In Romeo and One Year, I’m Excited about the Creative Process and Grumpy About Everything Else (Chapter 109)

Hiya Playa, and welcome to my read-through of Bakuman Chapter 109: Romeo and One Year in which the story is going in a dumb direction, and I’m grumpy about it, but there’s still some good stuff going on.

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Romeo and One Year Summary

Ending with a Smile

The day after the New Year’s party, January 13th, Kaya celebrates the return of the assistants and gives everyone a round of New Year’s congratulations. Shujin sulks about his lagging pace with Loveta chapter 2, and Saiko wants to know when they get there to know how much time he has to do his storyboard one-shots.

Romeo and One Year: Saiko thinks about his chat with Miho.

Shujin correctly identifies last night’s little brouhaha as the reason for this sudden spate of enthusiasm. However, Saiko is cagey about the answer because it’s also in large part due to his conversation with Miho that is not perfectly normal currently because he is le dumb.

After that convo, he called her one more time, and she comes clean about her perspective on their romantic history. She explains that she watched him like a hawk but made sure he didn’t notice because she was shy.

Saiko wonders why people are shy about this thing and Miho thinks it’ sperfectly normal for people who are in love to be shy about it.

They also talk about Miho’s second regular anime role she’s gotten since PCP’s CD. Saiko congratulates her on her growing popularity.

She points out that he’s also getting pretty popular as a mangaka.

Saikos uses the fuel from that convo to drive him to work even harder as they advance in their professions. Shujin thinks his romantic spaciness is writer’s block, which he quickly denies.

Two hours later, Saiko finishes the storyboard, and Shujin and Kaya bumrush him to give notes. The two read it and are slow to respond, leaving Saiko on tenterhooks.

Neither believes that it’s bad, but Kaya thinks it’s kind of weird. She points out that if it were love at first sight, they’d be aware of the other’s feelings. Saiko breaks the first rule of the critique club by defending his work. In his – very cute – storybaord the main character, Keigo, stands strong to gaze at his one true love and she smiles back at him.

Kaya wonders if this is that weird brand of humor Ashirogi is famous for. Saiko gets defensive: they’re taking it slow and only starting to get ready to take the next step.

Oh, I know, why don’t you have the boy try to be a mangaka to give it some motion.

Kaya thinks it’s too slow, and Shujin doesn’t think the juice is worth the squeeze, narratively speaking. Saiko, as a new writer, gets bummed out because he thought he was doing everything “right.”

Oh, you sweet summer child.

Shujin has to re-iterate that the work isn’t bad, but it’s missing something. Saiko needs to clean it up before Thursday and let Hattori review it.

Team Fukuda Gets Romantic Pt. 1: Fukuda and Eiji

At a Ramen shop, Fukuda and his now two assistants talk about the new one-shot. Fukuda explains what he did with Sasaki, impressing Yasuoka for pure brashness.

Romeo and One Year: Fukuda, the Romeo of Hiroshima.

His new assistant wonders what kind of romance they’re going to do, though.

Fukuda asks his boys whether they have any experience with the ladies; the bike assistant had a crush on a female biker boss once. Fukuda writes them off as useless until they ask about his experience with dating.

After a generous spit take, Fukuda doth protest too much and claims he’s the “Romeo of Hiroshima” back home, which both of his assistants see through immediately.

Fukuda is still confident, though, because even if he knows jack shit, Nizuma doesn’t know shit either, so he’s evenly matched for his biggest competition.

And on that note…

At Eiji Co. Ltd., Eiji’s basking in the power of love, the FEELING OF ROMANCE while listening to music. Yujiro is not confident in Eiji’s story featuring people doing zany things purely through the power of love.

Eiji wonders if it’s that hard to believe, and Yujiro admits he likes the simple stuff, but internally, he’s less certain: it could either be a huge hit or a total dud, no in between. It will depend on his editor. He’s comfortable proceeding with it, though, because it won’t negatively affect either Crow or +Natural.

He enables Eiji, which Eiji doesn’t seem to pick up is a bad thing, and Eiji swears to be number one of the Super Leader’s Fest.

