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Bakuman

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!

Comments

( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
lacewood
Jan. 9th, 2010 05:11 am (UTC)
I read this! Though some of relationship plot developments are kind of ?!?!?! and/or make you want to smack the cast up the head. See: the hospital arc, Shuujin and Miyoshi's engagement and a chunk of their relationship XD

I think it says something of my expectations from Obata that while the sexism is certainly there, there's actually LESS than I expected. >_> I can't speak for Death Note since I didn't read it, though I have the impression it wasn't great for female characters, but compared to Hikaru no Go, there are actually girls! In noticeable roles! Doing things! Even if most of those things seem to tie into romance one way or another, but I'm pleasantly surprised that Azuki is intelligent and practical and not a doormat. And when Miyoshi beats Shuujin it's for good reasons! And Miyoshi and Aoki become friends, and this is a really good thing for Aoki.

Possibly my standards are just low. >_> I'm curious to see where he goes with the Iwase story, though it has... the potential to be pretty full of fail

Bakuman does drive home the sheer amount of work involved in getting into manga, to the exclusion of having a life outside it, so one wonders if it'll really increase Jump submissions. The starting investment of effort is a lot higher compared to learning Go. Maybe it'll help make sure submissions are better, or fit WJ standards better instead? Or at least help aspiring mangaka have a better idea of the business before they get into it, which I imagine could both be a good and bad thing for the editors. XD
sub_divided
Jan. 9th, 2010 11:28 pm (UTC)
Yes! The hospital arc! Where Masahiro is unable to rest after being hospitalized for not being able to rest. And then his friends and bosses at Jump have to go out of their way to force him to take care of himself. I know this is a kind of Japanese trope, where the responsibility for making a sick person stay home devolves to other people, but it drives me crazy. I think the fact that his uncle died from overwork DOES ACTUALLY have some bearing on this situation, because that shit is inheritable, geeze.

Shuujin and Miyoshi's engagement, oh my God. Shuujin insisting he doesn't have to explain himself because Miyoshi should just trust him! And so, since he hasn't done anything wrong (she doesn't know that!) and doesn't owe her an apology (she isn't asking for one!), he'll just do nothing and hope the problem will go away. For two months! How can you put your girlfriend, who still really likes you and is just waiting for an explanation so she can continue to like you, on hold for two months? The longer he leaves it the more likely it is that she'll break up with him, and then who is going to clean the studio and ink and do tones for them FOR FREE???

So of course the solution is to propose, because married people never suspect each other. -_-; Sadly it's not unrealistic, just, you know, kind of screwed up. Especially where Shuujin is like, I felt myself being drawn to this other woman because she is smart and we can talk to each other about manga, that's no good! Gotta make sure I stay with the one who is impressed by my intelligence.

Death Note has very very similar hangups, which is why (as I told bell above) I've decided to just treat the sexist parts as fodder for comparative analysis. XD;

About the work, that's true. They even have this thing where they say that most Jump authors have been drawing since they were in elementary school, which means it's already TOO LATE for Bakuman's high school aged readers. But then, on the other hand, they do give lots of different examples of successful mangaka - you don't have to write well, you can focus on drawing and be assigned a writer; you don't have to be obsessed with one storyline, you can be good at filling whichever niche your editor is interested in; there's always room in Jump for new talent because old series are always being given the boot; etc. I think it's kind of cool that the story doesn't end when they get published, it just moves into Phase II, Stay Serialized, and then Phase III, Write Followup to Debut Manga That Will Hopefully be Even More Popularity. I also like that no one criticizes them for caring more about popularity than "art", that's something you don't see much in the West.

