Friday, 4 December 2009

A to Z: B is for BAKUMAN

As Christmas approaches with admirable gusto (I swear it's almost like it's the same time every year), I continue my rambling about a veritable alphabet of comics. This time we jump into what was once a very familiar territory for me: Manga.

What can I say about Takeshi Obata and Hiroshi Gamo (and it IS Hiroshi Gamo, he's as paper thin as some particularly cheap toilet paper when it comes to hiding his true identity behind the name Tsugumi Ohba) that won't be me ranting on and on about how god-awful Death Note is for being a shitty light novel that has irreversibly damaged the mainstream perception of shonen, a genre made for 10-13 year olds, by making it look like it should all be about faux-goth wankery that's popular with those particularly sweaty and hairy fangirls you try and stay away from at conventions, else their moustaches infect you with a love for slash fiction?

... That they've made one of the best guides to the Japanese comics industry ever, perhaps? That they've managed to produce a brilliant and engaging story that doesn't substitute endless dialogue for expressive art AND manages to still be a surprisingly deep manga that succeeds in staying firmly in the comfy 10-13 year old main demographic without becoming painfully childish?

Yeah that'll do it.

So yes, to explain Bakuman. It's basically a story about two teenagers agreeing to work on manga together and make a career out of it. It actually defies the 99% probability that it would lick the arses of Shueisha (the comic's publisher) and in turn the offices of Weekly Shonen Jump (in which it runs in Japan) and presents a fairly realistic view of how a person can get their manga published in Japan, and by connection a vague idea on how to become involved with comics in the entire world. It's comprehensive and has more than enough drama to disguise it's true form from the kiddywinks who buy Weekly Shonen Jump every week. So trust me when I say this will be essential for everyone to buy when it comes out in English at some point in 2010.

"Wait... What? Why are you telling us about how great this series is if we can't even go out and buy it yet?!" I hear those of you who've made it this far possibly say. Well, I'll tell you. It's a pre-emptive strike (if not a surprisingly limited one due to my intent to avoid using scanlations for the images in this article) with the pure intention to inform you all of how worthwhile this series will be on that fateful day when it comes out in shops and most decent people will shrug it off due to the horrible stigma the authors have given themselves with that piece of shit Death Note. That and the alternative was to write about Batman: Snow, something I haven't actually managed to even read at the moment, kind of removing the ability to write about it.

Anyway, back to bigging this up in a structureless ramble by pointing out how genuinely beautiful the art is. This is Obata's magnum opus, combining the light hearted feel his earlier works like "Cyborg G-Chan" with the more 'realistic' trappings of his later, more popular hits like "Hikaru no Go" and... That other, more shitty one. It creates a captivating atmosphere throughout, that has only as much as wavered over the course of the 65 chapters that have come out in Japan.

In fact the art is pushed to it's absolute limit in how Obata approaches the series created within the series (ooh, I just had a picture in a picture moment there), making them all look like they're distinct enough from each other and not obviously all the work of the same artist. Observe:
This is Detective Trap, the first serialised work of the protagonists. Note the bolder, more cartoony art style for the main character of the story compared to the colour pages shown here.

This is Kiyoshi Knight, a series by one of the protagonist's rivals. Note how aggressive this is compared to the normal art.

Another rival's work, Hideout Door, is a completely different style with Hiroyuki Takei-esque stylings (you lot'd know him for teaming up with Stan Lee to do ULTIMO at the moment, but here's some picture reference for what I'm getting at)

And finally... *shudder* this abstract freakshow from a pretentious character that has since been thrown into obscurity.

BONUS: Just to make my point more substantial here's some faceshots of the 'real world' art.

As you can see, pretty varied stuff. I'll be making a post upon a release date being made clear for the series to promote this some more, but otherwise I hope I've whet your appetite and provided an entertaining enough post.

What could be C? Could it be C...ompetently structured? AHAHA NO!

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