Caitlin, Chiaki, and special guest Megan D enjoy some drinks while not enjoying a live-action adaptation of the infamous shoujo manga Hot Gimmick!
Date Recorded: February 8th, 2020
Host: Caitlin, Chiaki
Guest: Megan D.
0:01:38 Background and plot
0:08:30 Post time-skip
0:09:26 Talk to an adult
0:10:12 Nothing makes sense
0:12:49 Royalty free music
0:16:46 Boys and wigs
0:18:42 The movie plot
0:27:41 The adaptation
0:46:11 The manager
CAITLIN: Hi! Welcome to Chatty AF, the Anime Feminist podcast. Today we are going to be doing a drunk watch of the new Hot Gimmick live-action movie on Netflix. I’m Caitlin. I am a writer and editor for Anime Feminist, as well as running my own blog, I Have a Heroine Problem, and writing for The Daily Dot. And today I am joined by Chiaki and Megan. How about you guys introduce yourselves?
CHIAKI: Sure. Hi, I’m Chiaki Hirai. I am a freelance writer and currently editor for Anime Feminist. You can find me at @WeebiestEmpress on Twitter or, otherwise, on the website. I’m currently drinking Kings of Prohibition Cabernet Shiraz.
MEGAN: Fancy! My name is Megan Deyarmin. I’m an occasional contributor to Anime Feminist. When I’m not doing that, I’m doing my weekly manga reviews over at my blog, the Manga Test Drive, or occasionally doing other reviews on my other blog, Renaissance Josei. My choice of drink is Moscow mule in a can.
CAITLIN: I have a Riesling that I picked up at Trader Joe’s. I don’t know exactly what else it is. I don’t know the brand or anything.
MEGAN: It’s booze. That’s all you need to know.
CAITLIN: So, for those who don’t know, a drunk cast is an episode of Anime Feminist where we are watching something so insane we feel the need to drink while doing it.
Right now, I am stone-cold sober. But in a few minutes, I will be parked in front of my TV watching the new Hot Gimmick movie on Netflix. And then after finishing watching that, we’re all going to come back together and drunkenly rant about what we just saw, because, y’all, this movie is insane. I watched it expecting something even vaguely similar to the manga. That is not what I got. I got something much wilder.
But first, before we do that, we’re gonna have a little chat about Hot Gimmick, what it means to us, and then go off and watch the movie. So, Megan, how about you go first?
MEGAN: Okay. I have read all of Hot Gimmick. I read it fairly early on in the 2010s, around the time I started doing my blog. And it is certainly a thing, because it is not a good manga. As you’ve discussed more than once on your blog and on your panel about abusive relationships in shoujo manga, it’s really bad. It’s really, really bad. And the manga itself… The art is okay. Miki Aihara is not a particularly spectacular mangaka. But it is the most compulsively readable thing.
CAITLIN: Oh my God. I hate that about it.
MEGAN: It is the train wreck you cannot turn away from.
CAITLIN: Yeah, no, as, Megan, you just alluded to, I read it when it was first coming out, was like, “No, nope, not my thing,” because it is full of abusive relationships presented as romantic. And then later, when I was working on my panel about abusive relationships in shoujo manga, I was like, “You know what’s a prime example of that? Hot Gimmick.”
I guess I should probably give a quick plot summary. This is what happens when I don’t do show notes ahead of time.
MEGAN: Well, luckily I did.
CAITLIN: So, Hot Gimmick is the story of Hatsumi… What’s her last name? Saitama [sic]. I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. So Hatsumi goes to buy a pregnancy test for her middle-school sister, whose period is late, and gets caught by the wealthy son of the company’s owner, Ryoki. Ryoki announces that she will now be his slave because he has the power to ruin her life.
MEGAN: You should also know that they live in company housing and the reason he can do this is because his mom is basically queen of the apartments, and any slight infraction could get you fired or shipped off to God knows where.
CAITLIN: Yes. So he has complete control of her life now. And he is terrible. He constantly berates her. He hits her a couple of times. He finds her passed out in the stairwell and starts kissing her neck and grabbing her breasts when she’s definitely well beyond consent.
Meanwhile, her childhood friend Azusa has moved back, and he has, since left, become a really popular model. And Azusa immediately starts wanting to date her. But it turns out that he secretly hates her. Why? That reason’s actually in the movie, so we’ll get into it then.
But yeah, everyone in this series is terrible people.
MEGAN: No, no, no, there’s one good person aside from Hatsumi.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Oh yeah! Subaru!
MEGAN: Shinagu [sic], I think is… Whatever, the older brother.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Shinogu?
MEGAN: Yeah, Shinogu.
CAITLIN: Well! Except the whole incest thing!
MEGAN: Yeah, the whole thing becomes a love triangle between Ryoki, Azusa, and Shinogu. And Shinogu wouldn’t be bad if not for the fact that he is her adoptive older brother.
