Bakuman is a very unique Shonen Jump manga that decided to try and get some success without the typical action formula. There are no real fight scenes so would this really work out? Well, it manages to be very interesting like Death Note was and the continuity is very important here. I can safely say that it was much better than I had expected and it shows that Shonen Jump can succeed in any format!
Mashiro and Takagi are the main characters of this story. Mashiro had always liked drawing ever since he was a kid and Takagi enjoyed writing stories. One day, Takagi asked Mashiro if he would like to partner up to create a manga and that’s when the whole thing really started. They have to move up the Shonen Jump ranks if they want to catch up to famous authors like Kishimoto and Kubo. Along the way they meet many other aspiring authors and friends. They go through several editors although one of them ends up staying longer than the rest. They even get a rival in the form of Eiji. It’ll be a tough road, but these guys can hold their own!
Mashiro may technically share the lead role with Takagi in the series, but I’d say that he is definitely the true main character here. A large part of the plot is the fact that he proposed to Miho at the beginning of the series and they promised not to speak with each other again until Mashiro drew a hit series that got an anime and Miho got to be the voice actress for the main heroine. A rather lofty goal, but one that they decided to stick too. Naturally, this is an impossible deal that is broken several times, but they try to keep to this throughout the series and it’s a good subplot.
Mashiro is very determined and he can be pretty stubborn once he has made up his mind. He’ll never be the guy to crack first and he’ll hold his ground to the bitter end. His uncle died from overworking himself and it’s a trait that Mashiro shares with him. He ends up working on manga well past his limits and it comes back to hit him several times. He’s a pretty solid lead although he’s not nearly as good as the average Shonen Protagonist. To an extent, he’s meant to act as the reader. So, he has some personality to keep him interesting, but not too much so that you can still put yourself in the manga instead of him. He’s basically just your average joe who wants to succeed. He’s likable though and that’s what counts.
Takagi is more reasonable than Mashiro on most things. He never overworks himself, although he certainly takes his job seriously. He trusts Mashiro’s opinion when it comes to anything manga related and he’ll keep on creating new stories until he makes one that has Mashiro’s approval. He’s the guy who initiated the team up and you can tell that he is definitely more confident in his movements. Mashiro was rather timid at first and he was still known as a pretty quiet person til the very end. (Although he certainly got braver) Takagi was brave from the start although he didn’t gain rivals quite as quickly. He “cracks” a little more often than Mashiro when the pressure starts to get to him and I do think that he probably has the tougher job since he has to come up with a new story each week, but both are certainly difficult. Mashiro just does a better job of handling the pressure and I do think that he is a better character than Takagi.
Eiji is the big rival of the series and he certainly gets a lot of screen time. He’s basically untouchable though since his series manages to outlast just about every other one and it surpasses Naruto and Bleach at one point. Naturally, those two aren’t mentioned by name, but Crow managed to be in 1st place for over 10 weeks straight so you know what that means. I don’t blame the readers either since Crow sounded pretty awesome. Eiji is a fun rival even if his personality does a 180 sometimes. For no reason he’ll just become antagonistic before reverting to his cheerful self once again. It seems to just be a quirk of the author’s here though as characters tend to act a little out of character when it’s not from their point of view. He’s still one of the better characters in the series.
Miho’s the main heroine of the series and she doesn’t get as much screen time as most of the main characters, but she’s always around. The main reason for her lack of screen time during some of the sections is due to the fact that she is keeping up her end of the bargain to not see Mashiro until their goals have been met. She quickly rises up through the ranks of the voice actress ranks so that she can be ready when the anime has arrived. She’s a good character, but not quite as interesting as most main heroines. She’s very polite and also pretty quiet like Mashiro so this unfortunately means that we don’t get a lot of tough lines from her. A “Watch me win this role” 2 months in advance would have been an awesome line to really get the shonen blood going, but it was not to be. So, she’s a good character, but she could have been better.
Kaya is another one of the big characters and she serves as the other main heroine since she’s with Takagi. Unlike Miho and Mashiro, they get together pretty early on in the series. Kaya helps the team out with art and other duties when the heroes are in a pinch, but she usually just tries to remind them that they should have a life beyond just working on manga. Time usually flies by for them so they can basically go a whole day just working after all. She’s pretty nice and she helps to keep the heroes together. She doesn’t have a lot of misunderstandings with Takagi unlike the other pair so that’s pretty good.
