Gimmick! Vol. 1

Written by Youzaburou Kanari
Art by Kuroko Yabuguchi
224 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

There are some basic hooks for stories which we’ve seen over and over again—princess in need of rescuing, evil businessman tries to take over the world, that sort of thing. And then there are ones that, when they do show up, make you genuinely wonder why we don’t get them more often, because they’re so full of possibilities. That’s how I feel about Youzaburou Kanari and Kuroko Yabuguchi’s Gimmick!, in which a makeup/special-effects artist and a stuntman keep finding themselves solving other people’s dilemmas. When you think about the skill sets of those two characters, well, the possibilities are endless.

Kohei and Kannazuki are Studio Gimmick, selling their services to movies as needed. Well, movies if they’re lucky, at any rate. Sometimes they’re only able to find jobs like working for amusement parks. But Kohei’s skills with makeup are truly unparalleled, able to make anything and everything in a speed so quickly it should be impossible. That’s a good thing, because the two of them keep finding trouble—be it a controlling manager who won’t let his star actress free, or a mad bomber who’s going to blow up a horror-themed park. Fortunately, it seems there’s nothing that skilled makeup artists and stuntmen can’t accomplish when they put their mind to it.

In many ways I think I like the setup of Gimmick! more than the actual execution. The basic plots are pretty straight-forward but they’re good; a strange combination of bad-guys that range from thieves and bombers to acting agents and paparazzi. That mixture works well for me, switching back and forth between the business of making television and movies itself, and the larger-than-life aspect of Gimmick! with the sort of antagonists that one would certainly never find in a normal life. Kohei and Kannazuki have a lot of ingenuity going for them, and each of the four adventures in the first volume are entertaining.

It’s in the finer details, though, that I found myself let down a bit. Is it necessary to have Gimmick! be the 50-millionth series where the protagonist is an uncontrollable horndog? Every time a new Japanese series shows up in America where the lead is slobbering over the sight of any and every beautiful woman, I can’t help but groan. It gets in the way of the story with Gimmick!, acting as an actual distraction the more it appears, with stories regularly going on hold for a few pages so Kohei can gasp about how much he loves the latest woman that he only just met. Gimmick! also seems to rely a little too much on the double-fake-out, where the first surprise is really hiding a second one. It works well the first time it appears, but it starts to get to the point where you realize that every story’s going to end that way. In the end, it’s these small problems that really weaken what would otherwise be some good writing on the part of Kanari.

Yabaguchi’s art is good if not great. It’s an average looking book, one that uses a lot of familiar stylings and shorthand that you see in manga aimed at teenage boys, but it shines best when dealing with Kohei’s trickery. When it comes to drawing something out of the ordinary, be it a latex mask being peeled off of a zombie, or a series of scars, that’s where Yabaguchi does his best. Maybe it’s being given something different and out of the ordinary to draw that does it, but it certainly is a good thing that Gimmick!‘s art is best when it comes to, well, its gimmick.

Gimmick! has a good opening volume, if one that seems to fall back a little too quickly on conventions. Hopefully future volumes will push the boundaries a bit and not have to keep retreading the traditional. When Gimmick! tries something new, that’s when it really shines. For a book that’s supposed to be about a super-inventive main character that doesn’t want to do the same old thing every day, I wish its creators would trust in that path for themselves a little more.

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