Bakuman 20

November 27, 2015

Tsugumi Ohba / Takeshi Obata – Viz – 2013 – 20 volumes

Ugh, this was painful.  I like this series for the manga-making parts.  The ending was pretty much exclusively about the terrible relationship between Mashiro and Miho.  One whole volume of focus on that situation.

The most exciting thing that happened was that Miho had to do a public audition for the role in Muto Ashirogi’s anime, after what happened last time.  That was entertaining, because it was such a circus and I was amused by the pettiness of everyone involved.  But the outcome wasn’t really in question, so it wasn’t that cool.

Also, I was a little disappointed that the ending of Reversi was only confined to a chapter or two.  That they were ending it “early” was sort of awesome, and I wish the whole last volume would have been about that drama (what happens when the most popular series in Jump ends early, the fallout when the anime hasn’t even started yet, who all’s involved in those calls, merchandising fallout, etc).  It was not, though.  It was all about Miho and Mashiro.

If you’re into them, you’ll love this volume.

I hate leaving this series on such a sour note, though.  I liked it as a whole well enough, and I thought it was fascinating.  But… it had so many things not to like about it.  Just in case you were forgetting some of them, Kaya’s holding a broom and sweeping on the front cover.  Because that’s what she does.

Bakuman 18

October 19, 2015

Tsugumi Ohba / Takeshi Obata – Viz – 2014 – 20 volumes

I’m not sure why I haven’t finished this one up yet.  Possibly because the volumes are rather dense and daunting (there’s a lot of text and talking heads), and I frequently enjoy a breezy manga reading experience.

This one has Hiramaru on the cover.  I was hoping for more Hiramaru inside, but most of the book concerns Muto Ashirogi’s new one-shot, which is like Eiji Nizuma’s one-shot, and both have a chance of being turned into a series.  But then that’s 4 slots in Jump for 2 artists, which the editors don’t really want.  So they are unlikely to select both.  There’s the possibility of another magazine, but Muto Ashirogi’s new series, Reversi, is so good, and so very much their thing.  It could really compete with Eiji Nizuma.

As flat as that summary is, this was, once again, inordinately exciting.  Will they get a series?  Man, this one sounds good, and Perfect Crime Party sounds like something that could run forever, so Reversi would be cool… the second magazine is a great solution, but then again, if Nizuma can have two series in Jump, why not Shujin and Saiko?  Seriously, I tore through this volume wondering what would happen.  You think I’d be spoiled silly on this series by now, but I’m not, and this was gripping stuff.

Later, there’s a Hiramaru story arc.  Yoshida promises him the magic words for proposal if his series gets animated, but when it happens, Yoshida puts him off by telling him now isn’t the right time to propose to Aoki since her series just got cancelled.  Hiramaru takes this at face value, but Yoshida gets a pang of conscience, since he’s sort of milking Hiramaru for his own career benefit, and Hiramaru only asked Yoshida to make him happy when they first met.  So Yoshida does help Hiramaru set up the perfect date to propose.  It’s adorable, but not as cool as the Yoshida/Hiramaru scene in volume 13, where Yoshida give ridiculous pages worth of backhanded insults to convince Hiramaru of how awesome he is.

So next volume is still Reversi.  The length will probably be a problem.  They’re playing it off now, but I know that popular series get beat like dead horses, and that has to come up at some point.

Bakuman 19

August 30, 2015

Tsugumi Ohba / Takeshi Obata – Viz – 2013 – 20 volumes

On one hand, they talk a lot about Reversi anime in this volume, and I’m right there with them.  They’re just so excited, and the whole series has been building up to this.  The pages where they get various pieces of news are some of the best we’ve seen in awhile.

On the other hand, this of course ties in to the relationship between Mashiro and Azuki.  I hate it when the series glorifies their weird relationship.  The characters call it “pure” and say that the pair are “endangered species”… but both of them are in their mid-twenties now, and have been “dating” since middle school, and haven’t seen each other in years and years.  I’m glad they both had a dream to work towards, and I’m glad they’re finally there, but I’m still not real clear on what that has to do with not seeing each other.

Their ambiguous relationship status causes problems here, and is a major point of contention at the end of the volume.  As weird as their relationship is, fans of idols in Japan are even weirder.  I actually saw two news stories today about people threatening women or being arrested for harassment, so I suspect there’s not much exaggeration in this story.  Also fairly realistic was the fact that, when someone told the true story of Mashiro and Azuki’s relationship, nobody believed it.

