Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Manga Focus: Hot Gimmick

Shojo manga is pretty much the shittiest sub-market of the entire manga industry.

Now, that's a very harsh statement to make of an entire age-group of a core part of a country's societal being, but screw that have you read some of the things being released in the west lately? I mean gosh. Let's have a quick run-through of some series so I can pretend my point is valid, shall we?

First there's the recent series Cactus's Secret. It's about a girl who gives up her crush but then suddenly the crush starts calling her CACTUS because she's all PRICKLY AROUND HIM! HA! Will the crush learn... CACTUS'S SECRET? That's... just terrible. I assume there's some clever english going on here that I'm not aware of too, because I'm fairly sure the possessive of Cactus (as a name) would be Cactus', with no extra S. Which if I'm right makes this title really stupid. Like, dumber than the actual plot.

Then there's series like Black Bird, a series about a SPECIAL GIRL WHO COULD BE YOUUUUUUUUUUUUU who has a UNIQUE POWER THAT MAKES HER OH SO SPECIAL. In this case it's that she's one of a few who can see a special world where magic and myth intersect with reality. But OH NOES SHE GETS ATTACKED, an old childhood friend helps but OH MY GOD HE'S ALSO AFTER HER BECAUSE OF HER SPECIAL TALENTS! BUT MAYBE ROMANCE WILL HAPPEN BETWEEN THESE TWO AND THEIR SADISTIC BLOOD-LICKING WAYS! These sorts of series make me sick, stupid-ass attempts to tell the same story over and over.

But there is SOMETHING in the latter that appeals to me, an element that if used in a competent Shojo series (rarity that they are) would rock my socks off. A sadistic love interest. Heck, I'd love to see a series where a sadistic or cruel love interest whom the main character doesn't initially like grows and becomes something more than the little kid expressing love in an immature manner...

... Wait, that's Hot Gimmick. A brilliant example of Shojo done right. In that it's mostly not incredibly stupid. And it hurts my heart with every plot turn. As I'll try to explain to you in the review, after the jump.

READ THE REST OF MANGA FOCUS!


What Is It?(Spoilers): Hot Gimmick is a (brilliant) Shojo manga that ran for 54 chapters, following the romantic misadventures of Hatsumi Narita as she deals with a variety of men, all of which being problematic in their own way. Along the way she must deal with her sister having a pregnancy scare, being blackmailed into some very awkward sexual situations (as a direct result of said scare), almost being gang-raped by a love interest and his friends and dealing with the affections of her adopted older brother... Wait I'm making this sound a lot more fucked up than it is! Um... It's also a brilliant tale of people growing up past their immature natures as children to become adults, find love, discover themselves, or face up to the realities of the situations they come to be in. But really no matter what this story is about the romance that builds between Hatsumi & Ryoki Tachibana, which whilst SO uncomfortable at first (because of the whole blackmail thing and Ryoki's immature and abusive nature) becomes something that truly MATTERS to the reader, demanding the attention and emotions of the reader. But I won't say anymore about that, just in case you don't want ALL the plot beats ruined for you.
What's So Great About It?(SPOILERS): This is a series that knows drama. There isn't a single twist in this series that feels tame. Seriously, you read any twist in this story and your heart is torn right out, thrown on the floor and completely destroyed, all before the story kicks it back up into the air and slams it back to where it belongs. But it's too late by then, your heart is hurt. It can't cope with how emotional this stuff is. And not just that, it feels realistic. Okay, that needs some adjustment. It FEELS realistic, even when it's clearly stuff that would NEVER happen. For example there's the reveal of Azusa Odagiri (another of Hatsumi's love interests) true intentions and the motivation for them. See, turns out he's out to hurt Hatsumi's Father by hurting Hatsumi, because he's convinced that the Father had an affair with his Mother, ruining his life and leading to his Mother's death from ill health. That's a real convoluted plot, but one that is treated in such a manner that you believe that not only COULD it happen, but you can realistically imagine it happening as you read. That's pretty damn impacting.

Still, I can't truly address what makes this series great without dealing with the huge fucking elephant in the room: Hatsumi is abused by Ryoki, the character she stays with. And it's treated like it's acceptable. Now, you and I both know that it is absolutely NOT acceptable, and it reads in a way that absolutely SHOWS it's not acceptable, but it IS shrugged off more often than not. This actually becomes comedic more than once when he goes beyond the acceptable threshold and gets CONSTANTLY INTERRUPTED. But what matters here isn't how horrible Ryoki can behave, but how he grows throughout the story. What was once a horrible and petulant child in the body of a man, a person who doesn't understand how to interact with others correctly because of their... corrupt upbringing. It's a man growing from his nurture to discover who he truly is. And in the end he's still a jerk, sure, but he's no longer horribly abusive in attempts to show affection or in dealing with others. He's just kinda a dick. And if we're honest, isn't that the best any man can aspire to be? It also helps that on more than one occasion along the way he shows that underneath it all is a gentleman, ready to protect the people he cares about. I mean the man saves Hatsumi from Azusa's attempted gangrape situation in an incredibly gallant move. You don't get much better than that deep down, do you?

Oh and the art and writing is brilliant, and representative of what Shojo manga could truly be if given as much love and care as Miki Aihara has clearly put into her work. But I'm sadly running too short on time to delve into that, and sadly have no scans to back up my claim on this occasion.

Is It Worth Buying?: Originally I would have said it depends on how much you want to read this story. It ran at 12 volumes at about $10/£6 a pop, which added up fast. But due to the rare bit of common sense from Viz Media the series recently got re-released in their 'VizBig' format, which is a high-quality 3-volumes-in-one dealio at a much lower price than they would be seperately. So for about $60/£40 you can get one of the western markets best Shojo manga. And you can't say no to that. Unless you're an arsehole. Or, ya know, if I've offended you with my earlier whinging about Shojo.


You can get Hot Gimmick in both its formats on Amazon (UK) and I implore you to at least grab the first vizbig 3-in-1 volume. For your own good.

1 comment:

  1. No, sir. The stupidest of all manga genres is by far the female Harem type (Love Hina, etc.). You're also wrong about the "Cactus'" thing. Since cactus is a name/noun ending in "s", you would still put the "apostrophe s" at the end. If it were a plural like, for example, apples... then when you make apples into a possessive form you write it as apples'. It always bothers me when people make that retarded mistake.

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