(And time really passes in this manga. Like holy cow, they think they failed because they only ran for seven months???)
lacewood
Jan. 10th, 2010 01:15 am (UTC)
The whole hospital arc! It was like MASHIRO YOU DUMBASS, sit down shut up and get the hell better already omg. The chief editor is TOTALLY JUSTIFIED FOR TRYING TO CAN YOUR SERIES when you insist on DRAWING MANGA IN HOSPITAL. Though I guess the arc also did show that working hard is all very well, but in the real world, you also kind of need to make sure you don't do it to the point of COLLAPSE because shit will go down. >_>

Oh man, the working for free thing. It's like, Shujin, even Mashiro is being fairer to your girlfriend than you, MAYBE YOU SHOULD HAVE A THINK HERE. But apparently not. XD He genuinely seems to have no problems with Aoki being smart, so I'll like to give him the benefit of doubt that his feelings for Miyoshi have real basis to him, but it's kind of hard to with his TERRIBLE BEHAVIOUR. Miyoshi should have totally punched him more. And NOT AGREED TO GET MARRIED WTF.

I did like/root for Shujin and Aoki staying platonic friends though, I think this isn't something that gets shown enough, that they connect well but it doesn't HAVE to be romantic.

I guess the sexism also shows more because the relationships actually feel... surprisingly realistic for a shounen manga where the main OTP aren't supposed to talk to each other until they FULFILL THEIR DREAMS AND THEN GET MARRIED. But the problems are fights are things that would totally happen in real life, and people react in ways that are dumb but that you also know WOULD happen?

I think I've kind of resigned myself to expecting a certain amount of sexism when reading anything, because if I hand to cut stuff out for it, I think I'd have to reduce my reading by... 70% or something. >_>

And yeah, it is a nice touch that the series shows so many different kinds of manga and mangaka, and how they're all different, but it doesn't mean they don't work for their own reasons. And not just the mangaka but even touching on the assistants, and how being an assistant is a career path itself (even if it's kind of look down on). Thoughthere seems to be a growing percentage of surpraise geniuses for some reason XD (first Eiji, then Hirumaru, then the new one lurking somewhere in the background...)

I was surprised too that the series showed Mashiro and Shuujin getting serialised and then getting CANNED, and how serious their struggle with the follow through is XD Yeah, they're really upfront about how the business is IMPORTANT, and it's nice that caring about your popularity doesn't rule out producing something good at the same time, it's not just one or the other.

They've gone all the way from middle school through high school into college, even! Most series don't even cover half this much time in their entire run, unless they have massive timeskips. The pacing is pretty snappy.
usomitai
Jan. 9th, 2010 10:16 am (UTC)
Hahahah, when I saw that you were reviewing Bakuman in this post, I read wondering if you'd touch on the sexism issue everyone seems to complain about-- and you do! I guess it must really stand out, if no one can talk about the series without complaining about the sexism. XD (It's the reason why I haven't tried the series for myself....! I like the premise and I know I'd love the art, but......... >___>)
sub_divided
Jan. 9th, 2010 10:48 pm (UTC)
It's even worse than the regular shounen careless assumptions about girls because there's a lot of dialogue in Bakuman, so the characters talk about their views of women. >_> And not in stock phrases where you're just like, well, whatever, it's conventional to say that. It's obvious from the writing that a lot of thought has gone into the author's derogatory views of women.

At this point I deal with it by thinking of it as a chance to analyze Ohba and his hangups... he really, really has a thing again the smart and pretty, high-achieving but socially backward beauty who goes to To-oh. This character is exactly like the one in Death Note. There's even a scene like the one in Death Note where two women get together to talk about their work... and it's super uncomfortable, like watching two robots talk. XD; On the other hand, thanks to this scene, the series does pass the Bechdel test.
lacunarity
Jan. 9th, 2010 08:07 pm (UTC)
I didn't read Bakuman, not because of the sexism (I wasn't in the loop enough to even know that much about it) but because it was a manga about mangaka. Few things are as quick to annoy me as books whose protagonist is an author, books written by a historian where the main character is a historian, comic books about comic book writers, and manga about mangaka. There's just something so mindlessly self-indulgent about it.

But I checked it out because you mentioned it, I'm in the middle of chapter 2, and I've got to just close the window and do something else for 10 minutes because I just read two really anti-woman scenes in a row. And I was really enjoying the idea of the manga and the artwork is lovely as always, but I'm just getting worse and worse at ignoring the occasional gender/race/disability/sexuality fail in an otherwise good piece of work.

