Bakuman is an anime with a pretty amazing pedigree. It’s one of the best-selling manga properties in Japan, a regular in Shounen Jump and brought to you by the creative team behind the legendary (I would also add overhyped, but still very good) “Death Note”. But all is not well in the otaku community – the long knives are already out for JC Staff over the animation quality and character designs, based on the two-minute preview. So what’s the verdict now that an actual episode has aired?
Well – mixed. It’s obvious enough the JC didn’t pour enormous amounts of money into the first episode, and the sizzle of Takeshi Obata’s manga art is missing. But for me, the threshold for animation quality and to a lesser extend character design is pretty low, if I’m interested in the story. And I am – it has an interesting pathos to it. Young boy idolizes his Uncle, a struggling manga-ka. Boy is a talented artist but Oji-san doesn’t push him into the brutally challenging life he’s leading. Uncle, a one-hit wonder, eventually dies (suicide?) and the boy becomes a cynical mope, his once-packed shelves of manga now empty and forlorn. Cut to a few years later, the boy is in 9th grade – still shiftless, now pining after a classmate and refusing to allow himself to dream. Until, that is, his A-student classmate tries to rope him into going in on a manga project together – and sells it as a way to get in with the girl he loves. Which just so happens to be the reason his beloved Uncle got into manga, too.
Now that’s an interesting premise. I’m also looking forward to a real inside look at the world of manga writing, which this certainly promises to be. And judging by the first ep, one that won’t pull any punches regarding how challenging and often despairing that world is. Moritaka seems like an interesting lead, and Takagi an interesting foil. Would-be seiyuu love interest Azuki is still a cipher, but I hope the romantic side of things will develop believably. I admit the animation isn’t great, but the character designs are fine and so far, this is the most thoughtful premiere of the season.