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Bakuman Vol. 1

Author: Kevin Leathers

Kevin hasn't written a profile yet. That's ruddy mysterious...

Bakuman Vol. 1

Viz Media
Tsugumi Ohba, Takeshi Obata

I think a lot of fans take for granted what actually goes into making a 100+ page volume of manga. It’s not just a simple case of storyboarding, drawing and then adding in text, there is a lot more to it. Bakuman is the latest work from the Death Note creators Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata, but has moving from thriller to a more comedy-drama setting been a hard transition?

Bakuman is a simple story. It follows two junior-high schoolers Moritaka Mashiro and Akito Takagi; the former a great artist and the latter an aspiring writer. Mashiro leaves behind his notebook at school after making some drawings of his crush Azuki Miho. When Mashiro heads back to retrieve it he finds that Takagi has got it and seen the pictures, meaning that he knows all about Mashiro’s crush. After a whirlwind of revelations, promises and general embarrassment, the pair begin work on their own original manga in the hope that their creation will one day be turned into an anime that Miho will voice when she becomes a voice actress.

Let’s get some things into perspective first. What the creators of Death Note have here is a very different piece of work than the classic "book killing" series. While the unbelievable attention to detail in the artwork is present and accounted for and is lovely to behold to add to that, this is very much a lighter hearted story than its predecessor. There are no overblown plots of world domination; it’s a story about two guys who want to take something they enjoy to the next level and if this first volume is anything to go by, it is going to be great to follow.

What is interesting is the insight the manga actually give to the manga creation process. While I wasn’t under any delusion that it was a simple process, it is amazing to see what it takes to actually get a manga from script to finished product. It is by no means a guide on how to do it yourself, but it should be seen as a way to at least introduce what it actually takes to become a real mangaka (manga author)... Although I wouldn’t expect the teenage drama to be part and parcel of the entire deal as well.

The story itself is where things really shine. As before with Death Note, Bakuman has a very strong story with believable characters, an interesting premise and an unbelievable amount to suck you in and keep you in its chock hold until the end of the book. It is very addictive stuff. There a times where you do want to slap Mashiro for repeating the same mistakes his uncle, who was a mangaka himself, also made when it comes to his crush. But then I suppose that is where the charm of the series is; two very shy and bashful people trying not to hold each other back but still wanting for each other. It is frustrating in places when these scenes appear, but it does create a good amount of tension for the series to follow as well as giving it an overall goal.

As mentioned above, the artwork is as top notch as it has always been when coming from this calibre of artist. Death Note was well known for its fantastic amount of detail and fashionably clothed characters, and has such a unique art style that draws a fine line between realism and obvious manga character designs.  Mix that into the strong storyline and you’ve easily got something that will draw a lot of people in.

It is by no means a "switch off your brain" manga as it can be quite text heavy in places, but versus anything that is about the end of the world, the ultimate evil or people killing each other, it is a much more relaxing manga to read. Something to chill to and read at a leisurely pace.

If you haven’t guessed already, I don’t think I could recommend Bakuman any harder without actually drawing it out into a manga myself... though I doubt my stick figures would be the best representation for the series. The only thing that stops Bakuman getting a perfect ten is the frustrating element of Mashiro’s constant bashfulness when it comes to Miho, although others will no doubt find it endearing. Bakuman as a whole is a fantastic insight into the world of manga creation and, mixed with plenty of fantastic elements, it's a manga that is up there with the best that is available right now.

Easily on a par with the duo’s previous work, while making for a nice relaxing read.
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