25 Jun 2017

mayoraasei: There is no such thing as coincidence (Default)
After a long deliberation, I watched Bakuman and now I wish I didn't.

I do like Satou Takeru and Kamiki Ryuunosuke, who are reasonable actors of their age cohort, and have made some iconic roles very memorable. Kamiki started off a child star but in the last few years he's really challenged himself to break the cast, and despite (or because of) his pretty good-boy image, he plays some interesting villains.

But I digress. Bakuman was probably the last manga series I read from beginning to end, and part of its cleverness was the story-within-a-story. To me, the logistics and competition at Shounen Jump was a curiosity, but the really fascinating bits in the manga came from some very clever story drafts thrown around by the various characters within it.

As you may know, Ohba Tsugumi as a writer and Obata Takeshi as an illustrator have as a combination not only penned this manga, they were also behind the riveting Death Note. There's a lot of speculation as to who Ohba Tsugumi is, but it's not hard to see some parallels between them and "Ashirogi Muto". Even Ashirogi Muto's breakout stories have that streak of cerebral darkness that characterised Death Note.

I don't know where to go with the movie. For a start, Bakuman would have better suited a series than a movie, and the problem is quickly clear as the film had no idea how to judge its pace. At times it's excruciating slow, like a music video with an angsty ballad, as Komatsu swans around in soft focus. At other times it skips ahead in a snap, like it realised it needed to get to the end of an arc by 2 hours.

It focused too much on the drawing as "drawings" rather than the creative process, which is where the real gem lies. The decision to nerf Takagi and make him someone "who isn't good at studying" is bewildering. While it might be a bit unrealistic for someone to be both getting good grades while running a manga circus on the side, the stories that Takagi came up with needed someone who was interested in intellect and psychology, not to mention the strategies he had with improving readership. Mashiro's story is important but also ridiculously fairytale-like, but Takagi's is a much more realistic arc of working hard, failing, improving and succeeding.

I'm not sure why the choice was made to make Mashiro's uncle's story feature so prominently. Yes, Mashiro had two motivations for succeeding - being in the same world as the girl he liked, and also to resolve the regrets his uncle left behind. The movie tried to turn it into some half-hearted unresolved grief and misplaced anger, which nevertheless didn't really play out.

Unsurprisingly it couldn't decide what to do with Eiji's character, who hung menacingly in a darkened room and appeared intermittently to sneer at the main pair. I've never seen Sometani Shota so aggravating.

The movie did no justice to anyone, not to the wit of the series, the energy of the actors, or to the onus of the profession itself. Fitting a good story arc from a 20 volume manga in 2 hours is a hard ask to start with but not necessarily impossible - this was done with reasonable success with Rurouni Kenshin and GANTZ. Unlike the battle-heavy stories of those two, the storyline of Bakuman probably leant itself better to a TV adaptation where there's time and space to build the plot and characters. As last year's Jimi ni Sugoi and Juhan Shuttai have proven, stories based around print media don't necessarily have to be slow and boring. To really bring out the merit of Bakuman though, which was the storytelling within the story, it will need a less literal hand and a cleverer touch.

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