In Fans and Love at First Sight, A New Exciting Tournament Arc starts but I’m Unenthused (Chapter 108)

Hey hey hey, and welcome to my read-through of Bakuman Chapter 108: Fans and Love at First Sight in which we get a new (dumb) tournament arc, and I’m trying to rationalize it to myself for my own sanity.

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Fans and Love at First Sight Summary

Kaya freaks out at Shujin while massaging his back because this year will be another New Year’s without a break courtesy of Loveta’s release. She laments marrying a mangaka and leaves Shujin to panic until she pulls a good ol’ sike-a-rooni.

Good on you, you adorable, healthy goofballs.

Saiko, however, is less pleased with their romantically stable shenanigans and wants them to flirt elsewhere. They apologize and follow up on his romance one-shot. He realizes that a Romance focus only works for Shonen Manga.

Kaya wonders if sex appeal is the way; Saiko says no, although offers that’s a possibility. He was reading the whole series of Touch and Ai and Makoto the night before, which Kaya finds impressive and wishes she had a library of, and Saiko points out that Touch is a baseball story with romance, and Ai and Makoto is a yankee manga with some romance.

An insight of insights, I tell ya hwat.

Shujin agrees but thinks he doesn’t need to go so far with it. It’s just a simple one-shot; there’s no need to complicate it with other elements. Saiko takes the advice but still feels lost. Shujin offers to come by every day until he finishes so he can bounce ideas off of him. Saiko then apologizes to Kaya for keeping Shujin busy over break.

Kaya is adorably okay with it, pointing out, more accurately than I realized, that she married Muto Ashirogi and is rooting for their success. Saiko promises to put his all into it.

She then goes on to say that she doesn’t know Ai and Makoto but thinks He and Miho are spot on for the lovers in Touch.

Fans and Love at First Sight: Kaya offering some metafiction

When asked, she probably refers to (what I imagine is) Bakuman’s real-life inspiration by pointing out that Tatsuya’s goal of going to Koshien and only confessing after his dreams have come true sounds awfully familiar.

Metaficiton. ZZZZZaaaa.

Shujin joins the dogpile and sees the similarities, too. Saiko is jealous that he achieved his dreams before High School’s conclusion.

Kaya gets angry at him for being a sulky loser about this and demands he remain positive like a shonen-good boi is supposed to do.

But Saiko just doesn’t have time to change his art style to something more suited to a shojo-esque soft/romantic style. Shujin sees the issue and offers to write it, but Saiko reminds him of the TWO series he needs to focus on. He’s going to struggle alone on this.

Kimi Ni Todoke

At the Jump offices, Yujiro is chewed out by who I assume is his supervising editor for submitting a work by Eiji that *GASP* is not actually great shonen manga.

I’m clutching my pearls hard, y’all.

He points out that this is stuff that none of Nizuma’s fans would want to read.

Yujiro tries to save the situation: it’s pretty good, right? When asked about whether fifth graders give a shit about romance, he says, “Yes, actually”, unironically. Which, nice. He goes in for the kill: their youth makes them precocious and naive about the power of love to meaningfully resolve problems and obstacles created by naivety.

Fans and Love at first sight: Yujiro being Yujiro.

Yamahisa overhears as Yujiro explains how having an established couple is a fresh idea for a romance story. His supervisor editor ain’t having it: make Eiji do another battle manga. Yujiro lobbies on behalf of Eiji’s interests: what’s the point of doing a one-shot without experimenting? He’s excited about it.

It’s actually kind of adorable that Yujiro is so fiercely trying to protect Eiji’s interests.

His supervisor flees, wishing him a good ol’ happy new year/omedetou as a way to escape the convo. Yamahisa asks Yujiro if he’s working on a romantic comedy.

Yujiro explains it’s not really a comedy, and Yamahisa spreads a rumor that Iwase and Miura are also working on a romance story. Yujiro asks about Aoki, too, which Yamahisa explains is the only thing she is interested in writing.

Yujiro sees a series of romance one-shots as kind of a bad thing for a…ahem, BOY’S magazine, but Yamahisa is more open-minded about opening the magazine in a new direction.

Legit surprising to see this scumbag open to the idea.

Yujiro wants Yamahisa’s thoughts: Yamahisa recognizes how powerful the female demo is for any manga’s long-term success. A good manga with a romantic element is going to do mad numbers, just as a matter of course.

And there it is.

Yujiro chastises him for going for low-hanging fruit, but Yoshida is more contemplative; he thinks of very popular series like Nana, Nodame Cantabile, and Kimi no Todoke’s success with animes and live-action films. All shojo, though.

Up against a wall

On December 28th, Shujin finally approves Shiratori’s storyboard for Loveta Chapter 1. There are only two more chapters until they can submit them to serialization. Kaya asks when that will be. Sometime in mid-February, and either way, he needs to wrap up PCP’s chapters for the holiday. The break ends on the 11th. The 12th is the New Year’s party.

