Archive for the 'review' Category

Instant review: New Hori-ZUN 2, Fushigi no kuni no Marisa

Saturday, November 13th, 2010

In the name of trying to keep up that “cultural exchange” theme, I’ll introduce an appropriate member of one of our favorite literary genres, the Touhou doujinshi.

New Hori-ZUN 2, 44p, by circle ddiction (http://ddiction.org/index_en.html)

New Hori-ZUN 2, part of a series whose first volume I totally forgot to ask my bro @nforza26 to send me, is an attempt at an exciting and highly educational Touhou-themed English textbook series based on New Horizon, an actual exciting and highly-educational English textbook I am completely unfamiliar with.

As you may recognize from some of the e-famous artist names, several of the authors of this book are actually American, which is completely different from being Japanese, and yet it is one of the higher quality doujin I have seen!

The authors have mastered difficult doujin techniques such as 4komas, Arial, having a circle name even though you’re the only member of the circle, and Yume Nikki references.

However, as far as textbooks go it’s a little undirected. The text (the usual character comedy Touhou lends itself to, although decent enough) is more complex than volume 1, but how will the reader know if he understands all of it? I think there should be more exercises. Of course, the less useful it is the more like the actual Japanese school system it is, so either way they win.

You can find this circle at the upcoming Winter Comiket. In the meantime, the authors can be found on the Internet.


Fushigi no kuni no Marisa (Marisa in Wonderland), by circle COSMIC FORGE (http://www.cosmicforge.net/)

Available via mail order from Manga Pal!

(Japanese translation available at tsurupeta.info)

Spring 2010, some 3+ episode tests

Friday, May 21st, 2010

I guess I’ve watched more than 3 episodes of some of these, but I have no idea what a schedule is and forgot to write this. Oh well…

Working!!
A 4koma anime that feels like a 4koma anime, produced by A-1 Pictures channeling J.C. Staff. It has some nice character ideas, but the execution is a bit too straightforward, so it’s a little boring – still watchable, but I don’t love it. I wish it was by SHAFT somehow, even though I was very bored with Arakawa (dropped at 2 episodes).
The opening doesn’t really know what it’s doing – half of it is new and interesting, and half of it seems to be shots copied from Azumanga Daioh. My notes say “ed is stupid”, but I can’t remember anything about it, so let’s leave it at that.
I hear the later episodes are more solid and that there’s a new character with hime cut. Watching.

Giant Killing
A soccer anime by Studio DEEN with actual money. I thought it was really interesting that a DEEN show with a budget has better drawings and movement, but still has horrible washed-out coloring choices for everything. Actually, I thought that was more interesting than the show – I’ve never seen a sports anime before, so it’s kind of cool, but the early part is just the coach making up magic quirky strategies for everything instead of something more realistic.
I’ll have to look ahead and see if it goes anywhere, otherwise dropped at 3 episodes.

Sarai-ya Goyou / House of Five Leaves
A samurai show made by manglobe that’s REALLY BORING!
Nothing has happened in 3 episodes except for one swordfight, so it doesn’t matter how good the art is (it’s good). Dropped.

Senkou no Night Raid
Psychic superpower action series by A-1 Pictures channeling Bones. I’m watching this untranslated, and the fake Chinese politics sort of goes over my head, so without that it’s just a watchable but slow action drama – a lot of things happen, but not in a really interesting way. I’d rather finish Darker than Black, really. I’ve heard some other people say it was “awful”, but I can’t really tell what’s annoying them. Watching halfheartedly.

The OP is a really complicated animation that looks cool and doesn’t match the actual show at all.

They make it sound like the psychics are an important national secret, but then in episode 3 they’re teleporting bombs out of buildings all over the place. Won’t someone notice?

Now that I think about it, the only things I’ve seen in the last few weeks were Angel Beats! and K-ON!!. More about that later.

What I read recently

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

Yotsuba& vol. 1 (Azuma Kiyohiko/Yen Press)
Bought this out of curiosity. ADV’s old translation had their usual problems, like occasionally being wildly wrong and misspelling random names. The new one is fine, but comes with all kinds of localization decisions that just annoy me. Everything written (SFX, signs, etc.) is left untranslated and put in notes, even though nothing at all is interesting about the original, all the honorifics are used (with more notes), and there are extra cutesy misspellings that are only funny sometimes. That being said, there’s nothing really wrong with it, except for the horrible filth:

…I think I’m bored of Yotsuba now. Actually reading this again just made me want to get the new Azumanga chapters.

