Mashiro is going to be a mangaka so that he can marry the girl of his dreams. He is talked into this life by his friend Takagi who plans on writing the manga while Mashiro draws it.
Moritaka grew up loving to draw, something that he took from his uncle who was a mangaka. He used to hang out at his uncle's studio after school and during all of his free time, listening to him give lessons on how to be a mangaka and what it meant. However after his uncle's series was canceled he worked desperately to get another hit, which eventually caused him to work himself to death. Moritaka drifted away from his love of art after this and while he continued to draw and improve, he no longer dreamed of becoming a mangaka. From then on the only thing that really interested him was a girl in his class named Miho Azuki, who he had had a crush on for years ever since they locked eyes at a swim meet. Little did he know that she actually felt the same way about him, but both of them were too scared to ever say anything.
Moritaka was created by the team of Takeshi Obata and Tsugumi Ohba, the same team behind the popular series Death Note. In Bakuman, Moritaka teams up with Akito Takagi to become a mangaka team, with Akito writing it and Moritaka drawing it. Because of this it is theorized that both these characters were in some way based on the series's own creators. If that is the case then it means that Moritaka's creation came from Takeshi Obata, the series's artist, and it can be seen in the way that many of the compliments Moritaka gets for his art are similar to the ones that critics use to describe Takeshi's own works.
Major Story Arcs
The Birth of a Partnership
One day Moritaka was sitting in his classroom drawing a picture of Miho, the girl he had held a crush on for years, it was meant to just be a random doodle that would never see the light of day again. However her forgot to take the photo with him and when he ran back to the classroom to get the paper he found Akito Takagi, the smartest kid in class, sitting there with the paper. He was worried that Akito would tell everyone what he had done, but instead he brought forth a rather intrigue proposal, that the two of them should team up to create a manga. Moritaka refused, knowing about how his uncle had always told him that becoming a mangaka was a complete gamble and would most likely lead to the poor house, and he knew from first hand experience the toll it could take after his uncle worked himself to death trying to get a series off the ground. However when he got home all Moritaka could do was think about whether or not he had made the right decision, if perhaps he should have taken Akito up on his offer.
A confession of love
Later that night Akito called Moritaka up and asked him to meet him. He met in front of someone's house, not exactly sure who it belonged to. When the door opened he was shocked to see that Miho was standing there. Akito revealed that he had found out that Miho's dream was to become a voice actress, and after hearing this Moritaka couldn't hold it in any longer, he had to tell her how he felt. He told her that he had liked her for years, and he asked if he could create a manga that became an anime, then she could do the voices in it, and if that happened then could they be together. She agreed and swore that when that day came then they would marry each other. However, in order to encourage each other to achieve their goals, she didn't want to speak with him until that day came except through emails and text messages. Moritaka was stunned, this was the exact same relationship that his uncle had had with the girl he loved when he was his age, writing letters back and forth to each other, however he believed that his story would end differently, that they would be together no matter what.
However there was still one obstacle in his way, Moritaka had to speak with his family and get their permission to pursue his dream. He knew it wouldn't be easy since his uncle had died trying to get a manga made. However when he asked his grandfather, he saw in Moritaka what he saw in his own son, and he knew that he could not stand in the way of his dream. He gave Moritaka the keys to his uncle's old studio, and the new team now had a base of operations. They quickly began working on ideas for new series they could create while Moritaka started practicing to make his art as good as possible.
They entered into a contest their first idea, a one shot about a world where people's intelligence could be bought, the one shot was entitled "Money and Intelligence" and it placed very well in the contest, showing everyone what kind of skills these two had. They decided that with this it was time to try and use their success to get an editor. They called up Shonen Jump and got an appointment with the editor Akira Hattori. He liked their works so much that he agreed to help them out and gave them his card, asking them to call him whenever they wanted to work on something.
