Shoujo – Drama, reverse harem, romance, mature
12 Volumes / 4 Omnibuses (complete)
Hatsumi’s family lives in company housing and fears crossing the wife of a company executive. Hatsumi’s peaceful life is threatened when their son, Ryoki, learns a juicy bit of gossip about her family. Desperate to keep him quiet, Hatsumi finds herself as Ryoki’s slave. Perhaps her old friend Azusa can help stop Ryoki’s harassment? If not, maybe her brother…
Hot Gimmick is one of the best worst manga out there.
Yes, I know that’s an oxymoron.
Okay, how many of you have done this: sat and watched an entire movie even though it was terrible. It’s awful, you know it’s not very good, but your hand never reaches for the controller. It’s that same sense of morbid curiosity that makes us slow down and look out the person who has been pulled over by the police or that “I know I’ll regret it but I’ll click on it anyway” feeling you see a warning above an Internet link.
Well, meet Hot Gimmick, a manga that is objectively awful but somehow addicting. It stars Hatsumi, a quiet, emotional, easily manipulated girl. She’s the opposite of her younger sister Akane. While Akane is very flirtatious and pretty much a party girl, Hatsumi hasn’t had a boyfriend yet. She was close to a neighbor boy named Azusa, but he moved away. Unfortunately, while trying to help her sister out, Hatsumi reunites with the scary Ryoki, the son of a company director and his nasty wife. Hatsumi has spent years trying to avoid him after he pushed Hatsumi down a flight of stairs.Well, Hatsumi accidentally spills the beans, and Ryoki decides to make Hatsumi a slave in exchange for not revealing Akane’s behavior. Even worse, “slave” is more of a sexual slave rather than a gofer. Azusa reappears, Hatsumi’s brother is confused by his sister’s behavior, and Ryoki’s mom is a witch who delights in stamping out any behavior — and individuals – she deems unseemly. This sets the stage for our “romantic” story.
That’s not to say everything about Hot Gimmick is terrible. Let’s start with the good: the series has an awesome beta couple. A lot of stories have been coming out lately involving an anime otaku and a “normie”. What’s more unusual is to have the popular one actually fall in love first, and, even more surprisingly, have the other bluntly say, “You scare me.” Neighbor Subaru is understandably bewildered by Akane’s sudden interest in him, especially since he doesn’t have any experience with romance. Akane may seem like she falls in love too quickly, but her and Subaru’s relationship is much cuter — and healthier — than Hatsumi’s relationship with Ryoki.
Next up is Shinogu who should be in the Good Guys Hall of Fame. Smart, kind, devoted, hard-working, gentle Shinogu. Unfortunately, Aihara made him almost too much of a great guy and didn’t quite know what to do with him. Pair him up with Hatsumi and readers will feel like they invested too much time in the main couple. Don’t pair him up and readers will feel like he got the shaft. Shinogu was almost too good to be involved in the battle for Hatsumi’s heart, and Aihara wrote herself into a lose-lose situation.
So an awesome potential love interest and a good secondary couple. What’s the issue with Hot Gimmick?
Well, the male lead is an incredible <bleep>, and the other part of this love polygon is also a <bleep>.
*Please replace all <bleep> with the insult of your choice.
Let’s go over some of these guys’ actions:
- Attempted rape
- Sexual assault
Oh, wait, that was a list of their crimes. As for their non-criminal activities, let’s not forget lies and withholding information.
In Hot Gimmick‘s defense, this is fiction, manga fiction. Characters constantly get hit in manga, and stuff like sleeping kisses are pretty standard. It’s not just manga; lots of behavior in mass media shouldn’t be emulated. But it’s the severity of Ryoki’s and Azusa’s actions that are problematic. Well into the series, Ryoki comes home and slaps Hatsumi in front of everyone. Just walks up and smacks her across the face for not answering the phone. That is NOT okay.
