Hot Gimmick Vol. #05 (Mania.com)

By:Eduardo M. Chavez
Review Date: Sunday, April 03, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, June 01, 2004



Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Aihara Miki
Translated by:Pookie Rolf
Adapted by:

What They Say
Increasingly attracted to her former "master" Ryoki, our heroine Hatsumi asks him to a movie, but things get complicated (of course), when jealous Ryoki starts to take umbrage at Hatsumi's relationship with her (adopted?) brother Shinogu, which looks suspiciously "too close for comfort" from what he has seen. Then Shinogu decides to take himself out of the picture by moving out of the house... All this and more in the latest volume of Hot Gimmick, one of the most talked-about new manga titles coming out of Japan!

The Review
Packaging:
Production by Viz is great. The cover art is a little larger than the Flower Comics version. This volume has Hatsumi in some winter wear on a green background. The image is not like anything I have seen Hatsumi in before; it is actually closer to Shinogu's style than Hatsumi's. This whole cover is full of different shades of green, with splashes of contrasting color - yellow scarf, orange shoes and reddish belt. It does not jump out as much as the previous covers and actually the greens tend to not stand out against each other very well either (so the contrasting colors are very helpful). The opposite cover has an image of Hatsumi in her family's kitchen sitting at the kitchen table eating a salad.

Logo Check: The Logo is great (mainly because Viz uses a font and style similar to the Shogakukan version). 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 header along with the entire collection of chapter ending art. This volume does not contain an Extra Gimmick, but there is an ad for Sensual Phrase.

Artwork:
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 does not 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. What I found really interesting is that backgrounds were used a lot in this manga. Aihara is also starting to render more pictures to use as backgrounds for locations that could be known by the readership. It adds a sense of reality to the story and looks pretty good most of the time. 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/Text:
SFX are all translated and overlaid. It is 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)
When will Hatsumi be able to fall in love with someone? For someone as indecisive Hatsumi she really is getting a lot of attention in her housing complex. Azusa, Subaru, and Ryoki have shown some interest. Each one has eventually expressed their true motivations, yet Hatsumi cannot tell what she feels or whom she feels what about. Hatsumi's world is really too messed up right now to focus on a particular guy. With family issues, community issues and romance issues taking control over one's life something is going fall through the cracks. Frankly, I am surprised she is even able to maintain her sanity through all this.

Maybe I spoke too soon, because she might be falling for sane but socially inept Tachibana Ryoki. Behind the prickly exterior and his aloof nature, Ryoki appears to be a decent (but immature) person. There is apparently much more to Ryoki than just his bad attitude and his snooty life-style. Hatsumi is starting to see that more easily now. There were times when fear would prevent her from clearly understanding his intensions, but as they spend more time together (often by accident), she can see his feelings are genuine.

Then there is that other reason -her brother Shinogu has moved out. Normally something like that would simply be expected of a college student, but Shinogu moved out as if he was a part of a witness protection program. He barely told anyone, not even his siblings, and just left overnight. The move was a shock to some, including Hatsumi, and it brought out questions about his past that no one in Hatsumi's family dared talk about.

With all of this and a drunken little sister, no wonder Hatsumi is having a hard time.

Comments
I did not think it would happen, but I am really starting to get frustrated by Hatsumi and her indecisiveness. What is really getting to me is how these characters are falling for her when she is like that. Maybe I am being to critical about a work of fiction, but this story is putting layer on top of layer and using each new problem as a device to get two socially inept characters together. I wish the story were done from Ryoki’s perspective because his bumbling is more entertaining than Hatsumi’s constant state of confusion. Love triangles, love squares, love pentagons, hexagons... I get bored after a while; maybe finishing something along the way would help. But the storyline I was interested in has been pushed to the side in favor of a subplot (as critical to the story as it might be). Yes, Hatsumi has plenty to be confused about - her family is a mess, her love life is a disaster after another, and her neighbors are like jackals - but how did a high school student get in the middle of all this. More importantly, how did someone like Hatsumi?

Ultimately, the drama was what was bringing me back to this series. That is why this volume actually ended up giving me hope towards the end. Aihara giving time to the supporting cast really saved this volume. The characters are supposed to be themselves more when not with Hatsumi, and they become more three-dimensional in these moments. Getting to see Azusa and Shinogu talk despite the issues they have with each other was great. Seeing Subaru and Akane try to start their relationship was sweet (almost too cute for my taste). Seeing some of the cast falling over drunk was a hoot. Aihara seems to capture those moments well. She can find the honesty of those moments, as embarrassing or difficult as they may be. Hot Gimmick might not be as hot as it was at the start. It is going through a transition period from one romance to another, and it has to go over a few bumps along the way. Right now, I can still see myself hanging in for the long haul. However, if the main character does not grow up soon, I can see myself pushing this title aside.



Mania Grade: B
Art Rating: B
Packaging Rating: A
Text/Translatin Rating: A-
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Released By: Viz Media
MSRP: 9.95
Pages: 188
ISBN: 1-59116-144-4
Size: B6
Orientation: Right to Left