They agree the name is too long, though.

Team Fukuda Gets Romantic Pt. 2: Aoki, Iwase, and Hiramaru

At Aoki’s editorial meeting, Yamahisa goes over the convoluted fantasy love plot between a man looking for love, Hiruto, and his cupid angel Luna, whom he loves, but confesses to a human girl to raise the cupid’s ranking. He thinks it’s a painful love.

Aoki emphasizes that she wants a story in which their love can transcend heaven and earth, and that if they do so, Luna can become human. Yamahisa isn’t enthusiastic about the premise, although it’s what he asked for.

She wonders if it’s bad. He’s quick to assure her that bad is not the right word but that it’s super complex, especially for a single one-shot, and that it needs to be simplified.

Good advice, Yamahisa.

At Iwase’s meeting, Miura explains he’s hired Hachiro Happongi, an unemployed 23-year-old winner of the Good Effort Contest in the Garyokin Fire Contest for her illustrator.

She thinks his pen name is stupid until Miura corrects her that it’s his real name.

Alright, that got a laugh out of me.

She asks about the contest itself: Is it one where artists are asked to complete storyboards to be judged solely on the art? She dismisses it as likely battle scenes, but Miura assures her he can handle “standard” stuff, as well. Happongi is “great” at drawing girls.

Danger, danger will Robinson.

Iwase disregards that comment and hands the storyboard to Miura. Miura is distressed to find that it’s a romance novel and wonders if he can get her to redo it. Miura sees that Iwase is unlikely to do something different, so he just lets it pass.

Meanwhile, at Hiramaru’s place, Yoshida discusses the final chapter of Otter, in which he returns to the sea. Hirmaru focuses on the fact that he gets to have tea with Miss Aoki soon, which motivates him to finish.

Yoshida is surprised to find that Hiramaru has already completed the one-shot. More to the point, it’s got Hiramaru’s trademark pessimism and negativity, featuring a girl confessing to a guy who thinks it’s a trap, which only motivates the girl to try harder to win his affection.

Hiramaru explains that he imagined how he’d respond if Miss Aoki confessed to him because he assumed that if that ever happened, it would be because Yoshida had set a trap.

Yoshida giggles at the uhm unfortunate truth of that potential scenario but thinks the art needs work. Hiramaru loses it, at that.

A Frankly Hilarious Amount of Good News

On Thursday, as the assistants head home for the day, Shujin asks Shiratori for some more time on Chapter 2. Shiratori is okay with submitting for another meeting. After Shiratori departs, Shujin vents his frustrations with the struggle of writing for Loveta, especially with PCP starting up. He doesn’t have time, so he’ll have Hattori review at their editorial meeting.

Speaking of the devil, Hattori appears. He approves PCP’s storyboards and lets the boys know that they’ll be getting a front color page to celebrate the one-year anniversary of PCP’s release in Issue 13, for a February 13th release. They’re both surprised and pleased. Despite knowing it would happen, Shujin is still pleased with the news.

Hattori’s not done. They’ll also be getting a raise for both their contract and page rate. News that Shujin rightfully gets wayyyy more excited about like a true, real adult. Shuijn’s so excited he starts doing the mental math….verbally, much to Saiko’s chagrin. Hattori has no problem with it; professionals should celebrate when they get a pay increase.

Shujin also points out that this is only their…woof, second pay raise in so many years.

And Hattori reminds them: no series means your pay is zero. Tough biz, that. Hattori wants to keep pressing on for two or three years to get the number higher.

He ALSO informs them (Jesus), that a second drama CD is coming in. He also mentions that Miho has been getting more popular plaudits. They’ve called her agency to schedule, and she’s gotten more work. Shujin is surprised, but Saiko knows the sitch: she was in a poll for the top 30 most popular voice actors, as well.

Saiko feels sad that PCP will never get an anime, but Hattori keeps the good news coming: there will be a ceremony to celebrate their one-year anniversary, though the date has not yet been set. Shujin asks for more details, and Hattori explains that it will take place before other artists are awarded by senior editors and receive a certificate and plaque.

