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Hot Gimmick vol. 1 (VIZBIG Edition) by Miki Aihara (a J!-ENT Manga Review)

March 21, 2009 by  



“This is not your usual teenage love triangle, it’s much more!  Well-written, cool artwork with a storyline that is highly addictive, ‘Hot Gimmick’ is highly recommended!”

(C) Image courtesy of Miki AIHARA.  Shogakukan, Inc.   All Rights Reserved.

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MANGA TITLE: Hot Gimmick

STORY AND ART BY: Miki Aihara (相原実貴)

FIRST PUBLISHED IN JAPAN: Shogakukan, Inc.

PUBLISHED IN USA BY: VIZ Media, LLC

RATED: T for Older Teen

Miki Aihara turned the manga world upside down with her salacious, outrageous and funny hit series.  If you think being a teenager in America is hard, wait until you read Hot Gimmick.  These Tokyo boys and girls are really messed up!

Manga artist Miki Aihara breakthrough and thought provoking manga series “Hot Gimmick” gets released and it’s a shojo manga that is probably the most dysfunctional but yet highly entertaining storyline that I have ever read.   This Shojo Beat Manga is a “VIZBIG Edition” that features the first three volumes and 552 pages of a storyline that revolves around family, reputation, complex love triangles, friendships and betrayal.

The first volume serves as the introduction of the characters and the living situation of the characters who who live in company housing and revolving around several key families and focuses on a teenage high school girl named Hatsumi Narita.

NARITA FAMILY:

Hatsumi: A bubbly second year student at Takazono High School.  She doesn’t do well in school, gullible but has a wonderful heart but she’s quite insecure.  She feels her younger sister Akane is the attractive one and because of these insecurities, Hatsumi tends to put herself down quite a bit and feels that she is weak and unable to vocalize her emotions.

Akane: A pretty and popular junior high teenager that gets around with guys.  Unfortunately because of her sexual promiscuity, she gets Hatsumi in a bit of trouble.

Shinogu: The oldest son and a college freshman who works many jobs.  Hatsumi adores her older brother.

Hikaru: Hatsumi’s younger brother and is kindergarten.

Shihoko: Hatsumi’s mother who is afraid of the company housing complex queen Mrs. Tachibana and does what she can to make her happy.

Toru: Hatsumi’s father who is always working but plays a major part in the storyline in upcoming volumes.

Hatsumi is the main character of the series.  And the first chapter helps introduce the “Company Housing” situation in Japan of how strict it is for a family and their children to behave.  How certain families where the parents who have better positions are looked at as the people who call the shots and in this storyline, the Tachibana family is most important.  Especially Natsue Tachibana, the queen of the housing complex.

One day, Hatsumi’s promiscuous sister Akane fears that she may be pregnant, so she has Hatsumi buy her a pregnancy test.  Hatsumi really doesn’t want to but she does it because of her sister.  The only problem is that Ryoki Tachibana, the son of the VP of the company that Hatsumi’s father works for catches her buying the pregnancy test.

So, in fear that rumors will spread in the company housing and fear of the repercussions that her parents may receive of their children buying a pregnancy test, she asks Ryoki to not tell anyone.

TACHIBANA FAMILY:

Ryoki: Emotionless, cold-hearted and very intelligent.  Becomes a main character as he makes Hatsumi his slave.

Natsue: The “Queen” of the housing complex.  She knows she has power in the complex and uses it to her advantage to make everyone feel powerless.

Shuichiro: Always busy with work and never home.

We learn that Ryoki and Hatsumi never got a long in grade school.  Ryoki who is the star student has always looked at Hatsumi like a lower person in life because she’s not that smart. In fact, an incident happened when they were younger that makes Hatsumi really dislike Ryoki but Ryoki makes a deal with Hatsumi.  He will not tell his mother about Hatsumi buying the pregnancy test for her sister if she becomes his slave.

Realizing that this is the only thing she can do to preserve her family’s reputation, she agrees.

And Ryoki doesn’t hesitate.  Being a virgin, he wants Hatsumi to be his plaything and use her to make people think he’s getting laid.  Hatsumi doesn’t like how Ryoki is taking this “slave” thing to far and next thing you know, a childhood friend named Azusa Odagiri has come to save her.

ODAGIRI FAMILY:

Azusa: Childhood friend of Hatsumi, now a supermodel but has his reasons why he came back to town and why he’s getting close to Hatsumi.

Minoru: Azusa’s father.  Works overseas and always busy.

Miho: Azusa’s mother who Minoru divorced.

Azusa is currently a popular model in Japan but when he was younger, he would defend Hatsumi from Ryoki and very much was Ryoki’s rival.  This begins a special friendship between Hatsumi and Azusa and they grow closer together.

Of course, Ryoki still has the information about the pregnancy test, so he could care less about Azusa.  If Hatsumi doesn’t want her secret to be revealed, she will have to be his slave.

Thus the first chapter focuses on what appears to be a love triangle between Hatsumi and Ryoki who wants her as his slave and Azusa who seems to like her company and wants to protect Hatsumi from Ryoki.

Volume 2:

In the second volume of “Hot Gimmick”, the rivalry between Ryoki and Azusa increase as both men want Hatsumi’s attention.  Azusa finds out that Ryoki has something on the family and thus makes Hatsumi his girlfriend.  Hatsumi just falls head over heels for Azusa but Ryoki is not going to give up, Hatsumi is his slave and doesn’t care if she’s with Azusa.  He’s determined to make sure that Hatsumi fulfills her obligation as his slave.

Throughout the chapter, you have seen Azusa as this knight of shining armor for Hatsumi.  Always coming to her protection.  Without revealing so much about this volume, you realize that Azusa is not the Knight in Shining Armor.  He’s much worse.  Much worse than even Ryoki.

VOLUME 3:

In the third volume of “Hot Gimmick”, Hatsumi is nearly gang raped as she goes to meet Azusa (in which Ryoki came along to tell him that he’s not giving up his “slave”).  All is revealed of why Azusa has came back and why he wanted a relationship with Hatsumi.  Ryoki who has suddenly become this unexpected hero wants to further his plans of Hatsumi being his slave by having sex with her.

Meanwhile, Hatsumi’s sister Akane wants Ryoki to be her boyfriend and can’t stand her sister getting close to him.  So much that Akane tells Mrs. Tachibana that Hatsumi is getting close to her son.  Also, you learn that Shinogu, Hatsumi’s older brother, has some sort of past with Azusa and he does all he can to make sure his sister doesn’t get close to him.

The third volume of “Hot Gimmick” is quite explosive and what happens in the chapter is so unbelievable messed up that you realize that “Hot Gimmick” is not your typical shoujo manga.  It’s not all about happy teenage life, there are some dark undertones in this drama that will surprise people.

But Miki Aihara does a great job of making sure people are hooked into the storyline and the pacing of the introduction of the many characters are overall well-done.  In fact, I really dig the artwork and how it compliments the story.

If anything, I’m just shocked of the direction that the storyline went in volume 3.  The storyline gets quite serious and “Hot Gimmick” is definitely not your standard teenage love triangle.  It’s more than that.

It’s going to be quite interesting to see how this storyline progresses because it’s an enjoyable, fun, vibrant but at the same time, dark storyline and overall, it’s a graphic novel that will appeal to both to guys and girls.

Overall, I really enjoyed volume 1 and despite its many characters and its complexity.   “Hot Gimmick” is well-drawn, well paced, well-written and overall, highly addictive.

Highly recommended!

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