In Together and Separate, Exciting Drama Feels Manufactured (Chapter 110)

What’s good, my dude, and welcome to my read-through of Bakuman Chapter 110: Together and Separate, in which I get increasingly frustrated by weird character choices.

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Together and Separate Summary

Proceeding from the previous chapter, Shujin storms out to work with Shiratori on Loveta. Kaya’s surprised and wonders if she should go out and salvage the situation. Saiko tells her that it’s important for Shujin to get quality time with Peace to write the story properly.

Kaya, standing in for everyone at this point, asks Saiko whether he wants Shujin working on Loveta. Saiko gives his usual answer that it’s not his business what Shujin does since everything is for the benefit of Ashirogi. Kaya is worried, however, that he won’t come back.

Saiko implicitly trusts Shujin’s commitment to Muto Ashirogi. Kaya remembers that he wanted to do a One-Shot under the Ashirogi moniker. But he still seemed intent on writing for Loveta to an alarming degree.

Saiko takes a beat, then does something genuinely surprising: asks for Kaya’s viewpoint and recommendations. Kaya demurs: She has no input that would be helpful; Saiko disagrees: she’s the wife of Ashirogi, and she’s supported their whole career, so she has just as much say as they do.

She promises to be honest but asks Saiko not to get mad. He promises not to.

Kaya makes the objectively correct observation: neither of them need to be doing this insane shit to get a second anime and should, instead, focus on making PCP the best possible thing it can be. That said, if they had to focus on the one-shot, she’d prefer they just focus on it, not Loveta.

She then drops another bigger bomb.

Get Married Already

She wants Saiko and Miho to marry. They are successful enough at this point; PCP’s going strong, and once they’re married, they can all spend time together again—the four of them. She knows Saiko’s financially well off, and he’s a great artist, and she wants them to simply get married and focus on Ashirogi and none of this other craziness.

Poor kaya.

Saiko, in annoyingly shonen fashion, says that he can’t do that.

Kaya is melancholy: she already knew that that was the case since Miho wouldn’t cross their invisible wall of Jericho either, but she also correctly identifies that this pathological need for an anime is the source of literally all their problems.

…..Yep. They’re dingbats.

Saiko thinks she might be right, and he wouldn’t even be thinking about another series if that weren’t the case. Kaya apologizes for the statement and recognizes that Shujin is as committed to the dream as he is, but she thinks he’s actually upset because they’re going so far off track.

Saiko agrees.

Playtime

At Eiji Co., Ltd, Yujiro searches among the pages in the apartment for Love Power A-Z, +Natural, and Crow while Eiji does what Eiji does best: make more manga. Yujiro finds Eiji’s ability to manage three manga at a time astonishing, but Eiji enjoys drawing them. Yujiro thinks he enjoys the variety but also asks why Eiji thinks Ashirogi shouldn’t be working on Loveta.

Loveta isn’t Ashirogi’s work.

Yujiro thinks he’s literally referring to the configuration of the writing and drawing team, but Eiji means something different: Loveta is Shiratori’s story. Yujiro doesn’t understand how they differ, but Eiji doesn’t elaborate.

Shujin, Shiratori and Peace play in the park, Shujin showing off his mangaka body is out of breath from the experience. Shujin gasps for air on a bench, lamenting his lack of physical fitness and getting older. He does admire Peace’s boundless energy, however.

Peace whines. Shiratori explains he wants to know if Shujin’s OK. Shujin is fine, but sees how much hard work owning a dog is. Having to play with it and walk it, Shiratori includes the food costs, which can be up to 50,000 yen a month, shocking Shujin and maybe leading to a pay increase for Shiratori.

Shiratori explains that it’s fine; Hitomi sneaks money to him for food every month. Shujin thinks that’s irresponsible, though.

Shujin correctly interprets Peace’s bark as a “That was fun” and recognizes how Smart Peace is and how he understands them both.

Shiratori explains that he does understand them and can read people’s emotions better than people can. And see through lies. Shujin sees how much more grounded the series is, in that light. Shiratori explains that he wouldn’t have come up with it if it were too far-fetched.

He sees that Peace, sweating adorably, needs to get something to drink. Shujin admires Shiratori’s understanding of his dog. He’s confident that if they work together, they can make the manga a success.

Tension

At the Takagi household, Shujin excitedly recounts his day with peace as Kaya grumpily prepares dinner. Shujin picks up that she’s miffed, and she reiterates that she objects to him working on Loveta at all because Saiko would never actually tell him how he feels about it. Shujin wants to know if Saiko actually said that, but she reminds him he would never say something like that.

