Bakuman is the latest collaboration of Ohba and Obata, the creators of the wildly popular Death Note series. Unlike Death Note, Bakuman is more or less grounded in reality, but it is no less entertaining as it follows the ups and downs of a mangaka duo as they strive to make it big in the publishing world!
This series is a personal favorite of mine, and Viz Media has just released the final volume. (My reviews of earlier Bakuman volumes can be found .)
Volume 19 did an excellent job of returning Miho to the spotlight, and Volume 20 takes advantage of the buzz generated from the public declaration of her relationship to Moritaka. She already had a lot riding on the Reversi audition, and the stakes shoot through the roof when it turns into a live Internet competition. Shonen manga is all about battles, and the climax of Volume 20 is a voice actress battle!
Actually, the underlying concept is kind of far-fetched. Despite the hype touting the audition as the contest for the most popular voice actress, Kaya's bored comment of, "This is long " is entirely warranted from an objective standpoint. Still, the characters are so emotionally involved, it doesn't matter. For the most part, the series has been about Ashirogi struggling to come up with a series worthy to be animated. Now it's Moritaka's turn to wait for Miho to do her part to make their dream come true.
Following the audition results, Ohba-sensei does a thorough job of wrapping things up, perhaps a little too thorough. After the adrenaline rush of the Reversi competition, Akito's goal to boost sales of the graphic novel are somewhat ho-hum, even if Ashirogi accomplishes another achievement because of it. The part I found surprisingly brief was the farewell glimpses of Ashirogi's fellow mangaka. Final volumes generally provide what-are-they-doing-now cameos, and Bakuman allots only five pages to that segment, most of which gets taken up by Eiji. But what that does is leave plenty of space for Miho and Moritaka's first date. The entire last chapter gets dedicated to it, and considering they've been going long distance for ten years, it deserves the space.
By this time, readers may have forgotten Moritaka's dead Uncle Nobuhiro, a major factor in his career and his decision to pursue Miho. Ohba-sensei neatly reintroduces him at the close of the story with a few "instructions" for Moritaka, and given the numerous ways Moritaka's life reflected his, it's a nice touch. It's funny, sweet, and poignant all at once as the nervous couple step into that long-awaited moment, and the final pages provide a satisfying conclusion, signifying the end of one journey and the beginning of another.
Bakuman reaches its conclusion! Unlike Ashirogi's Reversi, the Bakuman series did feel like it went on a bit too long. Even in this last volume, Akito's "wedding present" to Moritaka seemed an unnecessary extra hurdle to be overcome. However, the manga does an excellent job of bringing Miho back to the forefront with the Reversi audition, and the final chapter provides a satisfyingly sweet ending to Miho and Moritaka's ten-year long-distance romance.
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