This is review number three hundred and twenty seven. This anime is part of the Fall 2010 lineup, and it’s the highest voted anime in my poll right now. The anime I’ll be reviewing is called Bakuman, and it’s a twenty five episode anime about the authors of Death Note telling a story not about genocide. Actually, this is a pretty awesome anime and I can’t believe I’ve only seen it now. Let’s read on.
This anime is about two middle school students that decided they wanted to become manga artists. The road to their goal will be a tough one though full of rejected ideas and ever changing standards. The two has a dream they want to fulfill though, and one of them even made a pact with a girl that they’ll get married if their manga ever gets an anime.
Taking the Pants Off
A fellow aniblogger once mentioned that she loved Bakuman so much that it motivated her to follow her dreams. It’s one the reasons why I wanted to watch this show, and I can see why she’s so moved. In a sense, the story of Bakuman is honest that you’ll feel the genuine emotions of the writers. It’s also very nurturing wherein it wants its audience to feel motivated. The ultimate message of the anime is for people to follow their dreams, and Bakuman is so good at it that I bet any young and optimistic person that saw it, would immediately want to make their dreams come true. I laugh at it though because I’m an old cynical bastard at this point, who once was lured into achieving my dreams but no one told me the real world is a lot harsher. I think Bakuman has that side effect as well, but this is an incredible anime nonetheless. In terms of the story and the characters, the anime is pretty solid. As I said as well, there are genuine emotions at play here that’ll instantly draw you in. It’s as if you’re watching the actual mangakas strive for their dream, and you’re rooting for them to succeed. Bakuman is pretty special though because it’s inspirational. It is able to tell a really passionate story that’ll inspire other people, while still making sure the story and characters are given the proper attention. I’ve seen a lot of stories where characters strive achieve their dream. Some of them are annoyingly preachy while others lack emotion. Bakuman is interesting because it seems to achieve a good balance that is really fun to watch. I bet this anime, and the manga, inspired a generation of manga artists. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s true as well.
This anime follows two students named Moritaka Mashiro and Akito Takagi. Takagi invited Mashiro to become a manga artist where he’ll write the stories and Mashiro will draw the illustrations. Mashiro initially declined because he has no interest in becoming a mangaka. All this changed when Takagi asked him to come along with him, and tell Miho Azuki that he’ll be a manga artist. Mashiro has a crazy crush in Azuki so he just had to go. Azuki is so happy about Takagi’s declaration that Mashiro is roped in as well. Upon learning that Azuki wanted to become a voice actress, Mashiro promised that he’ll become a popular mangaka and get an anime before they’re eighteen. They’ll personally ask Azuki to voice the heroine of their anime. Caught in the moment, Mashiro then accidentally proposed to Azuki. Everyone is stunned but Azuki promised to get married to him. They’ll become popular manga artists, she’ll become a popular voice actress and they’ll both try to make their dreams come true. If they can, then they’ll get married. The anime now follows the trials and tribulations of Mashiro and Takagi as they try to get their work published and hopefully make all their dreams come true.
The premise alone immediately hooked me. It sounds really solid and it has a lot of potential. I also admire the honesty of the story. Making a story about people achieving their goals is pretty hard to do, and it also has to present a story on how to make a manga so there is already an issue here. You can tell that Bakuman can pull it off though. The way it presented the premise effortlessly is a good sign of how the show will progress. The characters are also pretty interesting right off the bat, since it’s their personality that gives off that sincere vibe of the story that I’m attracted to. After the declaration, the two characters immediately started to create some rough drafts to train themselves to become great mangakas. Their journey into getting their worked published is divided into four chapters for this anime.