That said, it seems like the two of them are fighting, and she doesn’t like it. He tells her to mind her own business (rookie mistake), and she gets even more aggravated. He tells her there is nothing to worry about and he just has to keep up with Loveta for now.

Shujin thanks her for dinner and then goes to his room.

Together and Separate: Saiko gets a text from Shujin he did not expect

The following Thursday, Orihara notices that Shujin has not come into the studio at all in a week and asks if he’s well. Kaya explains that he just needs time to work on Loveta. Shiratori explains that Shujin is very motivated and playing with peace at that moment. Kaya’s shocked to learn that Shiratori doesn’t have the dog indoors. Shiratori explains that Shujin wants to spend as much time with Loveta as he can, so he gives him a spare key.

As the assistants leave, Kaya and Saiko genuinely worry about Shujin’s behavior, especially since the editorial meeting is starting soon.

Saiko gets a text, and Kaya thinks it’s his regular dalliance with Miho

But it’s not Miho; it’s Shujin. He’s cancelled the meeting at the apartment and instead will meet with Hattori alone at a diner. He orders Saiko to focus on the one-shot.

Kaya flips out at the news, but Saiko keeps her from calling him to chew his ear off. Saiko is equally concerned and doesn’t understand what’s going on.

Hattori gives him a call and explains what Shujin told him about meeting up for one-shot discussions. Saiko reiterates Shujin’s focus and goals, but Hattori is concerned and wonders why they don’t all look at the one-shot together.

That’d be too rational.

Also, Saiko, despite being disturbed by this behavior, still lets Shujin make the call on this one and explains it’d be better for him to focus on this one on his own.

Hattori, confused, agrees to it while Kaya departs. Saiko wonders if he’s not going to work on the one-shot at all and remembers he told him to focus on Loveta, so he’s reaping what he’s sown.

Oy.

Shujin’s motives

At the meeting, Hattori sees through Shujin’s real goal: not wasting Saiko’s time with talk about Loveta. Yes, and they’re both on tight schedules since they’re aiming for February submissions. Hattori also reminds him of his One-shot coming due, but Shujin points out he wants Saiko to focus on it. It’s more important than Loveta get serialized than the one-shot be done. Also Saiko is doing surprisingly well.

Hattori agrees with that but still has reservations. Shujin ain’t having none of it: PCP and AShirogi are already running strong, but Shiratori has the opportunity of a lifetime, and it’s a moment of truth for him. Hattori acknowledges how serious Shujin is about this and vows to get Loveta greenlit.

Hattori wants to review PCP and reasons that, since Shujin’s still doing ok with PCP, there is no reason to worry.

Three hours later, at the studio, Hattori tries to gauge Saiko’s willingness to go with everything. Saiko points out that Shujin has enough going on his plate right now, and he wants to do as much as he can on his own.

Hattori gets real: he still sees Saiko struggling without Shujin’s assistance. Saiko reminds Hattori who got them into his pickle (it’s Hattori, Hattori did it, bad Hattori). He then gets passive-aggressive and mature by pointing out that Shujin has no time to help. This is on Saiko’s shoulders.

He also notes that he insisted on the one-shot, and Shujin agreed because he understood how Saiko felt. Saiko’s going to take it as far as he can. He wonders, though, if Shujin mentioned any of this to Hattori.

Hattori senses that something is off but he can’t pinpoint it. He doesn’t feel reassured by Shujin’s notes about Ashirogi and he acknowledges that Saiko is right: he did suggest Loveta. What’s going on here?

At the Takagi household, Shujin explains to Kaya that he has already eaten while Kaya cleans in tense silence.

He notices and gets passive-aggressive, but she breaks down and wonders why Shujin is going so far to push Sako away. Shujin demands that she have faith in him. He knows what he’s doing. She then lets out some of the subtext: she feels neglected and tells him to go to Shiratori’s if he’s trying to have some peace (no pun intended) rather than her.

Poor baby. *Pat pat*.

She slams the door and wishes him a good night.

Down to the Wire and Changing the Guard

The following Tuesday, Shujin still hasn’t come to the studio and Saiko’s running out of time to finish the one-shot. He has one, maybe two weeks to finish it. He wonders whether he can actually get it done without Shujin’s help. In the end, Hattori’s word is law here, and he’s still got those color pages to work on too. He has no time to waste on Shujin.

Orhara reminds Saiko that it’s 11 o’clock. Saiko lets the assistants leave, and Shiratori comes up to discuss something: he plans to quit being an assistant by the end of this week.

