Reviewby Casey Brienza,
Hot Gimmick -VIZBig Edition-
Ryoki has already saved Hatsumi once, and now he does it again; when the Narita family gets on the wrong side of his mother, Ryoki demands that Hatsumi's older brother Shinogu become his math tutor. Now he has more than enough leverage to keep Hatsumi dancing to his tune, and she becomes, in spite of herself, his girlfriend-in-training. This isn't the only new turn of events in Hatsumi's life, either. Shinogu has decided to move out, and a sadistic Azusa tells Hatsumi that it may be because he is not their parents' real son. Could there be any truth to this rumor? Meanwhile, Akane is slowly coming to the realization that there may be something to love about Gundam fanboy Subaru. As fall turns to winter and as the old year gives way to the new one, what's in store for these young people?
Ryoki spends an awful lot of time telling Hatsumi how stupid she is…and by the time Miki Aihara's Hot Gimmick reaches the halfway point, you may well be inclined to agree with him. The second 3-in-1 VIZBig Edition, which contains volumes four, five, and six of the original run, marks an important turning point in series, steering the torrid, love triangle plot away from dreamboat model and childhood friend Azusa and toward the loyal and reliable older brother Shinogu. After all, enslaving the girl next door gets old hat pretty quickly, especially when the girl in question is a doormat—why not an intimations of incest instead? Now that's gustsy! Especially given the fact that incest in the case of Hot Gimmick actually looks like the rational, self-respecting smart girl's way to go. Alas.
Actually, come to think of it, for a manga that is ostensibly about a love triangle, there is an awful lot about family in Hot Gimmick. In the beginning of volume four, peer pressure at the apartment complex takes center stage, and the entire family, including the youngest Hikaru, is ostracized for having supposedly violated Mrs. Tachibana's many social edicts. It takes her son to stop the madness. (Fortunately, he has an ulterior motive.)
Later on, Azusa finally gets his chance to confront Hatsumi's dad face to face about the supposed infidelity that lead to his mother's wasting illness and eventual death. Daddy dearest gets down on his knees—in public—to apologize, but it's clear that he is hiding something. Azusa is not satisfied, so it seems quite likely that, even though the focus of the story has shifted gradually away from him, that has not yet made his final stand, as it were.
Furthermore, Mr. Narita is not the only on in the Narita family who has secrets to keep close to the chest. Big brother Shinogu's affection for his Hatsumi, which even Akane resents as being a bit too close, is not strictly “brotherly.” But before you shiver with disgust and run away screaming, it is revealed (albeit not quite yet to Hatsumi), that Shinogu is not actually her biological brother. He was adopted, for reasons as of yet unknown, into the Narita family, and he has always been desperately in love with Hatsumi. Secretly, of course, and he is desperate to make sure it stays that way…although the poor guy always seems to get the front and center seat at the various sites of Ryoki's latest exploitative treatments of his now “girlfriend-in-training.”
At least good guys don't always finish last. Akane's burgeoning relationship with Subaru is a breath of fresh air by comparison. Sometimes the geek really does get the pretty girl in Aihara-land, and both of these characters are, in spite of their character flaws and occasional awkwardness, unequivocally good people…and it's nice to see nice things happen to the nice ones. After all, Ryoki continues to disappoint when it comes to personal integrity, and even Shinogu, who has been nothing but noble thus far, might prove to have a darker side if provoked. I mean, look what happened with Azusa!
As always, Aihara's artwork is clean and charismatic. Panels are attractively detailed in fine, sure-handed lines and judiciously placed screen tone but never too busy as to be overwhelm well the fast reading pace that pulpy storylines such as these encourage. If anything, the attractiveness of her characters' expression is a liability; you see Ryoki's cuteness and wonder if perhaps he is not as bad as he seems, for example. No no, do not let yourself be deceived! There is a heart of darkness behind that adorable façade…or is there? Guess you will just have to keep reading to find out!
Like all of the VIZBig editions, this one is both high-quality and economical. Die-hard fans will be pleased to note the profusion of full-color illustrations scattered throughout. Most (but alas not all) of the original color pages included with various chapters of Hot Gimmick's original run in Betsucomi are gloriously reprinted here. This fact alone might be good enough reason for diehard fans to want this book as well for their collection. And obviously if you are new to the series, trust me, you will not be disappointed.
Overall : A-
Story : B+
Art : A
+ Like a train wreck--you won't be able to turn away.
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