Again, by all accounts, readers should be avoiding this series like the plague. When the main love interest starts groping the heroine while she’s asleep, you have to wonder why he’s the “hero”.
But Hot Gimmick grabs your attention in two ways.
First, it includes juuuuuust enough cute moments to distract you from the awful ones. Ryoki is a genius, and it’s hilarious when he tries to solve his relationship problems with math. He also tends to take the bull by the horns and has little issue declaring his interest in Hatsumi. His one-track mind helps readers to not judge him as harshly as he probably should be.
Second is the fact that the story is just plain addicting. The heroine is known as “hapless Hatsumi” for nothing. She’s indecisive and gets distracted easily. You just don’t know what new crisis is going to come up. From her first (re-)encounter with Ryoki until the series finale (and beyond), Hatsumi is destined to never have a peaceful life. Her sister has a bout of jealousy. Her brother starts acting strange. Mrs. Tachibana has spies and allies all throughout the complex. Azusa returns to the building and then often disappears. Hatsumi is seemingly hopeless at times, but you just can’t help but wanting to see if that proverbial train is going to run over that car that’s idle on the tracks.
One thing I’ve always liked about the art is that the characters feel alive. They don’t all walk around in the same outfits every day. When Hatsumi and the gang go out, the station is full of people and not just the main characters. It’s touches like this that help make bring out the setting of Hot Gimmick. The art starts off a little weak though, and it’s during this serialization that she really settles into her own style. At the beginning, for instance, Aihara struggles with angled shots like 3/4 profiles. They look awkward. In addition, since Hatsumi spends a lot of time depressed, a lot of the images tend to feel repetitive. However, Aihara starts to add more variety, like angel-Hatsumi and devil-Hatsumi fighting or Azusa’s constantly changing hairstyle. (Azusa also looks huge early on, yet other times he’s about Ryoki’s size.) The manga also has a really dark feel to the art, as if everything is drawn in gray tones. It’s not a very vibrant series. It works since, obviously, Hot Gimmick really isn’t a cheerful manga.
The three-in-one version of Hot Gimmick also includes some color inserts. These were not included in the original release. It’s not a huge deal, but it is something to consider if you’re deciding between the out-of-print singles or the still-in-print compiled version.
Honorifics are inconsistently used. Some parts are made to be more Americanized, but other sections are translated more faithfully. For example, Hatsumi’s younger brother calls her “Hami-chan” in both the English and Japanese versions. Yet Hatsumi never refers to her older brother by his name in Japanese; it’s always “Onii-chan”. Hatsumi and Ryoki call each other by their last names in Japanese, but it’s switched to first names here. Mrs. Tachibana calls Hatsumi “Hatsumi-san”, but her son is “Ryoki dear” and not “Ryoki-san”. The changes are always consistent, but it isn’t consistent on why they made these alterations. With all the slang like “preggo” and “cherry”, Viz Media’s Hot Gimmick feels like it was rewritten with an American audience in mind. But all the honorifics (not to mention the concept of company housing) is very Japanese.
Despite its mature content, I do think it’s younger teenagers that will likely enjoy Hot Gimmick the most. I think a lot of initial popularity for Hot Gimmick was because it was released as one of the first “edgy” romance manga and targeted the Sailor Moon generation who helped propel the manga boom. Even now, it’s this upper middle school and early high school crowd that will like Hot Gimmick the most, before readers can really recognize the social issues it brings up. Even though I’ve never read it, Hot Gimmick is probably the manga version of Twilight: trashed by many, but others will find themselves envious of the heroine.
Oh, and a bonus positive for the manga: when you compare Hot Gimmick to her other works, suddenly Hot Gimmick becomes her magnum opus. Seriously. Her other works involve every problem and flaw in Hot Gimmick taken up several notches, only minus the charm.
Viz Media released Aihara’s Honey Hunt and Tokyo Boys & Girls. They also published an alternate-ending story titled Hot Gimmick S.