If you're dying to check out the latest manga by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata (the creators of Death Note) which recently debuted in Japan, you're in luck. The Japanese Shonen Jump website Jumpland has posted the first chapter of Bakuman in English!
From now through August 31, readers can check out the first chapter of Bakuman in either English, German, Japanese or French for free, via the Shonen Jump online "original manga player." Readers will have to download the player (that's free - yay!) but it's only compatible with Windows XP or Vista (boo.) But once you do, you can check out Bakuman and several other popular Shonen Jump series such as Bleach, D-Gray Man and Death Note. Many pages are in full-color and are animated just like the cell phone manga versions of these stories demonstrated at the VIZ Media booth at Comic-Con.
Cryptically, the Shonen Jump site says that it's "free until August 31" -- but no word on how much, if anything, it'll cost AFTER September 1. The version that was demoed at Comic-Con relied upon the next gen cell phones that are readily available in Japan, but not on an iPhone or similar devices that are available in the States. It remains to be seen if VIZ Media or Shueisha will offer the cell phone versions of Shonen Jump manga on phones in the States, but we'll see if the technology here can catch up with the digital delivery technology that's already popular in Japan.
So what's Bakuman about? Well, from the initial chapter, it focuses on two 9th grade boys, Moritaka Mashiro and Akito Takagi who dream of becoming a successful manga creator team. Obata's art is lovely as usual, but the story is definitely a left turn from Death Note's dark, complex suspense into more... well, mundane territory, as it explains in fairly thorough detail how difficult it really is to hit the big time as a successful manga artist or writer.
Other fun features on Jumpland include a Dragon Ball cloud jumping game (that is surprisingly tricky to master), interviews with Hisashi Sasaki, the Editor in Chief of Shonen Jump Japan, articles about the manga creation process in Japan and the Shonen Jump blog, which features reports of various Shonen Jump-related activities in Germany, France, Japan and yes, San Diego Comic-Con in four languages.
It's all well-worth checking out -- and given that it's only free for "a limited time," get hoppin' over there ASAP.
Image credit: © Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata / SHUEISHA, Inc.