The first chapter is about Mashiro’s uncle, Nobuhiro Mashiro whose pen name is Kawaguchi Taro. With the show slowly establishing the status quo for the rest of the episodes, it also focused on Taro and the life of a mangaka. Taro got one of his works published for a major weekly magazine but he wasn’t able to create more solid hits afterwards. He soon died overworking himself and trying to come up with a new story for the weekly magazine. The first chapter focused on Mashiro’s relationship with his uncle. He always admired his uncle, and he was convinced he committed suicide because he was a failure of a manga artist. His uncle also taught him the basics of being a great mangaka. The first chapter focused on the technical side of being a mangaka, and it’s actually pretty interesting. I never expected that creating a single page of a manga is a pain the ass, but it really takes a lot of work. It explores all the trivial stuff like the kind of pen to use, and the annoying application of screen tones. For someone like me who has never seen a manga made before, this is all fascinating sh*t. The technicality never goes overboard though. It doesn’t overwhelm the audience, and a good reason for that is because it also highlight Kawaguchi Taro’s career as a mangaka. Told in Mashiro’s eyes, you can just feel his determination come through and his utter love for his craft. It’s incredible storytelling that can just make you smile. I think the first three episodes are enough to really be a big fan of Kawaguchi Taro and his passion for manga. It has an added heart wrenching element though because Kawaguchi Taro is no more. He poured his life to his craft and he died unable to create another great hit. It’s just sad, but being able to establish that in three episodes really made me want to tune in some more.
Kawaguchi Taro also believed that he is a gambler. A lot of manga artists are gamblers while only the truly talented can become real mangaka. The first chapter also serves as a little foreshadowing for me. It gives you a glimpse of what is coming for the story. Seeing Kawaguchi Taro impart his wisdom into making a popular manga and tracking his effort through his works is a subtle way of hinting at the actual journey of Mashiro and Takagi. If Taro had a tough time then our heroes would definitely struggle as well, and they’ll need to pour more effort into it. I think the foreshadowing became a bit obvious when Taro’s romantic life is also mentioned in the first chapter, and somehow has the same setup as Mahiro’s own romantic journey. Pay close attention to the first five episodes or so because it gives us a subtle hint of how the story will progress, all thanks to Kawaguchi Taro. I just hope no one dies from writing a manga though, that’ll scare dreamers away. Anyways, Kawaguchi Taro eventually becomes a plot point for this anime since he is still heavily mentioned in other chapters as well. More people closely related to him appear, and Mashiro always think of him as he continues his own journey into getting published. He also imparts this wonderful wisdom that good manga will always be published. Your manga just has to be good. It’s a saying that ultimately becomes a part of the anime itself.
The second chapter is about their goal towards getting published. After creating their first ever manga, and giving it to an editor at Shounen Jack, the two becomes contenders for the Tezuka Award. The second chapter is about the two perfecting their craft, and being introduced to their first rival: Eiji Niizuma. In fact, they make it their goal to beat Niizuma and become better than him. After Niizuma gets first place in the Tezuka Award, the two realizes their flaws and weaknesses and decides to overcome them. They work on all this while they prepare for the next Tezuka Award. They haven’t met Niizuma at this point, but you can tell he’s a big part of the second chapter. The two always looked up to Niizuma and be completely amazed that he’s a high school student getting one of his works published. They want to catch up to him, and beat him in the next Tezuka award. Well good luck to them, because Niizuma is one of those geniuses Kawaguchi Taro mentions are destined to make it big while they are just gamblers at this point. They still strive to get one of their works published though, and continue to get better with the guidance of their editor. This chapter also gives an insight on what actually get published in Shounen Jack, and a good technical look at getting your own work recognized. I’m not really sure how easy it is to submit your works for the awards and stuff, but there seems to be a door ready for anyone to enter. Of course, most people are turned away immediately. The technical stuff like story progression and how thick lines in a drawing should be is also mentioned as a smooth addition from the technical aspects of the first chapter. The two characters also practice non-stop to perfect their craft and they’ll have piles of rejected “names” – like a rough draft but they call it names – in a corner because they didn’t think it was good enough. Their motivation is strong, since they want to be published and make a better work than Niizuma, and they have the passion to really better themselves. The technicality of the story is once again softened by another plot point. No, it’s not another passionate story about a mangaka which would be a lot better since Eiji Niizuma is an enigma up until this point. Instead, we got romance.
