Bakuman Book 2

Akito and Moritaka continue their struggles to become manga-ka (published comic creators) by meeting with an editor at Shueisha (owner of Viz Media). They’re getting advice on submitting to Weekly Shonen Jump (the original home of this manga during its serialization — it’s Disney-style cross-promotion in action!).

Bakuman Book 2 cover
Bakuman Book 2
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When Ed reviewed Book 1, he dinged it for not being very realistic. I’m not sure a story about kids making professional-level manga can ever be 100% plausible, but the advice I see here seems sensible and fact-based, if very cynical and specialized for its home market.

In contrast, as in book one, the emotional points are completely ridiculous. Within the first three pages, while the boys are waiting for their appointment at the manga publisher, we find out more about Akito’s motivations for making manga in spite of his elite educational status by hearing him casually relate a family history of slacker brother, a down-trodden businessman dad, and revenge-seeking mother. He wraps it all up with this quote:

Since then, they’ve never complained about any of my choices, so I guess they’re good parents.

Oh, sorry… that was depressing, eh?

Is this telling so blatant in its short space because many readers can relate to that kind of family dynamic? Once again the motivations of the female character (the mom) makes no sense and doesn’t appear to have any basis in what a real person would do, but the idea of rebelling against one’s parents’ choices is common in teen-oriented literature.

The editor, like them, is young at his work. His interior monologue is self-contradictory and conflicts with what he tells them; he’s buttering them up to keep their developing talent at his company. At one point, he says the equivalent of “people who like this kind of thing would like this”, the kind of meaningless praise that fills space and makes the listener think it’s more profound than it is. Still, the advice he’s giving the characters, and by extension the reader, is ultimately sensible: that there’s a difference between manga art and illustration, and that a story for a comic has to be told differently than you would tell the same story in a novel.

The art continues to astound, and the information about how the Japanese manga publishing industry works is interesting to me. It’s escapism, in a way, looking at the details of how to game the new talent contest and appealing to readers who dream of becoming professional comic creators. Most comic readers have thought about that at some point, so it’s a seductive thought, layered here with exoticism of a system foreign to the U.S.

Then it’s back to the schoolboy drama, as Moritaka has to … shock! … sit next to his crush Azuki. I’m too old to remember how soul-crushing the littlest moments could be with someone you liked, so I find his terror funny. Given how superior he acts, I like seeing him confused. Moritaka is as dumbly arrogant as before, presented as knowing more about writing manga than his partner even though he’s the artist, and even shown as evaluating his editor. This manga is only worth reading if you find that kind of adolescent snobbery amusing, as I do, instead of annoying. He’ll find out how the world really works soon enough, even if it’s not shown in this series’ pages.

There’s lots of practical advice about the Japanese publishing industry, and very little consideration about art. I found that approach very modern, almost too much so. These boys don’t feel a need to tell a story; instead, they’re trying to build a career, making decisions based on business considerations. They select a story idea based on what they think will win an award instead of what they’d like to write about or draw. It’s about achievement instead of creativity.

But then, the relationships are the same way. Two girls are fighting over Akito after he attacks a guy who bad-mouthes their comic work. None of this is believable, but it gives the writer and artist something to do that’s not all about the business. There’s also an even freakier kid introduced, a manga prodigy who lives for nothing but his art. He becomes the team’s biggest competition, even though he doesn’t know they exist.

Overall, this manga is the best example of the advice it’s publishing. It’s an outsized competition story, well-suited to the teen boy audience of the original magazine, with lots of hooks to keep the reader interested and voting for the series in the reader surveys, which as we learn throughout this volume, will determine a manga-ka’s career. (The publisher provided a review copy.)


  1. […] books 7 and 8 with a side volume 9 also released; and Otomen had four books out, 5-8. I also liked Bakuman much more than some, enjoying the look inside the Japanese manga […]

  2. Like with other reviews of Bakuman I’ve been reading, I feel as though you’re focusing too much on the cultural discrepancies and the personality of the characters, the naive depiction of romance in this story, or the subservient role of women in Japanese society.

    In other words, I feel that you forgot to put on your eastern hat while reading this story. Personally, I think the strongest aspect of Bakuman isn’t just the presentation of the inner workings of Japanese comics industry (which you’ve appropriately mentioned)… personally I think the uniqueness and strength of this story derives from diversity of stories/concepts inside the main story!

    Bakuman is a storytelling laboratory showing what it takes to create a commercially viable story, and it features a rather interesting and diverse selection of imaginary manga, conceived by the main characters as well as their rivals! That’s the real power behind this story: the way the reader is allowed to glimpse the creative process involved in making comic books.

    I urge you to keep reading Bakuman, since the first two volumes barely do any justice to the real significance of this work. If you keep reading, you’ll see the protagonists grow up and become young adults, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy the way they mature (both personally and creatively). It may seem as though those boys are just looking to have a career, but they are really passionate about making manga… except they’re also quite realistic about having to make a living as well.

    Whereas in Death Note the quality of the story clearly crumbled and deteriorated half-way through, this newer work is going the opposite direction: the creators are clearly learning form their past mistakes and using their experience to weave a solid and rather unique tale about fictional characters who were driven to “gamble with manga”.

  3. I have to approach the book from who I am, which is a Western woman who only has a certain amount of patience for teenboy selfishness. :) I want to read stories that include female characters, and I want to call out works that are male-focused.

    That said, I do like some of the aspects you mention, such as learning storytelling and the creative process, and the way they balance art and commerce. Thanks for the hints about what’s coming up. I do plan to keep reading, and I appreciate the encouragement.

  4. […] and Hikaru no Go Book 22 (Viz, $9.99), so for new reads this week, I’ll be continuing with Bakuman — Book 3, Viz, $9.99 — and Otomen — Book 9, Viz, $9.99 — and perhaps try […]

  5. […] and Akito, we also see a lot more of Eiji in this book. He’s the manga genius introduced in book two, an otherwise immature 15-year-old who turns out pages so prodigiously it’s scary. He’s […]

  6. […] BAKUMAN。 Vol. 2 […]

  7. […] Viz announced that the fourth volume of the Bakuman manga series would be available digitally on March 28th. The print version is due out April 5 (although […]

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