And not just any manga, but one worthy of publication in the legendary Shonen Jump weekly collection of manga serials. Moritaka Masihiro (Takero Sato) has the drawing skills but needs the storylines which only Akito (Ryunosoke Kamiki) can provide.
Moritaka’s classroom sketches of the beautiful Azuki (Nana Komatsu) spark off their collaboration. The boys throw themselves into their manga, ignoring their schoolwork and burning the midnight oil in order to meet deadlines. Using the shrine-like studio of Moritaka’s uncle, a former Shonen Jump contributor, they eventually come up with a manga worthy of showing the publisher’s tough editors.
Mori’s health is challenged as they then try to keep up the blistering pace of story production. Through it all, Akito keeps returning, Mori’s muse and endearing love.
Directed with a great deal of flair and inventiveness by Hitoshi Ohne, Bakuman is an aural and visual treat. It also gives fascinating insights into why manga is so important as a cultural and economic product – more than one-third of Japan’s entire publishing industry is devoted to manga.
With an excellent cast drawn from a small ensemble of well-known Japanese film and TV actors, Ohne is able to bring his characters to life. Bakuman is loosely based on a manga series, and the sharp editing and special effects (including the end credits) suggest a 3D-style rendering of the manga form.
Shota Sometani gives a standout performance as the boys’ crouching nemesis, Niizuma, the gothic creator of a manga aptly named Crow. Highly recommended.
The Japanese Film Festival continues at the Mercury Cinema until Sunday, November 8.