The weight of Shujin’s success with PCP settles in on him. He’s got a hit manga a year in, and everything’s going great. Not only that, the Loveta manga, and One-shot will only strengthen them further. he has doubts, though. Is there anything they need to improve at this point? Maybe getting an anime would…

What a pregnant question to ask halfway through a chapter that is still 60-odd away from the finale. I wonder.

With that out of the way, the meeting starts. Shujin asks Hattori to review the new chapter and the one-shot first. Hattori’s pleased that the storyboards are ready already. Shujin’s shakey on it, however. Hatori wants to read Loveta first.

No Good

Hattori thinks it’s no good because Peace doesn’t act like a dog. Shujin’s strength of clever storytelling is backfiring because the character is a dog, so it can’t out think humans. Shujin sees the logic in the note, and while Hattori doesn’t think the dog has to be stupid, he has to be more simple-minded…like a dog.

I get it.

Shujin, a master of note-taking jutsu, realizes that Loveta needs to pull his weight more than Peace. The meeting concludes with Shujin needing to do a lot of work for Loveta, much to his frustration. Hattori is encouraging, then asks to see the one-shot.

He finds the one-shot to be pretty good and a legit romance. Shujin reflects on his confused happiness at this news but chalks it up to it being Ashirogi’s work, not Shiratori’s manga as the reason.

It’s good, but Hattori doesn’t get it. He clarifies that it feels like a shojo manga, and he’s uncertain how Jump will respond.

He likes hte idea of Kengo and Sayaka (the MCs) not sharing looks or a conversation as a neat premise (oh really, oh realllly) and thinks its a good, nostalgic way of depicting first love, it reminds him of middle school. But he’s uncertain whether kids, y’know, their target audience, will respond to it. It might be too much for the author and not enough for the audience.

Hattori thinks focusing too much on “Takagi’s” ideal romance may not be a great idea before Shujin points out that Saiko did it. Hattori reassesses and realizes he enjoys it more because of how different it is from their usual style.

He changes his mind: with some fixes, it’s worth a shot.

They’re both surprised by that, and Saiko asks what needs fixing: making it relatable to kids, first of all. In a moment of surprising candor, Saiko admits openly that he doesn’t really understand normal relationships that well; Hattori asks Shujin to fill him in, which Shujin agrees to.

A Fight

the next day, Shujin panics about the deadline for the February serialization. Kaya reassures him that they don’t have to submit for February, and Saiko tries to encourage him, but Shujin bites back: Saiko only has to tweak his one-shot, and he has to redo Loveta from scratch. Saiko points out that they’re not competing with each other. Their efforts are for the greater good of Ashirogi’s career.

Shujin lets his stress at the fact that Saiko’s doing something all by himself while he’s stuck working for Shiratori slip. Saiko asks what’s wrong, and Shujin relays his misgivings about their current approach. He feels like both of them should be pouring everything into that one-shot that has no real benefit to them…aside from maybe getting them a second manga.

Which he says in the next panel. Shujin’s guilty about the fact that he’s working so hard to make Loveta successful when he could be working on getting them a second series that would get them an anime, their end goal. If Loveta gets one, he’ll drag them both down. He also slips to Kaya that PCP will never get an anime.

Saiko wonders what they can even do at this point. Shujin thinks the idea that Loveta would make them stronger is hogwash. He rationalizes that he’s fine, but if he continues writing other series, he’ll become a major author. While he’s comfortable being famous for PCP alone, it wouldn’t be the same if Saiko doesn’t get the same upward motion, a thing that’ll only happen if they get an anime. Saiko agrees.

Saiko also mentions that he finds his desire selfish. But that’s the issue: Saiko isn’t selfish enough, and they’re never going to get an anime like this.

Kaya stops this dumb fight from progressing further and asks Shujin to apologize to Saiko. It’s not Saiko’s fault he’s having a hard time. Shujin gets petulant and whiny. He has to continue working on Loveta. He calls up Shiratori and explains he won’t be able to work on Loveta until he understands dogs better properly, and then asks to come over.

He heads out, to the confusion of both of them, as the chapter concludes.