Their relationship is long distance even when together
It seemed that everything was working out for the duo, although at school things were becoming more complicated as Moritaka and Miho were assigned to sit at the same desk at school. This was going to make things more difficult for them to hold up their promise to not talk to each other until their dreams were met. They were still able to have fun together, as Moritaka would draw doodles in his notebook to make her laugh and they would write notes back and forth to each other. However one day he asked her through his notes if they really had to wait until their dreams were achieved to be together. After seeing this Miho began to tear up and she wrote back that their dreams were too important and that it meant too much to them to not achieve them, so it was important for her to wait. With that he agreed.
After a few more months of coming up with ideas for series, typically trying to create a battle manga, Moritaka suffered a loss as Miho had to move away. However they continued to stay in touch through text and emails like they had planned, but he still missed her at school. Meanwhile, while Moritaka was losing his girl, his partner Akito was getting closer to Kaya and it was beginning to interfere with their work. Moritaka decided to give Akito an ultimatum, he had to come up with an idea for a manga by the end of the summer break, or else their partnership was over.
Moritaka is hard at work on his new idea, "Detective Trap"
During this time Moritaka went off to become an assistant for their rival, Eiji Niizuma, the prodigal creator of the series Crow. It was here that he met Shinta Fukuda and Takuro Nakai, his two other assistants. Through talking to them they started thinking about what was wrong with the manga industry today, and together the four of them swore that they'd reach the top and change the industry from the inside. He also received some good advice from Eiji, which is to look back at what he drew as a child and think about what he wants to create from what inspired him back then. He found some old drawings and remembered when he was a kid he used to draw a character who was a detective that used traps to solve his cases. When the summer was over he believed this was what he should be doing a series on, only to be shocked to discover that Akito had been hard at work on a new idea, an idea about a detective as well. He knew that the two of them were destined to be partners, because even when they weren't together they were in sync.
Moritaka and Akito submit their series Detective Trap to the next serialization meeting and they are accepted, the two of them are now official mangakas for Shonen Jump. However it comes with a bit of a shock as they learn that now they have to be assigned an official editor, and it's not going to be Hattori. Instead they get the energetic rookie Goro Miura, who does support them and pushes them forward, however he just isn't in sync with them the way Hattori was. However he does introduce them to what comes with being a mangaka, including getting your own team of assistants to help you draw it. Moritaka feels a little uneasy with having new assistants and having strangers in his home working on his material, especially since one of them is so much older than him with a wife and kid, but he eventually gets used to it and even makes friends with the quiet and shy Shoyo Takahama.
The series starts off low in the ratings but slowly starts to build an audience and climbs up till it's matching Crow. However the stress of making a series as well as being a high school student is too much for him as he eventually collapses from stress. He is taken to the hospital and it's revealed he has a liver infection and he might not be able to continue his series. However Moritaka isn't about to give up on his dream as he insist on continuing to draw even in the hospital, but unfortunately the Editor in Chief of Shonen Jump, Hisashi Sasaki comes into the hospital and tells him that until he gets out of the hospital he is putting Detective Trap on hiatus. He says that he knew Moritaka's uncle, and he won't let what happened to him happen to Moritaka as well.
Miho and Moritaka work towards their dream
Moritaka refuses to take this and he keeps drawing, even with his parents and the nurses telling him to stop, that he should just sit there and recover. Even Akito would not stop him as he realized how important this was to his partner, so Akito's girlfriend Kaya did the only thing she could and called up Miho and told her that she had to break her promise to not talk to or see him, she had to come down and try to stop him. Miho realized she had to do it and she came down there and spoke to him from behind a wall in order to try and keep at least part of their plan in place. However after hearing him in pain and hearing that he was not going to stop drawing no matter what, she had to go inside and see him. Everyone started telling him to stop, but after seeing how determined he was she picked him back up and held Moritaka's hand in his and started drawing the manga along with him.
