In Visualization and Imagination, an Amazing Arc Gets a Great Grace Note (Chapter 88)

Hallo, and welcome to my read-through of Bakuman Chapter 88: Visualization and Imagination, in which Hattori is relatable, Miura is casually sexist, and things are generally good.

If you’re not caught up, please use this index here to catch up. There are no spoilers past the current chapter, so you won’t be spoiled – unless you are reading this chapter prematurely, which, uh, no judgment. I do that sometimes.

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Visualization and Imagination Summary

Hattori’s Crisis

Hattori wonders if it’s ok for him to be the boy’s editor. Yujiro knows that’s what he wanted, so he doesn’t understand the issue. Hattori is afraid that it feels like his work with Iwase and Nizuma or his advice to Miura will seem like an angle to get what he wanted rather than doing those things for their own sake. Even if that’s not true.

Yujiro correctly points out that Hattori is wayyy too in his own head about this and that the boss’s decision is final, regardless. Hattori, wracked with guilt, decides to talk to the editor-in-chief about it.

Meanwhile, Fukuda is malingering over the fact that Ashirogi’s serialization means they’ve got something that can rival Nizuma. Yasuoka asks to leave, but Fukuda feels like he’s done creatively with Kiyoshi. Yasuoka points out he HAS done everything he set out to do, from the H-1 to the Tag Tournament.

Fukuda vows to make a new one-shot over his break and throw his effort into a new series. Yasuoka is…not thrilled to hear this news, but Fukuda is in a rage since he’s consistently lower than Hiramaru and Eiji while being the leader of Team Fukuda, which ain’t ok in his books. Yasuoka mourns the loss of his break as Fukuda calls his editor.

Visualization and Imagination: Hattori's concerns as an editor.

The Deal

When Hattori approaches Sasaki, he’s given a deadline: Six Months. Six Months for Perfect Crime Club to surpass Nizuma. If their series falls to an extremely low rank by Chapter 7, they’ll get canned, no question. But if they can maintain their ranking comparable to Nizuma and Iwase by Chapter 25, he’ll let the series remain in print.

Hattori confirms that he has six months to whip the boys up to shape. Sasaki winks at Hattori, and Hattori is too intimidated to bring up his concerns.

Miura and Yujiro talk about Hattori’s earnestness and how it motivated his desire to help Ashirogi and contributes to his current guilt. Miura has empathy for Hattori’s perspective. Miura, however, knows how the boys feel and thinks their feelings will help cheer Hattori up.

Miura asks for Hattori to come with him to tell Ashirogi about the changing of the guard. They’ve been waiting a long time for him. Yujiro praises Miura’s canniness and Hattori agrees, seemingly chilling out a bit.

Otter Dolls and Aoki

Hiramaru’s time for a little sleep is interrupted by the announcement of Ashirogi’s serialization. Hiramaru is nonplussed and fine with mediocrity. Yoshida has some other news which Hiramaru hopes is a date with Aoki, but is actually the success of the Otter Dolls selling like hotcakes. Otter No. 11 has been breaking late-night anime records, and Hiramaru may be looking at an unending series with a true otter boom. Hiramaru is jazzed by the concept of girls, young and old, liking him before Yoshida points out that he thought Aoki was the only one for him.

Hiramaru confirms this totally true fact before Yoshida provides him with the Aoki tidbit of the week: she wants one of those otter dolls. Hiramaru is over the moon with this news because it means his work is truly popular. Hiramaru plans to autograph and give her every edition before Yoshida points out that she wants her editor to bring it.

At the same moment, Aoki calls Hiramaru. She congratulates him on the success of his anime and awkwardly mentions her interest in a secret version of the otter doll where he’s in pajamas with his tail sticking out; it can also switch his fists for limestones.

Otter sounds wild, man.

Hiramaru’s excited up until the moment when Aoki explains that one of her assistants wants to have one, but before Hiramaru can yell at Yoshida for his tidbit, Yoshida has already departed the premises.

