NISHIZAKI Megumi (story), AIHARA Miki (original concept)
Shoujo – Drama, reverse harem, romance, mature
1 Volume (complete)
With her love life in a mess, Hatsumi runs to the one person she has always counted on: Shinogu. But learning Shinogu was adopted was a secondary shock to the revelation he’s been in love with her for years. Shinogu wants to leave the Narita family, but Hatsumi doesn’t want him to go away. But does she want to stay by his side as his sister or something more?
Hot Gimmick S may give Shinogu fans the ending they were dreaming of, but both the path to the ending as well as the writing are about as bad as Ryoki’s and Azusa’s behaviors.
Note that this review may be a little more spoiler-y than my usual, but that’s because this volume is essentially an ending, not a full story. Hot Gimmick S should be read after Hot Gimmick. While you could hypothetically jump into the novel right after Hatsumi and Ryoki’s second trip, it’s just easier to have the background image of how the story is supposed to go, whether you like who ends up as Hatsumi’s boyfriend or not.
Hot Gimmick S is narrated by hapless heroine Hatsumi. In the first couple chapters, she retells the events up to about the end of Hot Gimmick Volume 11. Considering the original Hot Gimmick is 12 volumes long, it’s a little late for an author to try to switch love interests. The idea is interesting — in fact, I wish more harems/reverse harems had alternate endings — but the story needed to add more scenes to believe this ending is valid. Yes, the novel eventually shows Hatsumi in her third year of high school, but nothing has changed about her or her circumstances. Half of the novel has Hatsumi mentally begging Shinogu not to annul the adoption, so the switch to “I might like him” is incredibly sudden. Heck, even in the last page of the manga, Hatsumi admits it will still be a little while before she stops viewing Shinogu as her brother. Considering almost everyone in the story remarks on how devoted Shinogu has been to Hatsumi his whole life, it feels more like Hatsumi is taking the easy way out, choosing someone who has been nice to her always over finding someone she truly loves.
The last couple of chapters also try to force Hatsumi to awaken her feelings in ridiculous ways: a rival and a near-death experience. In back-to-back chapters. Right at the very end.
Yep, all this time, Shinogu just needed some random chick and an on-the-job accident to win Hatsumi’s affection. While Hot Gimmick had both drama and train wrecks in spades, these two situations feel like lazy storytelling.
Other characters also are way too supportive of a Hatsumi-Shinogu relationship. “Go for it! Go for it!” Nobody asks if Hatsumi is really over Ryoki or if she and Shinogu just have brother/sister complexes. Again, it feels like Hatsumi is being pushed towards Shinogu rather than developing feelings for him naturally. She already tried to force feelings in the original Hot Gimmick (a scene which is recounted in Hot Gimmick S), and it didn’t work. Everyone wants Shinogu to be happy; no one seems to be rooting for Hatsumi. (Ryoki is hardly in the book at all in case you’re wondering.)
At least Hot Gimmick does explain how Shinogu came to live with the Narita family. Since Hot Gimmick S is told in first person point-of-view, the flashback is told awkwardly in third person. Hatsumi’s mom (Shihoko) starts telling the story, and then it’s all “Shihoko said this” and “Shihoko did that”. Anyway, this does provide a little background into why Hatsumi’s parents were fighting a lot several years ago, I don’t think Hot Gimmick ever revealed they had an arranged marriage, and I was left wondering if any of the adults in Hot Gimmick really loved their spouse. Regardless, like the rest of the novel, the whole explanation fits into one short chapter, and it still feels like there are holes in the story. Shihoko’s mother is a police officer, and Shinogu’s mother and her boyfriend were never arrested? I know Japan is often portrayed as being really “hands off” in regards to other people’s business, but six months? And then two deaths, one after another?
Azusa fans will also be pleased to see more of his late-series self without the stick up his butt. Asahi, Subaru’s sister, also shows up quite often considering her secondary role in Hot Gimmick. I’ve always felt like Asahi — with her crush on Shinogu — was an underused character, but all we get is the story about how she liked Shinogu and that now she’s a fellow Hatsumi x Shinogu cheerleader. Meanwhile, Subaru is hardly seen, and the novel hints his love life is likely to be as chaotic as Hatsumi’s. Considering how cute he and his girlfriend are, it’s another disappointment.
Simple illustrations are included throughout the story, but a lot of them look as if they were ripped right from a panel of Hot Gimmick. You may think this would be obvious considering Aihara drew Hot Gimmick, but they feel like they don’t really add much to the novel. Hatsumi with teary eyes looking at a smiling Shinogu, gee, never seen that before. /sarcasm
However, all that might have been tolerable if Hot Gimmick S wasn’t written like a middle school kid’s assignment. The original manga may be targeted at older teens, but the novel sure isn’t. For most of the book I wondered if Nishizaki had ever heard of a three-sentence paragraph or the phrase “show, don’t tell”. I would have guessed this was her debut work, but she’s written adaptations and side-stories for Fushigi Yûgi, Ceres: Celestial Legend. Dr. Rin ni Kiitemite!, and more. Seriously, the dialogue is so simplistic, I bet I could read it in Japanese without a dictionary.
The novel includes few descriptions of how Hatsumi is actually feeling, of people’s tones, of their expressions. It informs, but it doesn’t make readers feel. The pages read more like a script than a novel, the type of script a middle school would put on to show that everyone can be friends. The whole volume may clock in at around 150 pages, but considering the Times New Roman size 12 font and the abundance of new paragraphs, the volume probably is only half of that length. Really, if it weren’t due to details found in the original Hot Gimmick, this probably could have been found in the young readers section of a bookstore. This isn’t a light novel; it’s a light light novel.
Surprisingly, while the original manga does not use honorifics or characters’ nicknames, the light novel does. Akane is “Aka-chin”, Hikaru is “Hii-kun”, but Shinogu is never “Onii-chan”.
I’m sure you could find fanfiction with better writing. Either that or make up your own Hatsumi x Shinogu tale.
Viz Media released Aihara’s Honey Hunt and Tokyo Boys & Girls. Of course, they also published the original manga Hot Gimmick.