Death Note has been through the ringer since its glory days — we have tried and failed to forget its misguided Netflix adaptation, for instance. But the original manga, the first series from collaborators Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata, remains a classic of the medium. The creators’ slice-of-life, low-stakes follow-up, Bakuman, which ran in Shonen Jump from 2008-2012, has little in common with its predecessor on a story level. And that is absolutely not a bad thing, because the pair still mine something with it that’s as engaging as their murder-mystery debut.
Thanks to a Shonen Jump promotion, you can now discover the unique greatness of Bakuman for yourself. All 20 volumes of the manga are free to read through Shonen Jump’s website and app, from now through Oct. 31. The campaign is tied to Jump Paint, the manga magazine’s comic-creation app, which recently celebrated its millionth download.
Putting Bakuman online for free is an appropriate way to commemorate the milestone. This is what to expect for Death Note fans curious about the series: Two high schoolers, Akito and Mashiro, share a love of manga (and girls). Their hopes of making it big lead them to scoring a deal with Shonen Jump, which is a fun meta reference for readers. From there, Bakuman trades in Death Note’s bizarro detectives for quirky, rival manga artists; toxic relationships for teenage love interests; and lots of love for lots of death. What comes out in the end is a sweet, funny page-turner that reveals the ups and downs of making it big in manga.
There’s a bunch to flip through before the promotion ends next Wednesday. But just as Death Note is gripping from the start, so too is Bakuman. Just in a completely different, far more low-key way.