Hot Gimmick Vol. #04 (Mania.com)
By:Eduardo M. Chavez
Review Date: Monday, August 23, 2004
Release Date: Thursday, April 01, 2004
Translated by:Pookie Rolf
What They Say
Find out why Hot Gimmick is one of the most talked-about new manga titles coming out of Japan! The Narita family is given the deep freeze when one of Mrs. Tachibana's spies glimpses out hapless heroine, Hatsumi, with her treacherous ex-"boyfriend," Azusa. Thinking they're being ostracized because she's turned down her former "master" Ryoki's advances, Hatsumi tracks Ryoki down and begs him to take her back... as his slave! But this only pisses lovesick Ryoki off, who actually wants Hatsumi's good graces: he wants her brother, Shinogu, to be his private math tutor, and he wants his lessons to take place at the Narita's apartment! Shinogu doesn't like it... especially since Hatsumi is starting to fall for Ryoki!
Production by Viz is great. The cover art is a little larger than the Flower Comics version. This volume has Shinogu in some casual wear on a blue background. The image is out of character for reserved and hard-working Shinogu and it really does not show of his good looks either. This whole cover is full of different shades of blue. It doesn't jump out as much as the previous yellow/mustard cover but still is very appealing to the eye.
Logo Check: It's pretty good. I am not sure if I would like yellow or white lettering better but I am cool with either. Inside Viz gives us a good transfer on decent paper.
Inside, Viz keeps the volume and chapter headers along with the entire collection of chapter ending art. This volume does not contain an Extra Gimmick, but there are ads for: Alice 19th, Hana-Kimi and Revolutionary Girl Utena.
Aihara's art is very nice. Tight strong lines make up some really nice character designs. Most characters look a little long but they are not too out of scale. I love the mix of bishonen and kawaii characters. Unlike some mangaka Aihara doesn't get too lazy by only making her bishonen look nice, every one does and they all have their own sense of style that makes them all look unique.
If there is any one thing I do not like about the character designs are the weird eyes. They just have weird shapes and are nothing like the ones on her cover art. Backgrounds are also pretty strong here. While the lines here are not as thick, they show of a good amount of detail. What I found really interesting is that backgrounds were used a lot in this manga. A lot of shojo and shonen titles skimp on this type of thing and focus on character art but Aihara gives us a lot of both while keeping her layout relatively simple.
SFX are all translated and overlaid. It's done rather tastefully so SFX look nice and sound nice. As is the case with most (if not all of) Viz's shojo titles, Hot Gimmick has a solid translation. Honorifics are used often but I notice that they are used to emphasize relationships (which is just how it's used in Japanese). Did not notice any issues with spelling or grammar (typical Viz work.)
Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Hatsumi's life is just not getting any easier. Her "boyfriend" has used her in a twisted plot intended to hurt her father. After so much suffering, she finally built up the courage to dump her "master," only to in turn get the wrath of the queen of the apartment complex turned on her family. Poor little Hikaru is getting picked on at day care. Her sister is freaking out over her strange relationships. Even level-headed Shinogu has been acting rather strangely recently. So many problems and in all truth Hatsumi really does not have anyone to turn to right now, except maybe the neighborhood otaku Subaru. Situations like these can be a boon for misunderstandings. For someone like Hatsumi, who is lacking in self-esteem, there is no telling what will happen next.
If love were as easy as math maybe she would not be in her predicament. Ryoki wishes it were that simple. As a guy with college level math skills (grades that are above those of studious Shinogu) solving a mathematical problem would not only make things go easy for him, but it could be educational.
Ryoki + Hatsumi = Couple.
Couple * X = Y (where X = experiences and y = type of relationship).
Those formulas look simple enough on paper, but in reality there is much more than that involved. Unfortunately for Ryoki, there are so many variables that could mess up the math, and those moments come up so often when he is with Hatsumi that even advanced level trigonometry cannot solve his problems. Maybe he should try calculus?
As you can see, love is only one of many problems Hatsumi has right now. What is becoming evident as her story progresses is that she is starting to be the cause of her trouble more and more. Her not having a support system is partially to blame, but overall Hatsumi is just not getting the bigger picture. Her actions are influencing things that are hurting her in other ways, and instead of understanding the problem, she often makes things worse by taking a cowardly way out. This is not what she wants. It is not what her family wants. And surprisingly it is not what Tachibana Ryoki wants either.
For a while I was quite pleased with the supporting cast carrying this title. Hatsumi as a lead is not hard to relate to but after four volumes she has not had much growth, actually she appears to be getting more confused. There was a time I was able to accept her naivete and the abuse she gets from almost every angle, but now I am just frustrated. I guess I expected more from Hatsumi, as the rest of the cast developed around her - making friendships, realizing their shortcomings and accepting changes in their own behavior. I cannot say I am not being entertained by Hatsumi's downfall, but after I while I could no longer feel as if I could relate to her nor could I continue to support her.
Fortunately there are more pieces to this story than Hatsumi. The interactions between Shinogu and Ryoki have been really interesting. Up to this point there has not been much to Shinogu, but there seems to be something more to him. Essentially he has been a basic older brother-type. He is there for support and tends to work hard earning respect from his family and his peers. However, when he his life focuses on Hatsumi he is often out of character. Whether he is uncertain about his feelings towards her, is not the question, but what those feelings are is what really gets me. Though, to be honest, the Narita's appear to have more skeletons in their closet than most; so who knows what Shinogu is feeling and why. Ryoki, on the other hand, is starting to get it. The kid has been inhuman for a good part of the series so far. Calling people slaves, wanting to practice his sexual technique, being inconsiderate of the feelings of others - this was Ryoki in a nutshell. As he thinks he has fewer options the kid is starting to listen and appears to maybe even care. Right now he is better off than Hatsumi in many ways, but they have built such a huge rift between them it is hard to see them work as a couple (even if there is some sexual tension).
While I still find Hot Gimmick entertaining, I am starting to wane on the title as Hatusmi's character is lacking the growth or spine that I could keep on supporting throughout a series of this length. Luckily there is much more to this story, so I have never felt that the series has really declined much from its wonderful start. As much as this title has going for it - good supporting cast, decent drama (not quite as good in this volume), twisted romance, nice art - if the main character does not get any better I may end up resenting Aihara-sensei because of the imbalance. Poor Hatsumi. It is not your fault it's the mangaka's.
Mania Grade: B-
Art Rating: B
Packaging Rating: A-
Text/Translatin Rating: B+
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Released By: Viz Media
Size: Tall B6
Orientation: Right to Left