without real experience in the romance arena. I don’t think any of the main characters other than Shujin – and to a lesser extent – Aoki know anything about romance. Especially not as giant ass nerds who work in manga-making. Not one of these humans knows what it means to be in a romantic relationship.

So that…also kills the tension a bit.

If we’re going to set up a competition, I’d like to believe that everyone can potentially win. But I don’t think anyone can, except for one. And she’s being set up as the clear victor.

I am also chalking up Iwase to this, as well.

Now, with all that said, I am enjoying developing and rounding out Saiko’s skills as a mangaka. In a later chapter review, we can discuss late-stage training arcs where the main character overcomes their primary weakness to become even stronger.

And I will also say that of the mangaka, Saiko does have the best shot of beating Aoki. But this is where my frustration with the central premise really comes to the fore.

Can you imagine the narrative ammo Saiko would have if he just hung out with Miho and developed memories with her? Can you imagine how much more life experience he’d be able to mine if he did the work of being in a relationship?

While I love that he recognizes how limited his life is and that he needs to go out and live life – it’s something many creatives fail to do – I wish the story hadn’t hamstrung him so much that he didn’t have it by design.

I am mildly frustrated by most of the developments in the last few chapters. And while I’m faithful it will return to top form in time. I’m still not super pumped about this arc.

Oh, final grouse: they all go for Shojo in a Shonen manga. I do like that the series addresses this. Although it makes me wonder even more why they chose romance as their arc.

Are they going to be doing romance for this arc? Somehow? A Romance in Bakuman? A real one. Is it possible? Who knows?

All I know is that Shujin and Saiko are growing apart due to Loveta, and the story is progressing slowly towards something I want to like, but I’m not enthusiastic about any of it right now.

I sincerely hope that these issues will be resolved soon.

That said, I’m morbidly curious about what Eiji and Saiko will cook up. Saiko getting the idea was a really fun little bit, and seeing his creative process was warming. Eiji being a movie buff was also a nice touch, although it’s probably not enough to save him, unfortunately. Especially given the famous ending of the Graduate – which I wouldn’t be surprised is part of the inspiration for that sequence with Miho and Saiko is also, famously, a very ambiguous, uncertain ending.

Oh well, I guess we will just have to see.

Until next time,

Peace

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