Bakuman follows the story of Mashiro and Miyoshi, an artist and writing team duo aspiring to create a hit manga series. It doesn’t exactly sound like a story appealing enough to garner a wide following, much like a fast-paced action manga would achieve. However, this story does have some key elements which makes it have such a vast appeal and I couldn’t explain it better than Akira Hattori, the fictional editor for Mashiro and Miyoshi (M & M, let’s call them).
After M & M insist on attempting to create what is sure to be a successful manga (a battle story), based on the stories which tend to gain popularity, Hattori concedes and delves out some advice. He tells them that their story should “create a world which the readers can relate to”, that it’s “easier to empathize with the main character if there’s a clear reason as to why he’s fighting” and finally, “stories that are a little humorous, touching and tear-jerking tend to be popular”. This manga manages to pull all of these off, at least volume three does, anyway.
Let’s begin with the motive for fighting. This one’s pretty simple – M & M dream to have a manga of theirs serialised. Given the volume of people watching and commenting on YouTube videos specifically on how to create mangas and comic books, I think it’s fair to say that creating a publishable graphic novel is the dream of the mass and so it’s easy to understand why M & M want to fight for this. However, that’s not enough to keep a reader coming back. There’s got to be more than just a shared motive – right ? That’s where the creation of a world that the readers can relate to comes in.
This manga, and specifically volume three, does such a great job of developing conflict, plot twists and sharing secrets of the mangaka life that it creates that world that so many aspiring graphic novel creators can relate to. In this volume, specifically, M & M are facing the very common problem of trying to mould their story-telling and art-style to match the style of already successful mangas; rather than trusting their own way of story-telling and art to succeed in its own right. This is a problem that a lot of creators have. They know what is popular enough to know that their work doesn’t fall into that category, and instead of doing what comes naturally to them (their own style), they instead try to change. This will only end in failure, because an individual’s true passion – and therefore their best creations – won’t come from doing something that isn’t true to their nature. This is a path that all creators seem to take at some point before they learn to accept their uniqueness; and this is something that M & M are slowly learning through this volume.
Aside from the very believable characters (yes, even the crazed and quirky genius, Eiji Nizuma), an aspect of this manga that makes it so enticing, is the insight into the creation of a successful manga. There are times when M & M’s editor, Hattori, and others in the story dish out some excellent advice which, for someone in the same position as M & M, it would almost feel like the advice is being given to them. Yes, the readers of this manga would undoubtedly feel like they are the ones being given the guidance. This is another relatable part of the story and it’s simply genius, because the sheer number of aspiring manga creators in the world is in the millions, meaning that the number of people who could relate to this manga and its advice is outrageous … in a good way. Not bad for a manga that, at first glance, doesn’t seem to have a mainstream appeal.
Finally, of course, this story is humerous and touching, and the end of this volume certainly made me feel a little strain on my heart, though not quite enough to cry … yet.
For sure, I’m late in the game when it comes to reviewing Bakuman, but having just read volume three, I couldn’t not comment on it.
Oh, and one more thing … the artwork is simply amazing !