HOT GIMMICK by Miki Aihara
– Serialised in Betsucomi
– series complete
– Number of books: 12 (Japan)/ 10 as of December.05 (United States)
– Licensed by Viz
STORY: Hatsumi Narita has just discovered that her junior high school sister Akane might be pregnant. Determined to save her from embarrassment, she puts on a disguise, runs out to the convenience store, and buys her a pregnancy test – only to drop it by accident in front of the boy who used to bully her in her childhood: Ryouki Tachibana. Ryouki threatens to reveal Akane’s secret to his mom (who’s the owner of the apartment complex they all live in) who will tell Hatsumi and Akane’s mom to bring on certain doom…unless Hatsumi agrees to be his “slave”. Well poor Hatsumi really has no other choice and agrees. Just when Ryouki starts bullying her again, though, another guy from her childhood pops up – Azusa Odagiri, the boy who always saved her, was always nice to her, and moved away years ago only to come back. He’s also now a total heartthrob model and Hatsumi, naturally, falls for him.
However, appearances can be decieving, and it’s not just in one person….
Aihara really twists and turns this story. Just when you think things are going to be ok, something else comes up that you probably wouldn’t expect. Soon, there are so many plot twists that this thing might as well be a K-drama. However, as dizzying as it is, Aihara still manages to keep the story on its toes. For instance, while Aihara focuses mainly on Hatsumi, she also tells the story of Akane and how she learns to accept herself. However cliche it might seem to have all these romantic pentagons and whatnot, the manner that Aihara presents the story in is as unique and fresh as it can get in shoujo manga.
The story is not recommended for people under 15. There’re a lot of mature themes (heavy handling, touching, kissing, and issues) that might be a bit over the head for younger readers.
CHARACTERS:These are the somewhat bare bones of the charas….
– Hatsumi Narita: A very determined, yet clueless girl, who somehow, for some reason, manages to attract all the boys. She’s as dense as a rock, however, and that’s rather annoying. She also feels wronged a lot (and after all the stuff she goes through, who can blame her?), but she’s a very honest, caring person who, in the end, hopefully will end up with the ones that deserves her the most…or vice versa.
– Ryouki Tachibana: A spoiled rich boy who’s not as cold as he seems. Ryouki (or Lyouki) puts up an act to hide the fact that’s hes really insecure and though initially starts out bullying Hatsumi, the audience, and himself, slowly begin to realize that he’s not having her be his “slave” because he wants her as a “slave” but because there’s something else he desires….
– Azusa Odagiri: A pretty boy model who seems to have a heart of gold, constantly saving Hatsumi from tight situations, especially ones that involve Ryouki, who he seems to abhor. However, there’s more to this bishie than meets the eye – namely that he has a habit of keeping grudges/sore spots, and he doesn’t let go of things easily…
– Shinogu Narita: Hatsumi’s older brother who is extremely caring and protective of her. He gets suspicious of boys who come near her, especially Ryouki and Azusa, and is always saving her when she gets in tight spots. Though Shinogu (my favorite chara) is a hard worker (he holds a few part time jobs), a good student, and a good brother, he has a few dark secrets of his own….
– Akane Narita: Hatsumi’s younger sister who usually is the one who attracts all the boys. She’s very aware of the power she has over boys and even has a certain order of “moves” that she does to attract boys. She gets jealous that there are a lot of guys who like Hatsumi, and especially hates that Hatsumi doesn’t notice all the boys chasing her, but Akane has a few lessons to learn in love throughout the story that she didn’t think she would have ever learned – namely that she can really, truly fall in love, even if she’s used to tossing around boys like napkins.
– Subaru: A rather minor character but one who has some of the most heartfelt scenes and teaches some of the most applicable lessons. An otaku who’s initially blind like Hatsumi, he soon comes to realize what he must give up in order to pursue what he really loves.
ART: Aihara’s art is extremely cute. There are a few discrepancies in facial structure, but the layouts of the manga art are cute beyond description and (as exemplified in the cover of the first book) can be very expressive. Her coloured work is smooth and well laid out. The black and white work can be a little smushed and seems rushed sometimes, but the story is told well through the images and expressions. Her chibi work is especially adorablly admirable. Aihara, like Hanakimi’s Hisaya Nakajo, also has a gift for drawing pretty boys really well.
PERSONAL THOUGHTS (SPOILER-IFIC): Again, here was another series that I jumped into out of the blue. The front cover was interesting enough of book 1 and the description on the back I first met with a bit of disbelief and the initial thought “It’s another one of THOSE shoujos.” Boy was I ever wrong. The story struck me and it seemed a bit perverse with the whole “slave” thing – I honestly thought Ryouki might be some sort of closet nympho – and I was so sure that Hatsumi would end up with Azusa and that’d be the end of the story there. Again, I was wrong.
Aihara’s good at this. I think it just might be what drives this series so well.
Also, the Akane/Subaru story is a very nice touch – showing that Akane’s not an evil jealous sister after all, but that she has a few things to learn about love as well as herself. I almost enjoy her story more than Hatsumi’s but I really hope that Subaru doesn’t end up falling for Hatsumi, too. It’d be rather painful and as annoying as Akane can be, she deserves a real, honest relationship. I’ll admit that I saw the Shinogu thing coming from about 40 miles away though. As soon as I noticed that he wasn’t too bad looking, I began figuring that Aihara’d probably toss in some incest loop or other. Thankfully, she didn’t, but approached it from another end rather skillfully, but it seemed a bit rushed. I still love Shinogu, though, but my prediction for who ends up with Hatsumi goes to Ryouki. I’d love for that to happen, but who knows…I just might be wrong again.