5 June 2016 | ebossert
The manga business is less desirable than you might think.
Note: Check me out as the "Asian Movie Enthusiast" on YouTube, where I review tons of Asian movies.
An amateur artist teams up with an amateur scriptwriter (both of which are still in high school) to create manga and break into the business at Weekly Shonen Jump, but the demands and stress of the industry may derail their plans. The stress of working in this particular industry is a major theme here, and it's communicated in multiple ways.
First, there's the competitive aspect. Our protagonists are very quickly roped into the cut-throat nature of business and almost immediately create rivalries with other manga artists. Success at this particular company is dependent on sales of the manga you're drawing, so every week a Top 10 list is posted in the office, which gives everyone a gauge as to how well their manga is doing. That creates rivalry, because you need to perform better than the other manga artists to stay on that list.
Second, there's the survival aspect. If your manga does not sell well, it is discontinued and you will have to go back to the drawing board to produce something else. But you're not a permanent employee of the company, so if your manga fails, you may never get another one of your works published ever again. It all depends on whether or not they like your stuff. It would seem to me that the job security of this profession is not good at all because you're constantly fighting to keep your job.
Third, the weekly deadlines result in very long working hours. It seemed like these guys were working about 80 hours per week, at least. In fact, it's probably more because at times they had difficulty finding enough time to sleep. That's just insane. I previously worked at a Big 4 accounting firm for 5 years, so I know what working long hours is like. But even I was horrified at what our protagonists were going through in this movie. It almost makes the profession of manga drawing seem undesirable. This is not a film that glorifies the industry, and I like that.
Bakuman has a fantastic cast of young acting talent. Start with Takeru Satoh, who recently starred in the awesome Rurouni Kenshin trilogy. Then we have Ryunosuke Kamiki, who starred in Poison Berry In My Brain, The Kirishima Thing and has appeared as a villain in films like As the Gods Will and the second and third Rurouni Kenshin films. Then we have Shota Sometani, who is practically everywhere recently. He was in the Parasyte movies, Tokyo Tribe, Wood Job, As the Gods Will, etc. Finally we have Takayuki Yamada, who had a lead role in the Crows Zero movies, and has appeared in Lesson of the Evil, 13 Assassins, and many others. So we have solid core of young acting talent that helps to establish a foundation for Bakuman to build on.
Another big positive is the rhythm and pacing, which will keep the viewer glued to their screens throughout the entire runtime. The film keeps moving and it maintains interest. The story plays out very naturalistically; even the romantic subplot is nicely portrayed and really like how it concluded. There's a nice dramatic impact to everything and the protagonists have very likable personas. There are also some very funny scenes along the way, which always helps to humanize the characters and make them even more relatable.
Stylistically, there are a few creative sequences that use manga drawing special effects that are blended with the live action shots – and it works really well. It's something a bit different, but I liked it. One final surprise, for me at least, was the scoring and soundtrack, which are really good and were apparently performed by a Japanese band by the name of Sakanaction. I may have to check out some of their stuff.
I definitely recommend Bakuman, and I can't really think of any big flaws to complain about. This is a solid movie.