We get a quick glimpse of a more interesting Gimmick! that could have been ... and then two more takes on the same old tired formula.
Writer/Artist: Youzaburou Kanari and Kuroko Yabuguchi
Translation: Joe Yamazaki
Adaptation: Lance Caselman
What They Say
Trouble with the wrong side of the law? Paparazzi won't leave you alone? Found yourself in a tight spot and you don't know where to go? Then it's time to get in touch with Kohei Nagase and his friends at Studio Gimmick. A prodigy in the realm of makeup and special effects, Kohei has got the skills to make sure that the people you don't want recognizing you won't.
Kohei manages to find Maria Theron, the chart-topping pop princess who hired Studio Gimmick to help weed out a rival spy in her tour staff, but now that someone has swiped Maria's prized necklace, Kohei also needs to track down her trinket before an international scandal blows sky high. Can Kohei sneak into Maria's concert and recover the necklace before her true identity is uncovered?
A public service announcement for film fans out there: if you haven't seen Fight Club yet, be sure to watch it before flipping through this volume. Besides the fact that Fight Club is just flat-out more interesting than Gimmick! and hence should be higher on your priority list, one of this volume's chapters has a lecture about CGI that spoils part of Fight Club's ending. Not cool, Kanari, not cool.
With that out of the way, I have to admit that the first part of this volume is a nice step-up from the mediocre storytelling I've seen in the past couple of volumes that I've reviewed. Technically, what we get here of the "My Favorite Things" arc represents the concluding three parts of a five-parter started in Volume 5; since Viz hasn't sent us that volume for review, I've had to extrapolate what I can of the story from the parts that're in Volume 6 (so please bear with me if I've got any of the details wrong). Kohei has taken a job protecting the pop-star Maria Theron, who's been dealing with apparent attempts on her life from someone in her entourage. The big reveals at the start of this volume are the who and the why of these attacks on Maria: her manager Brown eventually confesses to trying to poison and electrocute her, though his motives were just to immobilize her so he could steal her pendant. While Maria just knows the pendant as a cherished gift from her late mother, Brown knows that the pendant is proof of a powerful politician's extra-marital affair and wants to confiscate it to help with the campaign's damage control. Brown claims the pendant by force during this volume's part of the story, and so Kohei and Maria spend the rest of the arc trying to get it back. After getting sick of story after story where Kohei acts like a brat around women and has to defeat some generic Absolutely Evil Bad Guy, I was pleasantly surprised that the relationships among Kohei, Maria, Brown, and Maria's father were fairly nuanced throughout this story. With only one (genuinely accidental) grope and one Scooby Doo-esque mask removal, this arc's definitely more subdued than the silly melodrama that's filled the preceding volumes. I approve.
Unfortunately, that silly melodrama comes back with a vengeance in the remaining two story arcs. The first, "Last Action Hero", is a four-part story about petty infighting between Kannazuki and the actor Manabu that Kannazuki's doubling for on the set of a big action flick. Manabu, being the pampered movie star that he is, decides that the best way to handle the situation is to don that Absolutely Evil Bad Guy persona by rigging stunts so that they'll "accidentally" kill Kannazuki. Kohei's immaturity adds to the ridiculousness: he starts getting revenge on Manabu by pretending to cut his own finger off at dinner (yeah, that'll show 'im) before encouraging Kannazuki to shut Manabu up by risking his life doing an over-the-top stunt. It's really hard to take stories like these seriously when I can't respect either the protagonist or the villain -- there's really not much honor in volunteering someone ELSE to risk their life just to stroke their own egos.
The closing "Mr. Doubt" storyline is an improvement over "Last Action Hero", but not by much. The first three parts here -- to be continued in the next volume -- stage a show-down between Kohei and an impostor who's been ruining Kohei's reputation by doing shoddy work as Gimmiq! Studio (sic). Kanari seems to want to have it both ways here; the impostor starts off as an Absolutely Evil Bad Guy before the story takes a dramatic turn and makes him into a sympathetic character who's just facing hard times. He's pathetic enough in both roles that I had a hard time buying into him either as an interesting antagonist or as someone I should be cheering for.
Overall, I'm still not getting a whole lot out of Gimmick!. This is one of those cases where if you're enjoying the series, the only helpful thing I can say at this point is that it annoys me for consistent reasons (and I assume this translates into being consistently appealing to the people who've liked earlier installments). But again, for anyone who's considering jumping into the series for the first time, there are better series to invest your time and money in.