A Change of the Guard

At the studio, Miura congratulates the boys on their new series. The boys are eager to work with Hattori too, who seems more muted about the whole experience. Shujin and Saiko were revising Chapter one before they arrived. Hattori thinks they’ll get first place with Chapter One.

Shujin’s all bluster given their recent success, thinking it’s a given, given that the editorial team OK’d the series; Hattori shuts that down quickly and explains that there was a vote on whether they would be nizuma: they lost 4 to 3 but were given a series because it was close.

The boys are stunned by this development, although Hattori is unsurprised. They think that minor revisions won’t be enough at this point and that they’re going to redo it entirely.

Hattori and Miura panic, but Hattori sees they haven’t changed a bit. Miura calms them down by reassuring them it was close, they don’t have time for this, and the proper thing to do is work on the approved first chapter. The boys are not mollified and spring into action, their first deadline being February.

Visualization and Imagination: Otter No. 11's doll

Shujin jumps to action to compare their work with Crow and +Natural. Miura doesn’t see the point of that since they are totally different writers, but Hattori thinks they should try everything.\

Visual Representation

As they pore over the manga, Shujin asks Hattori what they lack. He thinks it’s the visual interpretation. He means perspective, placement, and the use of sound effects; oh, also, the gestural work of Nizuma is more expressive and dynamic with more refined lines that are easy to understand. he gets into the characters when he draws them.

So, basically everything.

Hattori points out it was close because the boys got engaged with the character this time, but Saiko’s skill lies in realistic rendering, which works in context, and Shujin has a ton of ideas. The story is unpredictable. Hattori has a flash of insight and runs to the office to grab the written story of +Natural.

The boys question whether that’s ok, but Hattori assures them that Akina would love it.

Miura is relieved to find Hattori returning to normal, even running back to Jump’s office to get a book.

Nizuma’s Imagination

Hattori returns with the novelization of +Natural which will be coming out later but is actually the script Iwase hands over to Nizuma. Upon reading it, Saiko is more impressed with Nizuma’s imagination. He explains that to pull the world he has out of this text requires an incredible amount of imagination in addition to his layout and design skills.

Hattori notices that Nizuma has removed or added scenes and made his own manga.

Then there are the pauses. I.E., Panels with no dialogue, just background, silent close-ups. These panels don’t move the story along but let the reader’s imagination run wild. Hattori is impressed by their observational abilities.

Ohba Shujin recognizes that he doesn’t put in any of those panels himself before Saiko corrects him: he hasn’t put them in intentionally. But not enough. Hattori wants them to keep it in mind moving forward.

Miura feels left in the dirt by this high-level conversation and foresees them surpassing +Natural in no time.

Miura’s Departure

Miura breaks their brainstorm to depart, and Hattori apologizes for starting before Miura officially lets them do so. Miura’s fine with it, though, seeing Hattori’s mood go back to normal.

The boys bow and formally thank Miura for all his help, and they hope to work with him again someday. Miura plays it off and peaces out, promising to do his best.

Awww….I don’t feel the same, but awww.

As Miura leaves, Hattori thanks him. Hattori is glad he’s here now, as it cleared his mind. Miura makes a joke about seniority and how Hattori should have helped him meet Iwase. Miura is getting embarrassed and tired of looking cool, so he leaves and promises to Hattori to work hard on +Natural. Although as he leaves, he realizes he going to need to work super hard.

Pauses and Text

Hattori gives them notes on pauses and redoing the story to incorporate them, making the characters more emotionally relatable. Shujin promises to work to the deadline, but Hattori cautions them not to overdo it.

Saiko wonders how he can expand his imagination.

Hattori also reminds them that despite likely getting first place, the margin by which they get first place matters. The boys decide that Shujin will redo the storyboards while Saiko works on color pages.