I'm going to keep reading in a bit since I am interested, but I'm also getting kind of tired of having to make these kind of compromises whenever I read or watch something.
sub_divided
Jan. 9th, 2010 11:35 pm (UTC)
It's a good manga about mangaka, though. It's not self-indulgent in the way you're talking about, it's actually really a shounen manga about hard work and perseverance where the obstacles to the hero's dream just happen to be things like bad editors and weekly popularity polls, instead of things like bad coaches and weekly sports tournaments. The stuff about the creative process is analytical not wishful - or as their editor comments, "Your stuff isn't the typical Jump stuff because your characters aren't self-inserts".

(Though they totally, totally are. XD;; Or rather they've got traits that are similar. Like Shujin can't read a literary novel because "if it's not sci fi or a mystery, it doesn't interest me".)

Yeah but the anti-women scenes don't go away. At this point I just wonder what Ohba's problem is - rejected by one too many smart, pretty girls?
tarigwaemir
Jan. 9th, 2010 09:26 pm (UTC)
I read the first twenty chapters but haven't caught up again though maybe I should. And hah, know exactly what you mean by Ohba's obvious misogyny and not pleased to hear it's been creeping back up lately. Ah well.
sub_divided
Jan. 9th, 2010 11:39 pm (UTC)
Obvious misogyny is obvious! I just hope this doesn't turn into like an Anne Rice thing where the editors no longer bother to exert control over the direction of the script. Not sure how well the series is doing in Japan - it doesn't seem to get many color pages, and the art has gotten a lot looser suggesting that Obata is spending less time on it, but those by themselves don't mean anything.
supplanter
Jan. 10th, 2010 07:59 am (UTC)

Goddamn, even if it's not nearly as loltastic as I'd assumed it was, there is no way I will bring myself to read it.  Shame! :\

... I wonder if Ohba is Fukumoto. XD  Just because you said their specialty was entrapment schemes, which of course was DN's initial appeal, and Akagi and Kaiji are all about psychological one-upmanship etc while still being totally unlike DN, and though I certainly wouldn't know it seems like it could be possible that Fukumoto is sexist, just because, uh, THERE ARE NO GIRLS IN AKAGI, HOW WOULD ANYONE KNOW OTHERWISE?

... that is a bullshit theory, but now at least I can amuse myself thinking of DN rendered fukumoto-style and vice versa. XD

sub_divided
Jan. 10th, 2010 09:19 pm (UTC)
Welllll, I don't know, I thought Ohba said something in an interview about being a manga newbie and how amazed he was when Obata was able to take his scripts and turn them into well-paced manga with cool characters - ie toward the end of Death Note he'd stopped writing detailed outlines and was just turning in scribbles for Obata to elaborate on. XD;

It is two bad, because how often do you read shounen manga where the main character is actually TWO PEOPLE? XD
supplanter
Jan. 14th, 2010 10:53 am (UTC)

Oh, I hadn't heard anything new since that early rumor that Ohba was an established mangaka that decided to do DN under a pseudonym because it was so unlike his previous work.  Although I remember Hotta making a similar comment (about Obata's mad skillz!) in rakugaki for HnG, too. XD

I think thinky shounen is rarer, kind of?  OK, Nana is a shoujo with two leads, but... I guess HxH is closest.  Gon is really the main chara but he has relatively little trauma, so Killua can have a lot of input depending on the arc.  Though I guess that's more of a rotating ensemble cast with Killua and Gon sort of constant?  I wonder if Togashi has ADD or something.  That could explain why he keeps changing POVs in the current arc, he just draws whoever he feels like in a given week. XD

sub_divided
Jan. 14th, 2010 04:35 pm (UTC)
Maybe he has ADD or maybe he just needs some way to keep himself interested after THREE DECADES of drawing manga for Shonen Jump. XD

HxH really is the closest, Gon is the stereotyped shonen hero (displaying all the scariest traits of the species) but Killua is the one who knows the world the two of them are traveling in... Gon is the heart and Killua is the brain?