The romance has been a part of the show since the first episode but the whole thing just didn’t really feel right. I don’t really understand the point of the romance. Mashiro has a huge crush with this timid girl named Azuki, and there are moments that’ll make you smile. The head turn in the first chapter is sweet since you know Azuki reciprocates Mashiro’s love. The two decided to sit on their love though, and didn’t even talk to each other. The girl insists they fulfill their promise first, aim for their goals and then become romantic with each other. I’m fine with the odd relationship since any introvert would’ve killed for a girl like Azuki, who is shy but straight forward and also has a crush on Mashiro. The problem with the romance is that it was dragged out in a painful manner. You can’t really get much romance from two characters that don’t even talk but the second chapter went along with it. It focused on their snail paced romance and it was pretty boring. Again, I’m fine with the romance angle but there is very little to focus here. The romance is so boring, yet heavily focused, that it killed the technicality of the second chapter. Niizuma became an afterthought after Mashiro started obsessing over his relationship with Azuki. It was infuriating because you have a good grasp of the pacing of the show at this point, and you can tell the romance acted as filler perhaps to stretch the show into its twenty five episode run time. It’ll come to point where you’ll loathe Mashiro and Azuki though. What the hell is wrong with Azuki? I can only hope that this relationship turns sour because the two is acting like a couple of kindergarten kids satisfied with just expressing their love with hand paintings. The one positive thing that came out of the romance in the second chapter is the inclusion of Azuki’s friend in the story. She’s a bright character compared to Azuki so I prefer seeing her around than our quiet love interest.
The third chapter is about pursuing Next. Next is a special publication where the winner is sure to get serialized and get a spot at the weekly Shounen Jack. This is also the first time they met Niizuma in person, and the interaction is pretty damn memorable. This fires them up to go head to head with Niizuma for Next. Niizuma is adept at battle manga while the two main characters honed their craft at another genre. This time they want to make a battle manga story that’ll go head to head with Niizuma’s work. This is met with complete rejection from their editor because he knows they suck at mainstream battle manga. The two is certain that their smart style can beat Niizuma for Next. The third chapter covers the basics of what makes mainstream manga good. It points out the needed protagonists, the cliché to make the story good and the necessary steps to succeed in the cutthroat world of battle manga since it’s the most popular genre of all. This chapter is also a weird transition for the show since it is planning on expanding the story. The two characters have graduated middle school at this point, and are now making manga while they’re in high school. The changes happen gradually as well, since the show introduces a lot of new things for the story. There are new mangakas who are also trying to get their work published, we get a look at Eiji Niizuma and why he is such a badass at creating manga. The main characters mature as well when reality starts knocking on their doors. It’s a pretty soft approach but things like writer’s block, team disagreement and the sting of being stuck in a creative rut is discussed in the third chapter. It also introduces new plot points for this transition stage of the story.
A third plot point is introduced when Azuki starts to pursue her dreams as a VA actress. Normally, this would just feel like filler but Azuki is more talented than anyone give her credit as she slowly gets a gig for her anime debut. This made Mashiro think about his own career projection, and wonders if he’ll ever get published. It’s not much but Mashiro doesn’t just look to Niizuma’s career to fire him up but he also track Azuki’s career hoping he’d have an anime ready for her to voice in. The third chapter also progresses the romance plot point when Takagi and his girlfriend sudden got serious. The entire chapter felt like a confusing mess though, because of the transition. Thankfully, the last chapter is the best chapter in the entire anime.
Mashiro and Takagi’s dream of getting published is upon them when they are considered for the Golden Future Cup, where the winner gets a sure fire shot at getting their work appear in the weekly magazine. This is the best chapter because all the characters introduced in the third chapter gets a definitive role as they also become contenders for the Golden Future Cup award. We are introduced to four more mangakas that are as talented as our heroes, and it gives an exciting look to how each work is judged. The third chapter explained how voting works when the two tried their hands in Next but it becomes an integral part of the fourth chapter when the votes guarantee their dreams coming true. I love the diversified cast, and the potential of the show suddenly sky rocketing into new territories. The voting also got fierce because of the stable storytelling, and it’s interesting because we never really see any of the voting process take place. Editors call their artists and give the news if they won or not, still it is pretty freaking awesome to watch as you see artists slowly achieve to make their dreams come true.
