“Is becoming a successful manga artist an achievable dream or just one big gamble?” The back cover of every Bakuman. poses this question, the central question to a series about the highs and lows of professional art, and the troubles an artist has to endure for their work. In Bakuman., two high school students named Mashiro and Takagi team up to create manga, taking on the roles of artist and writer, respectively. They have different and unique motivations for pursuing this path, Takagi doing it to avoid falling into the trap of a boring life, while Mashiro endeavors to impress the girl he loves. They’re both incredibly well developed characters that struggle, win, lose, and never accept defeat. Over the course of the 20 volumes in this set, we’re offered an in depth chronicle of their attempts at success.

Manga fans may recognize creators Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata as the team behind the popular Death Note. While Death Note was a high concept mystery, Bakuman. is a much more accessible “everyday life” kind of story that blends comedy and drama with ease. Now excuse me while I gush a little, because I think Bakuman. may be my favorite manga series. Any manga/comics fan should read it, but I cannot recommend it enough to anybody working in an artistic medium. Ohba & Obata use the simple plot to develop a complex reflection on the nature of creation. In their journey, Mashiro and Takagi have to confront the reality of achieving their dreams, struggling to discover if it was worth the struggle. They make sacrifices in the balance between art and commerce. They learn that life is what happens while you’re working towards your dreams, and that while it’s important to have a goal, it’s also important to appreciate where you are. There are no superpowers, no fights, no action scenes, just real character driven drama.

The complete set pictured here also includes a double-sided full color poster, and a bonus “issue” of Otter No. 11, a fictional comedy series produced within the main story of Bakuman. The box itself is of high quality, with gorgeous illustrations on every side, and a velcro flap that seals in the volumes. If you’re already a fan of Ohba & Obata, this is the best value for your money. New adopters should at least check out volume one, which introduces the boys on their first summer creating manga, racing to complete a demo work before school starts again. If you’re looking for a change of pace from your usual superhero or shonen fare, Bakuman. will not disappoint.

– Alex Strine

Bakuman. Complete Box Set (Volumes 1-20 with premium)
by Tsugumi Ohba, Takeshi Obata (Illustrator)
VIZ Media LLC
2013, 3864 pages, 7.5 x 5.3 x 5.0 inches, Paperback
$159 Buy on Amazon

See sample pages from this book at Wink.

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