Gimmick!'s loving nod to Hollywood SFX studios is neat, but not really enough to make up for the story's lack of substance or novelty.
Writer/Artist:Youzaburou Kanari / Kuroko Yabuguchi
Translated by:Lance Caselman
Adapted by:Joe Yamazaki
What They Say
Kohei Nagase is a genius when it comes to doing makeup and special effects. He uses a special makeup tool, "the Gods' Ginbera," to deceive people and help his friends get through their hardships with his talented skills. Kohei disguises his friends from their enemies, such as the press and terrorists, to help them.
Not only can he change people's faces, he can also make robots and mask them with makeup. But there are those who take advantage of Kohei's skills for their own financial benefit. With his muscle-bound buddy Kaminazuki, Kohei tries to help people out of tight spots and better his skill at makeup and special effects.
The front cover is split vertically, with a view of Koehi from above occupying the right side and a collage of Koehi's implements to the left of him. This collage, along with the Gimmick! title block, are strikingly printed with a pop-artsy monotone look. (It's almost a shame that the cover is the most stylistically interesting thing going on in the whole volume.)
Extras include a one-page textual "making of" section and a few pages of gag comics.
There's not much to talk about the art here: it's all technically clean and consistent looking, but the designs are generic and in general the whole thing feels kind of bland. The print quality of Yabaguchi's black-and-white artwork is about what you'd expect from a mass-market release; there's also a single color title page, which is drably colored but otherwise looks fine.
Readers should note that there's quite a bit of fanservice involving female nudity. Whether you consider this a warning or an endorsement is up to you.
Viz's English script is error-free and reads well. SFX, signs, and handwriting are translated inline.
Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
As far as manga leads go, Kohei Nagase has a pretty unique calling: he's the legendary special-effects guru and makeup artist of effects team Studio Gimmick. Like many manga leads, Kohei has taken his single-minded ability and honed to an unbelievable level, helped in part by some kind of mysterious artifact (in this case, his "sacred" silver spatula). This unreal talent, combined a steady diet of early-'80s heavy metal, has given him the ability to craft life-like latex masks and animatronics in a fraction of the time needed by other SFX teams. It's also led him to develop a bit of an arrogant attitude, describing his work as having "the power to alter reality" and dismissing the work of lesser SFX artists.
And if the world of Gimmick! has one lesson to teach the reader, it's that these kinds of skills can get you out of almost any trouble, no matter how little you think they'd help. The first three arcs of Volume 1 are standalone stories of people who call on Koehi's "reality-altering" abilities for unconventional needs. Kohei's clients in these chapters range from an actress who needs a disguise to meet clandestinely with her lover to a theme park under attack from an animatronics-technician-turned-bomber. These standalone chapters are interesting to a point, but all three start falling apart towards the end as Kanari starts stretching Kohei's talents in more and more ridiculous ways; in the silliest of these endings, characters don (and subsequently remove) so many of Kohei's latex masks that it starts feeling like a bad soap opera or humorless version of Scooby Doo.
The volume's fourth arc introduces the first signs of a long-term storyline. As the final two chapters begin, Kohei labors day and night to build an animatronic alien for people claiming to be representatives from a local movie studio. Having the one-track mind that he does, Kohei never bothered to check if these people were actually from the studio at all and doesn't start putting the picture together until the studio turns down his bill. When a string of alien sightings are followed by jewelry store robberies, Kohei finds out that he's become an unknowing accomplice to some nasty criminal types; things take an even worse turn when the criminals decide to cover their tracks by frame Studio Gimmick for the robberies.
Though it's probably not intentional, Gimmick! is a fitting name for the series. So far, the story relies heavily on tired shonen manga clichés with one requisite twist to keep it from being a complete carbon-copy of the all the other shonen action series out there: the special effects lingo. Fortunately, Kanari has picked a pretty good gimmick to rely on, at least as far as I'm concerned. Hollywood special effects is an interesting business, and Kanari makes a big deal about taking research trips to FX studios so that he could model Studio Gimmick after their work. (Then again, I'm the kind of movie geek who watched all the SFX and CGI featurettes on the extended Lord of the Rings DVD sets, so consider me a little biased.)
The downside of Kanari's approach is that once you dig past this layer of SFX talk, the stuff below it is too familiar for its own good. Is it really so much to ask for a hero who's more than a hot-headed savant with the One True Power, the One True Prop, a parade of enemies with one-note personalities, and an unlikely demand for his talent? OK, so a lot of this is me starting to get sick of genre conventions that were established long before Yabuguchi drew Gimmick!'s first frame, and in that sense I shouldn't be holding it against Kanari too much -- he knows his audience, and he's just giving them what they expect. On the other hand, Kanari invites some of this criticism by making his lead an adult (?) professional with his own specialized small business. Your typical teenaged shonen manga hero at least has the excuse of inexperience and naïveté, whereas Kohei's interactions with other people (especially women) often portray him as a pathetic and simpleminded man-child.
How much readers are going to like Gimmick! will depend a lot on their expectations. Readers who come in wanting a Shonen Jump-esqe title with slightly more explicit fanservice will probably walk away happy, since by those standards Gimmick! isn't bad and at least has the advantage of an interesting premise. While the film geek in me loves the idea of a manga series based around the special effects business, that's about all the appeal that Gimmick! had for me: I had expectations of something fresh and difference after reading the story synopsis, and this release just didn't live up to those hopes.