Alright then, with the story structure review out of the way, let’s talk about the themes of this anime. “Dreams can come true” is one of the biggest topics here, along with introverts have a cute romance story to tell that’ll freak other people out. One the greatest appeal of Bakuman is that it inspires you to work towards your goal. I bet a bright eyed young person would look at this anime and be utter inspired at the beautiful message of the story. The two characters did their best, got better with time and eventually took a step closer into achieving their goals. It teaches young people that if you love something then you should pursue it, and make those dreams come true. Mashiro and Takagi never settles for “this is enough”, instead they look at their competition and work even harder to be as good or even better than them. They didn’t feel defeated when Niizuma started getting published before them, instead they worked their asses off and continued on. This anime is so nurturing that it tells people not to give up, and to always do your best. As Kawaguchi Taro said, a good manga will always be serialized. It just has to be good. I honestly feel inspired by the anime as well, and it motivates me to write a manga of my own. There is one problem though, the show is too nice. How do I say this? The manga industry is a lot more cutthroat than the anime portrayed it. It also blocked out all the evil people that’ll hamper your career and focused on the honest to goodness side and the things that’ll fire up your passion for what you love. As a twenty five year old guy that knows better, the real world is honestly a lot harsher than it is in Bakuman. I remember that I once took a multimedia class, and our teacher asked us to introduce ourselves with a drawing. Me and another classmate drew a Miku complete with green hair, and we became good friends afterwards. One classmate drew the entire classroom though, as he sat in the back drawing the class with wonderful detail. I can tell that even our teacher was speechless, but then our teacher got defensive and started pointing out the flaws of the drawing. He pointed out that he is a graduate of a top school and the talented classmate is an amateur so he won’t amount to much. The teacher lashed out in the most horrible manner, and we can only watch in awe of this d*ckbag completely trashing on this passionate guy. He then spent the entire semester not teaching us anything, giving us homework only to berate our inexperience and he had the nerve to tell us to read comics because he’s a comic book fan, and anime fans doesn’t have a future in the Philippine graphic scene. He basically gave us a proud middle finger because one of our classmates had talent. I realized then that people like this is common when you pursue your passionate career. I had to experience it like ice water splashed to my face, and I bet people inspired by Bakuman is set to get ice water splashed in their face as well. I guess it doesn’t make for a good story when people are as ruthless as they are in real life but I just had to laugh at the show’s nurturing approach. Oh, in the end, our classmate is now an insanely popular graphic designer in Singapore while our teacher is still a d*ckbag in that school.
Of course, the show pointed out one solid thing in pursuing your dreams: never be content with your work. If you don’t want to keep on learning then you won’t last long in whatever career you take. Mashiro and Takagi studied their genres, drew until they grew blisters and is never satisfied with a good turn in their manga career. As the show progresses, they kept on practicing and mastering their craft. Talent is never an issue for the show since even Niizuma is a genius because he was drawing since he was ten. Bakuman’s greatest lesson is telling audiences to master craft. This is a sure fire way to achieve your goal and to combat all the d*ckbags in the world, and there are a lot of them. I guess not featuring d*ckbags in this anime is also a smart thing because it tells audiences to look for people as passionate as them. In the final chapter, four mangaka got together to evaluate each other’s work and there are people like this in real life. There are respectful people, nurturing of your talent and ready to give advice when you need it and Bakuman tells us to surround ourselves with people like them. That’s the smartest way to approach it, and it will inspire people to achieve their best. You can also inspire yourself with love, if it works for you but I can just tell Mashiro’s love life isn’t as promising as you’d expect.
Lastly, I love the references in the show. Character names, popular works and a deep intimate knowledge of the manga industry are heavily used in the show. It made me smile when popular works like One Piece, Hikaru no Go and Naruto appear in Shounen Jack. It’s weird that the works are published but Shounen Jump is just a reference for the show. Maybe Shounen Jump didn’t want their name mentioned in Bakuman? It’s weird. If you’re a Japanese dude with a deep love for manga though, then you’ll appreciate the smart references in the show. Some of them are obscure ones, like an author’s name the same as a character’s name or Niizuma randomly mentioning popular Shounen Jump titles in his random lines, but others are easy to spot like Kawaguchi Taro’s work resembling another popular manga and it does make the experience a lot more personal. The authors of Bakuman are obviously massive manga fans as well that they studied the industry, and created a story with a mix of their own experiences. It’ll make you smile how they wrote a story in the eyes of a manga fan, admiring popular titles and paying homage to a lot of them. This brings out the honesty of the entire show. It just feels right to keep on watching because you know you can relate to the story, since two manga fanatics wrote this anime as well.