CAITLIN: You did just imply that it’s the three boys who are in love with each other, which would be a much more interesting manga.
CHIAKI: Yeah, I was on board for a moment. [Laughs]
MEGAN: Okay. I guess it’s not so much a love triangle as like a love pyramid? Love diamond? I don’t know.
CAITLIN: A love tetrahedron.
CHIAKI: [crosstalk] A multi-front attack.
MEGAN: There you go.
CAITLIN: [Chuckles] So anyway, this manga is awful. But I hate that I can’t stop reading it every time I pick it up.
CHIAKI: Thanks for telling me.
CAITLIN: Chiaki. [Chuckles] Yeah, no, now Chiaki, you’re gonna go out and read it. Do you have any history with this series?
CHIAKI: So, funny story. I did hear about this manga back in high school. But it kind of passed me by because during the heyday, it was just as I was not really into shoujo manga as much. And I saw everyone reading it, but I just wasn’t that interested in it. So I’m coming in totally blind to this movie. I should have done some show notes, I guess.
CHIAKI: But I figured I’m just going to sit back, eat a sandwich, drink some wine, and scream.
CAITLIN: Megan, what are your expectations for the movie, other…?
MEGAN: Admittedly, I’ve not watched a lot of live-action manga adaptations. So I don’t necessarily have a ton, but I’m familiar enough with the story to know that there’s no way this could turn out good.
CAITLIN: Mm-hm. Yeah. Yeah. I’ve already watched it. I watched it to review it for the Daily Dot, and I was honestly very surprised by how completely and totally insane it was.
CHIAKI: I will say, I wanted to do this podcast because of how you were talking about this film. It convinced me I needed to see this.
MEGAN: Same here.
CAITLIN: [Chuckles] All right, then. Shall we break and reconvene in about two hours?
CAITLIN: All right.
CAITLIN: Happy drinking, y’all.
[Fast-forward sound effect]
CAITLIN: Hi, everyone! It has only been a few seconds for you, but it has been two hours for us.
MEGAN: Two hours of just…
MEGAN: Just what the hell!
CAITLIN: Okay. First of all, I want to apologize for my hiccups, [hiccups] because I am a cliché!
MEGAN: I drank all of my Moscow mules and oh dear!
CAITLIN: I had a bottle of Riesling. [Hiccups]
CHIAKI: I had an entire bottle of Shiraz, and I am currently on some plum wine.
CAITLIN: I also baked a cheesecake.
CHIAKI: Good job.
CAITLIN: But [hiccups] that is neither here nor there.
MEGAN: So where do we begin with this?
CHIAKI: Okay, before we begin, I just want to make it clear. I wrote this down as a note at the very early stages of this film, while I was a little bit more clear. Kids, if you’re getting bullied, please report to your parents or a teacher.
MEGAN: [crosstalk] Yes! Yes!
CHIAKI: Please just do that.
CAITLIN: Please speak to a trusted adult if you are being bullied.
MEGAN: You will nowhere be in as much trouble as you will be if you trust your supposed love interest, as Hatsumi does in this movie.
CAITLIN: Oh my God. Okay. Anyway, all right, okay. Cheesecake and drunken hiccups aside, I want to hear Chiaki’s impressions first because you are a complete newbie. So Chiaki, how does this movie make you feel?
CHIAKI: Well, you know, you guys, y’all gave me some pointers as to what is happening in the movie. And without those pointers at the very beginning, I would not have understood anything that was happening.
MEGAN: [crosstalk] Yes!
CHIAKI: I’m not sure if it was because I was drunk or because the movie just assumed you knew what was gonna happen.
CAITLIN: I think it was column A, column B.
MEGAN: Yes, yes, it was absolutely a bit of both because, like I said, I’ve read this manga, I’ve read it all the way through, and even then, even if I was stone freaking sober, I would be kind of baffled by some of the directions this movie takes.
CAITLIN: [Chuckling] It’s sort of just a bad movie. But anyway, please, Chiaki, continue. [Hiccups]
CHIAKI: With so little for me to really go off of in terms of the content itself… Full stop: the content is terrible.
MEGAN: Oh yes!
CHIAKI: There’s no excusing it.
MEGAN: None. Absolutely none.
CHIAKI: But what really caught me was just… What is this director doing with the camera shots?
MEGAN: I know, right? As far as the editing and the direction and the art direction, I’m like, “What is this tone here?”
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] It’s completely insane!
MEGAN: Because the editing is so frantic and quick and the art direction is so washed out—
CAITLIN: The weird split screens! [Hiccups]
MEGAN: Yes, that!
CHIAKI: [crosstalk] It’s like cell phone footage!
MEGAN: And it’s all in shades of white and gray. It’s like, what are you going for? I read all of this manga! This should be dark and intense and melodramatic. And it’s not. It’s like, what the hell are you going for?
CAITLIN: [Hiccups] My favorite one was when Hatsumi was talking to Azusa and it was a split screen from two different angles.
