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Bakuman Volume 1

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Bakuman Volume 1 by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata, from Shonen Jump Manga / VIZ Media

Bakuman Volume 1

BAKUMAN. © 2008 by Tsugumi Ohba, Takeshi Obata / SHUEISHA Inc.

The Bottom Line

A reluctant teen embraces a dream of drawing manga for a living when it proves to be the only pathway to the heart of the girl he loves. Now this budding artist and his aspiring writer friend must team to break into the competitive—and potentially deadly—world of manga!

The next hit series from the creators of the mega-popular Death Note, Bakuman introduces readers to the cutthroat world of manga publishing, and the rationalizing and ridiculous mind of an average 14 year-old boy. It's a story beautifully drawn and well told, sure to be off-putting to many female readers—and more than a few men.

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Pros

  • Gorgeously illustrated, with remarkable storytelling, quite possibly the best-drawn manga out today.
  • Plenty of "behind-the-scenes" hints on breaking into the industry.
  • Despite its shonen manga origins, surprisingly realistic.
  • Offers a rare look at the artistic process of the creator.

Cons

  • Just brutal, unapologetic sexism that may-or-may-not be ironic and intended.
  • The central conceit of the series is both stupid and naive.

Description

Guide Review - Bakuman Volume 1

Moritaka is an average 14-year old student, who likes to doodle pictures of the cute girl he's got a crush on—Azuki. When his classmate, aspiring writer Takagi, notices his talent he implores Moritaka to team up with him and create manga! But it isn't until a special promise from Azuki that he decides to do it, and together the boys must team up to succeed in the manga industry. But are they prepared for the pitfalls? Grueling hours, heavy workload, debt and even death may await, as the pressure of being an unsuccessful manga creator has already caused Moritaka's uncle to take his own life! Will the boys succeed... or will they be next?

Right up front, I'll say that I really liked Bakuman Volume 1 but I'm conflicted about recommending it: The series is horribly sexist. The characters inhabit a world of Men; women's concerns are dismissed, their motives reduced to cliché, their very beings judged solely on how attractive—physically and personality-wise—they make themselves to males. The phrase "Men have dreams women will never understand!" is actually uttered aloud, by a woman, in reference to an industry that employs nearly as many women as it does men. It's the world according to a 14 year old boy, and brutally accurate too: simultaneously repugnant and brilliant. Judging by Bakuman's huge sales in Japan it certainly speaks to its reader...

It's been whispered by fans that writer Tsugumi Ohba is actually a woman using a man's pen name—skilled at writing for her target audience but wry enough that Bakuman reads (with a wink and a nod) as mocking the self-involved and somewhat ignorant nature of her young protagonists and readership. I choose to believe that, because it makes dialogue like "She knows by instinct that a girl won't look cute if she's overly smart," go down more smoothly.

Nevertheless, this is an extremely polished, consistent, and gorgeously illustrated series. I can't think of a single manga being serialized in Japan or North America that looks as well-drawn as Bakuman, and the trials and tribulations of Moritaka and Takagi are compelling. Ohba and Obata provide a remarkable behind-the-scenes of the manga industry, holding nothing back from readers for good or for ill. How to draw, how to write, how to cheat your way into getting your first editor; it's all here. The book also features Ohba and Obata's process work on the series, from manuscript right through to pencils and inks. While it'd be easy to enjoy Bakuman simply as a gripping shonen adventure yarn, if readers have any interest in how the manga they read is made Bakuman will likely become an easy and immediate favourite.

While I have reservations about recommending this book—it really is the kind of thing a reader might throw across the room—there's no denying that overall it's a strong work created by two skilled manga creators at the tops of their game... It's just kind of gross.

Christopher Butcher blogs daily for comics212.net.

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Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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