story by Tsugumi Ohba; art by Takeshi Obata; adapted by Hope Donovan
published by Viz; $9.99 US
Even though they have a relatively successful series under their belt, due to various complications in previous volumes, the boy creators are once again struggling to develop a manga story that will be picked up by Shonen Jump. In a way, this is a reset, bringing Bakuman back to its core premise, but it takes on new depth and flavor, given how much they (and the reader with them) have struggled through so far.
This time around, they’re returning to the dark and unusual one-shot premise they first had published. Developing this concept into a series should provide new insight into the Japanese manga market, since they’re choosing to be anti-mainstream. The editors’ guidance (plural because their original contact is back to working with them behind-the-scenes) will likely reflect different advice, since they’re no longer attempting a standard fighting or gag manga. Their story manga has a fascinating concept; I’d like to read it, which I couldn’t say about any of the other series the characters have created so far.
Typical of this series, though, there are sudden reversals and course changes, just to keep everyone challenged. Ultimately, the lesson is that all of your previous experiences make your next work better. Doing what you want isn’t the key to success, but it’s an important factor. You still have to consider what other people want to read, though.
Bakuman is also a master class in how to make talking scenes visually interesting. Most of the time, this series consists of people conversing about making comics, yet it flows well and remains exciting to read, based on the characters’ expressions and energy.
For another level of emotional melodrama, there’s Iwase, Takagi’s rival, who’s got a crush on her editor. I feel sorry for him having to deal with her, but at the same time, I’m sympathetic to her feelings. It’s tough to want someone who won’t even consider you seriously. As with the other characters, she uses disappointments in her personal life to fuel her creative accomplishments.