CAITLIN: And one was facing Hatsumi, and it was warm colors. And then it was facing Azusa, and it was only cool colors.
MEGAN: [crosstalk] Yes! It was all in shades of orange and blue like freaking Michael Bay or something!
MEGAN: And it’s just inexplicable!
CHIAKI: Michael Bay would have done better, because there would be at least some explosions in the movie!
CAITLIN: Okay. I did jot down a few thoughts during the movie. By the way… Okay. So, the first time I watched this movie was when I was visiting my family for Christmas, which I was doing for the first time in several years. And my mom kept coming and going at the movie. And two very relevant things happened. (A) I got a text from my little sibling—because I watched it in the morning—I got a text from my little sibling saying, “You woke me up with your cackling.”
CAITLIN: They didn’t come out. They did text me, because I was hyena-laughing right from the get-go. Second of all, my mom, who is a fuckin’ Pachelbel’s Canon otaku…
MEGAN: Oh no!
CAITLIN: She says that she had my sister and I learn to play instruments so that we could play a duet of Pachelbel’s Canon for her. By the end of the movie, she comes back into the living room and she says, “I’m starting to hate this song.”
MEGAN: I can’t blame her because this is possibly the most royalty-free score I’ve ever heard in a TV movie. At different points I heard “Für Elise,” I heard Pachelbel’s Canon, and I heard freaking “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep” at the very beginning!
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Or the ABC song! It could also be the ABC song or “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” No, the part—
MEGAN: Either way!
CHIAKI: Yeah, I thought it was “Twinkle, Twinkle.” I said it was “Twinkle, Twinkle.”
MEGAN: Either way, I realize that Japanese TV movies do not have huge production budgets, but Jesus!
CAITLIN: The part I was hyena-laughing at, by the way, was at the very beginning when Hatsumi throws the box of condoms off the bridge.
MEGAN: Oh no, it’s not a box of condoms. It’s this pregnancy test.
CAITLIN: No, no, no, there’s a pregnancy test, but then she also buys Akane a box of condoms, and then Akane is like, “I don’t like to use those.”
MEGAN: Gee, I wonder why.
CAITLIN: “Because I’m 15 and I don’t understand consequences, and also I should not be having sex!”
CHIAKI: Yeah, casually, Akane should not be…
CAITLIN: She should not be having sex.
MEGAN: Akane is the only character that actually comes off like a character. She is literally the best actress in this whole frickin’ movie, which is appropriate because she’s one of the few characters that really shines through the original manga. She’s a little tramp, but she’s darling.
CAITLIN: She is a tramp. And she had some good moments in the movie, too. But anyway… So, Hatsumi buys a box of… The box is iridescent.
MEGAN: [crosstalk] Yes, glittery condoms!
CAITLIN: So, Hatsumi’s got this box of condoms. And Akane’s like, “No, I don’t want those,” and Hatsumi throws them over the bridge. And it’s just dramatically bobbing in the water as the sunlight comes off of it.
MEGAN: [crosstalk] As the tune of “Black, Baa, Sheep” purrs. Oh my God.
CAITLIN: As “Twinkle, Twinkle” swells!
CHIAKI: [Chuckles] That in itself is a visual to take into account. But I feel what was even worse was the pregnancy test just landing slap in Ryoki’s hand once she throws it.
MEGAN: [crosstalk] Yes!
CHIAKI: He just catches it!
CAITLIN: [Chuckles] Good catch. None of these boys are cute, by the way.
CHIAKI: [crosstalk] Yeah, they’re terrible.
MEGAN: Oh, God, no. And part of that is because of the wig budget, because they clearly had a wig budget of like $20.
CAITLIN: Oh my God!
MEGAN: And the thing is that Ryoki’s actor has a very narrow Benedict Cumberbatch-y sort of face.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] A very deep chin.
MEGAN: And so clearly tried to hide that handsomeness under a very flat, weird wig that makes him look like he murders hobos in his spare time.
CAITLIN: No, no, no. No, no, no. I looked him up. He’s not cute, even without the wig.
MEGAN: Eh, he’s okay. But Azusa’s… Oh my God. That horrid orange thing.
CHIAKI: Azusa’s wig is so… God!
MEGAN: And I realize that sort of thing can happen when you try to bleach black hair. But seriously, it is so distractingly awful.
CAITLIN: [Laughs] It’s so bad! So yeah, no, none of the guys are cute.
CAITLIN: Hatsumi’s got a very generic idol sort of cute.
MEGAN: Well, the problem is that she’s played by an idol. She’s part, literally, of an idol group I have never heard of.
CAITLIN: She’s Nogizaka48 [sic], right?
CHIAKI: Oh, is she?