The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya (Nagaru Tanigawa/Yen Press again)
Kind of boring. The early stories are all better in the anime, though some later chapters are better, I’ve heard. Also the entire translation is written like this. I was going to make up something here about fansub translators not knowing how to write paragraphs, but I guess it’s light novel style after all. The anime episodes are better but are still boring.

The Summer of the Ubume (Natsuhiko Kyogoku/Vertical)
kransom told me to buy this before it came out here, and so I did. Unfortunately, not only is this a real novel, but it’s actually good and well-written, which left me totally unqualified to say anything about it. I will instead note that most people seem to have called it a “supernatural horror”, which it isn’t, and insist on comparing Kyogoku to nerdshoe authors like Neil Gaiman/Stephenson.
Personally, I thought the mystery solved through a very long history lecture at the end reminded me more of Umberto Eco, but there’s no reason to go around reducing things to comparisons like that. Just go read it, okay.

Kannagi v1/2
(I read the subtitles, you see.)
There wasn’t really enough plot to sustain this. The individual episodes were mostly good, but none of them actually led into each other at all, and you just had to pretend that the weird serious drama in episode 2 merited it suddenly coming back at the end of the show.
Maybe if the author had written more of the plot out it could’ve been interesting, since it was at least more leftist than Kamichu, but instead some completely different series about maid cafes got stuck in the middle. Yamakan’s director power somehow made this and Kanon watchable, but I end up regretting it afterwards…

Umineko no naku koro ni, episode 6
I can’t mention any plot details until it’s been translated, but after reading it I don’t think I got any clearer picture of the mystery. It looks like episode 7 will reveal a large part of that, so it’s just a little more waiting either way, but it made reading such a long episode seem a little pointless.
There were a few great scenes, but overall the whole thing is by design stuck until the actual end, and I think he’s just padding it out now. Watch out if you start reading it (e.g. if someone translates the prologue), because the first few scenes will just confuse you until you get to the end 15 chapters later.

Instant-ish Review: CROSS†CHANNEL

Friday, September 11th, 2009

CROSS†CHANNEL ~to all people~1 is a ~visual novel~2 written by Tanaka Romeo and recently fan-translated. It was good, you should read it if you want to do that kind of thing. Don’t try to find out the plot first, as it seems like every single element is a spoiler.

The main character is wildly immoral, but as he’s supplied with both a good reason (the apparently ever-present mansions full of child torturing rich people) and some actual self-awareness and intelligence, it’s certainly better than most other popular games I could mention. And I thought the moral was pretty obvious, though well meaning, but obviously otaku haven’t paid any attention to it. Maybe they didn’t play it.

It also seems to have completely confused some people, but I didn’t see anything difficult about it at all. But nobody I know has finished it yet, so I can’t discuss it. Come on, guys!

Tanaka Romeo, beyond the pen name and his constantly making off-topic jokes, is a pretty good writer, so I wish he’d move to some other format. Beyond my feeling kind of silly about discussing literary merit in porn, it seems like it’s nearly impossible to have a single ending to one of these stories without invoking time loops, and I’m getting tired of them. It’s almost as bad as how all mysteries have to start with long discussions about locked rooms, as if they’ve all only ever read the same Agatha Christie novel over there.

UPDATE: Tower of Friends is pretty real.

  1. Tildes mandatory. []
  2. Tildes optional. []

Instant Review: the contents of this package from Right Stuf

Saturday, June 27th, 2009

In case you still remember kransom’s posts, you might think this is some kind of insightful and highly detailed blog. Unfortunately, you’re actually thinking of all the other ones on the sidebar.

Sayonara, Zetsubou Sensei vol. 2 is a cool manga, you should read it. If you’ve already watched it, it pretty much covers all the same jokes, but personally I don’t care about that.

Faust vol. 2 doesn’t have Kara no Kyoukai in it. I guess everyone hated it so much in the last one that it’s gone now? I haven’t actually read this one yet, but Omo covered vol1 pretty well.

Gakuen Alice has a really unfortunate DVD cover but you should watch it if you like that kind of thing.

I haven’t done anything recently except play Umineko (which is more or less brilliant) so maybe this blog and that other blog will stay dead for a while.