Fukuda is a character that I could never really like. He’s decent to be sure, but he’s one of the rivals to the main characters and he just never seemed that talented. His stories had some good concepts, but he could never execute them and the art simply wasn’t there. He talked really big and he got a big following on his motorcycle series, but I can’t really say much for him beyond that. He was probably the most vocal member of the team from the main characters, but he was never really a threat and he eventually just became an ally for the heroes.
Nakai is one of the worst characters in the series and he goes from being a decent character to being downright antagonistic. By the end of the series he has lost all of his morals and he’ll stoop down to just about any level. I definitely grew tired of his plot and I would just wait for him to go away only to see his character return. The author makes sure that you will dislike him so don’t expect any redeemable qualities from the guy.
Aoki almost feels out of place amidst the other authors because she is not loud and determined like the others. She feels more like royalty and she’s very cautious in all of her moves. She simply very polite and she wants to make a nice manga without cheap Shonen tricks like fanservice and action every other chapter. I disagree with the latter, but I’m glad that she avoided the former. Unfortunately, the series does send a pretty sad message since she is eventually forced to throw those into her story. That was pretty sad and I wished that she could have held her ground a little more. She’s definitely a nice character, but maybe just a little too perfect. Considering that everyone is basically in one large drama, she doesn’t really add to it like the others. That’s why she should have defied the authors, it would have given her a pretty cool subplot.
Hiramaru is one of the more desperate members of the main authors since he doesn’t even like drawing manga. He used to be a professional at something and he was making a lot of money, but he thought that manga writing would be easy to he decided to focus on that. Turns out that he was wrong, but his editor manages to keep him around by promising to get him a connection with a lady at some point. Hiramaru falls for this trick for most of the series and eventually his character arc comes to a close. I don’t agree with him teaming up with Nakai towards the end though and I think that this was definitely a bit much. Nobody should have to work with Nakai after all of the things that he has done. Hiramaru has his charm, but he’s still not one of the better characters.
Iwase was a pretty good novel writer who wondered why Takagi would sacrifice his great grades and writing abilities to join the manga world. She was so interested that she decided to get involved as well and she quickly became a rival of his. She’s also a story writer so she needed to find someone to do the art and the situation intensified when Eiji volunteered to help. In the end, Aoki proved to be more talented at writing novels since manga typically use less text per page, but she held her own for quite a while. She’s pretty proud and believes herself to be above such things and that’s one of the reasons why I would say that she was one of the more interesting members of the group. She eventually learns the value of being a manga writer or course.
Nanamine is probably the only villain in the series. Nakai may as well be one, but this guy makes it clear that he is on the side of injustice from the get go. He comes complete with his own sob story about how he used to be a fan of the main characters. Now he believes that the end justifies the means so he comes with a pair of tricky strategies in order to guarantee his success. They are pretty ingenius methods, but at least one of them is not practical unless you are already rich…and it just so happens that Nanamine is rich so it works out. As a character Nanamine definitely isn’t great, but I was glad that he came around. It brought the Shonen Jump effect on the series to a whole new level and we got some pretty cool cliffhangers out of the whole thing.
Hattori is the main editor for the two main characters and he’s pretty good. He can be a little annoying at times though as he is very cryptic with his advice and he tends to panic a lot. Every series has “that” character who panics about how strong the villains are and tells the heroes that they should quit while they’re ahead. (Brock, Krillin, Chopper, etc) Whenever a new character shows him the manga that they are working on, he makes an incredibly exaggerated face (That is recycled a lot) and he mentions how it may be impossible to top this work. He sticks up for the main characters sometimes, which is pretty good, but he’s certainly not one of my favorite characters in the series. If it helps, I’d say that he’s probably the best editor in the series, although the editor in chief is cooler than him.
The art looks very good throughout the series. The artist has to be able to switch his artwork several times as he showcases very different series from the authors/artists within the series so that definitely takes a lot of skill. The artist is definitely experienced and my only complaint with the art would be that a lot of the characters use the exact same expressions from time to time. It may not be very evident if you were reading this series on a weekly basis, but I basically marathoned through the entire series so I would even read 2-3 volumes a day at one point. At that quick pace, you tend to notice things like this a lot easier. The face expression that I never liked was when the editor’s nostrils would turn huge and steam would come out as he exclaimed how good a series was. It’s a little exaggerated and it makes him look bad since he says that about almost every big series. A random newcomer who turned evil made a series about wrestling and he had that reaction. I can understand him reacting that way for an Eiji or Mashiro story, but that should be the extent of it. For the most part, all of the other characters suffer from this as well and I think that it may just be one of the weak points of such a story. Since the main characters are in a pretty similar setting in similar circumstances many times, it makes sense that it would be harder for the artist to resist using such a tactic. Nevertheless, the overall art is pretty solid.