MEGAN: And the only thing she knows about how to act sad and downtrodden is to bury her face in her hair. It’s like, “Oh, I’m not cute. I’m not smart at all. Merr derr berr berr…”
CAITLIN: I mean, that is part of the whole idol thing. It’s like, “I’m not especially cute. I’m not especially smart. I’m not especially good at singing and dancing, which makes me approachable.”
MEGAN: [crosstalk] Yeah, it’s bad when you’re dealing with two out of three of our leads are members of an idol group. I understand that, as far as Japanese live action goes, that is a bad record. But oh boy, I was not prepared. Because Ryoki’s actor is just as bad, and he’s done a lot of TV.
CAITLIN: All right. [Chuckles] Who wants to summarize the plot of the movie as opposed to the manga?
MEGAN: Oh, dear. Who is the least drunk here?
CHIAKI: [crosstalk] “Plot”?
CHIAKI: You know what? I haven’t read the manga, so I am absolved from anything you guys can say.
MEGAN: Go for it, Chiaki! Go for it!
CAITLIN: No, that makes you the best candidate to summarize the plot, because you are untainted.
MEGAN: Because I have rants as far as adaptation goes, but you need to go first.
CHIAKI: Okay, so what I understand was Hatsumi and Azusa [sic] are sisters. Azusa is in middle school. Hatsumi’s in high school presumably, and she buys her little sister a birth control thing, which Ryoki catches. And Ryoki starts basically blackmailing her and makes her into a slave. For inexplicable reasons, Ryoki decides she’s no longer just a slave but a love interest and Hatsumi also agrees eventually.
But meanwhile, Azusa, who is a childhood friend of Hatsumi’s, shows up in the middle of whatever the heck this all is, just starts being chummy, and ruins Hatsumi’s life by gaslighting her all the way through.
Meanwhile, the sisters have an older brother, Shinogu, who is not actually related but also totally trying to get in bed with Hatsumi.
CAITLIN: Why does that keep happening in anime and manga? Like, “Oh, we’re legally related and we grew up together, but since we’re not blood related, it’s okay for us to fuck—and in fact, inevitable that we want to.”
CHIAKI: I feel it’s that taboo feeling that really just gets people riled up.
MEGAN: But the thing is that Shinogu is literally the only person within the original story, much less this movie, who really cares about Hatsumi as a person, who really cares about her welfare. And the sad thing is that is literally the best option!
CHIAKI: You know, I’ve faced that terrible choice before in terms of, wow, everyone’s terrible, but at least the least terrible option is that you’re just sisters by marriage or brother.
MEGAN: And the thing is, they did make a light novel about this. It’s called Hot Gimmick S. Viz actually released this back in the mid-2000s. So you can find out what that option looks like, legally.
CHIAKI: Do we want to?
MEGAN: I mean, I guess if you want to.
CHIAKI: I feel there’s way better stories out there.
CAITLIN: [Chuckles] Yes.
CHIAKI: Like, why are we revisiting this, is my thought.
MEGAN: That’s a good question, because this was in its heyday around the mid-2000s. This was released in Betsucomi around 2000 to 2005.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Fucking Betsucomi.
MEGAN: So this would have been— Yeah, I know, right? This is the same magazine that hosted… oh, what’s her face, the author who does Black Bird. But anyway, it’s a home to questionable-consent shoujo stories. So this would have came out right around the time the bubble was at its hugest here in the States, so a lot of people read it. So it’s just like, oh my God, why? Why?
CAITLIN: Chiaki, how do you feel about Ryoki as a love interest?
MEGAN: Fuck him!
CHIAKI: Exactly! My thoughts exactly!
CAITLIN: Who do you root for Hatsumi to end up with? [Hiccups] I’m gonna just play it straight. I’m gonna play it straight. Honestly, I believe in all these love interests.
MEGAN: All of these options are bad.
CHIAKI: I’m just gonna say, the best route for Hatsumi to explore is to call the cops, move on with her life, go to college, meet a nice boy, and just get married to him—or a nice girl, even. I don’t care. Just someone not inside this mess!
MEGAN: Someone who respects her, because Ryoki is absolutely the worst. And the amazing thing is this movie cuts out a lot of the most egregious events in the manga, but it is still terrible!
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Yes. It cuts out the sexual assault. It cuts out—
MEGAN: It also cuts out his whole slave reasoning, which is his mother being able to affect people’s employment. It just skips over that entirely. So there’s no reason for her to become his slave other than she’s just so self-loathing that she just goes with it.
CAITLIN: And yet there’s that weird scene where he’s like, “Oh, you should go with those boys,” and then like five seconds later he’s like, “Never mind!” and drags her away.
MEGAN: And the thing is you can’t even accept Azusa as an acceptable alternative, because in the manga at least, he puts on the facade of charisma before he exposes his true character. And that’s not even there in the TV movie. He’s just as terrible as Ryoki. And that’s even before he tries to date-rape her! With drugs, literally!
CHIAKI: If I may, one thing. Azusa had charisma?
CAITLIN: Nope, no charisma.