Instant Review: Futakoi Alternative

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

Futakoi Alternative is the anime adaption of “Pinball, 1973″ by Haruki Murakami a schizophrenic 2005 slice-of-life/loli twin moe/yakuza/action/Snatch homage/multi-episode Giant Robo reference anime by schizophrenic studio ufotable. It’s awesome, you should watch it. The end.

the best episode (also the second-to-last episode)

I’d actually started watching this in 2005 but stopped at the low point, around episode 9 – I didn’t understand why it was suddenly about a terrorist squid – but now that I finished it I don’t think that was too bad. That wasn’t actually a drop in quality in the show itself, but the script constantly changes genres and the one from “drama” to “fake Imagawa show” took a while.

Unfortunately I think that’s doomed it over here – the middle part is a long slice-of-life show of the kind nobody around here wants to buy or watch, which probably means a lot of people wouldn’t sit through it even if they did like all the rest. Although ufotable did try to make an even more Western-style show and ended up with the boring and still weirdly otakuish Coyote Ragtime Show, so maybe it’s just as well?

Also please post if you got my joke in the first paragraph without looking it up.

Instant Manga Reviews: Nichijou 4, Mozuya-san 2, Moetan 3, Obaachan ga Shitai Kusai yo (Shintaro Kago), Itsumo no Hanashi (Akino Kondoh)

Saturday, February 14th, 2009

Nichijou, arawi keiichi. Kadokawa/Shonen Ace/Comptiq. Vol 4 published 1/26/2009.

nichijo

I’ve been following this one on the blog for a while, and while I really liked volumes 1 and 3, 2 wasn’t that hot and 4 isn’t as exceptional as 1/3, I have to say. keiichi still has absolute top notch gag manga chops (layout/framing/timing, etc), but a lot of the best material/neta were continuations of earlier gags like the Soccer Go club and the daifuku mascot mask. I also have to warn the sensitive that there is a “what’s the deal with the crazy size names at Starbucks” chapter in here, though keiichi’s ability to draw incredible character reactions paired with his sense of timing and tempo still made me laugh at a topic that is basically comic suicide in the states at this point. Longer stories really seem to be his forte, seeing as I don’t know if I’ve laughed at one of the professor/Nano 4koma strips yet. Still in my personal list of favorite gag manga, but maybe that’s because most of the rest of the list is Bonobono.

Mozuya-san Gyakujou Suru, Shinofusa Rokurou. Kodansha/Afternoon. Vol 2 published 1/23/2009.
mozuyasan

Volume 2 of this was pretty impressive for me since Shinofusa manages to take a pretty silly concept (tsundere as clinical disease) and actually make something other than cheap gags out of it. Volume 2 keeps the drama going strong as Kabashima tells Mozuya that he’s a masochist, which completely throws a wrench into Mozuya’s psychology of “I’m sick and hurt people when they’re nice to me -> people are still nice to me after i hurt them only because they know something’s wrong with me -> they’re looking down on me, thus i hate them more.” Of course, Mozuya also discovers someone she wants to feel bad for of her own, basically making a lot of the character interaction a look at the dynamics of the whole moe/amae thing. (has anyone talked about moe in relation to the concept of amae? I’d do it but I’m never writing a non-graded paper that has to do with psychoanalysis.) Of course there’s still some fanservice and even a weird reader stand-in Sexy Otaku Nurse character, but overall it’s shaping up to be a very interesting drama, kind of along the same thematic lines as NHK. Time to wait another 5 months for volume 3 :(