Yeah I heard that one too - that Ohba was a gag manga author? Which, considering the attitude the Bakuman protags have toward gag manga (it's stupid! only stupid people like it!) is kind of...XD.
supplanter
Jan. 15th, 2010 11:44 pm (UTC)

Maybe he had a paradigm shift when a smart, beautiful, and perverse woman insulted his prowess or something.  I think this is likely!

Or maybe it really is a woman, with deep issues, like slash fic writers who bash female characters. >.>

I still think Gon is Special, though.  Well, when multiple astute characters note that the protag kind of doesn't care that they are assassins or scam artists... though it doesn't quite jive when he asks the Ryodan why, if they really do have normal emotions, they don't empathize with their victims.  Ah well.  Twelve-year-olds can be self-centered.

arboretum
Jan. 10th, 2010 07:04 pm (UTC)
I read this! & agree with pretty much everything you've said, hahaha :)
sub_divided
Jan. 10th, 2010 09:25 pm (UTC)
^^V

Any other thoughts? I kinda hope their latest series will be canceled so they can write something more interesting, lol. (The time-travel story was interesting! It had that "figure out how to get the most out of limited, but highly conceptual superpowers" Jojo-ish vibe.)
arboretum
Jan. 10th, 2010 09:27 pm (UTC)
I'm actually a month or two behind right now! so I don't really remember what is going on in the manga atm.... haha. I have to catch up, but may post my ~thoughts on bakuman~ when I have done so :D

I think my favorite thing bakuman has done for my life is the ridiculously detailed explanations they do for art supplies lkfjglkdjfg they are GENUINELY HELPFUL hahahaha
analyse
Feb. 25th, 2010 06:28 am (UTC)
this is random and also two months late (i am here via sabina's although i used to post as harajukufuuri): but have you seen this take on bakuman? aside from reading it i haven't had the time to think critically about the misogyny, but i actually found myself warming to aoki around the time he describes a shift in tone.

i have mixed feelings about the depiction of women in general in bakuman simply because few jump authors that i can remember are women (with the notable exception of amano akira), part of me thinks It's Just A Boys' Club? and that's being represented (along with the general young male protagonist convention), but another part of me wishes that bakuman could've been structured so that aoki and miyoshi in particular were more important.
sub_divided
Feb. 25th, 2010 04:47 pm (UTC)
Y halo thar, stranger.

I hadn't seen that! I like her analysis in the first half of the entry, especially her comment that Mizuki is essentially a prize to be won. And the good-MILF-vs-bad-(nagging)-Mom comparison, I hadn't even noticed but she's spot on about that.

The second half of the post is confusingly written. Is there really a "subversion" or a "shift in tone" later on, or are there just more scenes where the girls call the male characters out on their most egregious bullshit? I actually don't think the tone significantly changes: you'll notice that all the plot points involving the female characters still revolve around sex, marriage, and relationships. A "subversion" would be more like if everything the male characters had done up to that point was shown to have been wrong or to have had disastrous consequences. The OP is saying one thing, but her examples are showing another thing.

I think the manga takes more of a classic battle-of-the-sexes approach, with the girls not quite giving as good as they get. Though the author probably thinks that they are. The double standard in this manga truly is mind-boggling. ^^ I stand by my theory, actually, that Ohba and Obata's editor is making them tone it down. The plot arcs are still wonky, but you notice that outright "smart girls are stupid" type comments are gone after the first three chapters. Probably got a lot of angry female Jump readers writing in on the Jump popularity polls, XD.

My comfort in all this is that a lot of Jump series are casually sexist, in that there just aren't many strong female characters who play large roles in the story. Bakuman, because it is actively sexist and misogynist, paradoxically includes many more smart, beautiful, capable women whose only failing is that they put up with way too much abuse from Bakuman's sexist pig male characters. XD;; There's actually a degree of realism here not present in other Jump series, where what the readers see (smart, beautiful, capable women) is quite different from what the author, living within his own neuroses, expects them to see (stuck up bitches).

At the same time I despair because the average Jump reader is (still) a 15 year old boy so these kinds of distinctions may be lost. -_-

few jump authors that i can remember are women (with the notable exception of amano akira)

And Yellow Tanabe! *loves her*
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