He continued working on his series without realizing that outside of the hospital, all of his fellow Mangaka were hard at work trying to convince the Editor in Chief to reinstate his series, and that he could still keep working on it. Even his editor Miura was running back and forth trying to convince everyone that he would never stop drawing. When the day came that he finally left the hospital, he and Akito walked right into the Sasaki's office and presented to him all the chapters they had drawn while he was in the hospital, almost enough to last for the rest of high school. Sasaki decides that starting immediately he will reinstate Detective Trap. However, it took them a long time to build up a fan base the first time they started the manga, so when they had to come back this second time they were unable to get all their followers back. The ratings dropped due to their hiatus and they were eventually canceled.
Run Daihatsu Tanto
Moritaka is depressed over the cancellation of Detective Trap, however after he tells Miho about this she says it's fine and that she believes in him and she'll wait as long as it takes, however she'd still like to get married before she's forty. After hearing this he is energized and wants to charge back into another series. Miura helps them out with this by giving suggestions as their editor, however he suggest that they try doing a gag manga next, which Moritaka doesn't believe is their strong suit and his uncle working on a gag manga which brings back bad memories Akito on the other hand is flattered by this idea at first when Miura tells him he writes great comedy. Afterwards Akito snaps out of it they realize that they should prove to Miura that a gag manga isn't their specialty, by writing two one shots, one that's a gag and one that's a serious science fiction story, whichever does better is the one that they'll do. They submit the gag manga and it comes in 10th, and they believe they've got it made, however their serious manga comes in 9th, so even though they won they are shocked that they didn't come in higher. Miura tries to convince them that they should still do a gag series, but Akito says that Moritaka shouldn't draw a gag series, it doesn't suit him, which causes Miura to suggest Akito should work with someone else. Akito is furious and storms out of the room saying he can't work with Miura anymore. Moritaka, after seeing this, suggest that they give the gag manga a shot to try and mend the fences.
After seeing how sorry Miura was they agree to do a gag manga, but only if it can be something that was targeted at kids. They come up with the series Run Daihatsu Tanto, about a boy whose grandfather is a mad scientist and he gets to try out his inventions for him. The series is accepted and they begin work on it, only for them to quickly discover that they don't really like doing a gag manga. It never really reaches very high in the rankings and Akito is stressed out trying to come up with ways to keep it popular, however because there aren't many gag mangas or series aimed at kids in Jump they know that no matter how bad it gets they're not going to get canceled.
Moritaka realizes Tanto isn't the series he should be doing
Moritaka suffers almost more than Akito from this series as one night Eiji Niizuma proclaims on television that his rival is Ashirogi Muto, and that that's the mangaka he wants to beat. It was almost like he was calling Akito and Moritaka out and it makes Moritaka realize he will never be able to match Eiji with this series. He picks up the phone and calls Miho and starts crying to her that he wants to quit this series because it will never be good enough and it's not what he or Akito wants. A few days later, at Akito and Kaya's wedding, Hattori gives a speech there that is basically a coded message telling them to quit the series. Moritaka meets him outside of the reception hall and asks him to come right out and tell him if he thinks the series is good enough and he tells Moritaka that it isn't. Taking this tough love Moritaka and Akito go to the editor in chief and make a deal with him, they want to quit the series and he allows them to do this, but they only get one more chance at a series in Shonen Jump, and it can't just be a good series, it has to be a series that can compete with Eiji Niizuma, it must be a series that before the next serialization meeting beats one of his two series in the rankings.
"Perfect Crime Party"
They only have one more chance to make a successful manga and Miura begins to give them some advice, telling them to submit "Money and Intelligence" again but with another element thrown in. The series isn't picked up so he next tells them to try a serious battle manga, and when they asks why he tells them it's because they've never seriously tried it. Moritaka sees the look in his eyes and realizes how serious he is about it, so they give it a try. This series isn't accepted either and Miura says it's for the best because it wasn't good enough to beat Eiji anyways, a comment that angers Akito, but Moritaka just smiles and says it shows how much Miura has changed and how good of an editor he's become. However, after this they only have one more chance to get a series in, and Miura reveals that he's been working with Hattori to come up with ideas. The two editors help out the two mangakas telling them what they need to do for their next series, and after Akito and Moritaka go out to investigate Hattori to get ideas, they realize that they should create a series about committing "the perfect crime."
