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.