Shiratori offers to wait until the April serialization meeting instead. Shujin refuses and reminds Shiratori that he made a very bold statement in front of his mother that he plans to stick to. Shiratori offers to have Shujin skip the party this year, but Shujin is required to go.

Saiko promptly explodes in frustration, screaming about his inability to do it. Shujin plays a good therapist by having Saiko let out all his frustration. He did that all the time before PCP. Saiko sulks about Shujin’s luck. Again.

Yikes.

Shujin asks what’s wrong and Saiko explains writing for a male lead is easy since he is, you know, one, so he can pinpoint their behavior easily. But the girl….

Shujin sees that Saiko is going for multiple POVs with this one. Kaya offers advice on the female perspective.

After a cute little exchange, Saiko declines the offer in a less-than-ideal way. Kaya sees it as her tomboyishness not letting her be girly enough for him. Saiko weakly defends himself before Kaya yells at him to get Miho’s perspective since the heroine is probably exactly like her since she’s his ideal woman.

(LOL), she ain’t wrong. Saiko, embarrassed, wants to cut the conversation short in front of Shiratori, who tactfully bolts while thanking Shujin for the storyboard help. Shujin wishes him luck and offers help on Chapters two, and three soon. Kaya and Saiko wish him luck and a happy new year.

Kaya then pushes Saiko: will he talk to Miho? He wants to know what she first thought of him back in fourth grade, and the proposal et al.

Saiko’s too self-conscious for that, and Miho’s also very shy. Shujin agrees that she wouldn’t know how to respond to something like. And the two don’t really talk on the phone like weirdos.

Kaya does an admittedly hilarious impression of Miho, which gets a guffaw from Shujin and me and protests from Saiko.

New Year’s Party

Despite the fact that neither is done with their work, Ashirogi heads to the New Year’s party and walk past a re-used double panel. The two discuss the change of scenery and wonder if Hiramaru will be there. Otter No. 11 is going to be through February, so probably. Shujin’s calmed by that fact.

They hear a commotion going on and find Fukuda tearing into Yujiro about not having him enter the Super Leaders Fest. Yujiro defends himself: Giri is fine, and there’s no benefit to him doing it. Fukuda wants to know why, then, that Ashirogi and Eiji – even better players – are going for it.

They just felt like it.

Woof.

Fukuda vows to give it a shot himself, then. At the same moment, Iwase and Aoki pull up to the club (metaphorically), and Fukuda drops some casual sexism to keep things shonen, much to Yujiro’s chagrin. He asks about their participation in the one-shot contest and announces that he will join so they better watch out.

Iwase tells him that they’ll both be making romances, which will be unrelated to his work.

Saiko and Shujin are shocked to hear they are also doing romances, and they walk over to let the girls know they will too. Eiji then emojis on in and announces that he, too, will be making a romance, to everyone’s shock.

Fukuda is shocked that even King Shonen is joining in on the fun and points out that they are all Shonen Mangaka. However, he bows to the non-existent pressure and decides also to do a romance one-shot.

Yujiro thinks that Fukuda won’t be able to handle a romance story, but Fukuda counters that there were romance elements in Kiyoshi KNight, so it’s not completely outside his wheelhouse. He’ll just Ai and Makoto as a starting off point for this. Game recognizes Game, and Saiko and Shujin agree that’s the perfect story to model offf for his genre.

Fukuda walks up to fucking Sasaki (the cojones on this guy) and asks about a fan award from many years ago. There was, around the time Sasaki joined the company. Heishi exposits on it: it was a top ten list of artists the readers would like to read one-shots from, and then Jump published ten one-shots week by week. It was a hit 20-30 years ago.

Sasaki mentions it was briefly brought back in 97.

The other mangaka ooo and aaaa. Fukuda mentions one other element: There was a survey to see which one the readers liked best, and they were ranked according to those results. He suggests bringing that back as well.

Yujiro comes in to stop Fukuda from giving orders to their literal bosse’s bosse’s boss. Not only that, Fukuda doesn’t even know what Arai or Hiramaru will be doing yet.

Love at First Sight

Fukuda counters: everyone’s doing romance, so a common denominator would make rankings even more valuable. Isn’t jump all about rankings?

Hiramaru joins the absurd discussion by being his absurd self, and Yoshida slaps some sense into him: Aoki’s here. Hiramaru sneaks up on her to wish her a season’s greetings, looking very sloshed.

Aoki comes in with the clutch (for Fukuda) by finding the “experiment” of all Team Fukuda, making romance stories very interesting. She then asks what Hiramaru thinks of it.

I fucking wonder.

