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Hot Gimmick vol. 4 (VIZBIG Edition) by Miki Aihara (a J!-ENT Manga Review)

April 6, 2010 by  



Prepare yourself for the  final volume of Miki Aihara’s “Hot Gimmick”. Possibly the most complex relationship-based manga series featuring many twists and turns and complexities galore!

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Image courtesy of © Miki AIHARA. Shogakukan, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

MANGA TITLE: Hot Gimmick Vol. 4

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

RELEASE DATE: March 16, 2010

Heads or tails? If only love were that easy…

When Hatsumi learns the truth about Azusa’s mother, it spoils her relationship with Ryoki… But enough to make her run into the arms of Shinogu?!

Manga artist Miki Aihara is definitely on the forefront of manga writers who are able to warp Japanese pop culture and capturing that modern life of today’s youth with a twist. She has done it successfully with a manga series like “Honey Hunt” (currently available from VIZ Media) and now with her release of “Hot Gimmick” via the VIZBIG Edition.

Suffice to say, I’m a big fan of Aihara’s artwork and written work and for shojou manga, she has done a great job in capturing relationships and taking the reader through ups and downs. As for “Hot Gimmick”, this is a series that features dysfunctional relationships but yet making it entertaining and fun and capturing 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. The first volume was quite dark as Hatsumi is a teenager who lives in employee housing and of course, with employee housing, it’s a privilege and thus employees who are in a lower level must make sure they listen to the rules laid down typically by the wife of a higher corporate standing.

Needless to say, when her promiscuous younger sister thinks she is pregnant, the son (Ryoki) of the person who calls the shots at the housing complex sees Hatsumi buying a pregnancy test. Because this can easily destroy her family’s reputation at the housing complex, she becomes the slave to Ryoki. A boy that Hatsumi has despised as a child since he was mean to her. Meanwhile, Azusa – a childhood friend that moved back and happens to be a popular model befriends Azusa and tries to protect her from Ryoki.

But things are not as it seems in “Hot Gimmick” as Ryoki starts to develop interest in Hatsumi and Azusa is just using Hatsumi for revenge. Needless to say, terrible things happen to Hatsumi in the first volume but now in this second volume, she tries to make sense of everything and her relationship with family and the guys in her life.

The second volume focuses on Azusa wanting to get revenge on Hatsumi’s father for the death of his mother.  Azusa believes the affair between Hatsumi’s father and his mother is what killed her and he will do whatever it takes to get revenge.  Meanwhile, Ryoki and Hatsumi begin their lives as a couple but Hatsumi doesn’t like how pushie Ryoki is in their relationship and doesn’t know if she and him can ever be compatible.  Meanwhile, Hatsumi’s sister Akane starts to fall for the otaku, Subaru.

The third volume pushes the complexity to the series to its highest point as her adoptive brother Shinogu finds himself more deeply in love towards his step-sister Hatsumi and nearly everyone around him wants him to confess his love for Hatsumi.

And here we are now on the fourth and final VIZBIG edition of “Hot Gimmick”.  With mangaka Miki Aihara growing exhausted with the series and wanting to start on a new novel, she ends the series with a bang!  If you thought the previous volumes were complex, you haven’t seen anything yet.

“Hot Gimmick Vol. 4” reveals who was the true person involved in the relationship with Azusa’s father, Shinogu wanting to amend his adoption papers in order to pursue his love for his step sister Hatsumi and with more misunderstandings than you can ever imagine, the big question of who will Hatsumi choose to be her lover will be revealed.  Will it be Ryoki, will it be Asuza or will it be her step-brother Shinogu?

To understand the compexity of “Hot Gimmick”, here is a basic summary of the main characters of the manga series:

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. She volunteered to be Ryoki’s slave in order to keep him quiet about her sister’s pregnancy test. Meanwhile, she has developed a close relationship with the model (and old childhood friend) Azusa. But Azusa turns out to be a jerk who used her for revenge and nearly had her gang-raped.

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. Now she has the eyes for a guy, a long-time friend who doesn’t show much interest in her.

Shinogu: The oldest son and a college freshman who works many jobs. Hatsumi adores her older brother. But he has a secret which is revealed in volume 2.

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. Always afraid of how her children will affect their status at the complex.

Toru: Hatsumi’s father who is often gone on business trips. Did something bad in his past.

TACHIBANA FAMILY:

Ryoki: Emotionless, cold-hearted and very intelligent. He used to despite Hatsumi but since he’s never had a girlfriend, he can’t understand the emotions he is feeling for Hatsumi… could it be love?

Natsue: Ryoki’s mother and 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.

ODAGIRI FAMILY:

Azusa: Childhood friend of Hatsumi, now a supermodel that used Hatsumi to get close to her in order to exact revenge on her father and family for what happened to his mother.

Minoru: Azusa’s father. Works overseas and always busy and good friends with Hatsumi’s father but doesn’t know that Mr. Narita was the cause of his divorce.

Miho: Azusa’s deceased mother who Minoru divorced but it is revealed in the second volume of how she died.

With the completion of Miki Aihara’s “Hot Gimmick” manga series, I have to say that this manga series is the most complex relationship/drama/love-triangle storyline I have ever seen.  I mean, this goes farther than what one would expect from a Japanese drama and as many monkey wrenches thrown at you like an American soap opera.

But from the first volume, with its dark premise, the manga series eventually becomes less dark and just more complicated as various men vie for main character, Hatsumi’s affections.  But these men, you never know if their intentions are serious or they are getting close to her for the purpose of revenge.

But with the series now coming to a close, series creator Miki Aihara manages to give the reader closure (well, depending whether or not you agree with Hatsumi’s final decision of who to be with) and needless to say, the final volume takes the complex relationships to an all time high when Hatsumi’s step-brother Shinogu decides that he will let Hatsumi know about his love for her but then even more ridiculous misunderstandings made by Hatsumi, especially when she thinks Ryoki is having sex with another woman and thus, she feels she must give her body to her step-brother.  Sound complex?  It goes even further when all is revealed about who is responsible for the affair and relationship with Azusa’s deceased mother.

And what about Akane and Subaru?  Well, despite these two characters not getting much time on the final volume, Miki Aihara makes sure to give fans what they want by devoting a special chapter ala “Hot Gimmick Megamix” to the relationship of these two individuals.  Will Subaru quit being an otaku to be with Akane?

And for those who weren’t so satisfied with Hatsumi’s choice in “Hot Gimmick” will be happy to know that Miki Aihara has included the first chapter of “Hot Gimmick S”, a novel inspired by the manga series.  An alternate world featuring the characters of “Hot Gimmick”.

Overall, the final volume of “Hot Gimmick” will either satisfy or anger the reader who was hoping for a certain outcome.  But overall, “Hot Gimmick” was an interesting series because each character are absolutely flawed and their situations are just so complex that you could only hope that somehow there is some shining light where these individuals can somehow attain some sort of happiness.  And Aihara manages to tie everything together in the end.

If you have stuck with “Hot Gimmick” since the beginning or a person wanting a true life soap opera-ish manga series with so many twist and turns that you can ever imagine, definitely give Miki Aihara’s “Hot Gimmick” a chance!

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