Moetan, illust. POP. Sansai Books. Vol 1 published 6/1/2006.
moetan
This was given to me as a birthday present from a fellow internet illuminatus who I met last semester, so I haven’t actually had the opportunity to read volumes 1 or 2, or watch the anime, so I’m not exactly an expert on lolicon English manuals. That said, this is a hilarious lolicon English manual. A little over half of the book is ostensibly an attempt to teach English to Japanese nerds through sentences and examples that they use in their daily lives! Thus, the example sentences are mostly nerd jokes (You said you don’t like crowds. But somehow you casually endure the crowd in Comiket. / She doesn’t recognize the existence of girls who dislike homosexuals.) and there are also some conversation examples, one that’s nothing but tsundere lines, and another that’s a conversation between an American and Japanese otaku in Japan. ( That’s the coolest thing ever! The maids out front of the station waiting to greet you! Let’s go into one of those places! Hey Sam, look at this picture of the dolphin! Is this also one of the “Moe”? Wow, Akihabara is really a cool place!), and so on. In between language examples is a story about Nijihara(虹原, o hoh hoh hoh) Inku’s attempts to bring her friend back from his secluded otaku world by shattering all of his silly nerd dreams and illusions by doing things such as showing him what the person who plays the cute female character in the dream-world MMO he’s addicted to really looks like, or calling the police on him for the books he’s selling at his dream-world Comiket shutter booth. (There’s a certain sense of hypocrisy in that one when you realize that POP illustrated this thing, but never mind that). Of course, the sentences all appear to be J->E translations, so I imagine that this would actually be more helpful as any sort of learning tool to an English speaker at an intermediate level of Japanese language experience than to a Japanese person trying to learn natural-sounding English. Either way, don’t take it so serious.

Obaachan ga Shitai Kusai Yo, Shintaro Kago. Kubo Shoten. Published 2/1/2009.
Cover (semi-nws)

I probably shouldn’t admit to buying Shintaro Kago comics since I am not writing for a blog called Same Hat!, nor do I read Vice, but I like living on the dangerous side. The volume is a collection of shorts by Kago, most of which were surprisingly non-pornographic. That is to say, there’s no real focus on sex, but, as in all good Kago stories, on pooping. To be honest, I was not aware that one could make so many poop jokes, some of which were laugh-out-loud funny. Of course, that probably says more about me than about this book, but I mean, these are really top-tier poop jokes that also reference old zombie movies, and classic rakugo skits while being painfully satirical of modern events. Beyond the Life is Poop and Die nihilism that’s fairly standard in Kago stories, there’s stories like one near the back of the volume, Mirai Eigyou-ki: Kinyuu Kaisha-Hen (Future Business Report: The Finance Industry) about investing in promising young criminals, who currently show signs of future criminal activity, which you can cash in on when they make it huge on the news media after committing terrible crimes! To be specific for this chapter, after running people over in a truck in Akiba and stabbing them! oh, wait. too soon, dude. :(

Itsumo no Hanashi, Akino Kondoh. Seirinkogeisha. Published 9/25/2008.
kondoh
I really should do a longer article on this since there’s a lot of blog buzz about the upcoming Ax anthology, which I believe Kondoh is doing the cover art for, but I really need to get to doing my homework, sorry! I first became interested in Kondoh after getting hooked on Nicovideo classic Densha Kamo Shirenai a while back (look at how low that sm number is!), but didn’t give Kondoh’s other works a whole lot more thought until this magically appeared in front of my face when I was looking around at Taco Che over the holidays. Itsumo no Hanashi is a collection of shorts from about the last decade by Kondoh, which range from somewhat light-hearted slice of life-ish stories about getting letters from old classmates (Itsumo no Hanashi) to seemingly drug-induced dream stories about talking to your legs and furniture (Kotatsu no Mawari de). Kondoh’s style is whimsical yet mysterious, but at the same time her art can get intensely unsettling and destabilizing. In terms of storytelling and overall effect, Kondoh reminds me a lot of Nekojiru at her best, using a very accessible style to get at some normally unaccessible feelings. Looking forward very much to getting her other collection as well as the English version of Ax (more info here, also here) once I get it through my head that buying one 1300y volume of absolutely beautiful manga is better than buying 13 volumes of fist of the north star at Book-Off. Well okay, maybe they’re about tied, but I ought to keep a good balance.

Manga Review: Film wa Ikiteiru (Tezuka, 1958)

Friday, February 13th, 2009

I wrote my last batch of manga reviews the night after starting my new WoW account, so I figured it’d only be appropriate to do a new batch now that I’m 80! Also, probably going to split these up for more post quantity.

Film wa Ikiteiru, Osamu Tezuka, 1958-1959 1 vol comp, 130pgs. Serialized in Chuugaku 1nen Course/2nen Course.