Aside from the main event, there’s a New Year’s holiday chapter at the beginning of the volume that may be my second-favorite chapter of the series, after the one where Hanamaru tries to ask Aoki out and Yasuda tries to stop him with the world’s best backhanded compliments.  The New Year’s chapter being great is somewhat more of a feat than even the Hanamaru chapter, because I don’t like Shujin, Saiko, or Kaya that much.

There’s some Nizuma in this volume too, who I do like, though other than some weird comments and stuffing his face with food, he doesn’t really have a huge role.

The next volume is the last.  I do like this series, despite itself, but I think I’m ready to see it end.

Bakuman 17

November 16, 2014

Tsugumi Ohba / Takeshi Obata – Viz – 2012 – 20 volumes

Even after an extended break, this is still absurdly exciting.  I was surprised how easily I got back into this.  I remembered all the characters, and exactly what was going on.  Still wasn’t all that surprising when the mastermind behind the “manga factory” was revealed.  Of course it was him.

I loved that they analyzed the analytical manga-making process, talked about how to beat it, and found its flaw (which was, admittedly, kinda underwhelming, but makes total sense in the context of this series).  The tactic where you go back to the beginning of your series to make the most exciting storyline you can is a good one.

I also liked all the talk about the older manga artists, and their place in Jump.  Interesting, since a lot of the current top artists have had series running for 15 or so years.  Of course, the real guys are super-successful, and the ones in Bakuman are almost-gave-ups.  But still.

Shujin and Saiko are still grinding away on PCP.  I’m waiting for that to change sometime soon, probably within the last three volumes.  But next time, if I’ve been good, we get to find out what Eiji Nizuma is up to.  And Shujin and Saiko may be starting their own new series.  One that is, and I quote, “cult-type mainstream battle manga with good-versus-evil powered characters.”  Hm.



Bakuman 16

April 21, 2013

Tsugumi Ohba / Takeshi Obata – Viz – 2012 – 19 volumes

A Nizuma volume! It’s been a while! Crow reaches first place, and the editors are worried that Eiji will make good on his previous stipulation that if he reaches number one, he can cancel whatever series he wants in Shounen Jump. He brings it up with the Editor-in-Chief, who promises him he can if he stays in first place for ten weeks in a row.

Word gets out, and the other artists and writers featured in the series gather to try and figure out which series Nizuma is likely to cancel. Many of them think that this will be +Natural, which hasn’t been doing well in the ratings and hasn’t been good story-wise in a long time. This triggers a dramatic storyline for Iwase, who no longer believes she’s good enough to write shounen manga. Anyway, after some debate, they decide to ask Nizuma himself. Nizuma doesn’t say, but a gauntlet is thrown, and all the artists decide to write the best stories they can in order to break Nizuma’s first-place streak and force him to start the ten-week run at number one over again. Nizuma enthusiastically agrees, and the whole volume becomes a contest to see which artists and writers can outdo themselves, and how.

It’s really, really exciting, guys. It’s still got all the geeky stuff in it about what would make their specific story good, and even people that seem like they wouldn’t be any threat, like Fukuda’s car series, get really good places. Interestingly, there’s always been a gap in the first and second place spots in the chart, a series that isn’t mentioned, which I always assumed was One Piece and something else. Hilariously, that disappears in this volume, so the only series in the top of the charts are Bakuman series.

The Perfect Crime Party storyline is awesome, and is about a play on a particular image. It’s very clever, though I admit I don’t know that I would be that impressed in real life as Bakuman seems to think I would be. Then again, I’m not reading it. It’s possible it would be completely triumphant in real life, though it sounds like it does a lot of reaching and weird logical leaps, as Detective Conan is wont to do.

Nizuma’s actual intention? Awesome, admirable, and completely understandable. It’s an Akira Toriyama kind of thing, actually, and I liked it a lot. Sadly, nothing about what he’s doing is revealed or shown, but I loved all the different character reactions to it.

The end of the volume starts another storyline about a bunch of old artists that come back with unbelievable stories. Bakuman acts like you aren’t supposed to know why this is and who is behind it, but I knew where this was going immediately. Perhaps because I’m 15 years older than the target audience, so I shouldn’t gloat too much.

Man, volumes that aren’t about Shujin and Saiko make me so happy. Volumes like this are what make Bakuman such an awesome page-turner, and it’s a shame so many people were turned off by the blatant misogyny and terrible main characters in the first couple volumes. I can totally understand, but the rest of the series is so good. It makes me sad that people always call out the misogyny when I recommend it, because while it is rather offensive, it’s a non-issue after the writer realizes the side characters are more interesting. And at this point? Awesome stuff. Seriously.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Bakuman 15

March 16, 2013

Tsugumi Ohba / Takeshi Obata – Viz – 2012 – 19 volumes

Reading this is still a special pleasure. The first half or so of the volume focuses on side characters again, while the second half cooks up an interesting predicament for Shujin and Saiko.

