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Bakuman is a slice-of-life, drama-comedy that follows two Japanese high school students, artist Moritaka Mashiro and writer Akito Takagi, as they team up to make a name for themselves and break into the manga industry. Written by Tsugumi Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata (the makers of Death Note), this manga is quite a bit different from anything else I’ve read before.
Yes, this Shonen Jump manga features plenty of familiar elements, like fierce competition between respected rivals, unwavering determination in the face of difficulty, and perfectly timed humorous moments you don’t see coming. But the story remains fresh because of its unique setting and large cast of memorable characters.
A charming romantic subplot also propels the main storyline forward. Moritaka and Miho Azuki, an aspiring anime voice actress who happens to be the girl he loves, finally overcome mutual shyness and promise to end up together--but only when each has achieved their dreams. This innocent, long-distance relationship gives all the twists and turns real emotional weight.
Bakuman is the answer to this question: What does it mean to strive towards a single goal if failure means the rest of your dreams will never come true?
How Manga Gets Made
What really sets Bakuman apart is its focus on the inner-workings of the Japanese manga industry. The intensity of a weekly publication schedule and the constant battle between different series for readership--and therefore survival--provide plenty of drama and suspense.
This story will help any reader come away with an understanding and appreciation for the hard work that goes into manga creation: pitch meetings with editors, on-the-fly storyboarding, continuous revisions, conflict between collaborators, and sleepless nights to meet deadlines.
It’s Not Real . . . Sort Of
Perhaps the coolest part of Bakuman is that it features Sasaki Hisashi, real-life former editor-in-chief of Weekly Shonen Jump (he’s been promoted since then), as an actual character. You can follow this giant of the manga world on Twitter under the handle SASAKI_Hisashi.
Give Bakuman a try. I’m off to read some more manga!
Intern Anthony Andora wishes he were a character in a manga series.