Visualization and Imagination: silent panels with no dialogue

Two days later, Shujin struggles to connect with the characters and find places to pause. Saiko wonders if it’s that difficult, especially because Saiko’s storyboard is so clean and good no matter how many times he’s read it.

Saiko reads +Natural and speculates on Nizuma’s effortless work before having a realization.

Hattori gets a call from Shujin about Saiko’s crazy idea that Shujin wants Hattori’s input on. Hattori hops to it.

Shujin explains that Saiko wants him to hand in a written story, not a storyboard. Shujin wonders if that would be a step back for him. Hattori is all aboard with this idea, though.

Saiko explains that he’ll be able to exercise his imagination more if the story is just written; the fixed image makes him feel beholden to it, but if it’s just words, he can do whatever he wants. He can decide where to pause, and Shujin’s already got a grasp of the basics anyway.

But he’ll only do it if Takagi agrees to it, and he won’t guarantee a better manga.

Hattori thinks it’s worth a try and asks if they can meet the deadline in time.

Shujin himself has a realization: with writing, he can get into the emotional side of the characters, and with Hattori’s approval, he’s more open to the idea. Hattori is certain that with their chemistry, they will be able to come out on top.

Meanwhile, Miura immediately gets in Iwase’s bad graces by complimenting her on her looks and already engaging in some light sexual harassment. Sigh.

She promises to report him for that shit if he does it again. She also reiterates a promise to herself: given that she was “dumped” by Hattori and Shujin, she will never lose to them again.

She foreswears love entirely and vows to be the best writer in the biz. She wants Miura to keep that in mind, which he promises to do, although terrified at the prospect.

With that, the chapter – and Volume – conclude.

Visualization and Imagination Reaction

Another winning chapter

Man, if the next volume is anything like this one, I’m going to be boring as a critic but very satisfied as a reader because finally, finally, FINALLY, we had a dramatically satisfying arc that was directly narratively relevant and didn’t require an excess of stupidity, poor decision making, or devil/deus ex machina to finish out.

I’m so happy, man.

And that is in no small part because the point, again, is Manga. I’m pretty sure there will be other narrative diversions – especially once the inevitable anime gets produced – and I’m sure there will also be some casual and blatant misogyny. And there is some here, unfortunately.

But man, let me savor this shit.

Because we finally got what I’ve wanted for about 50ish chapters: Ashirogi x Hattori, and man, it was everything I wanted. And more. AND MORE, I SAY.

Hattori’s relatability

I found Hattori’s conflict due to his earnestness more relatable and charming over any other potential modifiers. And that is because I have a similar earnest streak, and I am periodically sneaky – not in, like, a criminal way, mind you – so when I get things I want after working for them in a reasonable way, I still get all squicky and weird because on some level it feels like I don’t deserve it.

My own pathologies aside, it wasn’t the most necessary little grace note, but it was a believable conflict for Hattori to have, especially given Sasaki telling him to ask what he wants and his usual roundabout nature. However, I think that once he gets into the work with the boys, it won’t be much of an issue.

And it was really great to see that, by the way. They were like fish in water. Just immediately jumped to it. It’s one of the things about the early part of the series that is pretty fun. The boys and Hattori butt heads over ideas but ultimately hashing out how to get the best manga.

It’s also been one of the things I’ve missed the most from the series.

The whole sequence where they instantly jump to work made me le happy, and le content, and I am not le sad because it was generally exciting to watch the boys create something. And it was even better because Hattori is, at the end of the day, a good editor.

Which requires that we talk about the other one.

Peace out, Miura

Based on the end of this chapter – which we’ll get to, don’t worry – I am not confident that all the recent character growth he’s exhibited is here to stay, but I will say this was a rather, uh, generous send off for a character who has been little more than a stone attached to the boy’s ankles as they’re being thrown into a river.

