バクマン。(Bakuman)

Rurouni Kenshin, Kuroshitsuji, Lupin III, Kiseijuu,  Shingeki No Kyojin…  A lot of Japanese live action movies have been released in our local theaters recently. Sato Takeru, Emi Takei, and Munetaka Aoki together with director Keiishi Otomo even came here for Rurouni Kenshin’s red carpet premiere. Led by two of the most popular Amuse actors and Rurouni Kenshin characters, I was expecting that Bakuman would also be shown in my country this year. I’ve been eagerly anticipating the announcement for its screening schedule but unfortunately, still no word on its Philippine release yet.  

I rarely do fangirl stuff, but when I do, I do it big time.

When the official Amuse page announced that Bakuman (English subbed) will be released on November 19, 2015 in Singapore, I booked a flight on a whim. Due to the APEC summit, there was a no-fly zone all over our airports for a week. I had to wait another week to avoid the hassle and to manage my own work schedule. I expected that Bakuman would at least run in cinemas for two weeks so imagine the devastation when I checked the Golden Village site on the day of my flight and not find it on the list of movie schedule. The last screening was at 9:20 PM on November 25. My flight’s at 8:30 PM. I arrived at Changi Airport at 12:05 AM, November 26! I was like a walking zombie, unable to grasp the whole situation and regretting the fact that I didn’t choose a flight schedule at least a day earlier. Luckily, a recently updated screening schedule suddenly appeared: One day. One theater. One screen time. My friend said she saw how my face suddenly lit up. 

We didn’t leave the airport til the trains started operating. We checked in in the morning and rushed to Plaza Singapura for the one and only 12:20 PM screening. 

Bakuman does not have a legendary epic hero like Himura Kenshin or a following as huge as Shingeki no Kyojin, but this manga is made by the same creator of one of my all time favorites, Death Note.

In a world where people live to work instead of work to live, Bakuman serves as a reminder for one to acknowledge and realize his/her passion. Moritaka Mashiro (Saiko) is an ordinary student student who doesn’t dream of becoming big someday. He just goes with the flow, following the routine of society. He just wants to graduate and do whatever desk job he ends up with in the future. His life changes when Akito Takagi (Shujin) urges him to create manga together. Fueled by his promise with a long time crush Azuki Miho, as well as the memory of his favorite uncle and famous mangaka Kawaguchi Taro; Saiko agrees to draw Shujin’s storyline.

They eventually find themselves in the Weekly Shonen Jump office to present their creation. They are lucky to meet a good editor named Hattori but the road to being a mangaka is not easy to take and for sure there are adversaries along the way. It’s especially difficult for newbies like them who are up against a young genius named Niizuma Eiji, played by real life acting genius Shota Sometani. Manga-manga is indeed a competitive world and their rivals include the devil-may-care Shinta Fukuda, background expert Nakai Takuro and the funny money-hungry Hiramaru Kazuya.

Bakuman deserves all its rave reviews. I’ve read a few chapters of the manga and saw the anime’s first season. When I heard about the live action plans, I was extremely curious as to how they’d come up with an exciting movie with such storyline. Director Hitoshi One cleverly utilized CG together with the actors’ comic chops and live action experiences. Sato Takeru (Himura Kenshin) , Kamiki Ryunosuke ( Seta Soujiro), Takayuki Yamada (Serizawa Tamao), Kiritani Kenta (Tatsukawa Tokio), Shota Sometani (Shinichi Izumi) and Hirofumi Arai (Uragami): This is Rurouni Kenshin meets Crows Zero meets Parasyte. A dream cast for every live action fan!

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Sato Takeru hits another jackpot with this role after playing the legendary swordsman, Himura Kenshin. I think he’s more suited as a shonen hero instead of a shoujo lead like in Kanojo wa Uso o Aishisugiteru. He just keeps getting better at acting and his delivery made everyone in the theater laugh out loudly. He’s not a novice when it comes to comedy since he’s done it in Bitter Blood and a bit in Tenno no Ryoriban but he’s funnier in Bakuman since playing a teenager gives him a reason to let go and do all those over-the-top expressions.

People might say that he looks a bit old for his role but if Oguri Shun can play a high schooler in Nobunaga Concerto, why can’t he? All ink-smeared and sleep derived, once again, Sato Takeru has turned into the hero you’d root for.

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Casting Agents Should be Careful Whom to Cast opposite Ryunosuke Kamiki : This rule applies to every film/drama he’s in.

Critics commend Kamiki Ryunosuke for being able to match Takeru’s energy but I think it’s the other way around. Generally, when Kamiki plays supporting roles, it’s the lead who has to keep up with him. He is just naturally good at whatever he does, making him a highly effective deuteragonist. The outcome depends on the lead star’s ability to carry the role.