Moritaka visits his uncle's grave
They work on this new series, a series about a group of elementary school students who work to commit perfect crimes, crimes that tend to help people rather than hurt them. The series is almost rejected because they don't feel that it's good enough to beat Eiji, but the editors decide to give it a shot. They have time before the first issue comes out so Moritaka keeps working hard at it, redesigning it and redrawing it over and over, coming up with new looks for the characters or new styles for them several times before it finally goes into publication. The first issue of the series comes out and they learn that it's going up against a one shot by Fukuda as well. However this first chapter is able to beat him and Eiji and comes in first place by over one hundred votes. Moritaka is so excited by this that he takes the rankings down to his uncle's grave site and holds it up to the grave in the belief that it will give his uncle's spirit some rest.
However not all is going well for Moritaka, he still has to get the rankings for the series to stay up, because if it doesn't beat out either +Natural or Crow before the next serialization meeting with a regular chapter, then they'll be canceled, and neither Eiji nor the author of +Natural, Aiko Iwase, are pulling their punches. Eiji puts out an issue of Crow that has no dialogue and the story is told through the action, and +Natural is about to get it's own anime. And to make things worse, Miho Azuki is one of the actresses being considered for the lead female character in the show. Moritaka doesn't know if he should stop her because it is something that could really further her career, but as her fiance he doesn't want her to work on the show of his rival.
Moritaka rescues Miho
At the audition Miho tells Iwase that she just came in to tell Iwase that she would not be a part of this show. Iwase is angered that she was rejected, however before the conversation goes further Moritaka runs into the studio and grabs Miho's hand and runs out. He apologizes to her for this but she tells him that she already turned the part down. He grows nervous and lets go of her hand, but she says she'd actually like it if they continued holding hands until she reached her home on the train. As Moritaka is saying goodbye to her she tells him that the next time they meet she would like it if they kissed.
Moritaka and Akito continue to work hard on Perfect Crime Party from there on, and with only one issue left before the deadline, they are able to overtake +Natural in the ratings, meaning their series will be saved. They even find out that they're going to get a drama CD made for their series, and Moritaka gets Miho to do the voice of the main female character, meaning they're almost there to achieving their dream. However they run into a snag, as they bring up the idea of an anime to Hattori, and he tells them that no matter how popular it is the odds of them getting an anime is slim because the characters are children committing crimes that could be mimicked. He tells them that if they really want an anime then they have to think of that while planning their series.
Super Leader's Love Fest
Moritaka declares his goal
Moritaka feels like he's let Miho down with this, that he now has to work so hard on PCP and that it won't become an anime as they planned. He thinks about Eiji and how he is drawing two series, and he realizes if he's going to be his rival, then he must learn how to draw faster, he must become a fast enough artist that he can draw two series a week. He immediately begins training but he doesn't appear to be improving as much as he'd have hoped. Meanwhile, without knowing it, him running in and saving Miho at the audition inspired his rival Eiji to try his hand at drawing a one shot romance story. Several other artist and rivals of Moritaka's also plan on doing romance once shots around the same time, so a challenge is issued out to the top creators at Jump, a challenge to come up with a one shot comic themed around romance, which will be called the Super Leader's Love Fest. Moritaka realizes this is his chance to get everyone's attention with another series.
He is eager to start work on this series with Akito, however he's not the only one working on a project. Their new assistant Shun is working on his own series, and while he's got what it takes when it comes to art, Akito has to assist him to so that the stories are any good. After witnessing how cruel Shun's family is and how much they want to stop him from being a mangaka, Akito swears to team up with Shun to make him a mangaka they'll be proud of. Moritaka is proud of this at first, however he quickly realizes that this means he's abandoning Moritaka and the Super Leader's Love Fest. It almost begins to look like they're partnership is about to break up, however after a few weeks Akito returns and says he was merely teaching Shun how to write a proper story, and now that he can write the stories by himself he can get back to the Super Leader's Love Fest and their series. Moritaka is glad that they're back together, but he feels bad that he doubted him so he asks that he punches him in order to make up for it. They agree to have a fight, just to get all the tension out and to experience what it's like to be young. The fight is interrupted by Kaya, but they are glad to be friends again.