For the synopsis, I’m going to defer to the spoilerific one that shows up at the beginning of every Tezuka Osamu Manga Zenshuu:

  • The Film Lives On

    This is the story of two animators during the period of the dawn of animation films.
    Two boys named Musashi and Kojiro, respectively, who were very fond of drawing cartoons, left the countryside and journeyed to Tokyo where they eventually became cartoonists.
    But the dream of Musashi and Kojiro was to create animated films. The two vied with each other in the production of such films. Musashi first created a full-length animated film based on the Story of the Yearling while Kojiro followed suit by producing a film whose theme was centered on Tiny Black Sambo.
    During the process of producing the film, Musashi loses the sight of his eyes but his girl friend Otsu comes to his rescue and Musashi finally manages to complete the animated film on the Story of the Yearling which becomes more popular than the film produced by Kojiro.

If the summary makes the story sound fairly simple, that’s because it is. Not necessarily in a bad way (I mean, it’s 130 pages), but overall what interested me most when reading the manga is seeing the way that Tezuka intertwines a whole mess of obvious and disparate references that end up being fairly central to the story, which otherwise is a fairly standard shonen hard work -> success story: the Miyamoto Musashi/Sasaki Kojiro rivalry, the history of animation, the life of Beethoven, and his own experiences, including what could be read as a foreshadowing of his future experiences in the world of animation. Oh, also this manga editor who reminds me of SSJ2 Carl Horn for some reason.

If I were doing annotations or something on this manga, I’d probably elaborate on all of these, but I’m not, so I’m just going to talk about the ones that I find most interesting, specifically the stuff in here explicitly about animation.

img_0684
To begin with, there’s this graph, which shows up in the third chapter, which spends most of its time away from the action of the story in order to explain some basics of animation, like the phenomenon of persistence of vision, the phenakistoscope, and the animations of Emile Cohl. The graph was interesting to me because it shows that Tezuka is definitely familiar with the world of animation at the time, (for the katakana-challenged, some highlights: Norm Mclaren under Canada, Disney, Quimby, Bosustow, Terry, Lantz, Fleischer, Iwerks under America (I was hoping for some Harry Everett Smith myself), Trnka and Hoffmann(?) under Czech, and so on.) but he doesn’t seem to have much of an opinion on Japanese animation at the time, and doesn’t mention a single Japanese animator by name. In fact, just a few pages prior he mentions that domestic animated films (called manga eiga the whole work) never really took off in Japan.

There’s also the matter of Musashi and the old, grumpy anime director that he meets, who seem to foreshadow a lot of Tezuka’s own career in animation. I’m going to warn you that it’s been a while since I’ve actually read a book about this, so please correct my horrible mistakes. On one hand, there’s Musashi, who is young, talented, original, and able to produce drawings at an incredible speed, but there’s also the animation director who is constantly telling Musashi that the motion in his drawings is “dead”, and that, as the title of the work reminds us, film is alive. In sticking to this philosophy, the director ends up being ruined because he always goes over budget and can’t meet deadlines. I guess I won’t tell you how this problem is solved in the manga, only that it involves dream sequences and being in love with a horse from your home town.

Overall, I’d say that this is a very competent Tezuka shonen manga, with some pretty interesting subject matter, if you’re into animation and Tezuka in general. I know I’m not really in a position to say this, considering that the only Tezuka I’ve read other than this are the one-shots that Vertical put out so it’d be like me talking about a “average Hitchcock” film after just watching Rope or something, but while it doesn’t really blow me away, it certainly kept me entertained and reading. Not to mention that it’s a pretty easy read, and that you can find it at Book-Off for like 100 yen. Maybe next I can buy some Tezuka that people actually talk about…

Review and Complaints: Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A’s DVD box

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

Instant review: Nanoha A’s is one of the best otaku-exploitation shows ever, featuring explosions, Starlight Breaker, German-shouting magical girl weapons, and charming and pleasant plot holes you could drive a truck through. I’m not sure how this happened considering how bad the other two Nanoha series were. The DVD box is $30 and I guess you should buy it, unless you’re tired of every post on here being about buying stuff or something.

That said, I watched the first DVD, and they ended up doing really low quality work. Apart from having a dub, the fansubs are probably better in every way.

Video – Maybe because they stuck 5 episodes on one DVD, the bitrate goes really low at several points and it artifacts really badly. I don’t think you’d notice unless you were me/Defiler/Fluff, though, but I only have two other DVDs (KareKano, which has an excuse, and Haruhi, which doesn’t) that have noticable artifacts this bad.