If the main actor isn’t capable, then he’d crush him with his natural acting abilities in no time. In Kamisama no Iutoori, Fukushi Sota’s lack of expressive eyes allowed Kamiki to steal the spotlight right on the onset. In Bakuman, since he and Takeru have been together in Amuse, are friends in real life, and are equally good actors, they’re able to complement each other and create the same intensity of the bromance in the manga.

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And when you’ve got talented young actors who played skilled swordsmen Himura Kenshin and Seta Soujiro together, going head-to-head against Kiseijuu lead Shinichi Izumi, there’s no way there wouldn’t be a battle scene in this film. This time, instead of swords, they’ve got giant pens spewing ink in manga frames. Definitely an ingenious physical representation of their battle to take the number 1 spot.

I just didn’t like the way the movie turned Niizuma Eiji into a Ei-jerk. He’s my personal favorite and this poll on Bakuman’s wikia site proves that he’s neck and neck with Saiko as most people’s choice.

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From accent to mannerisms, Shota Sometani’s performance was spot on and I love him to bits; but this live action version is a tad manlier and douchier than the childlike and eccentric Eiji. His scenes while drawing with his trademark sound effects in his dark lair were shot with some antagonistic vibes. I felt bad for Saiko when Eiji stepped in to draw the eyes of his own heroine for him. It was condescending when in fact Eiji is supposed to be a fan of Ashirogi Muto (Saiko and Shujin’s pen name). Saiko actually values his opinions and even tried to learn something from him when he agreed to be an assistant for Crow. Even Fukuda recognizes his talent and addresses him as “Master Niizuma”. In the movie, Fukuda called him a brat.

Eiji is originally oblivious towards the other rivals and he actually gets all excited knowing that he’d have same-age “friends” like Saiko and Shujin working together with him while competing against him at Shonen Jump. Eiji’s a weird but adorable character just like L in Death Note. Had his character been developed the exact same way as he was in the manga, Shota Sometani could’ve been remembered as Eiji more than Shinichi just as people will always remember Kenichi Matsuyama as L.

b4.jpgTakayuki Yamada seems overqualified to play Akira Hattori. He’s too good-looking for his role so that’s probably why his version of Hattori is somewhat dorkier than the calm and calculating one in the series.

Despite the limited screen time, he managed to show his versatility in his dramatic scene with Kamiki. Aside from Sion Sono’s Shinjuku Swan, he will also star in a couple more live action movies for next year: Nobunaga Concerto and TerraFormars.

b5Takayuki’s Crows Zero bff Tokio played Fukuda with his usual badass, rockstar aura. If Eiji is like Death Note‘s L, Fukuda is like Mello. They both have the tendency to throw tantrums and resort to violence when things don’t go their way. Kiritani Kenta have always been effortless when it comes to “cool” characters since Beck.  

He’s included in the cast of Too Young to Die! which stars Kamiki Ryunosuke. This upcoming film is written and directed by Kudo Kankuro who’s playing Saiko’s uncle Nobuhiro Mashiro in Bakuman. 

bakuman-movie-poster-and-date-revealed6If there’s one rival who induced laughs in the theater as much as Saiko did, then it’s Hirofumi Arai’s Kazuya Hiramaru. His money obsession and obvious laziness were magnified.

Though he’s also a genius, he is somewhat different from Eiji. Eiji’s been drawing since he was young and hasn’t let go of his pencil since. Kazuya, on the other hand, just happened to pick a manga on the metro and thought he could make a living out of it. 

 

When it comes to manga, deadline is your worst enemy. The sleepless nights and constant stress could take its toll on one’s health, just as what it did to Saiko’s hardworking uncle. Saiko saw the downside of being a mangaka and in those dark times, Sasaki was his uncle’s editor. Much to Saiko’s annoyance, the latter is now Shonen Jump’s chief editor. The person he blames for his uncle’s death in the past is the same person he needs to impress now.

The film’s weakest point is probably the romantic part. For some reason, when it comes to Sato Takeru’s projects, I’m just not buying the romance. It doesn’t help that even in the original, I am more interested in Shujin and Miyoshi’s love story than Saiko and Azuki’s. 

b2 Nana Komatsu is Miho Azuki, an aspiring seiyuu who works hard to achieve her dream so that she could get to play the heroine’s voice once Saiko and Shujin’s manga gets adapted into an anime. Nana has a mesmerizing presence, it’s quite understandable that Mashiro fell head over heels with her even without the whole childhood sweetheart backstory. However, just like Eiji, Miho’s character also took a different path towards the end.

I never really liked her anyway. I prefer her best friend Miyoshi’s personality. Sadly, this character was written out of the live action.  

The changes in some of the characters’ personalities were quite a a big deal for me and the movie’s ending was a bit anti-climactic when reality sets in after the victory. With the use of an effective video montage storytelling, exquisite artworks, sly humor, manga references, and an energetic soundtrack; the movie sends a strong message in the most entertaining and uplifting way. Who would’ve thought that a slice-of-life could be this lively.

I flew all the way to Singapore to watch this film and just as this review said: Bakuman is worth one’s time and money !

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