This is the kind of series that you would certainly expect to get a 7 or less, but it was just too interesting to deny it an 8. Whenever there would be a new batch of manga for me to read, this one got top priority. The only series that I would choose over it at the time would have been Soul Eater and Kenshin. Beyond that, Bakuman was the series that I was most eager to read. It’s a real page turner and that’s mainly because of the big cast and all of the subplots that are going on. It takes the typical Shonen routes and throws some drama in there and there is certainly a lot of tension because of the deadlines and the fact that only a certain amount of series can run in the magazine at once. No matter how you look at it, that means that some of the main characters will have to take a loss at some points when their series is cancelled.
The series does unfortunately have some fanservice in it. Typically it doesn’t have anything to do with life outside of the manga, but some authors believe that you should add it into the series and there is the whole subplot about having Aoki add it into her series. It’s a sad running gag that the guys naturally enjoy seeing those kind of scenes as well, which doesn’t help their case. There are also two perverted characters in the series whose every line is just cringe worthy and it makes you wish that they were not there. Luckily, one of them does get punched…maybe both of them. That was pretty fun and satisfying. So, the discussions can be a little much at times and it’s never enjoyable when they’re talking about things like that. It doesn’t happen all that often at least.
The series certainly has a lot of romance since it is like a drama during a lot of the volumes and many pairings happen. Miho and Mashiro’s is probably the best one since they decide that they won’t even talk until their goals are met. Now, that’s a safe and happy relationship if I ever saw one. Naturally, they break down and allow texts to be sent to each other during the series and by the end they are willing to phone each other, but they stay true to their goals. For the others, nothing unnecessary happens so I’ll give credit to the manga for that. The romance is handled a whole lot better than most other series.
One of the fun parts about the series is getting to see the various series that the authors are writing. It’s cool to see the actual manga artist adapt his style so many times to see what they are like. The best series that we get to see is probably Crow since it’s your average Shonen filled with a lot of fights and cool characters. The main characters created several series, but their best one was definitely the one that they closed out with. Reversi was its name and it was a mix of D.N. Angel and Deathnote. It had a pretty cool concept and the ending was certainly intense. Their other two big series were PCP and Detective Trap. Both of them were mysteries while Detective Trap was played seriously and PCP was basically a kudomo in disguise. Both of them sounded good, but not quite as good as Reversi.
Their rivals naturally had others, but they weren’t quite as good. We had +Natural…which sounded really boring and I have no idea how it lasted so long. There was a Beaver series and it was basically a comedy that I also thought should have been doomed. The Classroom of Truth was a great series and it’s one that they should totally make in real life. The concept is incredible and it could really have a bright future. Road Racer Giri also sounded fun as a racing series, but it was lacking something. Many more series also get to appear throughout the manga so it’s fun to keep an eye out on those.
The series is very heavy on continuity, which is fun since you get to age alongside the characters. Several years pass as you go through the volumes and they make sure to let you know where some of the series rank just about every week. Keep in mind that we are supposed to believe that Naruto, One Piece, and Bleach are around even if we have to stretch our imaginations a little to actually believe that they would lose to these titles…consistently. They lost just about every week, which is kind of sad for them. The series may have been better off just ignoring those titles, but I guess this series is also meant to be pretty informative about how to write a manga so they wanted to keep it in.
It’s one of those series where you just need to read it to fully capture the size and scope of it all. The plot is pretty linear and it always continues from the last point, which is why it’s impossible to mention all of the plot lines. They just keep going and going as they transition into other things. There are also a lot of other characters who come and go during the series. Many of them are forgettable while some of the others can be fun like the other editors. They definitely get competitive with the series. Bakuman is very realistic so just about all of the characters can be annoying from time to time as they try to downplay some series and upvote others with some personal bias, but that just makes the whole thing more exciting.
Overall, Bakuman is a pretty great series. As I mentioned, it will naturally not be as exciting the second time around since that is a weakness for series that don’t contain action, but the first time is good enough. It’s a series that will make you want to keep reading from start to finish and most of the characters are likable. I do think that they reuse too many expressions throughout the series, but I guess it’s tough to not do that when you’ve got a series like this one. I recommend checking out the series because it is not as dull as it may sound. (Although I love these kinds of plots myself) This is still Shonen Jump after all so you can typically expect a high quality piece from them.