Otter no. 11: So Many Yoshidas in Japan (#9) – Tsugumi Ohba (writing as Kazuya Hiramaru)

4 out of 5

This was a bonus comic included with the Bakuman boxset, giving us a full chapter’s worth of the in-universe Otter no. 11, the non-sequitor comic written and drawn by Hiramaru.

It’s honestly quite perfect – Otter no. 11 has a hilariously drawn out flashback (that gets 4th-wall commented on) as to how he became “Publicity department 1 manager Otter no. 11” at Flat Sail Marine Industries, and we get a sense of the ridiculous plottings that would’ve allowed the series to go on: how Otter is used to misleadingly hock products Chinese-made products as Japanese-made ones for the company, and how his rage eventually leads to… being hired by the government as (we can assume) some type of assassin. His hands turn into rocks. He has a baby with a human face, as opposed to his human body with an otter face. This stuff is magic, and you gotta love how dedicated Ohba (and Obata) are to this gag. Of course, it’s also borne out of how good the gag is: from the moment Hiramaru started talking about Otter in Bakuman, it was clear Ohba was having a good time with the idea, and the snippets Obata would give us were delightful nonsequitorial nonsense. As a bonus on this bonus, we get some also in-universe easter egg references to Hiramaru himself, complaining about his workload (and obviously his editor) within the strip – very meta stuff, that.

So… 4 out of 5? Well, dumbly, Otter no. 11 wasn’t supposed to look very good visually, and it’s true that Obata leaves things a little stiff, but still – he can’t help himself from raising it up to a certain quality, and / or the duo didn’t want to do a full comic’s worth of bad drawings. Still, though, to really make this seem like it’s a work of Hiramaru, I had expected / wanted it to be a bit more amateurish looking, just as another layer on the joke.