The volume starts with the tail end of the conflict with Nanamine. Nanamine is self-destructing at the end of the last volume, so there’s not much more to say on the subject. It goes through all the motions though, including a chapter where Muto Ashirogi does do the same story and compete head-to-head. But the follow-up to this is what happens to Nakai, the assistant.

Nakai isn’t one of the more charming side characters, and honestly, this story segment is a little uncomfortable. He winds up on the street, homeless and drawing portraits for 500 yen, when Nanamine fires him. The others show up and offer him work, thinking that he still wants to draw manga, but he forcibly chases them away when pretty girls walk up and want their picture drawn. This backfires on him terribly, and he gets drunk and shows up at Aoki’s house, blaming her for his troubles. This results in a fight with Hiramaru, who rushes over to Aoki’s aid.

Now, I think this fight with Hiramaru was meant to be funny. Nakai really beats up Hiramaru, who’s about as pathetic in a fight as you’d imagine. But the two of them bond, with Hiramaru sympathizing with Nakai and saying that he sees himself in ten or so years in Nakai. A lot of jokes are made. But… I mean, Nakai is portrayed as a creepy, selfish jerk who blames all of his problems on others and doesn’t like to work. I wasn’t quite sure why the story persisted in fleshing him out more, when it had gone through all the trouble of assigning his bad qualities. The fight with Hiramaru only accentuated them, and the jokes that made light of them were uncomfortable since it was kind of inexcusable behavior. So… this part. Nakai is sticking around a bit longer. Maybe he really will turn things around.

Later, a real criminal begins breaking into banks and not stealing anything, only leaving notes in the safe that allude to PCP. Shujin takes this quite hard, despite the fact that Shueisha tells him not to worry about it, and Shujin begins writing non-crimes and fouling up the stories in general. He powers through, with the help of Saiko and Mr. Hattori, just like a good Shounen Jump Hero. The story was an interesting one, especially since it reveals something about how situations like that work, but it was fairly run-of-the-mill for Bakuman.

So… a side character story I wasn’t really into and an okay story for Muto Ashirogi. This wasn’t the best volume, but even still, I really enjoyed every page and couldn’t put it down. It’s hard to complain when the book is so addictive. There are hints that Eiji will re-join the main story next volume, and any story with him in it is bound to be thoroughly insane. I can’t wait.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Bakuman 14

November 3, 2012

Tsugumi Ohba / Takeshi Obata – Viz – 2012 – 20 volumes

More fun with side characters this volume. While Shujin and Saiko are still working on their goal of getting another story serialized and animated, I love that it took a back seat to the competition. It’s a new character this time around, and once again, he is more interesting than Shujin and Saiko. He’s basically one-dimensional too, which should tell you something about Shujin and Saiko.

The new character’s name is Tohru Nanamine. He used to send fan letters to Shujin and Saiko quite regularly. When they spot his name on the most promising entry in the manga contest they are judging (the story itself takes up almost the entire first chapter of this volume), they recognize him and draw the connection. Unfortunately, despite being the best, his story is too dark (it’s a lot like Future Diary, which would never run in Jump), and they can’t award it the prize. They do offer to take a look at his work and possibly serialize it, though. Nanamine comes off a loud and energetic youth, and he’s excited and agrees readily when meeting with his rookie editor.

And it starts. He posts his story on the internet and comments that it didn’t win the competition. What seems like a gaffe by a newcomer is actually a carefully calculated move to win him publicity, since the story is actually quite good. We learn that there’s a whole lot more calculation behind what Nanamine is doing than it seems at first, and most are pretty sure there’s something screwy. The problem is, his method seems flawless, and he makes amazing work. He’s also full of himself. When Shujin and Saiko express unease at his method, he challenges them to a popularity contest. And that’s this volume.

As always, the popularity contest is pretty epic, and has way more twists and turns than you may suspect a manga about manga serialization may hold. It’s volumes like this that make me love Bakuman. I just can’t put them down because they’re so well-written, and I get such a kick out of the geeky stuff.

With the ending fast approaching, and with a couple of fun volumes in a row, I’m afraid we’re going to have to get back to Shujin and Saiko’s quests. While these parts are good, and still a lot of fun, it’s such a shame the main characters are so boring. I’m still going to read volume 15 IMMEDIATELY, though.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.