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August 2, 2010

Bento Bako Weekly: Bakuman vol. 1

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Written by: Kristin
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Title: Bakuman
Author(s): Tsugumi Ohba (story), Takeshi Obata (art) (the creators of Death Note)
Publisher: Viz Media (Shonen Jump)
Volume: Volume 1 (ongoing), $9.99
Vintage: 2009 by Shueisha in Japan, August 3, 2010 by Viz Media
Genre: Comedy, slice-of-life, some romance, some drama

While Bakuman is by the creators of Death Note, don’t go expecting a similar type of story.  Death Note is a suspenseful mind bender about a high school genius who finds a notebook that kills the person whose name you write inside.  Bakuman is about a pair of middle school students who want to become manga creators.  It really couldn’t be more different.  Which is a good thing.  That’s not a knock against Death Note, which I enjoyed (the first time watching the first half of the anime, at least), but rather a statement that the creators aren’t just writing another story of the same.

When middle school student Moritaka Mashiro goes back to his classroom for his notebook, which contains drawings of his crush Azuki, he is confronted by his classmate Akito Takagi.  Takagi claims that Azuki probably likes Mashiro too, and uses it as leverage to convince Mashiro to draw for him.  Mashiro, who believes his uncle, a manga creator, committed suicide over his work (or lack of work), initially has no interest in helping Takagi.  But when Takagi drags Mashiro along to confront Azuki about her dream of becoming an anime voice actress, Mashiro is swept up by the energy and makes a promise to the girl of his dreams to create a series that she can perform in.  They even promise to get married if that eventually happens.  Still, Mashiro needs the blessing of his family to move forward, which he isn’t sure he’ll get given the circumstances surrounding his uncle.  To his surprise, both his father and grandfather support him, and his grandfather even gives him the keys to his uncle’s office.  In this office, Mashiro learns the truth about his uncle.  A closet full of boxes of storyboards and final drafts, that prove how hard and endlessly his uncle worked.  And a smaller box full of letters written between his uncle and a girl; simple, innocent love letters that ended when the girl married.  Mashiro starts seeing his current life reflected in his uncle’s past, but is determined that his life will have a different outcome.  Takagi and Mashiro start working on a story to present to a publisher.  Will their story be accepted?

This one is pretty straight forward.  Though the commentary on breaking into the manga industry is nice to see.  Mashiro’s uncle literally works himself to death.  If you pay attention to manga creators, they often overwork themselves and fall ill; it’s not at all uncommon.  Making manga is grueling work, and this book doesn’t shy away from making that clear.  This is still fiction, and it does romanticize the industry to an extent, but it also provides some decent insight.  What I didn’t care for was all the name throwing around that was going on, when the characters would list off other (real) Shueisha titles, like an advertisement.  If you’re a girl reading this series, you may not take kindly to the way Azuki is presented; or at least the way Takagi views her (it’s unclear right now whether she’s really like that or not).  Takagi thinks that Azuki is very smart, because she’s smart enough to know that guys don’t like overly intelligent girls (or rather, that they aren’t cute), so she pretends and purposefully keeps her grades average to give off a calculated appearance.  That she instinctively knows the best thing for a girl is to get married, so she should always be graceful and polite.  It’s very…Japanese.  Right now it’s just Takagi spouting his philosophy, but it impresses Mashiro.

The art is solid.  This is the third series I’ve seen drawn by Takeshi Obata (the others are Hikaru no Go and Death Note), and he’s got a good style.  The writing captures the spirit of young boys well.  Some of the best writing is when Mashiro gets flustered or overly excited in his inner monologues.  The story isn’t anything spectacular, but it’s fun to read.  Bakuman volume 2 is listed in August’s Previews, for release in November.


Review copy provided by Viz Media.



  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Comic Attack, Kristin Bomba. Kristin Bomba said: New review @comicattack: Bakuman vol 1 (@Viz_Media) https://comicattack.net/2010/08/bbwbakuman1/ #manga […]

  2. Hmmm…that’s a very ignorant viewpoint for the character to have about women in general, lol Dumb woman = headache every time IMO lol

    It sounds like it’s a decent read and kind of an everyman type story. I doubt I would recognize all of the name dropping so it probably wouldn’t bother me as much as it would someone with a lot more manga knowledge than myself though.

    I’ve actually been told I should give the Death Note manga a shot since my first introduction to it was the anime and the movie which was just a waste of my time.

  3. Kristin

    Well, Takagi basically says that the smartest girl in the class is actually one of the dumbest, because she’s proud (possibly meant to be snooty) about her intelligence, making her unattractive. So he’s not talking about book smarts. And it’s not like it’s untrue. There are girls like that. But it makes Takagi look like an ass. He’s really kind of annoying, honestly.

  4. […] on vol. 1 of Bakuman (Comic Attack) Tangognat on vol. 1 of Biomega (Tangognat) Julie Opipari on vol. 11 of Gantz (Manga […]

  5. […] on vol. 1 of Bakuman (Comic Attack) Tangognat on vol. 1 of Biomega (Tangognat) Julie Opipari on vol. 11 of Gantz (Manga […]

  6. I think you have some very Interesting points about how the misogyny plays into general Japanese culture. A lot of people have criticized the book for its second chapter, but bringing it into context is important.

    On the downside, I disliked the fact that a majority of your review was a plot summary.

  7. Kristin

    I disliked that a majority of my review was plot summary, too. Unfortunately, there just wasn’t a whole lot to talk about that I didn’t already say. I could have gone farther talking about Azuki I guess, or griping about Takagi. Or talk more about the way it presents the manga industry (which I think would be better to do after another volume, when they actually start dealing with the industry itself). My heart just wasn’t in this one.

  8. […] Hikaru no Go Author: Yumi Hotta, with art by Takeshi Obata (Bakuman); supervised by professional Go player Yukari Umezawa (5-dan) Publisher: Viz Media (Shonen Jump) […]

  9. […] [Volume 1 review.] […]

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