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Bakuman Vol. 4 by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata (a J!-ENT Manga Review)

July 12, 2011 by  



Well-written, amazingly detailed and highly recommended.  “Bakuman” is a refreshing, entertaining manga about two talented teenagers trying to break into the manga industry.   Not many manga series give in-depth insight to the manga industry but also making it so enjoyable and fun to read.  A recommended manga series!

© 2008 by Tsugumi Ohba, Takeshi Obata. All Rights Reserved.

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MANGA TITLE: Bakuman vol. 4 (バクマン)

SERIES BEGAN IN: 2008

WRITTEN BY: Tsugumi Ohba (大場 つぐみ)

ILLUSTRATED BY: Takeshi Obata (小畑 健)

FIRST PUBLISHED IN JAPAN: Weekly Shonen Jump

PUBLISHED IN USA BY: VIZ Media

RATED: T for Older Teen

RELEASE DATE: May 3, 2011

When Akito is unable to come up with a storyboard within the time frame he promised, Moritaka decides to break up their partnership! As they go their separate ways to create manga, it may turn out that they’re actually headed in the same direction…

For writer Tsugumi Ohba and illustrator Takeshi Obata (“Hikaru no Go”, “Blue Dragon”, “Castlevania Judgment”), both are known for their collaboration and their work on the popular series “Death Note”.

While Obata is known to collaborate with other writers, after the success of “Death Note”, it’s no surprise that many fans have wanted to see these two together. Having worked on “Death Note” from 2003-2006, the two have returned with a more upbeat storyline titled “Bakuman”…which is a play on the word “bakuhatsu” (explosion) and “baku” (a mythological animal that eats dreams).

With a total of 11 volumes having been published in Japan and a 25-episode anime series that aired last fall (and a new second season being planned), needless to say, both Ohba and Obata have once again achieved success with their second project together.

“Bakuman” revolves around two teenagers. Moritaka Mashiro is a junior high student who has a crush on his classmate Miho Azuki. One day, his classmate Akito Takagi tries to persuade Mashiro to become a mangaka (a manga artist) while Takagi writes. But Mashiro is not so interested as his uncle used to be a manga artist and died from overwork because he tried to get back into the industry and regain his top status as a mangaka.

As for Takagi, he is an intelligent student who prefers to write manga than focus on school. Takagi really wants to write a manga but hopes Mashiro can illustrate.

But Mashiro is also a bit tense about being involved with Takagi because he thinks that he is in love with Miho, but in truth, Takagi was doing all he can to bring Mashiro and Azuki together. Mashiro proposes to Azuki and she accepts…but with one condition, they will marry once they achieve their dreams, he as a successful mangaka and she as a voice actress. But for now, the two can’t see each other or communicate until they make their dreams come true.

So, knowing this… Mashiro will do all he can to illustrate a manga with Takagi and become a professional mangaka as soon as possible.

In volume 2 of “Bakuman” continues that storyline as both Takagi and Mashiro work diligently on their first manga storyline and prepare to submit their draft to Mr. Hattori, an editor at Weekly Shonen Jump. Knowing that their future depends on the input of Hattori, Takagi and Mashiro hope that he can help guide them in becoming great.

In fact, Hattori loves their work but knows that they are far too young to have a career as mangaka, but with Mashiro intent in wanting to be with Azuki and Takagi wanting to be a successful, can they make it happen?

In volume 3, we started to see how the collaboration between Mashiro and Takagi is starting to crumble.  For Mashiro, he feels that his friend Takagi is becoming sidetracked by his girlfriend Mihoshi and is not cranking out illustrations fast enough, while Takagi knows that his relationship with Mihoshi is getting stronger, he just doesn’t want to work on an action-based manga but more on a detective-based manga series.

So, because of the conflict…while the two remain friends, they sever their ties as a unit.

