Bakuman c3 – Pens and Names
After finally coming clean with his parents about following in Nobuhiro’s footsteps as a mangaka, Moritaka gains the keys to his uncle’s studio from his good ol’ grandpa. Moritaka is understandably very excited at having the chance to return to the place where Nobuhiro did his work all those years ago and ends up calling Akito in the middle of the night to check it out together. Aaaannnndddd, that’s where we are now here in Bakuman‘s third chapter.
After a short train ride over to the other side of town, our two hapless junior mangaka finally find their way to a small highrise apartment building where Nobuhiro’s locked away studio sits and collects dust. They make their way up to the ninth floor and test out the apartment’s key to find that it still works. Upon getting in, they reach for the switch and find out the lights are also in good condition, but something catches Akito by surprise.
The WHOLE area around the doorway is filled with meticulously stocked shelves of random superhero memorabilia! There are figures of various superheroes from all kinds of different shows (lol, Miracle Gun?) everywhere you turn, and in true collector form none of the boxes seem to be in anything less than mint condition. Moritaka explains that Nobuhiro was a huge fan of everything tokusatsu and that this collection as well as his preferred genre when drawing manga was a result of that fandom. Akito, as giddy as can be at Nobuhiro’s impressive stash, begins poking around and discovers that behind each of the figures on the shelves is another secret collection:
Putting their fits of fanboyism aside, Moritaka proceeds elsewhere inside of the apartment and finds the door to the studio proper. The whole apartment used to have three bedrooms (wow, pretty spacious), but when Nobuhiro moved in he decided to knock down one of the walls and create a single giant room. A corner of this resulting alteration just so happens to be the private workspace where Chou Hero Densetsu was created when it ran in Jump so many years ago.
Moritaka’s been to the studio many times as a younger child to hang out with his uncle, so Akito alone is still reeling from all the awesome things inside. The next item to catch his attention is the giant library of manga tankoubon that are lined up on the shelves inside the studio. Moritaka explains that since Nobuhiro wasn’t an especially gifted artist himself, he usually looked to other titles for inspiration when working on his own manga. Akito then asks Moritaka if he can see Nobuhiro’s transcripts and early drafts. Moritaka obliges and, as Akito is busy rifling through Nobuhiro’s rather impressively catalogued production materials, he looks over to his uncle’s desk and sees some old nib pens…
This triggers a flashback for Moritaka back to when Nobuhiro explained his tools of the trade. Since Chou Hero Densetsu was a gag manga (similar to the real-life Pyuu to Fuku! Jaguar that actually runs in Jump alongside Bakuman), Moritaka’s uncle could easily get away with not being able to properly utilize G pens (which are professional-grade nib/dip pens). However, he stressed than professionals who wanted to get serious with their artwork should try mastering them. Moritaka concludes his short reflection by noting that he has never tried nib pens.
Akito interrupts when he takes in the rough amount of work necessary to put a working draft together; wondering out loud if Moritaka is up to the challenge. Moritaka responds that he isn’t sure himself, but before he can put himself up to the test Akito would need to complete a “name” (pronounced nah-meh). Name is a term for a rough storyboard that authors put together to help organize the flow of the plot within a chapter of manga and even introduces an early reference of how the paneling will work. These name are what are used in rough submissions to editors at a publishing firm (for example, Shueisha is the publisher of Weekly Jump); if you don’t get the okay from an editor at this stage, there’s no reason to put the effort into drawing a full manuscript. Moritaka adds that some mangaka who are famous enough usually get approved by sheer star-power alone.
So as it turns out, Akito won’t just be able to get by with whipping up a script, writing down scenarios, and plotting storylines. He’s going to have to get his hands dirty drawing up these “name” so that Moritaka has a springboard to jump off from when it comes time to produce a full manuscript. Sensing just how pumped Moritaka’s getting in explaining the publishing process rubs off on Akito and he responds in kind with his own brand of enthusiasm:
With their responsibilities now clearly defined, the pair then try to decide on what kind of manga they’ll do. Moritaka wants to start off with something manly, shunning anything appealing to otaku. Akito on the other hand’ll refuse to write “popular” stories, which as per his research happen to be related to your standard shoujo fare (or as they put it: sex, rape, pregnancy, abortion, and incurable diseases, lol). Their conversation eventually drifts to what Moritaka’s favorite manga is and it happened to be none other than Ashita no Joe. The two get all riled up while talking about it, doing some shadowboxing (hey, I can relate; I do the same thing with Hajime no Ippo) in the process. But when Moritaka mentions that the series’ writer, Ikki Kajiwara (a pen name of Asaki Takamori), handled four other projects simultaneously, Akito freaks out.
