Bakuman – How to make manga. (“From the Creators of Death Note”)
Author: Story by Tsugumi Ohba, Art by Takeshi Obata
Guidance Rating: Teen
The first thing you’ll probably notice about Bakuman is the little sticker primely positioned on the front of the first volume, reading: “From the creators of Death Note“. No doubt, this will encourage many a browsing fan to give the book a closer inspection, but in the end the claim is fairly redundant. Let me set things straight, Bakuman is nothing like Death Note, but it is an exceptional manga in its own right.
Bakuman isn’t a dark, psychological shonen manga like its famous predecessor, and as such may not appeal to the fans on the same scale, but it shares a sense of uniqueness that is refreshing and appealing. It follows 14 year old Moritaka Mashiro, an average student with talent for art and ineptitude for girls. In fact, Moritaka is so inept that he can’t even get the courage to talk to the girl he “loves”, classmate Miho Azuki. That is until the class’ top student, Akito Takagi confronts Moritaka with a proposition. Akito is apparently unsatisfied with ranking top in test results, but desires wealth and fame as a manga author. the only problem being: he can’t draw. Having watched Moritaka from a far, he has decided that the two would make a perfect partnership, however Moritaka is reluctant to take this offer seriously. It isn’t until they travel to Miho’s house the night before a mid-term exam that he sets himself a goal: to become a successful manga artist by the time he’s 18.
I have a lot of respect for Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata after finishing Bakuman. It would’ve been very easy for the pair to ride the success of Death Note, and follow it up with a series of similar, or more generic shonen themes, but instead they have dared to step away from the genre that made them famous. Instead they’ve created an innocent romance story set around a number of middle school students, soon to progress into high school. With a basis like that, it’s easy to be dragged into cliche, but despite using regular anime theme’s such as a bashful main character, and a top student, it steers clear of anything that seems familiar to the reader.
Whilst in no way dark or thought-provoking, Bakuman has a hidden depth that will perhaps be missed by many. The main message is spelt out for the reader on several occasions: chase your dreams, and whilst it is in no way naive enough to guarantee you success, you will regret less by knowing that you tried. It’s a premise that is repeated throughout the story, and leaves an uplifting sense of inspiration behind long after you’ve put the book down. Which won’t be until you’ve finished it.
It’s been a long time since I’ve read a manga as engaging to me as Bakuman, it is perfectly paced and well crafted, and should you buy it, I strongly advise ensuring you have plenty of time to spare when you pick it up.
The art shares remarkable similarities with that of Death Note, as could be expected, but surprisingly it doesn’t feel out of place in the calmer settings of a slice of life romance. Whilst Akito’s design reminds me of that of Light, there is no hidden sense of malice in the character, once again it perfectly fits the world Ohba and Obata have created.
Whilst I wasn’t a Death Note fan, I couldn’t have higher praise for Bakuman. It’s separated itself from the generic romance themes that often smother the plots of other manga. As it says in the first chapter: “Even the author of Death Note wrote somewhere that he’d probably starve to death in 5 years if he didn’t keep working.” I’m almost certain that Ohba and Obata are onto another best seller in Bakuman, and whilst the pair may not have to worry about money for the foreseeable future, I for one hope they keep blessing us with the original and engaging stories that’ve made them a success.
ADDITIONAL: Bakuman Vol.1 is currently available through our shop front. 🙂