Romeo and One Year Reaction

An Abrupt Cliffhanger

I should probably start at the beginning, but I’ll just be real with you. I don’t buy this cliffhanger at all. It really came out of left field, and it’s one of the few times where I think Ohba’s made a genuine writing misstep.

And it’s not a misstep because Shujin wouldn’t do something like this, necessarily. Way back in the early 20s, we had this happen almost verbatim.

It doesn’t work because it was clearly shoehorned in without proper setup.

Now, that may not be *entirely* true because this has been one of the simmering plotlines of the last few chapters since Saiko agreed to have Shujin work on Loveta. Namely, a rift in the two boys’ relationship. But as it stands the in-chapter setup of Shujin feeling both relieved and disappointed by Hattori’s response to Loveta and Peace and Saiko’s success at their editorial meeting is just a wrong note.

Now, that’s not to say I don’t get what Ohba might be going for. This is just a cliffhanger to keep butts in seats, and this is a later-era arc in Shonen Jump. Even if they’re doing well, they’re always in the hot seat.

And frankly, this arc isn’t bad. Still, it’s certainly misguided content-wise – as it acknowledges openly throughout the chapter – so their rankings might have slipped at this point, and an arc that they wanted to simmer a bit longer may have taken an abrupt turn to keep things interesting.

But ehhhhhh, it’s not a super strong cliffhanger.

Now, Shujin is obviously not going to betray Saiko and make him a lonely mangaka. That would be a truly moronic turn of events and even though Saiko is clearly the protagonist, Shujin still is equally important to him in the story and will be essential to the conclusion. It cannot be overstated that they will bear equal weight in heading to the conclusion.

However, how Shujin comes back is a more interesting question albeit, one we’ve also seen before in previous arcs.

We’re not in the stretch I want to be at yet, and it’s frustrating. But there are other things to talk about in this chapter, such as:

Everyone Sucks at Romance

The series is being pretty brazen with how bad everyone will be doing at romance. And by everybody, I mean everybody but Aoki and Hiramaru because they have been the primary focus among the side characters.

We’ve now seen this technique used at least 80 times because it happens almost every chapter, but in case you didn’t notice, in every chapter, there will be news on the Ashirogi side, and then we’ll cross-cut to Team Fukuda reacting to it which takes up a good portion of the screentime. It’s a very repetitive technique, and it probably helps to fill out the page count for a story that doesn’t rely on action, so it needs more story per page to get through.

But it’s also an incredibly effective technique for a few reasons. It gives us multiple perspectives on Ashirogi’s behavior. we can keep tabs on the main characters, and we have natural subplots developed among the team and different dynamics.

Plus, it’s a way to show different mangaka reacting to similar problems. Overall, it’s a nice technique, and I’m also a huge fan of catching up with random players in a story to gauge their progress.

And in this case, it’s pretty clear to see that Fukuda, Eiji, and Iwase are all absolutely fucked for this competition, given how none of them have the experience or bona fides necessary to crush it.

I will admit I got several laughs at Fukuda’s posturing as a ladies’ man – the Romeo of Hiroshima is an incredible thing to name yourself. – and Iwase’s short fuse with Miura – the reaction Miura had in particular had me on the floor.

But best of all was the clear narrative nod that EIji isn’t going to succeed by showing Yujiro both enabling and rationalizing his one-shot as outside of his ability to comprehend instead of criticizing him. It’s actually a nice way of showing how important a good editor is because Yujiro is only allowing this because Eiji’s not in any danger.

Which makes the sequences with Yamahisa – ugh – equally compelling.

Even though I still find Yamahisa broadly scummy – and Yoshida too, although for entirely different reasons – it was good to see Yamahisa being calm and composed and giving editorial advice that was thoughtful about Aoki’s needs as a writer instead of suggesting panty shots. He’s listening to her and playing to her strengths. And he’s giving her legit good advice.

The Creative Voice and Saiko

Simplicity, for a one-shot, is key.

I’ve tried writing one-shots lately – they are fun, it’s just a leisure activity; I may or may not post them one day, but for now, in your dreams – and making a one-shot story isn’t hard, but making good one is a fucking nightmare.

