Bakuman is a seventy-five episode, three-season long anime series based on the manga of the same name by writer Tsugumi Ohba and artist Takeshi Obata. Off the bat, you might recognise the duo as the same team behind Death Note. But don't expect anything similar to that series though, Bakuman is different and unique. And that's largely in a good way.
Bakuman follows the story of teenagers Mashiro Morikata and Akito Takagi, a duo who set out to become successful Mangaka in Japan's thriving but ferociously competitive Manga industry. Mashiro's own uncle was a Mangaka who worked himself to death, something that made Mashiro hesitant about setting out on this path. But a promise made to his long-time crush Miho Azuki gives Mashiro renewed confidence and he sets his sight on making a manga that will go onto have its own anime series in which Miho will work as a voice actor. At this point you realise this is an anime based on a manga about making a manga that would get made into an anime. If there was ever a time for those Inception jokes, this is now.
Using the pseudonym of Ashirogi Muto, the team of Mashiro the artist, and Akito the writer, start on their journey to make it in the manga world. They get a lucky break as their early demos are picked up by an editor from Shuisha's Weekly Shonen Jump, the biggest manga magazine in the country. But while the start is easy for them, the quest from that point on becomes more and more difficult. Struggling to figure out just what kind of manga would give them lasting popularity and success, the duo go through various ideas and genres.
The story is very colourful and part of that is thanks to the vast assortment of characters on show, most of whom are young manga artists themselves. Ashirogi Muto's main rival is Neiji Izuma, a prodigy who gets his own big time manga series despite still being in school. Neiji is eccentric and probably a bit clichéd too but he is an entertaining presence nonetheless. There are other young mangaka who are all struggling to make their name and the arsenal of characters will give you an interesting and largely amusing look into the lives of urban Japanese youth.
The downside to the story is that after a while, it gets repetitive. The story itself was a novel concept but watching the duo go through ups and downs over and over again can get a bit boring after a while. But the manga's successful 150+ chapter run meant that any anime adaptation would be pretty long itself. Even if the story does run into a few plateaus, the characters remain vibrant enough to keep you interested.
The ending is more or less predictable. But the journey itself is quite enjoyable. If you want a casual slice of life story that actually has purpose, give Bakuman a go.