MEGAN: Charisma is nowhere to be found.
CAITLIN: No charisma, no chemistry.
CHIAKI: Where is the charisma in any part of this movie?
MEGAN: The thing is that both of the major love interests are supposed to be putting on this facade of normality, whether it’s the sociable personality of a model or the studiousness of a model student before they reveal their true themselves. But they don’t have that. They’re just terrible to Hatsumi, beginning to end. There’s no pretense.
CAITLIN: When Ryoki’s like, “I don’t have a girlfriend, but I do have a slave,” and all the boys are like, “Wow! That’s great! That’s so cool!”
MEGAN: [crosstalk] Yeah! High school misogyny! Awesome!
CAITLIN: I’m like, what the fuck, dude?
CHIAKI: Call them out, please!
CAITLIN: What the fuck?
MEGAN: [crosstalk] Of course he wouldn’t, because he’s part of that group.
CHIAKI: [Sighs] I’ve read better porno than this.
CAITLIN: All right, and—
MEGAN: I believe it. I absolutely believe it.
CAITLIN: This movie has such a weird obsession with purity, right?
MEGAN: I mean, admittedly the manga has something of an obsession with that, as well.
CAITLIN: Yeah. I mean, so does a lot of media. But—
MEGAN: A lot of shoujo manga in general.
CAITLIN: That whole thing about [in a dramatic, sobby tone] “I only wanted you to see me naked!” [Sobs]
MEGAN: The thing is, the whole sex scene between Hatsumi and Azusa… That is actually a very reasonable update to try to update this story for modern standards, with modern cell phones and all that. That is not a bad idea in concept. But in execution, it just fails everything else! How the hell!
CAITLIN: He roofies her and she wakes up just fine the next day.
MEGAN: Not even the next day. Like, within hours. And according to all reports of what date rape drugs are like, she should be out for half the day.
CAITLIN: She’s not blacked out or anything. She should go to the hospital!
MEGAN: Yes! Yes, absolutely, yes. And Shinogu is the only person who’s like, “This is wrong. This is bad. I’m gonna get you on a taxi. I’m gonna take you home.”
CAITLIN: Mm-hm. Except that he saw Ryoki roofie her. He’s not like, “Let’s take you to the hospital!” He’s like, “All right, I’m gonna send you home alone in a taxi.”
MEGAN: [crosstalk] And admittedly, while I’m glad that they avoided the literal attempted gangrape that the manga does attempt, it’s still very clearly implied in this TV movie version.
How do you manage to avoid the worst, most abusive scenes of the manga and still end up so bad? It’s such a bad adaptation of the work. This should be dark. This should be intense. This should be melodramatic. But it’s not, and it’s all scored to this weird, tinkly, royalty-free music. Can we talk about this?
CAITLIN: Weird remixes of “Für Elise!” [Chuckles]
MEGAN: And “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep” and Pachelbel’s Canon.
CHIAKI: I want to ask, I want to ask, though. You said it’s an update. What happens in the original in that scene?
CAITLIN: Oh my god. No, it’s so bad.
MEGAN: At that point, his friends literally do attempt to gangrape her, but she is saved in the nick of time by her brother, who’s working a zillion part-time jobs to make money.
CAITLIN: Okay. So yeah, Azusa arranges for her to be gangraped, but she is saved at the last second.
MEGAN: It’s way more explicit.
CAITLIN: And then she is still drugged, and she ends up passing out in the stairwell of her apartment complex. And Ryoki comes along and he sees her clearly vulnerable.
MEGAN: [crosstalk] And he feels her up!
CAITLIN: Yeah, and he just starts grabbing her boobs and kissing her neck.
MEGAN: And it’s framed as a romantic thing.
CAITLIN: Yes! And then Subaru’s older sister comes along and—
MEGAN: Shinogu. Shinogu, the older brother.
CAITLIN: No, no, it was Subaru, the other boy.
MEGAN: Oh, Azusa’s best friend.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] His older sister comes along, and she sees it and she’s just like, “Oh, sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt! All right, I’m gonna mind my business and keep on going,” instead of being like “Bro! What the fuck! What the fuck!” Do something! Say something!
MEGAN: [crosstalk] That’s something else. As far as it handles the setting, most of this takes place within a large company apartment building. This should be this very dark, claustrophobic thing. But it doesn’t come through at all.
CHIAKI: So, another question I have, then? Are the parents involved in any of this convoluted story hell? Because I’ve seen some parents. I’ve seen them here and there.
MEGAN: [crosstalk] Kind of? A whole revelation is that there’s this whole rivalry between Azusa and Ryoki because Azusa’s mom had an affair with Ryoki’s dad, but Hatsumi’s dad took the fall for that. And because of that, Azusa blames Hatsumi’s family for that, and that’s why he’s taking his revenge against her.