But I’ve found, as in all things, that simplicity usually is best.

And it’s nice to see that Saiko is going for an admittedly simple route with his manga. It’s also so on the nose about being the focus of this manga that it is almost cute.

In any event, seeing Saiko working so damn hard to write a manga has been one of the strengths of this arc because it’s a great depiction of the creative process for a storyteller. It’s a lot of staring at nothing and trying to rub two brain cells long enough to create electricity that others can feel. And then when you feel that idea, you fall into it, and you get really wrapped up in it, and you fall in love. So it also blinds you to its failings. And then when other people don’t envision your work the way you envision, you get kinda pissy.

I’ve been in critique sessions for a screenplay of mine. The notes were good, but they were still notes. And that’s never easy to take. I felt a bit like both Saiko and Shujin in the sense that I’ve gotten very good at note taking, but I’m still disappointed to have received them because I thought I was “there” whatever the fuck that means.

But it’s important to remind oneself that one never truly gets there.

If you are a creator, you will relate hard to all of this. Particularly a storyteller. Especially when the critiques come in and it isn’t good.

But equally, Hattori revising his opinion of the work was a truly wonderful moment because it also highlights something about art that is also true.

Art is Personal

As I’ve grown older and taught myself many of the craft elements of many …crafts, I’ve grown more keenly aware of how craft is a means to express oneself.

Which means that art shapes itself progressively around the artist. And the more authentically your craft aligns with yourself, the more other people will recognize that is the case.

And the internet doesn’t quite understand that as much of the content surrounding famous creators of all types is an emphasis on mimicry. How many times have you seen a video of someone singing in the style of Morrissey, or recording a song the way System of a Down would, but it’s like, Happy Together, or something.

That’s actually a good idea for a cover. I’ll write that down.

Or someone trying another persons’ creative process as a youtube video. Trying to get into their mind and see how they work in a day.

But that is also individual. Every process suits the person who engages with it. It’s a process of discovery, and it’s unique to the self. Once you find your process, whatever that might be, you refine it and improve it. There are no right answers, which makes art art.

This is why I loved that Hattori’s thoughts on the One-shot changed immediately when he learned that Saiko wrote it. Although he thought it felt different from Ashirogi’s usual work, what he actually recognized was the way the art shaped itself around Saiko specifically, based on his particular personality quirks and interests. It’s a satisfying moment not because Saiko gets validated, but because it reminds us that if an artist uses their own voice, rather than the ones they want to ape, and they hone their craft enough, they’ll have a voice of their own.

And that’s kinda beautiful.

And now I’m down waxing poetic

The Future

Bakuman is very good at forecasting future moments in the present chapter and also for taking a long span of time to tell its story. A year has passed since PCP was released—and since I started covering it, actually—and that’s cool to see. If I had to guess, we’re probably going to see the award ceremony, but we have to get through this silly arc first.

What do I think is going to happen, though?

Well, first, Shujin and Saiko are going to reunite, that much is clear. Probably before the one-shot is released – that’s just good storytelling. But how will they do it?

It’s really unclear. One thing this arc is highlighting, if obliquely, is how untenable—for them—the two-series thing is going to be. I think it’s wrongheaded, and just like the romance arc is wrongheaded, I want the boys to realize it’s wrongheaded and not do it. But do I think that will happen?

Eh, I’m not confident. I think the series is pointing to it maybe happening, but I just don’t see how they’ll realize it on their own.

And this is also complicated by how much of an explicit training arc this is for the boys. This may render the victory in the contest moot, but I’m afraid I still have to disagree with it as a storytelling choice.

What I do like, however, is pairing this with all the good news they received. That was a satisfying recognition of their progress over the years and it emphasized that they’ve become successful in a tangible, good way, and that’s something to celebrate.

So maybe I’m being too harsh, but I really want this arc to get a move on, because I want to see how it resolves, and I also think we have better stories ahead. I don’t know for sure if it remains disappointing from this point forward. That will truly suck, but I have faith in them that they’ll turn it around, they’re good storytellers.

They know the process so well.

Until next time

Peace

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