Many have complained of the lack of originality scattered throughout the current crop of today’s shonen( action/fighting) manga. While series such as Naruto and Bleach draw inspiration from classics of the past like Dragon Ball, surprisingly series like Death Note took a different approach to the genre and met with equal success, if not more so. As such, it shouldn’t be any surprise when the same pairing responsible for the aforementioned gothic fantasy once again paired up to present another unique take on the shonen genre, this time focusing on the process of developing manga.
Written by Tsugumi Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata, Bakuman is a departure from the standard shonen fare, taking a slice-of-life approach as it depicts the story of two boys aspiring to be mangaka( professional comic writers and artist). Moritaka Mashiro is a burgeoning young artist unsure of what he wants to pursue in life, until he runs across Akito Takagi who convinces him to put his artistic talents to use in helping him create a manga for serialization in the famed Shonen Jump magazine.
Unfortunately, Moritaka’s uncle was also a manga artist who died due to overwork, discouraging Moritake from following in his footsteps. Making matters worse, the pair quickly learn that finding work in the manga industry is much more difficult than they imagined as they have to go through reader surveys that could make or break one’s chances of achieving success.
Much of the series can be construed as Shonen Jump patting themselves on the back as several characters make reference to how much of a cultural phenomenon it is. While it can be argued that it is, especially here in the States where an abundant amount of manga is sprung from their source, the constant name drops and ego stroking can grate on reader’s nerves.
The series features a fair amount of romance interspersed throughout though most of it is approached with a tongue in cheek attitude. In fact, the main romance between Moritaka and a fellow classmate is played with a steady mix of comedy and shonen style of achieving ones goals as both agree to marry only after Moritaka’s series receives an anime adaptation and his girlfriend becomes a famous voice actress.
At its heart, Bakuman is the very definition of what a shonen series should be; young adults striving to achieve their goals while struggling through hardships and creating lasting friendships along the way. Though the style of storytelling is apt to leave action junkies looking elsewhere, the concept of taking readers behind the hollowed walls of Shonen Jump is sure to appeal to anyone who has ever wondered about the amount effort it takes to successfully create and maintain a manga. Regardless of whether you’re a fan of the shonen genre or just in the market for something new, Bakuman is a breath of fresh air and worth the investment.