Last week’s column covered the supernatural thriller Death Note, created by artist Takeshi Obata and writer Tsugumi Ohba. This week I am covering their follow-up project, which is a series that is dramatically different in comparison.
While Death Note is full of murder and mysterious goings on, Bakuman is totally realistic and based on real events. Indeed, it is based on their own experiences, because Bakuman is what you could call a “meta-manga”. It started off as a manga about two people making a manga and has since been animated, the first series of which was released in the UK on Monday.
The story follows two teenage schoolboys, Moritaka Mashiro and Akito Takagi. Moritaka is a talent artist, being inspired by his late uncle, a partly-successful manga artist who died of overwork. Akito is an aspiring writer and when he discovers Moritaka’s talents he suggests that they should team up to create their own manga. Because of what happened to his uncle, he is hesitant at first, but he eventually agrees.
One reason for Moritaka’s decision is that he discovers that his crush, Miho Azuki, wants to become an anime voice actress. Moritaka thus announced his plans to make a manga, to have it animated, and to cast her as heroine. In a fit of panic Moritaka also says that once this is all done he will marry Miho. Astonishingly she agrees, on the condition that they do not meet each other again until they both fulfil their dreams.
The series follows Moritaka and Akito’s various attempts to get work published, under the pen name of “Muto Ashirogi”, and also their relationships with fellow manga artists of various skills, attitudes and styles. Their main rivalry is with the genius and eccentric manga artist Eiji Niizuma, who has rapidly become the biggest rising star in the industry.
The main reason for having a look at Bakuman is that it gives you an idea of what the manga industry is really like. If you are interested in the inner workings of the manga world, then this is a work to examine.
Another reason is that there are times when you can clearly see Takeshi Obata and Tsugumi Ohba’s own personal experiences coming out. For example, in the later editions Moritaka and Akito write a series called “Perfect Crime Party”, about a bunch of schoolchildren who form a club where they make “perfect crimes” at their school.
Later Moritaka and Akito are horrified when they learn about an actual bank robbery has copied one of their stories. This seems to be a reference to the real-life murder that was influenced by the earlier series Death Note, how it affected them and what they did about it.
There are some issues however, namely with the transition from the original manga to the TV anime. In the manga Moritaka and Akito take their work to the magazine Weekly Shonen Jump published by Shueisha. This is the biggest manga magazine in Japan and publishes the actual Bakuman strip, as well as Death Note and One Piece.
However, when animating it for some reason they decided to change the name of the magazine and publisher to Weekly Shonen Jack and Yueisha. Bizarrely however, they still reference actual Jump works in Jack, with the fake magazine display One Piece on the cover. The change seems rather pointless. Also the DVD release that came out this week has some problems with the subtitles as they are rather inaccurate at times, and there is no option of a dub. So you are probably better off with the manga comic.
If you are interested in learning more about Japanese comics and animation, then Bakuman is a series to invest in, although I would personally recommend going for the manga rather than the anime.
The first anime series of Bakuman is out now, with the second series currently scheduled for July. Of the 20 volumes of the original manga, 19 are currently available in English with the concluding volume being released in August. A box set of all 20 volumes of the manga is coming out in October.