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Bakuman - Movie Poster
Original Title:

Japan 2015


Hitoshi One

Takeru Satoh
Ryunosuke Kamiki
Nana Komatsu
Takayuki Yamada
Shota Sometani
Lily Franky
Kankuro Kudo
Kenta Kiritani
Hirofumi Arai
Sarutoki Minagawa

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Bakuman - Film Screenshot 1

Story: As a child Moritaka Mashiro (Takeru Satoh) always watched his uncle being completely absorbed in his work as a manga artist. Mashiro was therefore also very interested in mangas. But one day his uncle died of overworking, just when his manga series was cut off. Thus, Mashiro disengaged from the idea to become a manga artist himself. But he doesn't know, what to do in the future instead. And this even though he is already in high school and hasn't much time left to decide. However, he is secretly in love with the girl Azuki (Nana Komatsu). When his fellow student Takagi (Ryunosuke Kamiki) finds Mashiro's drawings of her he marvels at his talent and suggests that they should be off to a flying start as manga artists since he himself has countless story ideas. The two want to present a first draft of their own manga at the largest manga publisher of the country, Shonen Jump. There, they meet editor Hattori (Takayuki Yamada), wbo tells them that there is still a lot to improve, but that they undoubtfully have talent, even the more since they have just started to draw a short while ago. However, they have a direct rival in Eiji (Shota Sometani), also a high school student who dreams of having his big breakthrough and brings a lot more talent to the table...

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Review: If you think that it must be hard to be a manga artist, you should watch "Bakuman". Because there will be no doubt in your mind left about it after seeing this movie. You will in fact ask yourelf why anyone would follow that profession at all. Naturally, the answer is that you have to be able to get completely absorbed by this job with all your heart. And in fact this manga adaption centers around two individuals who want to fulfill their lifelong dream. That's the only way you can deal with the numerous setbacks and the incredible amount of work to tackle. The movie's view on the difficulties you have to face as a mangaka (manga artist) is by far everything but sugarcoated, but the enthusiasm and the determination of the two protagonists is infective. A lot of colorful characters, an also very colorful publishing company we get some insight into and some great editing make "Bakuman" a very well done manga adaption.

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However, maybe I should be careful with this statement since I neither read the original nor watched the anime. And that's actually strange since the original is by Tsugumi Oba and Takeshi Obata who already created the fantastic manga "Death Note" together. In "Bakuman" they process their experiences in the manga industry and thus create a piece which works on an interesting meta level. Even the more since this live action adaption is portrayed by human individuals and thus is a bit closer to reality again. Still, it should be self-explanatory that some concessions had to be made compared to the original. As I understand this mainly concerns the characters who either have been cut out of the movie completely or have turned out to be a lot more shallow.

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However, it's an ungratifying task to break down an extensive series and put it into a 2-hours-movie. This becomes particularly apparent in the small romantic story. What's positive about it is that is doesn't get forced into the spotlight. Yet, the negative side of it is that we can clearly make out that this romance has a far greater impact on Mashiros determination to become a successful mangaka than we actually get to see here. The groundwork is without a doubt there, but the viewer isn't emotionally captured. Instead, the love story turns out to be merely innocent and maybe even a bit naive. Eiji, played by Shota Sometani ("Parasyte"), also makes us realize that his character is in fact more multi-layered than we actually get to see in the movie. With his character traits he at least stands as an interesting cross reference to L from "Death Note".

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The two leads certainly should be satisfied with their efforts. Takeru Satoh and Ryunosuke Kamiki have both already been in "Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends" as opponents and make a great duo in "Bakuman". Especially the physical and mental exhaustion caused by their big amount of work is carried very well by them. Additionally, they can score in some of the more emotional scenes. There is a multitude of other individuals who all share a love for mangas added to the mix, too. Because of the running time of one single movie they all remain somewhat shallow, but they are dazzling enough for us to assume that there are fascinating personalities to be found under the surface. And that's, to be frank, almost more than you should expect from manga adaptations.

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Despite two adolescents standing in the spotlight the story all in all turns out to be quite mature, which becomes particularly apparent in the obstacles put in front of them. At the same time this is also a coming-of-age film since Mashiro and Takagi grow as individuals with the tasks given to them. And there is also an underdog story, the kind of we know from many sports films in which a nameless, everything but successful team fights its way to the top by using all their heart. All of those aspects are carried over well since we can instantly relate to the protagonists. At the same time newcomers to mangas will learn a lot. Ultimately, "Bakuman" doesn't just aim at manga enthusiasts and that's a wise decision. Yet, there is of course a lot to see concerning the everyday life of a mangaka. Particularly positive to note is the sound department, for example when it comes to the sound of different grades of pencils on paper. But visually the film doesn't just stand out with great editing, but also with some special effects put to good use. In the end, all of this makes "Bakuman" a well achieved manga adaption which individual story elements just could have been written out a bit more careful, though.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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