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Sunday 16th June 2013

Matt Kamen on the anime that’s all about manga

BakumanBakuman is a slice of life series focusing on the highs and lows of making it as a manga creator in Japan. If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve at least considered making your own comic. Succeeding in that cut-throat field is no easy path though, as this week’s new release makes clear.

The eagerly anticipated show is adapted from the latest manga series by writer Tsugumi Ohba and artist Takeshi Obata – the creators of the wildly popular gothic thriller Death Note. Clearly, there’s a HUGE weight of expectation on Bakuman given its pedigree. Thankfully, it doesn’t disappoint but those expecting anything even remotely similar to the twisting, psychological battle between Kira and L will be very surprised by what’s on hand here.

Bakuman focuses on Moritaka Mashiro – Taka for short – a 14-year old art prodigy who’s winning awards even at his young age. He’s a big fan of manga himself (anyone who’s familiar with Japanese manga releases will get a kick out of Taka’s book shelf, with full runs of Dragon Ball and One Piece shown with correct cover art!) and looks up to his Uncle Nobuhiro, a one-hit wonder manga creator who never regained the success of his inaugural work. Sadly, Nobuhiro died while Taka was still young, purportedly from overwork but Taka suspects that the desperate man committed suicide, driven to it by a string of uncaring editors and a lack of work. Discouraged from following in his footsteps, Taka’s resigned himself to getting an average office job and leading an unspectacular life. His sense of ambition is nevertheless kickstarted when raging teenage hormones, a girl he fancies, and a healthy dollop of blackmail conspire to change his direction in life!

BakumanMuch to Taka’s dismay, his classmate Akito Takagi finds Taka’s sketchbook, full of drawings of his crush, aspiring voice actress Miho Azuki. Rather than teasing him, the seemingly aloof Akito reveals himself to be a huge manga fan and, impressed by Taka’s talents, suggests they make a series together. Although Taka initially declines, Akito gets him to team up by telling Miho that they’re working on a series together. Swept up in the suddenness and his own feelings, Taka agrees, telling Miho they’ll save the heroine’s voice for her when their series is animated. Taka also blurts out a marriage proposal for when they’re a success – which Miho surprisingly accepts, with the strange proviso that they not see each other again until then. From here, the series charts Taka and Akito’s quest to become the best manga creators they can be, though Taka retains traits of bleak realism and despair at the viciousness of the industry.

Besides being an opportunity to engage in some hilarious reference gags at the expense of popular manga series – yes, including Death Note! – Bakuman is also delivers some healthy social commentary. The characters are all in the last year of Middle School, making the hard decision over which High School to go to. It’s an important choice in Japan, and many teens find the social pressure to get good grades, and progress from prestigious school to University to notable company to be overpowering. Increasing numbers simply shut down, as Taka is in danger of doing at the start of the series, all contributing to Japan’s hikikomori (social shut-ins) phenomenon. The show also covers how truly hard it is to make it as a megastar manga-ka – the popularity rankings in the weekly anthology comics, the pressure from editors, the demands of success. It’s a bleak career path that offers undeniable rewards if you make it, but the chances of making it are scarily slim.

Bakuman, the anime, is out now on UK DVD from Manga Entertainment.

Buy it now


Bakuman Season 1

was £39.99
Top student Akito is willing to do anything to become a hit writer in the Japanese comics industry, including manipulating his unsure classmate Mashiro into becoming his illustrator. Before long, the pair have their backs up against the wall, fighting for a chance to get noticed in the intense world of manga publishing. But then, an unlikely series of events puts them face-to-face with what real comic artists have to give up: love, health, and maybe even their futures. Get ready for a compelling race through the world of publishing not limited to glimpses into the industry, but all-out panoramic views packed with insider details!



Code Geass vs Death Note

If you liked that, you might like this
At heart, Death Note and Code Geass tell the same story. A teenage Tokyo schoolboy with a towering intellect, railing against the world, is given fantastic powers by a supernatural agency. He finds he can manipulate people like puppets and kill with ease. His power is bound by rules and restrictions, yet still seems godlike.


Comicon Pics

Just some of the Comicon cosplays, photographed by Paul Jacques
As promised, here are just a few of the pictures taken by our photographer Paul Jacques at the MCM Comicon this May. Some pretty amazing stuff on offer behind the LINK.
Grab your straw hats and weigh anchor - we’re setting sail for a One Piecesummer!

One Piece: Crew Manifest Four

Who will you encounter in this latest volume of nautical nonsense?
How does Luffy, a man made of rubber, fight a living desert?

Naruto Music: tacica

Tom Smith on Naruto’s newest song.
Japanese duo Tacica won’t be winning the Manga UK Blog award for most original song title anytime soon, mostly because no such award exists. But if it did, they still wouldn’t win. Especially not with the title of their hit single and Naruto Shippuden opener, Newsong.

The Weird World of Rotoscoping

Andrew Osmond on the history of animation’s corner-cutting secret
Rotoscoping and its descendants are an important part of American cinema, and recognised today. Many film fans know, for example, that Gollum, Peter Jackson’s King Kong and the rebel anthropoid Cornelius in the Planet of the Apes reboot are all based on physical performances by one actor, Andy Serkis. Again, it’s common knowledge that the Na’vi aliens in Avatar were human actors ‘made over’ by computer – the digital equivalent of those guys wearing prosthetic foreheads and noses in the older Star Trek series.

Anime on iTunes

Discover a whole new world of anime on your tablet or phone
There's a whole bunch of Manga Entertainment titles available for direct download on the iTunes site, including Shinji Aramaki's Appleseed, Mamoru Hosoda's Wolf Children, and K-on: The Movie.
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