Audio – is worse; the first episode is in mono, of all things. Apparently they switched mastering studios and the new one loves to randomly hit the wrong checkbox in their encoders or something. This pretty much makes the OP/ED sound terrible but doesn’t really affect the important part (EXPLOSION!). Maybe they’ll release fixed DVDs, but since they have no money I wouldn’t hold my breath. It’s fine after that episode (excellent panning across the forward soundstage etc.), but I think the other two DVDs might have the same problem.

Translation – is really literal; it looks like it was edited, but not by someone who knows what a bad Japanese translation looks like. A bunch of metaphors are translated literally, resulting in lines that only kind of make sense, and a few lines are weirdly overspecific to the point of actually being mistranslated.

Ep 1, DVD on left/fansub on right:
n1-dvdn1-sub
(note: I am bad at matching the same frame, oh well)
n2-dvdn2-sub
Nanoha’s “Listen to me!” before using her Energy Beam of Friendship is subbed as “Listen to what I have to say!”, which usually would be ok but in this scene makes it look like a threat or something. Admittedly it makes the scene better than it actually is, but it’s totally not justified by the real line.

After ep 1 it gets better, but it still seems below good fansub/average retail quality.

Ep 2:
n3-dvdn3-sub
Not a translation problem, and optic yellow is great and all, but can we please not use it in digital animation when characters have the same color hair as the subtitle text?

n4-dvdn4-sub

Ep 3:
n5-dvdn5-sub
“saki” (the “just” in “I just…”) is translated as “moments ago” in another line too.

This is kinda surprising since usually retail DVDs seem pretty well-done to me. Manga is another story.
Also someone gave me a Nendoroid Miku and I can’t figure out how to put the stand together.

Manga Review: Bakuman。 vol 1

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

I realize I’m quite a bit behind the times on this review, but I have this horrible habit of paying money for my manga, especially anything that I review :(

Anyway, Bakuman。. Yes, the title includes the crazy Japan period 「。」 but I’m not going to use it anymore because I don’t like IME-swapping every 5 seconds. Illustrated by Obata Takeshi and written by Ohba Tsugumi, and first released in tankobon form on the 10th of this month. Now, some of the more perceptive blog readers out there will have read that last sentence and thought, “hey, that’s the talented tag-team behind Death Note!”, and those readers would be absolutely right. I have to admit that I didn’t get very far into the DN manga and didn’t watch anything other than the anime’s OP/EDs, so I won’t be talking much about that. Like DN, Bakuman runs in Shonen Jump. This is important for reasons that I will expound upon in a paragraph or two, but keep this in mind.

I’ve heard a lot of buzz, both positive and negative, about this title both from Actual Japanese People as well as some folks on the internet. My first reaction was that this buzz was simply because it was “FROM THE CREATORS OF DEATH NOTE“, but after actually bothering to listen to people and decode moonblog posts, I realized that before “FROM THE CREATORS OF…” there was an equally important “A MANGA ABOUT WRITING FOR JUMP” present.

The basic plot of Bakuman so far is pretty straightforward: disaffected highschooler Mashiro Moritaka (真城最高) doesn’t know what he wants to do in life, until brainy stud Takagi Akito (高木秋人) convinces him to partner up and draw manga together. Now, Bakuman isn’t published in some lame serial for boring people, so they set their eyes on the highest prize out there: a series serialized in Shonen Jump and a tv anime to boot.

Woah, meta.

We also read about Moritaka’s (called Saikou by Akito for reasons clear to anyone who would bother caring) uncle who had his own fairly successful manga with its own anime adaptation until he died, presumably from overwork, and his continued influence over Saikou’s life. There’s also a romance plot for each main character to round things out, including Saikou’s hilarious agreement with his girlfriend that they won’t talk to each other until he gets an anime adaptation and she becomes a famous seiyuu. Then they’ll get married.

Other than the obligatory romance subplot, Saikou and Akito, (called Shuujin by Saikou,) work their butts off until, by the end of the first volume (chapter 7, for those of you who for one reason or another read chapter by chapter) they’re ready to show a manuscript to an editor at Shueisha. Some of you might be thinking that this is yet another ridiculous part of the plot, but this is where, as far as I know, you are at least somewhat mistaken!