CAITLIN: Hatsumi’s dad is also weirdly strict. I feel like in the movie, they had it like, oh, he’s away on business, but he was there in the manga and he’s super strict, like, “Oh, my daughter must be perfectly chaste,” because, once again, this series has a weird obsession with purity.
MEGAN: Oh God, yes.
CAITLIN: It is such an undercurrent thing throughout the movie. It’s like, “You’re the only one I want to see you naked. I only wanted to see you naked. I don’t want to just see any girl naked.”
MEGAN: Again, that was one of the few places where updating that to account for things like cell phones actually did make some sense. And it actually did kind of work, except for the fact that the screenplay just kind of falls apart in the third act.
CAITLIN: Right. My issue with the stripping scene is that that’s normal drunk girl being taken advantage of. You don’t need to drug her for that to happen. That’s not what drugging does. [What] drugging does is she’s passed out and you physically take advantage of her. Not that I want to see that. I’m completely at peace with that not happening in this movie, but it doesn’t mesh. It doesn’t make sense.
MEGAN: Well, nothing really meshes because the pace of this thing is just so breathless, and a lot of that comes through in just the editing. The editing is so frantic and weird.
CAITLIN: [Chuckles] That big climactic scene on the riverbank. They’re just shouting non sequiturs at each other. [Chuckles]
MEGAN: [crosstalk] Well, this is all throughout the movie, not just the climax. It’s just constantly cutting back and forth between scenes. And the thing is, editing is supposed to set the tone of any sort of movie. It’s supposed to set the tone of how things are supposed to proceed. And this thing gets so frantic, it just makes no sense whatsoever.
CHIAKI: I thought it was a comedy.
MEGAN: I wouldn’t blame you!
CAITLIN: No, but that scene—okay, that whole thing. Nothing makes sense because first of all, there’s that ultrasound. (A) Why is Ryoki carrying it around? (B) Who is that baby?
MEGAN: Admittedly at this point I am so wasted on Moscow mules that I’m kind of half-paying attention to the plot, so…
CAITLIN: Who is that baby? I don’t know!
MEGAN: I presume it’s supposed to be Azusa’s mother, because the whole thing is that Azusa discovers his mother’s pregnant and their family divorces and his mother eventually ends up committing suicide, and that’s why he’s trying to enact revenge via Hatsumi to Ryoki. But it’s just like, oh my God!
CAITLIN: (B) Why is Ryoki just carrying that around all the time? Why does he just have that?
MEGAN: As you do.
CHIAKI: You know what? Trauma does things. Trauma does things to people.
CAITLIN: On the riverbank, they’re just yelling non sequiturs at each other!
MEGAN: Yes. At the end, they’re just running through the park, just yelling non sequiturs at each other. And this is supposed to be romantic! This is supposed to be the culmination of their relationship, so to speak. And it’s just like, oh my God, this is so ridiculous. This makes no sense!
CAITLIN: Nothing they are saying connects to what the other person is saying!
MEGAN: No, not at all.
CAITLIN: There’s no flow to this conversation.
MEGAN: [crosstalk] And it doesn’t help the fact that out of our three leads, two of them are idol singers by trade, and neither of them can act at all. I mean, admittedly, Ryoki, who is the professional TV actor, isn’t much better. But Hatsumi’s method of acting is just to bury her face in her hair and slump her shoulders. And that’s about it about her communicating how insecure she is. And she’s terrible.
CAITLIN: And then she cuts two inches off of her hair, and Ryoki says she looks like an alien.
MEGAN: Meanwhile Azusa… And the thing is, maybe he’s a great actor, but I couldn’t tell because I was endlessly distracted by his awful orange wig!
MEGAN: Admittedly that’s a thing that happens if you have very dark hair and you try to bleach it, but it looks like a $20 wig and it’s so distracting!
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Chiaki, have you ever bleached your hair?
CHIAKI: No. I have never done that. I’ve always had black hair, and it will never change.
MEGAN: I have very dark brown hair, myself, and I’ve never really attempted to do any extreme highlights because of that. But that thing is just hideous.
CHIAKI: I will say, though, the best actor in my opinion throughout this entire movie was Shinogu’s coworker, that guy who was helping them move.
CAITLIN: That scene in the car, though!
MEGAN: See, I was gonna say Akane, Hatsumi’s younger sister, because she’s the one who really gets the personality of the original manga character through, because Akane is admittedly a little bit of a tramp, but ultimately, she’s a good girl and she has this kind of relationship going on with Shinobu [sic], who’s kind of an otaku who lives in their apartment building.
MEGAN: And the movie tries to get this across, and it doesn’t because it utterly fails, because it doesn’t have enough time for it.
CHIAKI: I never noticed.
MEGAN: She’s a good girl, and she deserves better than what this movie gave her. She’s the only one who can act. I will say that much, because oh my God!
CAITLIN: Yes. She’s definitely the best actor. She’s 17, too. I looked it up. She’s 17. She’s super young and she’s the best actor in this movie by pretty far.
