Hot Gimmick

As I mentioned in my March Book List, I read volumes 2-12 of the manga Hot Gimmick by Miki Aihara this month because, like a Rene Cardona Jr. film, I could not look away. But not because of polygamist shark attacks or a psycho killer with 1000 cats, more because I could not see any possible way for it to end non-sketchily. And I was right.

Constant Attemtped Rape: maybe not the best premise for a romantic comedy

I first picked up volume 1 last year because it’s on Wake County’s recommended list of shojo manga, or manga for teen girls. The description given makes it sound like a typical teen romantic comedy. Ryoki finds out an embarrassing secret about Hatsumi’s sister, and blackmails her into pretending to be his girlfriend. Volume 1 pretty much bore this out, with the more worrying phrasing of “slave” instead of “girlfriend”. But Hatsumi’s childhood friend Azusa, who’s grown into a hot male model, moves back into the apartment complex and gets all flirty. I assume he’s going to teach her to be a stronger person and stand up to Ryoki, or Ryoki will realize he is being a jerk and fall in love with her for real real. Probably both.

Then last month I picked up volume 2 and realized this is pretty much not a romantic comedy at all. If this same story were told in an American teen movie, it would be all dark and dramatic. Hatsumi would probably end up murdering every other character in the most gory way possible at the end. Instead, she ends up engaged! Yay?

Hatsumi in foreground; "love" interests (from L to R) Shinogu, Ryoki, Azusa in back

Here is the real deal: Ryoki is attempting to use Hatsumi as “practice” and pretty much sexually assaults her every time they meet. Azusa seems like he’s going to be the good guy, but then reveals that he is only pretending for some convoluted revenge on her family and attempts to rape her in front of his friends. Then she discovers that Shinogu, her older brother, is actually adopted and actually HAS BEEN IN LOVE WITH HER SINCE CHILDHOOD. At this point I am pretty disturbed that the love interest I am the least grossed out by is her brother because, hey, at least he has never tried to force himself on her and realizes that his feelings are ridic.

Azusa continues with his vague revenge schemes and Ryoki finds that he is in love with Hatsumi and gets her to be his girlfriend. Unfortunately this just means more sexual assault, with a side of Hatsumi feeling guilty because she doesn’t enjoy it “like a girlfriend should”. She also continues to worry about and be nice to Azusa despite his past actions. Some highlights of the remaining volumes:

-Hatsumi isn’t home when Ryoki calls while he’s on vacation. When he gets back, he slaps her in the face. She apologizes and admits that it’s all her fault.

-Hatsumi’s mom tells her she wouldn’t be upset if Hatsumi chose Shinogu, because that way Shinogu could stay part of their family even though he is not their “real” son.

-Ryoki repeatedly demands that Hatsumi chose between him or her family, saying that she can’t care about both.

-In a transparent attempt to make Ryoki jealous Hatsumi demands that Shinogu “make me your woman”. Since Shinogu is slightly less creepy than every other character, he says no.

In the end, I was hoping that Hatsumi would choose no one and move away to start a new life in a Swiss boarding school or something. Alas, instead she decides that she can’t live without Ryoki. Or rather, he decides for her as usual:

So romantic, you guys!

In the final scenes of the manga, Shinogu decides to become a monk and Azusa vaguely promises to keep trying for revenge through torturing Hatsumi. The bedroom door closes on the newly engaged Hatsumi and Ryoki while she cries about not being ready and he tells her to shut up.

I think I enjoyed reading this manga, in the same weird way I enjoyed watching Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus. Every time I thought it couldn’t get any more terrible, it did. There was something shockingly interesting about its refusal to follow what I consider typical teen romantic comedy tropes. Like, for instance, making any of the love interest boys likable or, you know, NOT CRIMINALS. On the other hand, I wonder what it would be like to read this series as a teen girl. I’d like to think that it would be impossible to mistake any of the relationships portrayed for real love. They are even more obviously-destructive than Edward-the-Stalkerpire.

I’m trying to see the appeal of this manga. There’s obviously the “who will she choose?” love rectangle to keep readers guessing and rooting for their favorite sociopaths. And I think the atmosphere of sexual coercion is all too realistic to some girls’ experiences. I get the feeling from the ending that I’m not necessarily supposed to be happy for Hatsumi more that this is just something that happens to some people. The author does’t hit you over the head with a moral like in a lot of teen problem novels, though, so it’s more open to interpretation.

Anyway, I’m glad I made it to the end and can now relax with some nice, non-morally troubling manga about a librarian army. I think we can all agree that is 100% a good idea.

2 responses to “Hot Gimmick”

  1. Caitlin says:

    I am disturbed

    • PLadd says:

      Yeah, I kept thinking “GAH! WHY would anyone read this??” and then answering myself with “Well… I’M reading it.”

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