Miki Aihara’s manga “Hot Gimmick” is a teen drama about circumstance and relationships.
The sweet and timid high school student Hatsumi Narita is mortified when she gets blackmailed into a master-slave disaster with her childhood tormentor Ryouki Tachibana.
Ryouki’s mother is the matriarch of the company apartment complex where the story takes place, and those of lesser social standing treat the Tachibanas like royalty. Knowing this, Ryouki jumps on an opportunity to take advantage of Hatsumi. He will humiliate and ostracize her and her family by exposing a secret… unless she agrees to abide by his every whim.
Hatsumi finds herself trapped until Azusa Odagiri, an old friend, becomes her protector. Hatsumi’s bleak situation seems to brighten as Azusa begins to show a romantic interest in her. But, things are not always as they seem, and Azusa has hidden motives that open a Pandora’s box. Add to the mix a boy-crazy sister, family secrets, forbidden love, a down-trodden fan-boy, and the result is a thrilling and intriguing hit series with many devoted readers.
Hot Gimmick is a real page-turner, complete with shocking plot twists, and refreshing and intriguing character development. The reader gets glimpses into a group that proves itself to be more than the flat love drama cast of characters. There are times when the story seems to move painfully slow, but this is Aihara’s way of teasing her readers. The series deals with issues like sex, teen pregnancy, abuse, and some drinking — hot topics on the minds of today’s youth. The series is intense, alluding to mature themes. So, it is only rated PG-13, as it does not actually contain explicit material.
Hot Gimmick, is written and drawn by Miki Aihara, who’s work often features teen love triangles. Like most manga that see their beginnings in magazines, Hot Gimmick debuted in 2000 as part of Betsucomi , a monthly magazine collecting ongoing love stories for girls. Following it’s great success with Betsucomi , Hot Gimmick has been collected up to the eighth volume, and released in the U.S. in individual mangas, more specifically known as “tankoubon”. This is Aihara’s first U.S. release.
The English volumes, which also include sound effects, are translated by Pookie Rolf, and published by the U.S. company Viz. The translation is accurate, and the characters use language that teenagers can relate to — far from going over-board with slang, but down to earth enough to form a connection with young English-speaking readers.
Though some potential readers may be turned off by the “flashy” covers, Hot Gimmick’s unique and ultra-colorful cover designs make the books stand out. Miki Aihara’s artistic style is fresh and graceful — fully in-step with the sensibilities of “shoujo”, or girl’s manga, which commonly focuses on emotional dynamics and lush aesthetic elements.
Aihara dresses her characters in trendy clothing, giving the series a realistic vibe, and a modern feel that is far from generic. She renders the Hot Gimmick girls as stylized and graceful, and this goes for the guys, as well. Tall, slim and broad-shouldered with cherubic faces, the guys appeal to fans of “bishonen”, alluring young men with sensual features. Aihara also uses unique and refreshing angles, sharp perspective drawings, and interesting environments, some of which resemble photocopies of photocopies of urban spaces in stark and grainy black and white.
Quick Character Profiles
Hatsumi Narita , Hot Gimmick’s main character is a young lady with a kind and caring nature, however; her shyness makes her an easy target. Throughout the series, she makes small but significant steps toward sticking up for herself. Before long, her heart is pulled in disagreeable directions, and she feels like she’s drowning in turmoil. Will Hatsumi listen to her heart, or her gut?
As the son of a prominent family, Ryouki Tachibana’s place in life has gone to his head. Ryouki is a stellar student, handsome, arrogant, and bossy. He has teased Hatsumi since kintergarden, and was often scolded for doing so by Azusa. After making Hatsumi his servant, he begins to develop feelings for her against his own wishes.
Azusa Odagiri is Hatsumi’s long-lost childhood friend. Azusa is charming, down to earth, and independant, and his popularity as a model makes him well known. Confronting Ryouki, and showing a romantic interest in Hatsumi, Azusa appears to be her knight in shining armor…but could this guy be too good to be true?
Dark-haired, feisty, and promiscuous, Akane Narita is the opposite of her older sister Hatsumi. Akane has many friends, but she is often jealous of the attention that Hatsumi gets, though she does not know that most of this attention is not within Hatsumi’s best interest.
Shinogu Narita is the older brother of Hatsumi and Akane. He has secrets that he cannot reveal, and they drive him away from his family.
Overall, Hot Gimmick is a highly addictive series, both well-drawn and well-written by Miki Aihara. It probably won’t appeal to manga enthusiasts into super-human powers, and spectacular fight scenes, but it is a well-rounded introduction to the shoujo manga genre.