The characters are pretty wonderful in this anime. The show took its time in establishing them so they really stand out in the long run. Mashiro and Takagi is a great duo. Mashiro works on the illustrations, and his connection with manga is a wonderful highlight of the show. He is a big fan of his uncle’s work and this inspires him to be a great artist as well. He doesn’t know how to swoon a girl though, but his reserved attitude is cute while his honest approach at writing is fun to watch. He is always the one that determines that his work needs improving, and he’s actually the destructive one in the group since he is the insecure one trying to catch up to Niizuma despite the gap in their talents. Takagi is a wonderful partner though. His writing is pretty solid as he has a good grasp of the manga industry. He knows what’ll sell and he knows what’ll appeal to readers. He also supports Mashiro on every turn since he gets fired up whenever Mashiro is fired up. It just goes to show that he was right in choosing him as a partner for writing manga. He is the laidback guy between the two though, and he looks at things more realistically. I find it funny when he would analyze things but Mashiro would blurt out that they need to have an anime before they’re 18, and Takagi can only go along with it. He’s a great partner in that regard. There are a lot of great characters in this show as well but I’ll refrain from introducing them all. Let’s just say that even Mashiro’s nagging mother has depth in this anime. That’s how good character development is for this show. I think it’s because the whole setup is borrowed from the mangakas real life experiences so there’s a veil of validity in the whole thing.
I do not like Azuki though. It frustrates me that you can never know what she’s thinking. I guess that’s her appeal. She’s an unpredictable girl with an honest ambition and a personality of a potato. That’s good enough for this anime since she’s only a fixture for Mashiro to admire. Her goal of becoming a voice actress isn’t all that interesting though, but it does give her a chance to grow as a character. For now, she’s still a potato but I know it won’t last long. Kaya Miyoshi, her middle school best friend, is a lot more interesting than her. She’s someone that speaks her mind and she genuinely cares about the two main characters, and wants them to succeed. She is also the normal one between her and Azuki, so it’s easy to relate to her. She adds comic relief, and soon becomes an uncredited part of the team so I kinda have a soft spot for her. Niizuma is one of the best characters in the show and I’ll shut up about him. You’ll love him though, especially in the third chapter where his enigmatic persona turns out to be a lot more promising.
I love this anime a lot, and I think more should watch it. Of course, I’m five years old late in singing the anime’s praises but still, go watch it. Bakuman is actually written by a two man team as well, and the surprising part is that this duo also wrote Death Note. Damn, that’s a lot of talent right there. You can tell they have a knack for storytelling when they can deliver an honest story smoothly and also make us root for a sociopath with gawd complex. As I read their Wikipedia entries, the more I smile at how art imitates life. I admire them for telling their story and sharing it with us in such a beautiful manner. I cried a bit though when I learned Ken’ichi Kasai directed this anime. Two words: Honey and Clover. Oh, wait. The narrative of the anime and the general aura of genuine-ness is something I know this director has mastered. He didn’t change anything from the manga though, and completely did a straightforward adaptation. I respect him for that, and I love JC Staff for going with the series for the long haul. There are three seasons of Bakuman, and I think JC Staff really believes it’s as good as it is. The captivating honesty of the first three episodes is something I give credit to Ken’ichi though. He’s that damn good, and I hope he does more works like this. He directed JC Staff’s recent and final school romance in Love Stage, also their first BL romance, so I hope that’s a good show as well. I want to see JC Staff’s last attempt before Prison School and Food Wars. Anyways, this anime is pretty incredible as it has wonderful characters, a smart story and a nice love for the manga industry. I hope they do one for the anime industry, and I heard there already is one, and I hope it’s as good as Bakuman.
