Film Review: Bakuman「バクマン」

2015, Live-Action Manga Adaptation
Director: Hitoshi One

Bakuman is a live-action manga adaptation of the same title written by Tsugumi Ohba and drawn by Takeshi Obata, who are both responsible for the popular manga, Death Note. The story is about two high school students who want to become mangakas or manga artists. The film stars Takeru Sato as Moritaka Mashiro who draws the art and Ryunosuke Kamiki as Akito Takagi who creates the story. Bakuman is a light-hearted comedy about having courage to follow your dreams. Weave in the narrative, it shows us the various players in the manga industry in Japan, revealing to us the inner workings of the manga world.

Takeru Sato & Ryunosuke Kamiki
Takeru Satoh & Ryunosuke Kamiki

According to Obata-sensei, the title bakuman can mean 爆発「ばくはつ」bakuhatsu, meaning explosion, 博打「ばくち」bakuchi, which means gambling, and バクbaku, a mythological animal said to devour dreams. If we take -man to mean manga, then the last two meanings make sense for the Bakuman story. The two young mangakas gamble their way into the industry, facing various challenges to fulfil their dreams.

Mashiro’s mangaka dream is buried deep inside him. Takagi who have set his eyes on becoming a successful mangaka approaches Mashiro and offers to collaborate. Takagi crafts the stories as the literary genius and Mashiro as the skilled illustrator. Unlike Takagi, Mashiro has seen the real life of a mangaka, through his successful mangaka uncle who mentored him when he was young. It was this uncle who instilled in him both a love of manga and an aversion to the manga world. But meeting Takagi reignited his lost dream. Miho Atsuki, played by Nana Komatsu, an up and coming voice actor, supports Mashiro. And together, they both chase after their dreams.

The mangakas heading to Shonen Jump office
The mangakas heading to Shonen Jump office

This adaptation is entertaining and the characters are lovable. Add a great cast and a truthful story representing manga artists and you have a good movie. Kiritani Kenta as a struggling mangaka and Yamada Takayuki as a manga editor lead the supporting cast.

Takeru Sato as a manga artist in Bakuman
Takeru Sato as a manga artist

The manga world is a demanding and cutthroat industry. The only survivors are the victors. Just like any passionate endeavour, one that involves creation, the mangaka’s life is full of bittersweet moments, of ups and downs, of wins and loses. The film realistically captures all of these. This film is entertaining and educational, a sure success formula for this kind of genre.


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