“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” – Pablo Picasso
As a lover of manga and anime I believe that Bakuman is a must-read manga because it gives you an insight into how the world of manga actually works. In terms of the anime however, one cannot help but feel that the transition between one medium to another might have had problems.
The first series covers the events depicted in the first four volumes of the original manga. In it we meet Moritaka Mashiro, a schoolboy and talented manga artist whose late uncle was also a mangaka who died from overwork. A fellow student, Akito Takagi, is a writer who discovers how good an artist Mashiro is. Thus he tries to persuade him to join with him to create a manga of their own. The two manage to make the move when Mashiro reveals his plan to his crush, Miho Azuki, who plans to be a voice artist.
As a result, Mashiro promises that he and Takagi will create a manga series, get it adapted into an anime, and that Azuki will play the heroine. In a fit of panic Mashiro also adds that when all this is accomplished he will marry her. Azuki agrees to the proposal, on the agreement that they do not meet up with each other again until their dreams are fulfilled.
The first series sees Mashiro and Takagi trying to create and submit various different one-shots and manga ideas under the pseudonym of Muto Ashirogi. They experience triumphs, failures and rivalries, with their main one being the massively popular manga prodigy Eiji Niizuma.
As stated earlier, while the manga is great and hugely recommended, there are some things which do unfortunately stick out. One is the whole thorny issue of copyright and naming companies. In the manga, it is quite clearly stated that Mashiro and Takagi submit work to Weekly Shonen Jump (which actually publishes the Bakuman strip), which is owned by Shueisha. But in the anime this has been changed to Weekly Shonen Jack as owned by Yueisha. Now, it is understandable to change the magazine for fear some form of copyright violation. Also, if Jack parodied Jump in other ways, like having mock versions of the original Jump manga you could add another level of humour. But Jack is exactly the same as Jump, with the only difference being the name of the magazine and the company. All the manga in it are exactly the same and Jump regularly depicts One Piece, Naruto and Bleach on the cover. I fail to understand this. The animators should have just either have left it as it is, or changed the lot.
Another problem is the subtitling. Whoever did it has done a rather shoddy job. There are spelling mistakes, spaces missing and other issues too. Even when the cover art of the DVD was displayed they wrongly spelt the word “Series” on the cover. This makes things even worse when you consider the fact that this release has no dub. Also the only extras are clean opening and closing sequences of Bakuman itself and the mock anime that appear in it.
On the plus side, the main elements which made the manga good have transferred well to the screen. The relationships between the main characters all work well, especially the ones between Mashiro, Takagi, Azuki, and Takagi’s love interest Kaya Miyoshi. We also do learn a lot about the inner workings of a large manga publisher. Of course we only see it from the viewpoint of one magazine, but this is to be expected. Obviously the creators of Bakuman, Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata, have written about what they know, taking their own experiences from creating previous Jump hit Death Note.
Bakuman is enjoyable, educational and entertaining, but all of the other little niggles keep dragging it down. Some, such as the Jump/Jack issue I can deal with and you get used to it, but the poor translation is too infuriating. On the whole, you are probably better off with the original manga.