Again, he seems like a decent guy, and playing wingman to Hattori like that was awfully sweet, but, like, ehhhhh, I feel like most of the manufactured bullshit that’s kept the story moving forward has been the direct result of Miura’s input. Except for Saiko’s overwork and Shujin’s girl problems.

But really, I have no problem with seeing less of Miura. And part of me hopes that he will continue to exhibit some character growth like Yamahisa did with Shizuka. Honestly, though, I’m more relieved than anything else. It won’t be so frustrating to hear him not provide insight about anything and just add humor.

Speaking of other shitty editors

Otter’s Success

I’ll admit the Otter Doll is cute and somehow also totally fucking insane, which is only partially Hiramaru’s deal, but Yoshida continues to drive me a lot nuts with his awful fucking behavior.

I get that editors have to keep their talent in line somehow, but Yoshida has demonstrated such remorselessness about his actions that his bald-faced scumminess is just getting tired at this point. It was nice to see Aoki again, though. It’s been a minute since we’ve seen her, at least as far as I remember.

But egads, man. Yoshida using the anime as a blunt-force limestone block is just…like, annoying at this point.

Anyway, Hiramaru is still here to stay for this little bit of narrative machinery, so I guess I better get used to it. One thing I am excited about is some more opportunities for metafiction in the

Pauses and Emotivenesss

Again, Ohba calls himself out here, and it’s a delight to see. The one reason these recaps are so long – the only reason, really – is that Ohba is a chronic dialogue abuser. He cannot get enough of his dialogue, man, and he uses it for EVERYTHING.

So it was nice to have a moment to reflect on this little bit of comic-exclusive narrative machinery: the intersection of imagination and visualization.

In Scott McCloud’s books “Understanding Comics” and “Making Comics,” he goes over this – particularly Japanese – approach to storytelling by establishing shots and background sequences that ground us in a sense of place and give us a moment to reflect. As someone who doesn’t really read American comics for various reasons, I always assumed it was more of a general trope.

But it’s one of my favorite elements of good manga. The idea is that you have a visual element without words to slow down the narrative like a punctuation mark. A double-page spread, some dialogue-less moments of quiet in a place so that we see the place. Otoyomegatari, in particular, does this beautifully. It really gives the story space to breathe.

And, of course, the narrative here tries to incorporate it. Not a lot, mind you, but it’s there. The breathing space is necessary because it allows us to see the characters reflect.

But the thing I actually got jazzed about, for entirely personal reasons, was the decision to make written storyboards.

One of the elements of comic making on my end that I am struggling with is that I just jump into storyboarding without thinking things through. I have been writing scripts for ages, but I don’t know how to make one for a comic.

But with the insight Saiko has at the end of the chapter, I’m going to experiment. Because that seems like an excellent idea to encourage creativity. I particularly like Saiko is using the negative space to tell a story. To me, that’s a great little trick to learn about creativity and remain curious about things.

And I think it could work against Nizuma’s level of experience. Which is the part that really matters.

Overall, I’m excited for this development and hope to see it pan out further.

The one thing I’m less excited about, though…

Iwase’s vow

This part was the most frustrating and also somehow the most inevitable. I really don’t like the use of the phrase “Dump” in this context because neither Shujin nor Hattori dumped her. That’s not what dumping is or how it works. So for her to frame it that way is super ungenerous on Ohba’s part.

But I guess she has to be spurred to action somehow and make even better manga; why not have it be tied to a man? All the men do it for women.


Saltiness aside, I’m less confident about Miura’s continued growth because he’s already casually harassing Iwase at their first meeting. Like, dude. Chill. I know she’s pretty; it ain’t an excuse.

I have to wonder if we’ll get portions of this story that aren’t motivated by casual sexism at any point. We’ve had glimmers, but they have been few and far between. And I’m tellin’ ya, man; I need some more of that Aoki and her female team energy going, or else I’m going to get more sad.

I’ll continue reviewing, but I will definitely be sadder about it.


What a lovely chapter overall, I’m excited to see where things go next.

Until next time,


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