And now, here we are with “Bakuman Vol. 4”.    How will Mashiro and Takagi consult with their editor that they are no longer a unit.  How will he respond?  Especially knowing that the two are successful because they have perfect chemistry working together.  Also, knowing that odds for a high school writer/artist making it in the industry is very low.

There is only one way for Mashiro and Takagi to prove themselves… enter the Weekly Shonen Jump “Future Gold Cup” competition.

Here is a spoiler-free synopsis of each chapter for “Bakuman Vol. 4”:

  • Chapter 26: Two and One –  Takagi and Mashiro visit the editor Mr. Hattori (separately) to tell him the news that each of them mutually ended their collaboration with each other.  How will. Mr. Hattori react?
  • Chapter 27: Schemer and Deceit – Mr. Hattori knows that he needs to maintain their collaboration, so he comes up with a plan in order to get them back together.  Will it work?
  • Chapter 28: Cooperation and Condition – Takagi and Mashiro are back together but in order to fulfill Mr. Hattori’s plans of Takagi reading boxes of detective manga, the group put their trust in Mihoshi to read the manga for them and report back.
  • Chapter 29: Literature and Music – Takagi and Mashiro meet their competition for Shonen Jump’s Gold Future Cup.
  • Chapter 30: Coalition and Disagreement – Takagi and Mashiro learn that one of their main competitors, Koji Makaino is actually the popular musician KOOGY.  Because of his popularity, due to the mang artists stand a chance?
  • Chapter 31: Tuesday and Friday – Takagi and Mashiro along with the other Shonen Jump editors and competition check out the various surveys to see who is on top in the Gold Future Cup.
  • Chapter 32: Phone Call and the Night Before – The winners of the Shonen Jump Gold Future Cup is announced!
  • Chapter 33: Yay and Nay – It’s time for the editors to decide which news series will begin and which existing series will be cancelled.
  • Chapter 34: Pursuer and Pursued – Now the moment of truth…will Takagi and Mashiro have their own manga series or not?

I was absolutely astonished when I read “Bakuman”. First, Tsugumi Ohba has done a wonderful job in creating layers of detail amongst the primary characters. He includes so much detail in making us feel that the two students are doing all they can to become mangaka. And I have to admit, I’m a speed reader when it comes to manga but this is one of the first titles where I had to read not all at once but at different moments in time because there is so much packed into each chapter dialogue wise.

In volume 4, this is probably one of the best issues to showcase how decisions are made in the manga industry and how competitive it is for newcomers to break in.  The volume actually features the competitive and also exhaustive nature that the editors put on upcoming talent and let them know how difficult it is in the business, especially having to crank out a chapter each week (or every two weeks) and for Mashiro and Takagi, it’s not going to be easy because they are high school students.

Ohba was very meticulous in making us learn about Takagi and Mashiro and also showing us the process of the manga world. And once again, the collaboration with Takeshi Obata has proven to be another grand slam for Ohba as Obata also compliments Ohba’s detailed writing with detailed artwork. From the line art to the patterns on Takagi’s shirt, Ohba did a fabulous job in capturing the feeling of youth in this manga series.

But of course, the biggest plus for  me was getting some insight on the manga world. It’s one thing to read manga but for those of us living outside of Japan, rarely do we get to see how things are done in Japan and how difficult or challenging it is for one to break into the industry. And we get to see things first hand of how it works through Takagi and Mashiro.  And how both Obata and Ohba manage to make the business side of manga entertaining and balancing it with a youthful storyline.

Needless to say, “Bakuman” is a magnificent manga thus far. While I loved the suspense of “Death Note” (which Obata and Ohba have done a magnificent job on), “Bakuman” offers something different.  Something we rarely see in a manga series and that is how the manga industry is.

I love how the manga world is captured with so much detail in the pages of each chapter of “Bakuman”. Well-written, well-drawn… I can understand why this manga is such a popular hit in Japan.  It’s very well-written and amazingly detailed!

If you are interested in the manga industry, let alone an underdog storyline that just captures you from the start, I highly recommend “Bakuman”.

Definitely recommended!

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