GIMMICK! (?????) • Youzaburou Kanari (story), Kuroko Yabuguchi (art) • VIZ (2008-ongoing) • Shueisha (Young Jump, 2005-2007) • 9 volumes • Seinen Mystery Thriller • 16+ (mild language, graphic violence, nudity, sexual situations)
Kohei, a makeup and animatronics prodigy, and Kannazuki, a stuntman, operate Studio Gimmick, a tiny but plucky special effects studio. After his years training in Hollywood under special effects master “J.T.” (an homage to Rick Baker), Kohei has learned to do incredible feats with his makeup-applying “silver spatula of god,” and his skills are often used to solve mysteries as well as create monster masks and help bikini models cover up scars. With its functional seinen art and occasional cheesecake, Gimmick! initially looks like any number of young men’s mystery manga. But the author’s passion for old-school, pre-CGI Hollywood special effects is infectious, and the stories have good range, while stretching the realistic boundaries of what can be done with squibs and latex. Of particular interest to American readers is the September 11-related storyline in volume 5, in which the hero makes the observation that “Hollywood films are commercials for America” and calls upon the reader to “Think for yourself! Don’t be fooled by images!”
** 1/2 (two and a half stars)
This is a manga that grew on me. I love the basic shonen story structure with the mysterious mentor and the “ambitious, hardworking person who is ridiculously good at some skill/job/ability” (I’ve used this structure in my own comics), and although many of the individual episodes of Gimmick! are fairly ridiculous, I like the overall story arc. Furthermore, I’m a horror film nut, so I got all of Kanari’s horror movie references. And lastly, there’s the fact that the manga’s cinematic leanings are so distinctly Hollywood-focused, which is questionable in one sense (it’d be nice to know more about the history of Japanese special effects), but on the other sense, makes it easy for a Western reader to follow. Is it a form of cultural self-centeredness, enjoying manga which is about America and American culture? Possibly, but I like seeing America through an outsider’s lens.
Today’s winner is Tyhana J. of Oregon! A bunch of manga are headed your way! Who will be the next person to receive a special midnight visit from a box of manga?!?! Could it be… YOU?!!