Bakuman. (2015)

A long while back, when I had heard of the news that Bakuman, the amazing manga by the Death Note duo – Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata,  would be getting a live-action movie, I was somewhat overjoyed.

Seriously. When I had finished the manga, I had thought that the story of Bakuman which is about two high-school kids, the artist Mashiro and writer Takagi, taking on the very taxing and wonderful world of Shonen JUMP to make their own manga and rank number 1 with it would make a good live-action movie. And, to my surprise, this is the first live-action adaptation movie of a manga that hasn’t disappointed me. In fact, it’s actually really great!

Directed by Hitoshi One with cinematography by Wataru Miyamoto, Bakuman is a real treat of a movie. The pacing is excellent and the transitioning of the scenes is just so good that it has you hooked from one shot to the next. Camera-work is clean and simple while yet being somewhat creative. Everything and everyone on the screen flows with such fluidity that there are no awkward moments with the cinematography.

The movie is heavy on CGI at certain places. It does not distract from the experience: it actually massively makes it better. From the scenes where the two protagonists are busy working on their manga with panels from the manga appearing and twisting on the walls to the 2 or 3 minute scene in which Mashiro and Takagi are fighting with pens and panels against their rival, Eiji – the CGI never looks weird and blends superbly with the backgrounds and the actors. Though, the fight scene CGI (at mid-movie) may look jarring at first but you’ll quickly get used to it.

Now, to the story.

The movie is vastly different from the manga. Some characters are completely cut out. Some of them have slight personality change. Some couldn’t appear anyway because the movie ends with the serialization of the main duo’s first manga instead of the manga’s fifth serialization run. If you are the kind of person who can’t handle deviations from the source then this movie is not for you and that is a mighty shame. Even though the movie is different from the manga, it is still a very good watch.

I was wondering how they were going to adapt a 20 volume long manga into a 2 hours movie. Obviously, drastic changes had to made and the story ending at a part of the manga’s. The movie’s ending is basically a rough 1/4th of the manga with some later scenes pulled earlier into the movie’s story for that extra ‘oomph’ and on-screen tension.

Takagi finds Mashiro’s notebook full of drawings and tries to coax Mashiro into teaming up with him to make manga. Mashiro is reluctant at first but after an eventful scene with Azuki, Mashiro’s crush, who promises that she will marry him when his manga becomes successful and she voices the heroine in its anime (Azuki wants to be a voice-actress). After that, they go to Mashiro’s deceased mangaka uncle’s studio to make their manga, meet with a Shonen JUMP editor, make friends, meet rivals, and achieving their goal.

Looking at Eiji, the final boss, walk away.

The absence of Kaya, Takagi’s love-interest in the manga, and the other two mangaka women from the movie is kind of sad for me. They were really fun characters. Thankfully, even without them, the movie holds up pretty nicely. Nakai, an backgrounds assistant who gets a lucky break, doesn’t go through the painful experiences he goes through in the manga. I’m not sure how I feel about his character change but, hey, the movie version works well too, I guess. I’m somewhat disappointed with Hattori, the editor of the duo. He had a huge role in the manga and was one of my favorite characters. Seeing him reduced to a ‘just let life go by’ kind of guy who throws an inspirational line or speech here and there was heart-wrenching for me. At least his acting was good.

Onto the actors!

Ryunosuke Akami is the perfect Takagi. Plays him like a champ. Takeru Satoh was decent as Mashiro in the beginning but he really grows into the character midway. His ‘uweeeh’s and ‘aooooooooooh’s can be annoying, though. Nana Komatsu is a okay Azuki. She sometimes felt like a doll to me. Hirofumi Arai, Kenta Kiritani, Sarutoki Minagawa, and  Takayuki Yamada play their respective roles as Hiramaru, Nakai, Fukuda, and Hattori very nicely. Sarutoki Minagawa, though, sometimes looks like he’s imitating a monkey. Watching Shota Sometani make Eiji’s eccentric character come to life is just WOW.

Eiji at work.

The movie’s soundtrack soothes the ears. I’m not particularly fond of house style music but Bakuman’s is just wonderful. Fits the action, the melodrama, and even the moments of ‘is this right?’ quite fantastically. No wonder Sakanaction, the band who provided the musical score, won the best music award of the Japanese Academy along with Shinji Watanabe, the sound director, getting nominated for best sound.

Even though there are some flaws with how some scenes are handled (mostly those with Azuki) and the fact that Satou often overacts in cheerful and comic scenes, I still greatly enjoyed this movie.

Bakuman was going to get an 8 from me but since the soundtrack is so good along with all the detailing with posters and books of the movie sets (the hallway of posters at Shonen JUMP) which service my manhood, I’m going to bump it up to a 9 out of 10. Highly recommended.


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