A forum member posted about this manga series and recommended it with such enthusiasm that I started the series within a few days. To be honest, I was planning on staying away from any further series by this artist/author duo. Why? Well I read Death Note (their previous work as a team) and I’m one of those fans that wished it had ended at the halfway point. I thought that end point would have been A LOT better than where the series ended up. If you’ve read/seen Death Note you know exactly where I mean. But even though the series didn’t go in the direction I wanted it to…I can’t deny the obsessive hold it had over me for the first 7 volumes. So this recommendation from a fellow fan (and some bubbling curiosity about the extreme change in story genre from what Death Note was) pushed me to try their newest series.

Plot Summary
Bakuman follows the story of high school student Moritaka Mashiro, who doesn’t know what he wants to do with his future. One day he draws a picture of Miho Azuki , a girl he is secretly fond of. During class he forgets the notebook at school. He comes back to find that his classmate Akito Takagi (the class genuis) is waiting for him with his notebook. Takagi tries to convince Mashiro to become a mangaka, manga artist, with him. Mashiro’s childhood dream was to draw manga for a living but, his Uncle was a mangaka who had only one successful series before he died in obscurity. His end and the overwhelming odds against success hold Mashiro back. However, Takagi gets Mashiro, and tells Azuki that he and Mashiro are aiming to be mangaka. Mashiro then learns that she wants to be a seiyū, a voice actor, despite the same overwhelming odds of success in that industry. Seeing so many others willing to gamble on their dreams makes Mashiro agrees to also follow his childhood dream.

Art
I’m the type that adores this mangaka’s art style. It’s unique compared to other Shonen, and has a lot more realism to it than most other series. I spend longer on each panel of this series than most others just because of how many details there are to take in and admire. I find myself attracted to every series drawn by Takeshi Obata.

Characters
Every character feels realistic, they’re sometimes unpredictable and have moments of weakness/strength that reflects how a typical person might react. Bakuman has a strong hold over me mainly because I’m VERY attached to the characters. I can’t remember the last time I’ve been on the edge of my seat trying to cheer on the protagonists this much, and they’re not even fighting for their lives! They’re fighting to be mangakas!

Story
When you read the story, you just know that the mangaka duo aren’t making any guarantees on the success and happiness of its characters. That lack of a “safe feeling” is what makes this series far more addicting than other Shonen series that cradle me. Also, I’ve never been a mangaka of Shonen Jump, put the way they portray the inner workings seems EXTREMELY honest and realistic. They go so far as to drop the names of the most famous Shonen mangaka out right now, and even have them currently running in Shonen Jump with our fictional protagonists. At the very least it’s the most detailed/educational series I’ve read about aspiring mangakas so far. I sometimes like to think that I have an understanding of how the world of anime/manga works, but this series has definitely re-educated me.

There was a reason I’ve been mentioning Death Note in this review, as I read this series I get an overwhelming feeling that this mangaka duo are channeling a lot of their experiences from trying to get Death Note (specifically) published in Shonen Jump. They even reference Death Note (as a series) several times in the first few pages, it’s almost as if they want to plant that seed in the reader’s mind so they make comparisons as they read on. Also it’s interesting to note that the author Tsugumi Ohba is unknown to the public. Ohba’s real identity (and gender) is a closely guarded secret.

This series is GREAT! It blows away all other series with stories about characters aspriring to make it in the manga/anime industry. If you don’t believe me on how great this series is, look at how highly it’s ranked in Japan. My little review here is a pathetically small drop in the bucket of all the praise that is out there for Bakuman. This series has been licensed for U.S. release, I’ve already pre-ordered volume 1. So if you don’t want to read online scans you’ll still get your chance to read this series officially released. An anime was also announced to air in the fall of 2010.