He consults with Yoshida, and the two get into their usual Abbott and Costello routine about it, Hiramaru gracelessly admits he’s ALSO interested in making a manga. A fact so heinously mercenary that everyone sees through it like swiss cheese.

They all collectively realize they’ve neglected, as always, Arai’s opinion on the matter, but he jumps in and offers that the idea sounds like fun since Arai is super pure and wholesome and has had four whole panels of existence to date. He wants to prove that he’s still got it (oh honey), which surprises the boys.

Sasaki is down to clown charlie brown and decides to indulge Fukuda’s plan. It won’t be the Super Leaders Fest. It will be the Super Leaders LOVE Fest. They will rank the one-shots after they’ve been released to see which was the most well-received.

Heishi’s shocked by this turn of events, but Sasaki won’t be deterred: If they’re going to do it, go all out. He sees it as a win-win: a way to motivate the mangaka and the readers at the same time.

He makes his decision official.

Everyone’s ready to win the competition and hit first place.

While Shujin is bemused by the turn of events, Saiko is pumped. He knows his competition, and he now has five months to get a story out. He’s confident he can do this. He steps outside to call Miho.

He abruptly asks her when she fell in love with him in fourth grade and if she’s liked him since then. She asks what brought this on. He explains the competition and who his competition will be.

Miho says it was love at first sight. She fell in love the first time she saw him. She offers to answer anything he wants to know. He wants to know why she fell in love, but she explains there was nothing logical about it. There was just an aura about him that made it seem that he was her perfect match.

Saiko neglects the part where she admits openly to loving him and chews on the answer. It’s gut instinct. How can he show that effectively? He asks to use that line for his manga. She’s happy to let him know since it’s for his manga.

She mentions that she realized he was the one in sixth grade. He had everything she wanted even though they’d never talked. It was destiny to her. No one else in the world was meant for her. She’s still confident about that. Saiko realizes he has the same feelings and still does.

He thanks her for the fuel for his one-shot. She wishes him luck and asks him to call or text for another straightforward answer.

Adorable idiots.

Saiko narrates that Kaya was right and he should’ve just done this, to begin with. He has everything to create the best story ever as the chapter concludes.

Fans and Love at First Sight Reaction

I definitely liked this chapter more than the last one, but…

Yeah, this is still basically empty of stakes. But I was right that it was going to be a tournament arc again. Yayyyyyy.

Blegh.

I have to question Ohba’s thinking on this particular narrative choice this late in the game when it seems that *literally* and I don’t mean that figuratively, I mean that in the literal sense, literally everybody sees how goofy it is to enter a low-stakes competition in a genre none of them are particularly suited for, except for Aoki, for an award that has no practical bearing on the plot outside of maybe getting a potential second series for Saiko to write for.

Which, by the way, I sincerely hope does not happen.

Just like the stretch with Iwase and Shujin’s rivalry and the ticking time bomb of PCP was all my favorite tropes in one, it seems we’ve entered a period where all my least favorite tropes have been rolled into one and man. Mannnnn.

And I feel the need to stress this over and over again: I DO NOT DISLIKE READING BAKUMAN, and I have not encountered a chapter I thought was truly, unsaveably bad.

But man, this stretch has really been testing my patience with its chicanery. Chicanery, I say.

And Ohba is kinda wheel spinning as he leads into something, hopefully, more compelling.

Sitcom-y Stuff

Now, there’s plenty of fun stuff in this chapter, and the character interactions, in particular, were just on point as all get out. One of the joys of reading a longer manga series is seeing the trajectory of various characters as they get used to each other and start clowning each other in a more comfortable, organic way, as the characters are now doing.

Which really saved this chapter.

I’m rewatching Brooklyn Nine-Nine courtesy of Netflix (thanks, netflix) and there is certainly a similar vibe going on with this and B99’s creative trajectory. It started off more serious and grounded, while still being kind of goofy, and as the series has progressed, has gotten considerably more relaxed in how it approaches its characters.

There is also a *mild* flanderization of the characters going on, or as I used to call it, caricaturization that is the natural byproduct of the story starting to running out of steam now that a huge number of major goals have been accomplished, and there is no obvious big bad to fight against. Even though Holt was originally dead serious, his over-seriousness becomes a running gag by the third and fourth season because Andre Braugher was a genius.

I’m sad now. RIP, Mr. Braugher.

But as things get progressively more ridiculous, everything feels just the slightest bit less interesting. Funny as all get out, sure, and enjoyable, but a little less enjoyable than it was.

And they also start engaging in yearly tropes, which is what Bakuman does as well.

But honestly, this is…the third or fourth New Year’s party we’ve been to? I think—don’t quote me on that—and it feels familiar in a good way. All the characters are acting their tropes out: Hiramaru the lush, Fukuda the Yankee, Eiji the Eiji, and the boys being obsessed with Manga.

