story by Youzaburou Kanari; art by Kurko Yabuguchi
published by Viz; $9.99 US
The hero of Gimmick is Kohei, an amazingly talented special effects artist who uses his skills to help people who need disguises to solve their problems. He’s a great central character, combining talent, cool, energy, an attractive appearance, and knowledge of his own awesome abilities with an adolescent ability to indulge in pranks. He chooses to help a bit player get attention through a blood-spurting makeup job, for example, without considering how much it will disrupt the film set.
The stories are action-packed, but with plenty of humor. In the first chapter, Kohei is crushing on a young actress. When his butt-kicking agent shows up to chew him out about not following the rules, and she reveals that his next job involves the actress, Kohei’s drawn as a begging wolf, tail wagging. His idea of a cute parlor trick to introduce himself is to pretend to have his eyeball fall out, then burst into confetti. The combination of goofiness with sometimes gruesome effects would fit right in with horror comedies like Shaun of the Dead.
The authors, writer Youzaburou Kanari and artist Kurko Yabuguchi, do a great job with scenarios where Kohei’s abilities make sense to save the day. They often take place in the entertainment world, adding another level of excitement. For instance, an actress who feels like she’s under house arrest is disguised so she can escape her abusive manager’s attention. Or one with major scars needs them covered up so she can do sexy, skin-baring scenes.
Kohei’s partner, assistant, and keeper is a stuntman, which allows for car chases and last-minute escapes. All of their skills come in handy for the central story, about a monster theme park being attacked by a former employee out for revenge. The previous expert had confused creating fear with grossing out the customers, making disgusting instead of scary zombies. To combat him, Kohei creates a makeup assembly line, giving visitors new faces to confuse the villain.
The transformation process is a chance for dramatic art. It’s treated intensely, as though it were life-saving surgery, but with the elements and techniques explained to the reader, providing a mini-course in movie makeup. They even drop names of famous effects creators like Rick Baker. Kohei affects reality by altering perception. The high-stakes action and visual trickery are perfect for comics.
(A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the publisher.)