Having been sobered up at the load writers can take when pursuing manga, Akito reveals that he only found out about the popularity of shoujo-esque titles through his research on what was currently popular on the manga scene. Moritaka assures him that this is the right approach to take since it’s research that helped Nobuhiro win the prestigious Akatsuka Award for gag manga. To get Akito’s mind jogging, Moritaka asks him about what else he found in his research. If social satire was the in-thing in Nobuhiro’s time, what was the in-thing for their time?
As Akito puts it, everything that’s in right now (in Jump anyway) usually has its characters wielding some kind of giant sword and that they’re set in some kind of fantasy world. Naruto? Check. One Piece? Check. Bleach? Check. Gintama? Check.
Moritaka never thought about it before, but he realizes that Akito is right. Still, this doesn’t necessarily mean he wants to focus on a sword-filled action manga. So the two instead retire for a short break trying to think of a great one-hit wonder of a mangaka to see if non-geniuses can even put together something worth reading.
While cleaning up, Akito asks if he can borrow some of Nobuhiro’s old name strictly for reference to which Moritaka agrees. Akito then wonders how many boxes he can take which in turn surprises Moritaka with a show of surreal dedication. Moritaka then wonders to himself if he can match Akito’s example by trying to master the nib pen. After this short reverie, Moritaka asks Akito if he thinks they’ll be able to get a manga animated by the time they’re 18. Akito bluntly answers no and when Moritaka answers that 18 year-old seiyuu are often marketed as idols, Akito gets to the real crux of the question: Moritaka’s scared that while he and Akito are busy trying to get a successful manga going they won’t be able to protect Miho if some talent agency decides to exploit her.
In light of this concern, Akito takes back his quick dismissal of their prospects to get their manga animated by the time they’re 18. Since he’s in this as much for making a hit manga as he is for getting Moritaka and Miho happily wed, Akito assures Moritaka that if they put their minds to it, even this incredibly lofty goal can be achieved. The two, now psyched up more than ever, continue shifting through Nobuhiro’s name archives in search of the manuscript attached to it. During their search, Moritaka notes that chances are only about 1% of all the name Nobuhiro ever put together were successfully approved to be adapted into transcripts… Searching through all the name suddenly sparks something within Moritaka and he leaves to the balcony to make a quick phone call.
As it turns out, he’s called his father, who is surprised since his son never really talks to him about anything. Moritaka just wanted to make sure that Nobuhiro didn’t kill himself to which his father responded absolutely not; Nobuhiro was the kind of guy who’d persevere through anything and had simply worked himself to death trying to get his last, unfinished project published. Moritaka finally truly acknowledges the story then asks his father if he ever read the famous baseball manga Kyojin no Hoshi / Star of the Giants.
When he responds yes, Moritaka adds by asking his father if he ever heard Ryoma Sakamoto’s famous quote, “If you are a man, even should you die in a ditch during battle, you will die falling forward.”
This somehow strikes a chord within Moritaka’s father, who then correctly guesses his son was a fan of Ashita no Joe, a manga that readers can say was fueled on the same sentiment as Sakamoto’s quote. Moritaka is pleased with the answer and ends the call; now that he’s seen that a love of manga has always been with the men in his family, Moritaka decides to step onto the mangaka’s path wholeheartedly not only for his sake, but for the sake of manga itself, and for Miho.
This was probably the most informative chapter of Bakuman thus far as it gave insight into what it’s like trying to get an editor to notice your work. The term “name” was introduced in last week’s chapter when Moritaka demanded one of Akito and this week showed the readers why it was so important. Now that we know Akito has to do at least some light drawing it’ll be pretty interesting to see how good/bad of an artist he is. Haha, it’ll be fun to see down the road how Akito’s name compares to Moritaka’s final manuscript. Anyway, other than that we were also given a couple of more tidbits into how Nobuhiro operated as a mangaka. Instead of being the sloppy otaku I had him pegged as being in his debut back in the series premiere, he was actually a pretty well organized professional that truly did work himself to death in the end. I was secretly hoping there’d be a little more to that mystery later on, and perhaps there will be (nothing too dramatic I guess, since this looks to be more of a comedy than a full-on drama), but for now Nobuhiro’s secrets are on pace to be revealed all in due time. Heck, maybe Moritaka and Akito’ll eventually find that long-lost project Nobuhiro worked on in his last days or they’ll meet with the girl that he admired from afar. Ugh, so many hypotheticals! Lastly, it was good to see Moritaka opening up a bit to his dad. It was the least he could do since his dad was the one who ultimately responsible for our two heroes even getting into Nobuhiro’s studio.
Hmm… maybe it’s time for new regular characters to show up next week?