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First Look Fair: Bakuman

Kenichi Kasai returns to examining the lives of artists in this new JC Staff production, and its first episode already shows his trademark balance of humor and reflection.

The premise of this show is one that resonates with many a young artist, myself included in my teenage writer days: boy(s) seek to become great mangakas in order to impress a girl. Who, in this case, has ambitions of her own, to become an anime seiyuu. But they’ve decided not to see each other at all except via text until they’ve achieved their respective dreams—a rather artificial restriction, perhaps to keep the focus on the artistry rather than the romance. If they stick to this arrangement, which is not guaranteed, I am not sure this approach is necessarily the best. BECK seamlessly wove the musical and relational development of the characters with no serious problems.

So far, though, there are no serious balance issues. After an amusing, if no longer surprising, false OP, we begin with a trademark monologue from Moritaka (oh how I have missed anime with well-written monologues!), who is put in a position many can relate to: having creative talent but little social support in pursuing it, and thus resigned to finding a corporate drone job. This would become tiresome if not for Akagi, who brings a lot of energy to the otherwise beaten down Moritaka—though his wildly optimistic dreaming and his determination mainly to cater to the market and get rich make me chuckle and sigh. They’ll learn soon enough. 🙂 The art style has that pastel look that characterized Kimikiss, and the comedy beats, especially near the end, were well-timed, and like with every JC Staff show of this sort the closing song seamlessly blends into the final scene. It’s a strong, entertaining start.

You're well on your way to hackdom already, like—ok I'm not naming names

I do look forward to seeing Akagi and Moritaka’s junior-high notions of being an artist change over time, though. They’ll learn that just using it to impress—or marry—a girl won’t be enough to sustain it in the long run. They’ll learn just how hard the artist/writer collaboration can be (seeing that a writer/artist duo created the Bakuman manga: they’re just writing what they know). The coming up with ideas phase is probably the most exciting and fun phase of all and so I expect the initial episodes of this show to be the most joyous—so I wonder how they will portray the slog that happens afterwards. I keep hoping that this will become the BECK of manga and show, believably, just what goes into creating the things that we anime and manga bloggers love. Good art is never easy, but it is always worthwhile, and fans need a good look at what’s involved.

Final note: did anyone else think it was Arashi singing the real OP? It’s not, but it sounds uncannily similar to them, and it made me think we were watching a josei show or something.

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