MEGAN: Admittedly, TV Japanese movie acting is admittedly flatter than a lot of the anime I’m used to, but Jesus!
CAITLIN: Chiaki, I’m wondering when you watch these, do you watch it raw or do you watch it with subtitles?
MEGAN: Subbed. I was watching it on Netflix.
CHIAKI: Well, yeah. So for me, I’m fluent in Japanese and I did have subtitles on, but when you’re drunk, you start kind of ignoring it.
MEGAN: It doesn’t help that the translation is a little spotty in areas. They do tend to leave off some particles here and there, like “the’s” that need to be there.
CHIAKI: [crosstalk] That’s good to know.
CAITLIN: And I’m curious if it makes any more sense in raw Japanese than it does subtitled, because my Japanese isn’t good enough for that.
CHIAKI: I was too busy looking at my wineglass and just staring at myself, wondering what the fuck I was doing with my life, that I couldn’t really pay attention to the subtitles. I can go back and look at it later, maybe never. But you know…
MEGAN: Yeah, a lot of the second half of this movie is just focused on “Hey, look how pretty Shibuya is,” instead of focusing on the plot.
CHIAKI: It’s not just Shibuya. I can tell that the director really had a thing for wanting to be really edgy with his…
MEGAN: Oh, my God. Yes. With the editing and the color design.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Her. Her. Lady director.
CHIAKI: Oh, her, her, her. I’m sorry. Her.
MEGAN: She was clearly trying to do like, “I’m gonna do different than all those other TV movies.” And bless her, she tried, but she tried in such a wrong manner. Just the tone! It’s all wrong! This does not feel like the manga felt in the way that it read. I feel like I should not be so offended that it adapted it so badly, but I do.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] It did it bad.
MEGAN: It’s weird!
CAITLIN: It’s bad in a completely different way from the manga.
MEGAN: Yes! It avoids the worst parts of the manga, but it’s still a terrible adaptation and I’m so baffled!
CHIAKI: So I want you both to tell me. The scene where they spill the coffee…
MEGAN: I admittedly missed that because I was so drunk! [Laughs]
CAITLIN: Hatsumi just casually knocks over a mug and then she lies down in it.
MEGAN: Admittedly, I’ve seen pictures, so I know what happens, but just what the hell!
CAITLIN: It’s not even like she flails and knocks it down. She just sort of twitches her hand and knocks it over after just casually taking off her pants in her brother’s apartment.
MEGAN: As you do.
CAITLIN: As you do.
MEGAN: After nearly getting date-raped.
CAITLIN: “I’m empty. I’m gonna try to seduce my brother who, until just a couple of weeks ago, I thought was biologically related to me. But since he’s not, it’s okay for me to fuck him.”
MEGAN: It’s okay. And honestly, this movie is kind of an insult to Hatsumi. Hatsumi is not a great character, but I feel like the manga handles her insecurity about her intelligence and her confidence a little more subtly than this movie does, where she’s like, “Oh, I’m so dumb and so stupid. Whatever. Er…”
CHIAKI: You know what? Thinking of all this, I feel like Domestic Kanojo is a better anime.
MEGAN: I don’t think you’re completely wrong.
CAITLIN: You know, I watched a couple episodes of Domestic Girlfriend and I didn’t hate it.
MEGAN: I read the first volume. Same thing.
CAITLIN: I didn’t like it enough to keep watching, but at least it knew that it was trash.
MEGAN: Same here, and I feel like the movie would have almost been better had it accepted its own innate trashiness and just embraced that, the darkness and the melodrama, and just rolled with it. It would have been truer to the source material than this tinkly, generic sort of BS.
CAITLIN: [To the tune of Pachelbel’s Canon] Doo, doo doo doo, doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo…
CHIAKI: [Imitating the next few bars] Doo, doo doo doo, doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo…
MEGAN: Oh my god, the score was so distracting!
CAITLIN: [Carries on imitating the song]
MEGAN: And along with the editing, what tone is this even going for? What audience is this trying to capture? Because I can’t imagine this would have gone over well with people who remembered the manga.
CAITLIN: It has five stars on IMDB.
MEGAN: Those poor fools.
CHIAKI: [Baffled] The movie?
CAITLIN: Out of 10.
CHIAKI: The movie?
CAITLIN: Out of 10.
CHIAKI: Oh, okay.
MEGAN: Yeah, that sounds about right.
CHIAKI: Okay. Yeah.
CAITLIN: Okay, during that big conversation where she’s going like, “I feel like I’m alone in my body,” I’m like, “Yeah! You too?”
CHIAKI: “Aren’t you glad?”
MEGAN: [crosstalk] That’s way too subservient for Hatsumi. The whole thing through the manga is that she’s not really self-aware of herself or her impact on others. But the way that it tries to romanticize her relationship with Ryoji [sic]… On one hand, that is fairly equivalent with what the manga tries to do.
