Gimmick Book 1

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.

Gimmick Book 1 cover
Gimmick Book 1
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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.)


  1. Tim Rifenburg

    This sounds like a book my students who are into Manga would love. You explained the set up really well and definitely caught my interest. This will sound like a dumb question. Did you like it? I know you are a tough sell for certain type of Manga stories (I say this based on the impression I get from reading other reviews) and I was stil not sure if you were recommending it or not. I’ll definitely look for it next time I’m at a bookstore. I have what I classify as a comic club that I run after school and it meets every other week. The students are always interested in new series and their appetite for Manga is big. The club was started to promote my love of comics but it has become a place for gaming, manga, video games, anime and animation. Only a couple of students are into comics like I am. I took 18 students last year, by train, to the New York Comic Con and they had a ball. We are fundraising for a return trip this year and I think i might have to do 2 day trips to the convention because word has gotten out about the convention.

    I think you for your Manga reviews because even though it is not my interest they help me steer students to new books and help me get a gauge on content. I really appreciate all you do here on your site and have been loving your husband’s dvd reviews. Tim

  2. So, he’s sort of like The Human Target, only with gimmicks for others rather than himself?

  3. Tim, I very much did like it. (And I’m sorry I didn’t make that clear in the original review.) I’m glad your students are loving comics — of whatever kind. That’s great that you’re building that interest in them. And thanks for reading the site!

  4. I’m glad to see somebody else enjoying Gimmick. This isn’t high art, and Kohei swears by his silver spatula about as often as Kindaichi swears by his grandfather, but who cares?

    Gimmick is one of my current favorites because it’s the perfect potato chip book. It’s delicious and totally satisfying for what it is and I’ve enjoyed the heck out of all four volumes so far.

  5. Great description! Yeah, it’s nice snack entertainment. I’m glad to hear that the fun continues through future books.

  6. […] back in with the series about a gifted special effects makeup artist, I found it still entertaining, plus this volume shows the reader more of Kohei’s background. […]

  7. […] creator a little forgettable and fluffy — Kohei solves some outrageous problem through some makeup and explosions, repeat — when I hit this installment. The major story included in this volume […]

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