Dragon Ball Z, Slam Dunk, Bleach, Hajime no Ippo. Most shonen series are based on physical activities like sports or fighting. Surprisingly, the general shonen formula can also work well with a non-physical activity. In Bakuman, J.C. Staff and NHK successfully tell a shonen-style story about two aspiring manga creators. The result is an interesting show that I anticipate watching each week.
If you want a good intro to Bakuman, I’d reccomend reading our Fall 2010 preview. If a quicky intro will suffice, Bakuman is a show about mangaka, people who draw manga. The main character, Moritaka Mashiro, wants to follow in the footsteps of his late uncle who drew a comedy manga. Moritaka teams up with his classmate, Akito Takagi, and the two set out to write a best-selling manga that they hope will eventually get picked up as an anime series. For added incentive, Moritaka promises his high school crush, Miho Azuki, that when he hits it big he will marry her.
As I mentioned earlier, I think a shonen series succeeds if it gets me excited about the next week’s episode. As much as I hate certian other parts of this show, it certainly passes my shonen test: I really want to see next week’s Bakuman! In fact, I already care about the characters and I want them to succeed. The subject area really helps here as well. Although I have no idea whether Bakuman accurately describes the process of writing and drawing manga, it is convincing enough that I enjoy when the show talks up the awesome G-Pen (your guess is as good as mine!).
My biggest issue with Bakuman is its outdated treatment of women. The show continually makes women look like pushovers. The desires of the female character are usually petty or misguided. When Moritaka’s mom tells his dad that she does not agree with Moritaka’s decision to become a mangaka, his dad responds “Men have dreams women wouldn’t understand.” I don’t know if Bakuman is intentionally denigrating women or whether this is indicative of how Japanese men treat women. Either way I wish the creators were more enlightened.
I am willing to give this show a couple more episodes to see how it develops. I like it when the show explains the process of creating manga and what goes on inside a manga company. These informative parts of the show help me get past the boring bits where the show explores Moritaka’s relationship with Miho. Plus, whenever the show starts getting stale, it does something fun like introducing a crazy rival mangaka, Eiji Nizuma, in episode 7. So if you like learning about manga, or just want a new shonen series to latch onto, give Bakuman a shot.