AKA The manga by the Death Note writer-artist team about... a writer-artist team trying to conquer the world of shounen manga. XD; Shujin (writer) and Mashiro (artist) decide to team up in middle school. They share the same goal, of getting published in Jump, coming in #1 in the popularity polls, and having their work made into a anime so that Mashiro's childhood sweetheart (a would-be voice actress) can play the title role. And then (the plan goes), she and Mashiro can get married and live happily ever after, notwithstanding the fact that they are both too shy to actually speak to one another and can only communicate through email.
Yes, the writer shares even this goal with the artist. It's less like they're friends and more like they're two halves of the same brain, playing off each other and coming up with ideas together and supporting each other. It's kind of sweet, actually -- who doesn't want a BFF friend like that?
In the first plot arc, Shuji convinces Mashiro ("Saiko") to team up with him, and in the next, they enter a speculative fiction story in a Jump contest. Their editor thinks they should try for a cult hit because the writing is strong - Shuji's got more range than most mangaka who only know videogames and other manga - but they want to knock the competition out of the park with a mainstream hit, which means trying to work in more Jump formulas. There's a lot of actually very good analysis of Jump manga from a business point of view, as well as behind-the-scenes-in-the-editors-room kind of stuff.
There is NO fantasy wish-fulfillment angle, apart from the setup which blesses the artist with permissive parents and his own manga studio, inherited from an uncle. Like, Shuji and Masahiro really do spend all their time writing manga, drawing manga, discussing manga, and learning the business of manga. And Ohba really does come up with a separate believable (often sci-fi-ish and vaguely familiar) premise for every manga they dream up, and for all of the plots dreamt up by secondary characters (also mangaka). Like, I would be interested in reading those stories.
Oh, and it's a good showpiece for Obata as well, since the art changes depending on the flavor of manga currently under discussion - Graffiti for the scenes with the mangaka who does funny violence, Wistful for the former Margaret author, Heavy for the surrealist gag manga author, Loose for the One Piece-ish author, etc. The art is most "Obata-like" when he is focusing on the main pair's own story. (Spoiler: it's about entrapment schemes.)
All in all Bakuman is a pretty good how-to guide for submitting to Jump. I was saying to Sabina that maybe this will be to Shounen Jump submissions as Hikaru no Go was to Japanese Go school enrollment.
Negatives: well, there was the plot line that promoted overwork to the point of hospitalization. (And here I thought a Jump manga that added "talent, intelligence, luck" to the "friendship, hardwork, loyalty" Jump formula could avoid that trap! Silly me!)
Also, of course, since this is Ohba, there is HARDCORE sexism. I thought maybe the editors were going to keep him from driving away every potential female fan - not that he cares, but they, being business people, do - by enforcing drastic measures, eg, a karate-loving girlfriend who beats up the writer every time he says or does something stupid. (Subtle, no! But effective, yes!) But they must have gotten careless, or something, because after driving the level of sexism way down around chapter 10, it has been allowed to slowly creep back up again.
I mean seriously, Ohba has issues! He never skips a chance to bash on shoujo manga or dismiss the opinions of female readers (30% of Jump's readership). He doesn't trust pretty girls but doesn't bother with any girls who are NOT pretty. He allows that girls can be smart but maintains that smart girls have warped and overly assertive personalities. Etc etc. You know you have a problem when you decide to do storylines centered around training shoujo authors to do panty shots... to be fair, really bottom of the barrel guys have their characters dragged through the mud too. But that's just it, there's such a disparity between the basic decency and grooming required of men and the sainthood and flawless beauty required of women, it's ridiculous.
Bah. Anyway, sexism aside, this is actually a good manga. Is anyone else reading this? Please comment or direct me to another post where I can comment, so we can discuss!