Together they work on their one shot "A Brief Time" which is based on the story of Moritaka and Miho, and how ever since they were kids they caught each other's eyes, how she loved his art, and how neither of them were able to tell each other how much the short time together they had meant. They feel that they've got it made when they see that Eiji's chapter comes in far behind expectations and they learn he has a weakness, that he can't write romance. Unfortunately, it turns out it isn't their forte as well as they come in fourth in the competition.
Life as a Successful Mangaka
Akito and Moritaka now begin to experience what it's like to live life as a successful mangaka, including having people trying to overthrow you. Toru Nanamine, a former fan of Detective Trap who used to send them tons of fan mail, has now written his own manga and had it accepted into Shonen Jump. However he only has one goal in mind, to crush Ashirogi Muto, to him this would be absolute proof that he is the best mangaka around. They accept his challenge, especially after hearing that none of his ideas are his own, that he's just taking ideas from fifty people online who help him write his series.
Moritaka begs Nakai to come back to manga
It doesn't take them long to see his ratings start to fall, proving that they're the superior artist and writers, however there is something that leaves Moritaka feeling uneasy. The artwork in Nanamine's series is just too familiar, especially the backgrounds. He remembers that his old friend Nakai specialized in drawing backgrounds and the styles are just too similar. He founds out at the next New Years Party that it was indeed Nakai drawing these chapters. Moritaka along with Fukuda are able to find Nakai doing sketches on the street for tourist. One pretty woman asks him to come with her to do some private drawings and he goes along with her. Moritaka begs him to come back, he asks him whatever happened to his dream of becoming a great mangaka star, but Nakai just leaves. Later that night Nakai shows up, drunk, at the apartment of Aoki, the woman he used to love. However this time he is there only for revenge, saying he gave up his youth to draw manga and it was after he met her that it all fell apart. After revealing this, his rival in love, Hiramaru breaks down and asks him to be his assistant.
Manga keeps Moritaka from the real world
Moritaka is glad that this crisis is averted but he can't help but think about what it means to have given up your youth to draw manga. He thinks about it even more now that his elementary school reunion is coming up. He goes there and is the big star of the reunion, giving out autographs, sketches, and having everyone cozy up to him. However, later in the evening they ask him if he goes out to lots of parties and he says he has to stay at home most nights to draw, then they ask if he'd like to go skiing with them in a month, and he says he can't because he could injure his hands. It's then that he realizes he is separated from everyone his own age, he doesn't get to go out and have fun like the rest of them, that he really did miss out on the fun of youth because of how much time he put into his art. However, after speaking with Akito later that night, both of them realize they wouldn't have done anything different, and that they love their lives as they are.
The End of Crow and One Last Chance
Ever since they began their career as mangakas, Moritaka and Akito had one goal in mind, to surpass Eiji and his series Crow. However after Eiji starts taking the number one spot in Shone Jump, he says he's doing it because he wanted to end the series on top. If Crow can be in the number one slot for ten weeks in a row then he will cancel the series. Moritaka doesn't want to let the series go out before he finally gets to beat it, so he and the rest of Team Fukuda swear that they won't let it happen, this is their last chance to beat Eiji and they're going to make it happen.
They are able to arrange to have their chapter right before the big final chance to stop Eiji to have a color cover, which they believe will give them an advantage. But they must go further, so for the first time in their history they plan on using the color page as part of the plot, having a twist in their story that must involve the colors on this cover. The big day comes around and this chapter ends up tying with Fukuda's series for second place, only 17 votes away from defeating Eiji.