TGIF! Here we are again with another Fangirl Friday! This week I’m covering a manga that’s just so bad it’s good. There are so many reasons to hate this manga, unnecessary angst, drama, questionable romantic relationships, just to name a few, but for some reason I can’t bring myself to condemn it and believe me I tried! I’m talking about the shoujo manga, Hot Gimmick by Mika Aihara!
I have never read a manga so problematic before in my life, but there’s a beauty to it, albeit a twisted and rather cringe worthy kind of beauty… This manga is like watching a really bad soap opera or those telenovelas, you just have to see where all the madness leads, even if a little piece of your soul dies in the process.
In company-owned rabbit-hutch apartments live tenants who can’t afford to live anywhere else, and the apartment complex in which high-school girl Hatsumi Narita lives is ruled over by the rumor mongering, self-righteous Mrs. Tachibana. Get on Tachibana’s bad side, and life becomes hell. When Hatsumi has to buy a pregnancy test because her popular sister Akane’s period is late, Mrs. Tachibana’s son, Ryoki, who used to bully Hatsumi as a kid, promises not to tell the world about Hatsumi’s secret, only if she becomes his slave. Suddenly, Azusa, Hatsumi’s protector in their youth, reappears to save her again! He’s moving back into the neighborhood! Despite the budding romance between Hatsumi and Azusa, Ryoki has control over her through the secret that could ruin the lives of everyone in Hatsumi’s family, and he hasn’t forgotten who his slave is.
Hot Gimmick is a 12 volume (4 VizBig volumes) romantic shoujo manga series from Mika Aihara!! The series was released from 2000 to 2005, and is currently licensed by Viz Media for a North American release.
Where do I start? This is one trainwreck after another and the above synopsis doesn’t even cover the half of it. When I said this was like a soap opera, I meant it, Hot Gimmick is full of so much drama, each and every one of the characters in this manga is flawed, some more so than others. There were times when I couldn’t figure out who the hell I was supposed to be rooting for! The protagonist, Hatsumi… smh, I’ve seen my fair share of weak female leads in the past, but this girl takes the cake! Hatsumi has the mental fortitude of a piece of wet single ply toilet paper, which I guess is poetic, seeing as she has to deal with her fair share of bullshit from each of the main male leads… yeah I said it… Homegirl spends most of the manga getting used, abused, and broken to the point that I couldn’t relate to her at all… She apologized to the guy that set her up to be gang raped… yeah, it happened, and I almost threw the manga out the window when it happened. *ahem* But, Hatsumi’s shortcomings are only matched by the equally damaged male leads.
There are three special men in Hatsumi’s life; her sweet older brother, Shinogu, her childhood crush, Azusa, and last but certainly not least, Ryoki Tachibana… ya’ll should recognize that name from my Sinister Specs post! This is supposed to be a short overview, so I’ll keep this as short as possible (I might do a longer manga review in the future since I have a lot to say about this manga), the only decent romantic partner in the entire series is the brother. Unfortunately, this isn’t that kind of manga, for that you should check out the alternate ending light novel, Hot Gimmick S, where the author gives us a full on brocon romance…btw, I hated it! That just leaves Azusa and Ryoki… now, I can’t quite decide which guy is worse, the one that orchestrates Hatsumi’s attempted gang rape and tries to destroy her family or the sick bastard that makes her his slave and sexually assaults her on a daily basis… decisions, decisions!
The manga tries very hard to convince you that Ryoki isn’t nearly as bad as he seems, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t fall for the guy a bit over the course of the story. BUT that doesn’t mean I can overlook his actions throughout the story, in fact I feel kind of dirty admitting how much I really liked him… what does that say about me? Am I really an M? *gasp* AND for those of you that think, I like him because of my megane bias… that’s not the case at all… this time. Despite his cringe worthy actions, Ryoki is a pretty tragic character, sure he’s rich, handsome, and smart, but none of that makes him happy. He desperately wants to love and be loved, which is why I think he’s so attracted to Hatsumi, she’s everything he isn’t sweet, innocent, pure… But, because of his damage, he doesn’t know how to properly address his feelings for her. Gaaah, I can’t believe I just tried to excuse his actions, so let me wrap this up before I go any further…
Hot Gimmick is one of those stories you hate to love. The premise is overly dramatic and the characters are damaged beyond belief, but there’s a twisted appeal to it… So, despite my ranting and complaining, I have to say that this is a wickedly addictive read that I can’t help but enjoy, even if everything says I should hate it!