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Review: Bakuman, vol. 1-3

Average, ordinary Moritaka Mashiro has always assumed that he’ll have an average, ordinary life–finish high school, go to college, become a businessman. Sure he enjoys drawing, but that’s not a skill you can build a life with. But when top student Akito Takagi discovers Mashiro’s talent, he decides that Mashiro is the perfect person to team up with to create manga. Mashiro never considered being a manga creator–not after what the manga industry did to his uncle–but he can’t deny that together he can Takagi make an excellent creative duo. But is talent and skill enough to succeed in the manga industry?

Bakuman, vol. 1-3
Author: Tsugumi Ohba; Illustrator: Takeshi Obata
Age Rating: T/Teen/13+
VIZ, $9.99/each
Volume 1: ISBN 978-1-4215-3513-5, 208 pages, August 2010
Volume 2: ISBN 978-1-4215-3514-2, 200 pages, November 2010
Volume 3: ISBN 978-1-4215-3515-9, 200 pages, February 2011

If any creators are going to craft an enjoyable, exciting story about the ins and outs of the manga world, it’s going to be Ohba and Obata. The pair received acclaim for their dark thriller Deathnote, which distinguished itself from other manga through Ohba’s strong plotting and Obata’s realistic art. In Bakuman, they combine forces again to build a more realistic world, neglecting neither the hard work of being a creator nor the power of positive thinking to make dreams come true. Instead of using a dry nonfiction “how to draw” or “how to create” framework, Ohba and Obata give readers a story that walks them through the process of becoming a manga creator. Along the way, readers learn a lot about how manga artists are made. By making their main characters early teens (both are in 9th grade when the book begins), Ohba and Obata insure that the series is appealing to exactly the people who dream of manga stardom. And because the series is filled with references to Shonen Jump magazine and to the series which have come out of it, even American fans will recognize references to favorite series such as Naruto, Bleach, etc.

Even readers who are not planning to create manga can enjoy the story, as both Mashiro and Takagi are likable guys. Unfortunately, Takagi’s attitudes towards women are not as modern as Western readers might like and the series is definitely focused on shonen (boys’) manga, so female readers might feel slightly marginalized. But there are female characters and at least one of them has a dream of her own to strive for, so the neglect is not terminal. Obata’s artwork must be seen to be believed. His realistic style is a perfect fit for this realistic story and he can make even discussions about the nuances of editing both gripping and easy to follow. Reprints of Ohba and Obata’s storyboards between the chapters add to the educational value.

Teen graphic novel collections must add this series. It is a valuable resource both as a story and as a reference for future graphic novel creators, and it’s creator’s popularity cannot be denied. To add to the fun, VIZ is sponsoring a Bakuman Fan Art Contest through April 29th. Winners will receive manga creation supplies. More details can be found at

This review is based on a complimentary copy supplied by the publisher. All images copyright © VIZ.

Snow Wildsmith About Snow Wildsmith

Snow Wildsmith is a writer and former teen librarian. She has served on several committees for the American Library Association/Young Adult Library Services Association, including the 2010 Michael L. Printz Award Committee. She reviews graphic novels for Booklist, ICv2's Guide, No Flying No Tights, and Good Comics for Kids and also writes booktalks and creates recommended reading lists for Ebsco's NoveList database. Currently she is working on her first books, a nonfiction series for teens.

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