Monday, 24 November 2014

Bakuman, Volume 2: Chocolate and Akamaru Review (Tsugumi Ohba, Takeshi Obata)

I gushed over the first volume of Bakuman for its depiction of how the creative spirit can really grab hold of you when you’re a teen, and I stand by that - I think it’s an absolutely brilliant first volume. But I think that’s all that needed to be said about the series. It almost would’ve been better as a standalone book. I don’t need to read all 20 volumes in the same way that I needed to read 42 volumes of Dragon Ball - Bakuman is fine with just the first volume by itself. 

What happens in the second volume is essentially more of the same but without the impact because we’ve already seen this stuff in the first one. Mashiro and Takagi work hard at getting their work into Jump, their “nemesis”, the teen prodigy Eiji, is set up, and there’s more romance stuff with Mashiro and Azuki. 

What I found inspiring about the first book was the way the two protagonists began to work together and produce art; the second is the same thing and it’s not that interesting to read. I imagine this is what the series is going to be like - seeing the two produce manga, one after the other, and I’m not at all enticed to see that. 

The nemesis character is ridiculous. I mean, I realise they’re measuring themselves against him, who’s a couple years younger than them, but the rivalry feels forced. Tsugumi Ohba knows that he needs some conflict in his series so sets out to make Eiji and his editor these “evil” characters but really both could co-exist quite easily as published and popular creative teams. This whole situation feels extremely false. 

The romance angle, again I get it and I liked it in the first book, but it’s still more of the same. Mashiro and Azuki are adorable and sweetly innocent but I don’t want to read 20 volumes of these two working up the nerve to hold hands. I know they’ll get there but watching an awkward teen courtship play out at a glacial pace is not exciting subject matter.

I suppose you do learn a bit more about the ins and outs of Shonen Jump and how this massively popular Japanese publication decides what stories to put in their magazines. This might be helpful to readers eager to learn about the industry but, for guys like me who have no desire to become a manga creator, it’s something I can take or leave. 

(As an aside, it’s funny how Mashiro/Takagi’s editor, Hattori, looks like a human version of Ryuk, the death god from Death Note - I wonder if that’s deliberate and whether Ohba/Obata’s editor actually resembles him?)

Maybe I’m wrong and there’s more to this series, and I’m sure there are some unexpected twists and turns along the way, but I can more or less guess where it’s all headed, with the two becoming hit manga creators and marrying their beloveds. And that’s fine but, after this underwhelming second volume, I think I’m gonna stop here with Bakuman. The first book is really the only one you need to read, the others I feel are going to be more of the same, over and over, and I don’t need to see that.

Bakuman, Volume 2: Chocolate and Akamaru

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