Sight and Sound
Character design is pretty solid. It has the same appeal as Death Note because of the long limbs the charters have, and Takagi pretty much looking like a softer version of Light Yagami from Death Note. Takeshi Obata gives us a wide range of characters though that smartly matches their personality in the show. I personally love the range because the characters look pretty human in my eyes, like they were actually based off real people. From Mashiro’s stern mom to the gentle looking Azuki, the design is solid enough to really make them standout. You also don’t think of Death Note when you see this anime, and I know most artists take pride in their work and style. This is a reason why Silver Spoon looks like Fullmetal Alchemist and all of CLAMP’s work looks alike. They want their readers to know this is their sh*t, and they’re proud of it. It’s also the same for a lot of yaoi artists but let’s not cross that threshold for this review. For Bakuman, there is great care given into making the characters unique and completely match the genre the story is aiming for. In the manga, a heavy atmosphere is set by the background though so there still might be ties with the author’s previous work, but only if you look hard enough. I have to be honest though, I prefer the look of the anime. For some reason, the look of the manga is a bit too serious and JC Staff actually turned the characters a lot more appealing. They did this thing where they make characters look more bishie, therefore more attractive therefore more appealing. I do love the heavy detail work on the manga, since the background and the outfits are given extra attention. The faces might look a tad bland but the flavor is on everything else.
Animation is pretty decent. For a five year old anime, it feels a lot older than it is. JC Staff didn’t really get behind the times until late 2013, so a lot of their previous works look old while others look awkward in its transition to using CG. They’re amazing at it now but they didn’t really before. I love the animation of Bakuman though, because it adds a layer of sincerity to it. It’s an honest manga adapted into an honest anime, and I think the message is delivered clearly. I saw a trailer of the live action, and was completely baffled at the copious amount of CG to the point that it turned me off. The plain animation employed in Bakuman lets you focus on the story, and this is why I’m such a big fan of JC Staff. They aren’t pretentious and they know their stuff. It’s hard to tell now since Prison School is making me question the existence of this studio. The anime is a dialogue heavy show but the scenes where characters draw looks pretty decent. Being able to animate Niizuma perfectly is something I admire from the show. You can feel the effort in this anime and I think the animation looks timeless at this point. It might look old but it’ll make this anime a timeless classic for sure. Ken’ichi also flaunts his talents here because he made every high moments look absolutely stunning, like a story of Mashiro and Azuki staring at each other from across the pool, and low moments look sad, like Taro’s funeral. He has a knack of visual storytelling, and damn it, it makes the anime experience a lot more special. I know the manga is good by default but the animation had a hand into making this show awesome.
The anime’s OP song is”Blue Bird” by Kobukuro. I love this song but I hated it at first. It doesn’t feel like a song suited for an OP and the high notes just sounds weird. As you progresses to the anime though, the song becomes a lot more special. The lyrics are heartwarming and the singer’s voice is soothing as you slowly fall in love with the anime, and the song by proxy. The OP sequence features a short summary of the anime, with some teasers of its exciting moments. They have different OP for the first and second half. Both are pretty awesome since it gives you an idea about the story at that point. The anime has two ED songs. The first one is “BAKUROCK ~Mirai no Rinkakusen~” by YA-KYIM. It’s a pretty awesome song as it talks about following your dreams and getting up whenever you fall down. It fits the show perfectly. The singer’s voice is decent but the song is pretty awesome by default. She does give a nice flair to the song that makes it easy to remember. The ED sequence features manga panels of the characters, even those not even appearing in the first half. I guess it’s a smart approach since it was talking to the manga fans. Yo, this is where the anime will go as far to. The second one is “Genjitsu to iu Na no Kaibutsu to Tatakau Mono Tachi” by Yuu Takahashi. This is a pretty awesome song from the verse to the chorus It’s the singer that actually makes it special with his pretty unique voice. The song is about someone finding strength in the companions he holds dear, and I find it cute since the lyrics told of a pretty special bond. The ED sequence features all the characters, and an awesome animation finish with all the mangakas holding pens and just looking awesome.
9/10 “Watch it, be inspired and forever value the anime experience this show leaves you.”
The story, the characters and everything else comes together to give you an amazing anime experience. The honesty of the dialogue and the sincerity of the characters will draw you in, but the message of following your dreams will really stick with you. This is an inspirational anime I urge everyone to try. If you love manga then here’s a reason to love it some more. If you’re a young individual struggling with choosing a path in life to take, then watch this anime and be motivated. If you’re old enough to realize better then smile at the honestly the characters have in pursuing their dreams. If you’re a fan of JC Staff, then you’ll definitely enjoy one of their strongest anime. I have not yet given a nine to this studio, but I know this won’t be the last. You won’t regret watching this so I highly recommended it.