Our thoughts from the monthly Mangaforum
Bakuman to business.
And we’re back.
Throughout December/January, along side all the Christmas madness, and between the shit-tv marathons, Lex and I found time to read Bakuman written by Tsugumi Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata, a fictitious, shonen-ramped story based on a real life perspective of the manga production industry, from 2 guys that undeniably know a thing or two about it.
The story follows a teen duo, aspiring writer Akito “Shujin” Takagi and his assigned artist Moritaka “Saikō” Mashiro, pursuing their dream to produce a successful manga and eventually an anime too. Although Mashiro refuses at first, he very conveniently changes his mind in the first volume; Some bullshit about always admiring his manga artist uncle (who overworked him self to death…or was it suicide?), but more importantly, the love-of-his-life crush, Miho Azuki, wants to be an anime voice actress, so he wants to make it big so he can cast her in their anime and then propose once they’ve both “made it”. Great technique to get yourself laid Mashiro; that’s definitely the most important thing to consider before committing to a creative industry you know nothing about. And probably exactly what all the pros were thinking when they were you’re age – only less “family friendly”.
We read thefirst 2 volumes of this 20 volume series…
What we all thought in a nutshell;
- Stunning art work, interesting subject plus there were a few more laughs than I had anticipated.
- Undeniable male dominated with quite a sexist image of female characters in general
What we liked
Although I love reading manga, I knew very little about the nuances and standards for producing it before reading this. My only prior understanding around this industry was the acknowledgement that manga series tend to be dragged out past their point of otherwise “natural” end, because of financial gain and editors/publishing houses milking a cash-cow as long as until something more meaty can be found to grind down. This story gets much more in to the nitty-gritty. The comic takes us through a journey of ups and downs for publication along side the characters and we’re introduced to the requirements and standards as the characters learn themselves so it feels organic. We, in turn, feel the tension and fear of rejection with them too.
And the process is quite different in the western comic world although similar elements over lap, like the intensity of work and prioritizing mass-appeal.
It’s also much funnier than I expected – I actually snorted out loud in several parts, particularly the realistic interpretation of the 2 lead boys, which kind of reminded me a of more goal-orientated, cleaned up version of The Inbetweeners (Channel 4 show) banter.
What we disliked.
For a series meant to reflect reality, perhaps it reflects the creative industries’ lack of female representation too well…? The series has actually been called out on a number of platforms across the world, as sexist, pointing out that there are no amicable independent female characters, only portraying females as either “bitter, man-hating viragos motivated by grudges against men” OR to impress them, or as saccrine idolised submisive support characters, seen only as a trophy to be obtained as a prize for measurable success.
Also, although the insider perspective is interesting, the raging-shonen ‘we’ll do our best’ theme and ‘to-get-the-girl’ mentality is automatically outputting for me. Its taking a real concept and personal struggle, which would be engaging for the audience on its own, but trivializing it by trying too hard to give it “heart and soul” of the characters. The characters tem selves are slightly 2D, although i’ll concede that this is hard to determin in the first 2 volumes.
Also – Too may words but not enough swears. Another common criticism to the manga is that it is unusually text heavy; I can see this is perhaps necessary to describe the manga production and distribution process both to the audience through explanation to the characters, but still its a lot. However the thing that probably jarred with me the most, was the lack of swear and cuss words – It’s meant to be portraying 2 rebellious, stressed out, ambitions boys, attempting to crack a highly pressured industry, and there’s nothing but moody looks and “!!”‘s. Nah, that’s just not believable to me i’m afraid. I don’t care if it’s meant to be for kids – kids themselves will tell you that, if it is to portray real 9th graders (14-15year olds), it would fucking be word-to-word swears!
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Lara and Lexa