At the same time, there’s also a sense of lightness that makes the fact that this is a sidequest all the more apparent.

Or maybe I’m being too hard on it.

Metafiction Points

One thing this chapter at least tried to do was show its bona fides with romance manga so that I could buy that this wasn’t a terrible idea. It then used two little metafictional touches to make its point: Touch—which I haven’t read—and the fact that most romance manga also have a non-romance component to keep things interesting.

Which, to be fair, is A LOT of stories. As I whinged about in the previous chapter, romance often treats relationships like an end goal, more than another part of life. But because it’s treated as an end goal and not the focus of the story, it often means that *something* has to occupy the space that the romance is not.

And a lot of stories – at least in the shonen sphere – have some other gimmick going on at the same time to keep it interesting. My baby Blue Box is primarily a grounded romance story, but an equally big component is its slice of life and sports focus. Badminton, baby. But it’s hardly the only one.

Inuyasha is fantasy with a romantic twist (Not shonen, though); Fushigi Yugi (an early fave of mine, no shame) is a romance with fantasy and reverse harem elements.

And Bakuman, is, technically, a romance with manga as the primary element. It is baked into the DNA.

Remember what I’ve said before: metafiction’s nature means that any callouts to reality are potentially callouts to both layers of reality in which a story operates.

I would not be remotely shocked by the idea that Ohba and Obata read Touch, got inspired by the Koshien/Dream storyline, and then riffed on it as part of their creative process in crafting the story of Bakuman. Although smartly and due to manga’s design, they also set their story over the span of many more years outside of high school.

So, I guess, ugh, that this isn’t totally out of left field for these guys. Blegh. Not to mention Yamahisa’s moderately scummy but also a not incorrect assertion that a lot of manga is built on the success of its female readers. This is not just a manga but a general reading thing. The most successful subgenre of writing in existence is romance, which is a massive industry within publishing. So he’s right, even if he articulates it in the most absolutely scummy way imaginable.

I will also mention, however, that Ohba pointing out the existence of a bunch of romance manga to prove on some level that he knows what romance manga are is kinda funny. I still need to read Kimi Ni Todoke, but just having that casually referenced in addition to Ai and Makoto. I’m sure I could infer some future plot threads from the name drops if I read them.

But I’m simply not there yet.

With all my negativity in mind, I did find a few things pretty great.

Saiko’s Chapter Level Arc

As we’ve talked about many times during this read-through, though I don’t know if I’ve ever actually explicitly explained it, we have another fairly large growth chapter for Saiko.

This is usually called the A-Plot in a sitcom. The idea is that your character has a problem that will take the entire chapter to address. But they won’t address it until things finally reach a boiling point and everything goes wrong.

In this case, Saiko, not wanting to talk to Miho, is the A-plot. That is the most obvious answer to his writer’s block in existence. It’s frankly kinda silly that he’s so resistant to it because…reasons, or some shit I don’t understand the logic. And we got a very cute Kaya sequence out of it (I did laugh at her Miho impression), but he spends the entire chapter not doing that and suffering for it.

It’s a very classic structure, but in this case, it’s about the creative writing experience, so I let it even more than you fucking normies. Neener neener.

Him having a conniption over drawing blanks on his ideas is absolutely too real. I’ve been there. We’ve all been there. That is the life of a writer, to be blocked sometime.

But in his case, it could be easily rectified. But not until he enters a competition.

Merrr…I see why they’re doing this silly-ass little tournament arc. Ok? But I don’t have to like it.

And this blog post now has its own little A-Plot. Nifty, you see?

So I’ll admit. I understand why this is necessary: Shujin has been punted off to the side to train his storytelling, and Saiko needs to learn how to write stories, but I find the proceedings still don’t feel urgent like I want them to. That urgency is what keeps people turning the page. That need for resolution. And right now, we’re still spinning our wheels for a silly goal.

I just want to get out of this sequence now and move on to something more compelling. Anything. I feel that Ohba is saving some better conflicts for the final arc of chapters, as he should, but I want to get there now, and it’s a desert.

But I will say that Miho and Saiko’s call at the end was legitimately adorable. It was also a metafictional reflection of the type of story that Saiko would be well suited to writing, as Kaya says straight up early in the chapter.

And from that perspective, I can’t fault this chapter one bit.

Until next time

Peace

Stray Thoughts

–Fukuda joining in just because everyone else was doing it was gold.

–Hiramaru’s a dumb creep, but I got a chuckle out of his total conformist streak when he figured it would be to his benefit.

–I also didn’t mention the absolute brass knockers that Fukuda has to walk up to the editor-in-chief to demand a tournament arc. Props to him for being a proper Yankee

-Loveta and Peace is still in production. Wooppee. I hope this plotline resolves soon. Jeepers.

–Kaya is the best. That’s all I really have to say. She’s wasted on Saiko and Shujin.

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