Saiko panics, but Shiratori tells him that Shujin said if he’s going to be serialized, he’s going to need to quit and focus on his art from now on.

Saiko is flabbergasted by the news, Kaya’s concerned as well for the safety of PCP since shiratori is their best assistant. She wonders whether his loyalties have shifted to PCP. It almost feels like…

*looks one way, then the other* Sabotage. Dun dun dun.

Saiko pretends to be okay with it and agrees he should be focusing on Loveta. He’d also have to quit if it got serialized anyway. They’ll find a replacement.

Shiratori asks if Kaya is okay. He explains that Shujin is staying over at Shiratori’s entirely to focus on Loveta for “a while” and wonders if Shujin told them. Even Saiko thinks that’s going far.

Kaya looks like she’s having a heart attack at the news, much to Shiratori’s chagrin as he learns Shujin never informed her of this arrangement. Yeek.

Shiratori offers to tell him to go back home.

Kaya’s ready to aikido his ass into the future and says that’s not necessary since she did *technically* tell him to do that.

No, baby, what is you doin’

Shiratori reads the room, picks up on the tension, and asks if they’re fighting right now. She doesn’t want Shujin coming home if he wants to be there. Shiratori, eager to be saved from the pure awkwardness, seeks Saiko’s help.

Saiko tells him to let Shujin do what he wants and focus on making Loveta better right now. It’ll be best for all parties involved since they’re going to be rivals from now on.

With the tension high, the chapter concludes.

Together and Separate Reaction

Kaya, my poor baby

Man, this chapter has me so divided. On the one hand, I see what Ohba is going for with these decisions – which, for the record, I don’t buy for a second – and he ALMOST gets everything right, but the setup is just not clean enough for me to get behind it.

And that’s primarily because I don’t buy for a second, balls deep into this series like we are, that Shujin would actively and aggressively treat poor baby Kaya like this.

While it is narratively effective as a red herring, I just do not accept that Shujin would be so blatantly shitty to his wife. And let’s not get it twisted, he is being a giant – and I mean GIANT – shitheel to her for virtually no obvious reason. It’s not technically out of character – Shujin has been thoughtless to her before in the past – we’ve even had entire arcs dedicated to his thoughtless behavior imperiling his marriage – but we’ve never had him actually shut her out, out of pettiness because she’s frustrated by the situation.

It really hurt to see Kaya mistreated like this and to hear her be so genuinely down in the dumps about it. I really just wanted to give her a hug and tell her everything would be alright because she was suffering so much. I also agreed with her about Saiko and Miho (more on that in a bit).

Not for nothing, Shujin has never been actively angry at his wife for such a patently silly reason as this. And it doesn’t feel like something that’s an organic reaction to stress. Especially when he didn’t treat Kaya like this during the Tanto run and he was objectively more stressed out in that case. Something is obviously missing that will be revealed when the arc ends, but this is not real Shujin behavior.

The Ugly Truth about Late Era storytelling.

It’s just another character note that feels….manufactured.

Now that I think about it, this part of what is actually one of the longest ongoing arcs in Bakuman (more on that in a moment) is obviously supposed to be the drama of the growing fracture between Shujin and Saiko’s relationship. Shujin works on Loveta with Shiratori, and he’s supposed to have divided loyalties, while Saiko might be a one-person manga machine.

I just do not buy it. Not for a second.

The character work that has been established is too rock solid for this drama to feel anything other than contrived. And again, that’s less the fault of Ohba’s writing and more the stage of the story we’re in. We’re still pretty far from the mythical anime and eventual marriage of Saiko and Miho – this will happen; we’re not in Seinen Land; it’s not an actual prediction – so we still need stories.

But this story is being dragged out in such an inauthentic way that I can’t help but get increasingly irritable about it.

This is also why I’m glad Bakuman has a concrete ending planned, as far as I can tell. If this series were just winging it, it would be even worse. My faith is in the series’ ability to keep to a narrative track that’s been meticulously—novelistically even—planned.

And fortunately, there is still plenty of that to go around.

The Good Parts

So I said this chapter is part of what I would classify as the longest arc in Bakuman at about ten chapters, but I would even include some of the subplots during the Best arc to date (TM) as part of this mega arc.

And that’s because this arc has been multiple acts.

What now?

Although 10 chapters is not Wano, by any stretch, it’s still pretty long for a Bakuman arc. The reason I’m calling this a longer arc is due to the fact that there are several subgoals to be achieved rather than one larger goal that can be immediately achieved.

It’s really a training arc, following Shujin and Saiko as they work to improve their sides of the craft and the conflict that arises as they navigate it.

