Comic Books Magazine

Manga Review: Bakuman Vol 20

Posted on the 14 August 2013 by Kaminomi @OrganizationASG

Bakuman Vol 20Title: Bakuman
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Publisher: Shueisha (JP), Viz Media (US)
Writer/Artist: Tsugumi Ohba, Takeshi Obata
Serialized in: Weekly Shonen Jump
Translation: Tetsuichiro Miyaki

And thus, the final volume of Bakuman has been released in the states. It’s been a while since it ended in Japan, so in reading Vol 20 of Ohba and Obata’s work, the ending, while very idealized, still ends at the right place and at the right time, though I question whether the chapter did have to end at such a fleeting place. Still, the mission, which started way back in Vol 1 three years ago, has now concluded, and it’s high time to lay down my final thoughts on the series as a whole.

Though I should probably do that after wrapping up the events in the final volume. At the end of Vol 19 it ended with Azuki revealing to the public via her radio spot that she was in a relationship with Mashiro, and it continued with her revealing everything that she knows is fact, not fiction. Predictably, not everyone sees eye to eye with the kind of relationship Azuki has, and that gets hammered in her calls to her. She gets a save from Mashiro though, who called her up and confirmed the truth. After that while there was a minority that despises the two, the majority stood by them, and that seemed to be how Azuki would get the role of Maho in Reversi. That was until the director made a proposal to broadcast the voice actress audition. Now that leaves it all up to Azuki’s skills and the voting public to decide how everything will go.

I have to point out how dire reading this volume was, if only because I couldn’t wrap my head around it as I kept turning the page. I mean I knew this coming in and it is a shounen, but public auditions for one role of an upcoming anime threw my believability scale out of whack. Something like this you know just can’t happen, under any circumstances, which makes the whole thing come off as way too idealistic and rushed. But that doesn’t mean the commentary wasn’t meaningful, nor does it make the chapter bad. To wrap my thoughts on that quickly, it all comes down to how you handle everything: the critics, the trolls, and the evangelists. You find yourself in a spot where if you’re recognizable, you’ll get those types of people. There’s not much you can do about that, except the only thing is to take stock in who you are, and trust in those close to you. As they always say, you only have one life to live, gotta live it up as best you can, and not let yourself get distracted by outside circumstances.

Overall though, it did end the way we all saw coming, with no dragging and no nonsense. The final chapter could only end with having Azuki and Mashiro featured prominently, as they’re the reason Bakuman has been able to carry on for so long. I admit though, to feeling unsatisfied at the end, if only because it ended the way we all knew (and should) have ended, but there was a feeling of a few things left out, a few characters that didn’t get their chance to see how they’ve changed in the end, despite the second to last chapter showcasing a number of them. Overall though, it may just be how it is when a solid manga series comes along and then just ends. I just need to accept that.

Bakuman has been a pretty entertaining look into the manga industry, or specifically how Jump is. No, I won’t say this is the holy grail that most people who want to get a jump into being a mangaka should check out, if only because it remains in general shounen trappings, meaning some events that play out just aren’t encouraged or really are what an artist (or even an editor) should do. It also gets stuck in general cultural differences between Japan and the U.S, and I know people who will have their issues with that, and there’s nothing that can be done to change that. I think the only other issue I would have with Bakuman is somewhere along the way it stopped giving us any insight into the manga industry and instead put more of its focus on outside events. For someone who really would want to know how the manga business is, this manga digress from that point often enough in the later volumes that may be somewhat off-putting.

But Bakuman remains one of the more interesting insights inside the manga industry done by two creators who represent kind of the anti-Jump in Ohba and Obata. I think with what they have worked on, they’ve imparted their knowledge, their experiences in working with Jump, and done so in a manner that despite it being no real action or superheroes it doesn’t become boring, and conversely, it doesn’t come off as a waste of time. We will get our nice happy fun times but we will also get how tough it is to become a manga artist, the values of an artist and an editor, how manga artists support each other, and how even the most miniscule of seeming events can really throw off an artist if they’re working on a deadline.

So in general, Bakuman is a worthwhile investment. It’s something that doesn’t get too long for taste or overstay its welcome, and it’s a nice change of pace from what’s usually out there. Even if you’re not totally interested in how the manga industry works, you’ll come out at least respecting what artists do to provide us our entertainment, and maybe you’ll also enjoy the romance that happens in this manga. Everyone else who does have an interest in the industry will probably have their blinders up at certain events in Bakuman, but should come out appreciating the ride provided over the course of three years. All in all, this series will be missed, and that’s all you can ask out of manga nowadays.


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