Bakuman Book 17

Another outstanding volume in the series about manga creators. The troublemaker Tohru, from books 14-15, has returned with a crazy new business premise that reminded me a lot of how American comic companies work, particularly the CrossGen attempt to build an on-site studio. He’s got employees creating manga stories based on focus groups, with artists treated as hired hands. Of course, everyone thinks it’s horrible, helped by how Tohru tends to go crazy-villain every so often when explaining his motives.

His approach is considered bad for ignoring the important role of the editor and his input, but the bigger question for me is why he just doesn’t start his own publisher, since that’s really the role he’s usurping.

An early debate over whether old creators should make room for the young or whether anyone who can do the work should be hired will also seem familiar to anyone who remembers, for example, the Frank Cho scandal rumors around Charles Schulz’s retirement. It reminded me that we’re still dealing with relatively young kids, since more mature participants might be more sympathetic to the idea that they, too, might be older creators one day.

All this comes together with some references back to Mashiro’s deceased uncle and his earlier attempts at manga success. Given all the comments about how manga artists don’t make money unless they have a super success, with anime adaptations and all the spinoffs, I found myself wondering about these older creators, how they’re supporting themselves and what options they have otherwise.

For what is at heart an adventure competition series, true to its shonen roots, it’s fascinating to see such philosophical debates included. Ultimately, Bakuman posits a moral industry, driven by more than just the desire to make money. That may or may not be true, but it makes for a compelling story.

It’s also striking to see the series itself use the techniques its characters espouse and/or discover. For instance, during one competitive showdown (another “we must rank higher than them!” challenge), Mashiro discovers the benefit of creating a stand-alone chapter in his series that ties back into the older stories. (We here call it a “great jumping-on point”.) The boys figure out the technique, and the next chapter of Bakuman features a stand-alone story about an editor retiring. That chapter also checks in with a lot of the supporting cast and references their fond memories, leading readers to want to refresh their recollection of the events.

This volume concludes with fresh meat for coming books, as both our heroes and crazy genius Nizuma are working up new series. One tackles the incredibly hot concept of zombies (to which, in response, his editor says, “sounds like an American comic”), while another will seem vaguely familiar to fans of Death Note (written by the same author as this series).


  1. Tohru’s plan actually reminded me more of the old Eisner/Iger shop model where all the work was done under one roof but then sold as a package to a publisher. The publisher did not have to hire editors because the work was presented as a complete and finished product, just ready to be printed. Additionally, the Tohru-produced stories were largely written under the pseudonym of the artist, and Eisner himself frequently used pseudonyms for his work in the early days (though, admittedly, for very different reasons).

    I had to wonder, too, why Tohru didn’t just publish the things himself if he had so much money to burn! :)

  2. Oh, great comparison!

  3. I enjoyed this volume too for all the reasons you point out, plus I don’t think there were any weird gender issues that made me cringe.

    Yujiro does mention when he’s talking with Hattori “For all I care, they might as well just go publish their own magazine or something” but I don’t think that’s a real option for Nanamine since his sole purpose with the whole effort is beating his rivals Muto Ashirogi. He even comes out and announces “This is all to defeat you, Muto Ashirogi!! I’ll crush both you and PCP!” at the end of the tour he gives them.

    It might not make the most sense or seem logical in real-world terms, but having been raised on superhero comics it reminded me of how Dr. Doom wastes his intellect and resources because of his obsession with besting Reed Richards.

    Some other recent examples of the “packaging” approach that came to mind were the Marvel Knights imprint and when Marvel outsourced Heroes Reborn to Wildstorm & Extreme Studios.

  4. […] I’ve really enjoyed the series for its insight into the manga industry (which can be very similar and very different from the American comic business, depending on which piece of it you’re examining). The one caveat is that the treatment of women is mostly atrocious. They’re either invisible, prizes for the guys, or one-dimensional stereotypes. My most recent two reviews of the series cover Books 14-16 and Book 17. […]

  5. […] once again going up against their top rival, Nizuma, with both having new one-shots debuting in a short period of time. The […]

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