I shall start my Manga reviews with a great manga which gives readers an insight into the world of mangaka (a manga writer & artist).
Mangaka can either be a single individual who is both the writer and illustrator or can be a duo with one writer and one illustrator.
Bakuman is written by a duo of mangaka, writer Tsugumi Ohba and illustrator Takeshi Obata. This mangaka duo also wrote Death Note manga, a cult classic manga which has achieve meme status. My review of it can be found here.
Bakuman starts off with the character Moritaka Mashiro who left his notebook in class filled with his doodles. His classmate, a top of the class student, Akito Takagi sees his doodles and wants to form a mangaka duo with Mashiro as the illustrator. Takagi laments that he cannot draw and wants a talented illustrator to join him in his goal to become professional mangakas. Mashiro declines initially due to his uncle, a mangaka, who died from overwork as a mangaka. However Takagi entices Mashiro to meet his childhood crush Miho Azuki. Mashiro declares his dream to become a mangaka with Takagi. Azuki replies with her dream of becoming a voice actress. Mashiro then proposes to Azuki that he will become a famous mangaka and when his manga becomes an anime, Azuki will be cast as the voice actress of the heroine and their dreams will be realised and they will get married.
What happens next is the struggles and perils of a mangaka from coming up with the one-shot (basically a 50 page standalone to show off story / artistic ability to the editors) to serialisation in a manga magazine and continuously developing interesting story lines to keep the readers happy. Bakuman also gives an insight into the different genres of mangas in Weekly Shonen Jump as well as to how the magazine decides on which series continues, and which are cancelled (based on a popularity poll).
Overall the story is very interesting and enlightening. If you are into mangas and want to know the “behind the scene” details on how mangas get made, this is definitely the manga for you. One downside is in the writing of the female characters including the other female lead character Kaya Miyoshi, they aren’t very compelling and seem only to be there for the Takagi and Mashiro to explain certain manga concepts. The “rival” female characters seem to only be put in as an after thought, with not much character development and whimsical / revengeful on men in general.
Bakuman tends to be more wordy with more explanations as typical of detective and psychological mangas, although Bakuman doesn’t fall within either of these categories. I would classify this as an alternative battle manga similar to death note in that the “battles” occurs more like a clashing of wits and ingenuity rather than the typical big fights. Bakuman is also a slice of life manga as we follow the characters growing up, leave school and go on to be professional mangakas, while it doesn’t fully go into the nitty gritty of growing up, it does deal with dreams of youth, growing up, worries about starting a family and striving to be successful.
The ending to Bakuman leaves us a bit hanging and it could have used a good epilogue to tie up loose ends. However overall the last arc was excellent, and does leave the reader wanting more, which is always a good thing.
Illustratively, the art really sits well with me, with realistic backgrounds, drawing and style. It is in a style of a “lighter” Death Note, as it doesn’t deal with such dark undertones. It also shows some illustrator’s tips and background into of how mangas are drawn (what manga assistants do, and how different styles of mangakas make use of their assistants).
Serialised in: Weekly Shonen Jump (11 Aug 2008 – 23 April 2011)
No. of Chapters: 176
No. of Volumes: 20
Purchase from Amazon here
Bakuman. Complete Box Set (Volumes 1-20 with premium)
(disclaimer: using this affiliate link to purchase will give me a small fee to help me keep doing this! Thanks)