It was inevitable, I suppose. As long as a Weekly Shonen Jump title continues doing well, it is probably going to be picked up by Viz eventually. Still, I can’t deny that my heart leapt with joy over the news today from Comic-Con that Viz is licensing Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata’s Bakuman for serialization in Shonen Jump here in the US.
In general, I am a bigger fan of Obata than Obata/Ohba, and I had very mixed feelings about their earlier collaboration, Death Note. What is fantastic about Bakuman, however, is that it retains some of the best aspects of Death Note and chucks most of the rest. Like Death Note, it features a couple of smart, talented young men who are able to pursue a single goal (in this case, becoming successful mangaka) with remarkable passion. Unlike Death Note it also has a likable, relatively sane protagonist (two, even!) whom one can root for without developing a deep self-loathing. Art-wise, it also brings back some of the freshness and whimsy of Obata’s work in Hikaru no Go, something I’ve missed a lot, nicely balanced against Death Note‘s edgier feel.
For those who don’t know, Bakuman is the story of two teenaged boys, Mashiro (a writer) and Takagi (an artist), who team up as mangaka with the goal of getting their work serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump. When romance enters the picture, the stakes are raised higher as Mashiro makes a pact with the girl he likes (an aspiring voice actress) to refrain from seeing each other until their dreams have come true. Though the early chapters suffer from some unsettling (though unsurprising) sexism and the romantic subplot takes some time to move beyond its oddly contrived beginnings, the boys’ journey as young mangaka is truly riveting, and the characters (including many of those in the story’s large supporting cast) are are extremely compelling.
Since I doubt I’ll be content to wait for the graphic novels to be released, I guess this means I’ll be renewing that Shonen Jump subscription I so cursed when it was given to me to replace my beloved Shojo Beat. For this license, Viz, you have my wholehearted thanks.
Travis saysJuly 24, 2009 at 11:02 pm
The sexism is solid throughout, not just the first chapters. :-/
I’ve actually been meaning to make a post about Bakuman, because it’s got to the point where I am happy every time they have a setback, because they are so obnoxious (especially Saiko) that I want to see them fail.
I liked Death Note a lot more, actually. Light was supposed to be a bad guy. Saiko is just really, really obnoxious but supposed to be the hero.
Melinda Beasi saysJuly 24, 2009 at 11:15 pm
Wow, I really disagree. I don’t find them obnoxious at all. And though I’ll agree there is still some sexism, it is nothing like it was in the beginning. I could never describe it is “solid.” Now it is pretty much at the level of almost every manga I read. Nothing has made me furious like it did in those first few chapters.
I’m really surprised to hear you say all this. We used to both get equally excited over this series, I recall.
Travis saysJuly 25, 2009 at 1:44 am
I just really don’t like how Saiko is so panicked about doing all this before he turns 18. It really rubs me the wrong way (maybe if it weren’t tied to his weird creepy thing with Azuki I wouldn’t find it to be so irksome, idk), so I was really cheering at the events of the most recent chapter. Finally he didn’t get his way!
Melinda Beasi saysJuly 25, 2009 at 9:30 am
Ha! Well, if I found that irksome, I *would* have to develop a deep self-loathing, because his panicked career drive actually reminds me a lot of myself. I’m not saying that’s a good thing, just that I can really relate. :)
Travis saysJuly 25, 2009 at 9:36 am
Like I said, maybe it would be different if the whole “romance” with Azuki didn’t creep me out so much, because he has no reasons for being so driven other than wanting to marry her.
Melinda Beasi saysJuly 27, 2009 at 1:55 pm
Ah, see, I really think at this point that his drive has taken on a life of its own and that he’d be feeling the same way now whether Azuki was in the picture or not.
Fawnet saysAugust 17, 2009 at 1:29 pm
I agree with Travis to a certain extent, although I love Bakuman and would recommend it to anyone. There are certain thought processes going on here that are unsettling to me. But they’re certainly not turning me off of the series, and I don’t think they wound up in the story by mistake.
When we first meed Mashiro, he’s drifting towards a future that he has no feelings for and can’t get a grip on. He plays a lot of video games, though, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that, when he embarks on his manga career, that the first thing he does is turn that into a game, too. “I have to have a hit manga before I turn 18. If that works and I get an anime, then I’ll marry the girl I love. If we see each other before this happens, everything will crumble.” (Step on a crack, break your mother’s back. If I see three red cars on my way to school, I will have a good day. Who else knows people who think like this?)
It’s unsettling, because he’s setting up artificial rules that both define his success, and ensure it, and you want to step inside the story and say “…You know, you don’t really need to do all this.” And I think the author knows this too—look at the other mangaka in the story. Sure, they’re driven, but not like THAT. Even his best friend looks at Mashiro’s girlfriend-related vows and says “Dude. You’re kinda weird.”
Mashiro makes mountains out of molehills, puts himself in cages and mazes of rules, and sets up ridiculous obstacles just to make himself jump over them. And I admit, it looks mildly demented to me, but I have to remember—before he created his huge game for himself, he wasn’t doing anything with his life at all. Maybe this is what it takes for some people to push themselves up the hill.