It's not enough for the Japanese to produce live action adaptations based on favorite and popular manga and animation. There are also movies about manga artists and animators themselves. In the case of Bakuman [バクマン。] 

... talented artist Moritaka Mashiro and aspiring writer Akito Takagi, two ninth grade boys who wish to become manga artists, with Mashiro as the artist and Takagi as the writer. Some characters resemble real authors and editors of Weekly Shōnen Jump, and many manga titles mentioned in Bakuman have actually been published in the magazine.

Of course, the live action version features performances from Takeru Satoh (as Moritaka), Ryunosuke Kamiki (as Akito), Takayuki Yamada, Kenta Kiritani, Nana Komatsu and Shota Sometani (who was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor at the Japan Academy Prize for his role as Eiji Niizuma, the main rival of our main protagonists)

I can't help but remember watching Aoi Honoo since that TV series represents the animators' side. 

Aoi Honoo (Blue Blazes [ アオイホノオ] ) a Japanese coming-of-age manga series written and illustrated by Kazuhiko Shimamoto. It is a fictionalized account of his time as a student at the Osaka University of Arts, which he attended alongside Hideaki Anno, Hiroyuki Yamaga, and Takami Akai.

Blue Blazes features the wacky, hilarious and in-your-face performance of Yuya Yagira. Now, you can understand why I made the mention!

Back to Bakuman, what strikes me about the movie is how it promotes manga as a career being a "dream weaver" of sorts. There are many aspiring manga artists, but only a few could actually make it to the top, earn decent money and continue to get published as a way of living. Reports have it that there is as many as 4,000 mangaka (what a manga artist is called) working full time, plus thousands of part-timers and wannabes.

There were some negative issues with the Japanese manga industry of recent years, but the latest statistics show that the manga book market is on the rebound:

While the entire book market slumped, the market for compiled manga book volumes rose to 281.51 billion yen (about US$2.3792 billion). That is 104.0% of the 2013 market and the second year in a row in which the market grew. [ source ]

The US$2.3 billion sales is a far cry from the reported US$10 billion it once generated, but manga has found new fans elsewhere around the world. North and South America and Europe may be considered 'secondary' markets but 'emerging' markets like India and the Philippines will make sure manga stays alive.

Stats about the manga industry was the intro to Bakuman...

"In every two boys, there is one who buys Shonen Jump." says Kamiki's character Akito at the start of the movie.

While that may not be the case anymore, it provides an exciting prospect. 

I watched the anime after hearing the casting news and was quite sure Ryunosuke Kamiki is perfect to play one of the major characters. Akito, the writer is supposed to have boundless energy, can be aggressive at times and speaks his mind. That sounds too easy for Kamiki, but I was wondering what sort of chemistry Kamiki and Takeru Satoh will generate given that Satoh's character is the opposite of Kamiki's - reserved, serious geeky-nerdy type but has a romantic 'target' so to speak. In the Kenshin trilogy, Kamiki is the reserved one (though aggressive and arrogant in an amusing way) while Satoh is not exactly a loud and boisterous samurai.

Our good friend and fellow reviewer, the 50-person described my feelings so perfectly:

I was initially confused about the casting because I failed to see things from an objective point of view: after watching Rurouni Kenshin, the connection of red with Takeru and blue with Kamiki was strong and the sudden switching of color codes was a bit difficult to accept. But I am glad I trusted in the director since Takeru and Kamiki’s personalities do really match their characters better. [ source ]

It was more than 2 years ago when we published the article on the casting buzz and a few months later when Shota Sometani's casting was announced. I emphasized the casting of Sometani because his performance serves as both a challenge (to the leads) and an additional attraction to watch the movie. Satoh, for me, looks too old to play a high school student cum aspiring manga artists but he managed to shine in select scenes, especially the 'confrontation' with Sometani's Eiji. I would have preferred to watch Kamiki's character grow before my eyes but this is Satoh's movie - first and foremost. Ah, that may not be entirely true, but his (and Akito's) struggles exemplify what a mangaka has to endure before he can even manage to become a professional.

The current TV series Juhan Shuttai! featuring an animated and inspired Haru Kuroki, ably supported by Joe Odagiri and Kentaro Sakaguchi would be a great complementary watch to Bakuman. If you've enjoyed the movie, then you may want to further explore the world of mangaka with this series. Also, if you've missed Aoi Honoo, about the tales of Japan's foremost animators, then that show is also highly recommended.

- - -

I often wonder and really wanted to disagree with the argument that the Japanese movie industry is 'dead' and the culprit is the prevalence of live action adaptation. Of course, there are factors that contributed to it's so-called 'demise' but I'd rather explore this issue in another post. Right now, I'm very curious about the box office returns on the selected movies shown in the graphics above.

[1] The Kenshin trilogy, for me, is a surefire hit for many reasons - the cast is superb, the manga and the succeeding animated series are very popular and acclaimed and it's about time a Samurai movie is shown and in succeeding parts. I remember a previous sci-fi film that I like so much, Casshern and while it has nothing related to Kenshin, I felt that the onscreen chemistry between the actors were both impressive. Of course, Yusuke Iseya is in both movies;

[2] Takeru Satoh needs to graduate to more matured characters. It's not a matter of personal bias, but a matter of credibility. The younger generation of actors needs to play the parts that may be 'assigned' to him. That's my way of saying (and hoping) that someone like Kento Yamazaki and Shuhei Nomura should get the lead roles. I believed that both Orange and Heroine Disqualified prove Yamazaki can do it. Even the buzz generated for the short Kingdom video is enough indication that Yamazaki may soon have the numbers;

[3] Assassination Classroom (Part 1 and 2) are box office successes due to the presence of Johnny's talents. Having Masaki Suda is just a plus factor because we're talking about box office attraction here and the likes of Ryosuke Yamada (with his fans) can make a huge difference. The level of adulation some of these Johnny's enjoy is one for the books;

[4] Chihayafuru (Part 1 and 2) with its combined box office of US$20 million can also be attributed to its young cast - Suzu Hirose is becoming quite popular among filmmakers and the local audience. Shuhei Nomura and Mackenyu are also fast becoming reliable leading actors.

[5] Sometani's Parasyte grabbed about US$30 million at the box office compared to Haruma Miura's Attack on Titan's US$40 million. It's a big difference yet both movies suffered from poor critical reception - the critical pan for AoT is more pronounced of course while Parasyte enjoyed some praise. I like the first part of AoT but could not even manage to watch the final movie. I enjoyed Part 1 of Parasyte and thought I'm missing something - maybe because I felt little emotional connection, as compared to the animation, which was a blast! The character development in the anime makes for a truly engaging watch and the movie version felt forced and uninspired. Of course, Sometani was amazing! Parasyte Part 2 was more like it. 

In Part 3, we'll talk about upcoming live action movies from Japan!

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