You see, a lot of Bakuman is spent in one way or another talking about how absolutely awesome the cultural institution of Shonen Jump is, and one of the many absolutely awesome parts of Shonen Jump is how open they are to submissions from total unknowns, to the point where it is considered one of the “easier” majors to get published at for folks looking to get their foot in the door. One of the big reasons for this is because above all else, Jump is a populist magazine, sometimes ruthlessly so. As pointed out in the first chapter, if the reader surveys come back saying that folks like you, you stay on, but otherwise you can find yourself back on the street in 10 weeks or even fewer, and with Shueisha’s contracts, it can be very hard to find work elsewhere. By the way, folks, this is the same survey that cancelled Barefoot Gen in 14 weeks. On a side note, I’m counting 13 new series that started in Jump in 2008, 7 of which have already been ended. 6 of the cancelled manga were drawn by manga-ka whose only other work has been similarly minor one-shots and the like in one Jump or another.

I imagine that this populism plays into the characteristics of the twin protagonists: so painfully teenaged that similarly-aged boys will nod their heads in agreement with everything that they say, younger boys will look upon them as way-cool heroes, and adult boys will look at, see younger versions of themselves, and let out a deep sigh. I’m not sure what girls will do with them other than be offended and possibly draw slash fiction.

Honestly, the amazingly shonen attitudes towards women in Bakuman harken back to the glory days of 80s-90s Jump, before the proliferation of what Daryl Surat would call “Neo-Shonen” took place. I mean, Saikou’s mom is against the idea of him doing this manga business, but his father intervenes, stating that women can’t understand the manly dreams of men. That’s like taking a page right out of Captain Harlock’s book or something! I’m half-expecting Rei (Nanto Seiken Rei, not that other one) to bust in on a scene and rip off some girl’s shirt just for the hell of it! Even the way the women, especially Saikou’s love interest and her mother are drawn also remind me of Katsura Masakazu‘s girls. It’s like its grabbing you by the neck and screaming “Remember when boys used to act like boys in Shonen Jump, and how, on occasion they still do? Isn’t that awesome!??!”

The relationship between the two protagonists is basically a Jump take on the pair in Fujiko Fujio Ⓐ’s Manga Michi (somewhat referenced on the back of the first tankobon), which is to say that both the nature of their relationship as well as their characteristics if you take the Death Note-style Chuunibyou out of it is based on the famous “Hard Work, Friendship, and Victory” (努力、友情、勝利) combination that Jump takes to be the driving force behind their editorial policy. Words that were, yes, decided by reader survey. Honestly, it’s refreshing to see something so exceptionally and transparently Shonen Jump, especially by the guys behind Death Note, which didn’t seem very SJ at all.

Of course, Bakuman also references other Jump titles explicitly, again in what seems to be a (successful, for me) bid to extol the greatness of Shonen Jump throughout the years. The creators very cheaply reference themselves at first (“I heard the creators of Death Note once say…”) and also pay some equally cheap but sincere lip service to other greats (“We’ll never be the #1 manga-ka in the country, there’s already One Piece and Dragonball out there!”), but later move on to some shout-outs to some older greats, and a basically unknown manga by the tag-team behind Kyojin no Hoshi plays a fairly central role in a later chapter. Of course, all Shonen Jump titles.

One last thing before I wrap this ridiculously long post up: Takekuma-san noted in a great post that Jump’s presence is present even down to the way that the two produce their manga, in that the author of the manga draws the rough manuscript (Name/ネーム) and then has the artist draw from there. Apparently, until the mid-90s this was exceedingly rare, as the artist would normally handle the Name unless the author was an experienced manga illustrator, but who lead the way in this new division of labor?

…Take a guess.

Of course, as he mentions, this is much more common these days, but to have the artist say “I liked your Name so let me do the drawing” seems very strange, as normally there’d be some sort of deliberation. In fact, as you can see in between each chapter in the volume, Obata makes a fair number of changes to Ohba’s Name, not to mention that Ohba might be a veteran Jump illustrator himself, depending on who you believe. Either way, it’s an amusing note to see what might be an extra little bit of Jump propaganda snuck in there.

While I’m sure most of the folks out there who would want to check this out because of the two authors’ previous work had their minds made up before they even read this review, but I’d suggest taking a look at Bakuman。 even if you’re not a fan of the duo, especially if you have feel any sort of connection to Shonen Jump or if you’re interested in manga about manga in general. I’m looking forward to volume 2, which I assume will be out fairly soon, if it’s only 7 issues a volume.

Edit: oh, holy crap! Bakuman for free! In English! Legally!!