The immediate things that need resolution are the Super Leaders Love Fest, The Two Series, Shiratori’s Series, Saiko’s One-Shot, Hiramaru, and Aoki’s cancellation, and now Shujin’s abrupt neglect of Saiko (and poor baby Kaya).

That’s a lot of stuff to juggle, whereas the previous arc was focused almost exclusively just the ticking time bomb of PCP maybe getting cancelled and Iwase’s defeat. That was the singular focus of the arc.

Thus this arc is much more diffuse and hard to pinpoint. But we are clearly nearing the climax with Shujin’s behavioral change.

And I’ll be a little generous here: I do understand what he’s *actually* doing, even if he’s going to talk about it in a needless, conflicting way. He needs to focus on his stuff, and Saiko needs to focus on his stuff. They are now both busy and successful mangaka who have little time for other things because life has gotten in the way.

It’s a problem I am familiar with because I have become increasingly busy as I’ve made strides towards my own goals.

I will not go so far as to say I’m where Saiko and Shujin are, but I’m making progress, even if it is slow and non-linear. My time to do stuff has shrunk, but I persist in writing this because I love you, and I promised I’d finish.

And it’s pretty clear from the editorial meeting that Shujin isn’t intentionally being a dick, he’s just being hyperfocused on Loveta to the exclusion of all else, because he needs to sfor serialization. And his rationalization that Saiko needs to get better at writing and crafting his one-shot is…sound, but again, the delivery is kind of a mess.

And if this arc wasn’t so diffused and, dare I say it, directionless, I think I’d be more on board with it. But, like my life, it’s just got a bit too much going on, and it needs to move onto bigger and better things.

But I do see a narrative developing here

Eiji Called It

Although I find the Loveta stuff not the greatest, I did find it interesting how the series decides to depict Peace. And just in case I haven’t said it in a recent chapter (I definitely have, to be clear), this manga is engaging in metafiction on a level rarely seen, and it uses Ergodicity regularly. But because this is not the chapter to discuss that in detail, I will simply point out that we are in what I will refer to as the “Loveta and Peace” arc of the story.

This is supposed to be a real life version of Loveta and Peace, with Shiratori and Peace being the main characters, just like the romance reader fest is for, presumably, Aoki and Hiramaru in some way – although given Hiramaru’s whole joie de vivre I have no earthly idea what that could possibly be. Everyone but Saiko and Shujin are the real focus, and it’s hurting the story.

Which Eiji calls out to Yujiro: this isn’t Ashirogi.

And I guess that’s my real frustration with the story right now. Even though Ashirogi is nominally the center, they’ve not been in the real spotlight since Chapter 100. That is, of course, by narrative design, but I can’t help but feel like it’s increasingly dissatisfying to have the main characters sidelined in their own story to focus on a boy and his dog. That dog is the cutest, bestest boi who wants a snack. Whose a good boi? You are. Youa re.

Where was I?

It’s not as interesting as the main characters being the focus. I also find this a common problem in the manga where the main characters get increasingly sidelined as they resolve their major issues. That and the reintroduction of previously resolved character beats.

It’s just not a good soup.

But there is hope.

Two Series

I’m hopeful for one real reason.

This is, at heart, about whether two series are feasible. And the answer, at least from this protracted, frustrating arc, is that the answer is no. It’s not feasible to make two series at once. So my hope, at least is that the series won’t entertain this idea after this arc concludes, and that the boys will find a way to get an anime that is more, normal, for lack fo a better word.

I don’t want multiple luck of the draws. It gets too comical, especially when manga is notorious for its brutal work scheduling.

And I think, or at least I strongly suspect, this arc is so long because that’s the point it wants to make. Eiji is an outlier and cannot be reckoned with. Doing three things at once is something only he can do because he’s so dedicated to the craft. Not to mention, he’s going to biff the romance arc so hard that it’s not even funny.

Unfortunately, the boys are human and subject to human limitations, and this series is finally really nailing home how much that is true. It does not look like it is feasible.

Which is what I desperately want. As this read-through has hopefully made clear, I cannot abide hurting myself for the sake of my goals. Recklessness vs. guts? Yeah, you need guts and confidence, but you don’t need to kill yourself for your art. Everyone has limits that they need to observe.

Like I do, which makes me a bit grumpy, sometimes, but I have to accept it, as well.

Oh well,

I’m really hoping we get some resolution on this arc soon because I want to move on to something better. I’ve said that a million times, and until this arc concludes, I’ll probably say it again.

Let’s hope that is soon.

Until next time

peace

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