Hot Gimmick volume 1
by Miki Aihara
BW, 192 pgs w/ ads, $9.95 US / Higher in Canada
Hot Gimmick is the first of Miki Aihara’s manga to reach North American shores, a shojo that at first glance sticks to the tried and true formulas of the genre. Where it differs though is in its art, which in itself is enough to convince the reader to check out subsequent volumes. This is fortunate for the reader because if online research is to be believed, Hot Gimmick deviates from the norm starting with volume 2.
There is no denying I’ve been reading a lot of shojo manga of late. As a reviewer, it’s hard to avoid shojo because it is so prevalent in English translated form. I think this is due to the fact shojo continues to grow in popularity among North American girls and young woman, thus more and more publishers are digging into their pockets to license shojo. It’s a good move on the part of these publishers considering the North American comics market all but ignores the female population. The downside to reading so much shojo though is that I’m starting to find similarities across the titles– love triangles are the bread and butter of shojo, especially the type in which a young woman has to divide her affections between the good guy who is too good for her, and the bad guy who actually possesses a heart of gold– which means I’m rarely surprised anymore. The story here in Hot Gimmick, for instance, didn’t hold any surprises, but what made this particular series stand out from the pack was the art of Miki Aihara, which features what could very well be the very best character designs I’ve seen in shojo thus far.
The visual style as a whole is very appealing. Most of the pages are lightly illustrated, not in detail but in line and shading. Manga has a tendency to be a visually heavy medium, with characters, backgrounds, sound effects and text all jammed tightly onto the page, with panels overlapping to the point of congestion; at the best of times this makes for a dynamic page, but at the worst, it makes for a confusing, cluttered presentation. A story needs room to breath, and that is what Aihara does here in Hot Gimmick. Opening up the pages allows the story to flow at a comfortable pace, but also affords Aihara the room to showcase her wonderful character designs; lean characters all, with full realized features and wardrobes. At a glance we know who is who, from their features, yes, but also from their own personal styles and behaviors.
The main characters here are Hatsumi, a high school student who gets caught with a pregnancy test, Ryouki, the son of her father’s company president who does the catching, and Azusa, Hatsumi’s childhood friend who returns to the neighbourhood all grown up and handsome. He has always defended Hatsumi from Ryouki, and does so again, but Hatsumi despite her good sense seems to be falling for bad boy Ryouki. This is a common occurrence in shojo– the good girl falling for the guy who treats her poorly– and it never sits well with me. That’s the catch that keeps us reading the story though, as we often learn over time that the good guy isn’t as good as he appears and the bad guy truly is the one for our female protagonist.
As first volumes go, Hot Gimmick doesn’t offer much off the shojo ordinary except for Aihara’s art. Out of curiosity, however, I did some research about the subsequent volumes in this series and was happy to learn Hot Gimmick begins to take many unsuspected twists starting with volume 2. This is very promising because I’d love to see the story reach the level of quality seen in the art. (Chad Boudreau)