But on the other hand, it is such BS! It is such BS! No, you cannot make him romantic! You cannot, no matter how much you try, because he literally tried to enslave her, and even with the excuse of “My mom could literally fire your dad at a moment,” which the movie totally skips over!
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] She goes along with it so easily.
MEGAN: She just submits like, “Okay.”
CAITLIN: Listen, if that’s what you’re into, that’s what you’re into. No judgment.
MEGAN: That’s not consensual.
CHIAKI: Yeah. No, Caitlin, Caitlin, Caitlin.
MEGAN: That’s not even remotely consensual.
CHIAKI: Let me say this. As a 24/7 slave—or pet, in my case—even I was like, “Wow, that is so nonconsensual!”
CHIAKI: That is so messy. You have no impetus to follow along. And suddenly you’re both just snogging each other like you were made for each other. And I’m like, where is the character drive for this relationship to get to where it is right now? Where is it?
MEGAN: Because even the manga makes the case that Ryoki is kind of insecure and doesn’t really socialize well and all he knows about women is what he reads through men’s magazines.
CAITLIN: Right. Okay, so, there’s this scene in the manga where he pins her down on his bed and starts taking off her clothes. And she’s like, “What the fuck are you doing? Stop!” And he goes, “The fuck?” because he read in a magazine “Oh, well, if a girl resists, keep going.”
MEGAN: And it feels like the movie tries to equate this with the scene where he’s talking with his classmates, like, “Oh, girls are easy. You just get them anywhere and they’ll just do what you want.” And again, that would not necessarily be a bad update, a bad commentary on toxic masculinity, but the movie is just not really prepared to go into that direction.
CAITLIN: There’s no point of view to it.
CAITLIN: What always gets me in fiction is when there’s no point of view. It’s like, what are you trying to say with this? Well, you’re saying something, but it’s not coherent, so find your goddamn point of view. There’s no point of view here. It’s just people yelling nonsensical shit at each other for two hours, and then someone pulls out a fucking ultrasound, and then they yell at each other more, and someone has a bad dye job.
MEGAN: That is absolutely an accurate summation of watching the Hot Gimmick movie while being at least mildly drunk, if not more so.
CAITLIN: By the way, I’m just not over the scene in the car with Shinogu and his coworker, because that was an intensely homoerotic scene.
CHIAKI: Okay, yeah.
CAITLIN: [Through laughter] Did anyone…?
MEGAN: Yeah, that’s admittedly because Hatsumi’s actress is just such a nobody that she just kind of disappears in the scene, regardless of whomever she’s with.
CHIAKI: Gets outclassed by the side character, or the extra, in the car.
CAITLIN: Okay, no, when they are lighting each other’s cigarettes, no one fucking…? They both had their cigarettes in their mouths.
MEGAN: [crosstalk] Yeah! When they came in, there was the brother and the DJ or whomever he is. The whole scene when they expose the whole older brother’s backstory… Yeah, there’s crazy tension between those two. And I don’t know why.
CAITLIN: Yeah, I was like, is this supposed to be implying that Shinogu is actually battling his internalized homophobia and is actually gay? What is happening here?
MEGAN: That’s just consistent with the direction.
CAITLIN: Just phallic symbols everywhere.
MEGAN: The whole thing is filmed in these washed-out shades of white and gray, and I suspect it’s meant to be oppressive, but it doesn’t really come through. It just comes off as really boring when it feels like it should visually be more dramatic, be darker, be weirder.
CAITLIN: Well, that car scene was pretty weird.
MEGAN: Weird but not intentionally so. At least I suspect not.
CAITLIN: Seriously, those cigarettes: mega phallic. When they both have their cigarettes in their mouths and the coworker dude is lighting Shinogu’s cigarette, neither of them taking the cigarette out of their mouth, that’s some gay-ass shit right there.
MEGAN: Yeah, admittedly, this is the point where I started to fall off the film because I was already four Moscow mules under this film and I was not really paying attention. But then it tried to romanticize Ryoki and Hatsumi’s relationship. And admittedly, this sort of thing does happen within the manga, but even then, this is such bull! This is such bull! You cannot romanticize this! He literally told her to be her slave! You can’t go back from that!
CHIAKI: It’s very difficult to recover from that. It’s impossible.
By the way, what about the manager? Because…
MEGAN: Oh, my God.
CHIAKI: I was watching her. I was watching her.
MEGAN: She was a character in the manga. And what happened was more or less what happened—
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Just sitting there, winking, it’s easy for Ryoki… er, not for Ryoki. For Azusa—
MEGAN: And what happened to her was more or less what happened in the manga, but it’s just… Wow!
CHIAKI: Yeah! That was some key lawsuit material right there. I was like, “Hey, Hatsumi! Just sue them. Ruin his career. Make money off of this bullshit.”
MEGAN: [crosstalk] Yeah, because the whole thing is that the agent is trying to play off apology for Azusa for basically sexting her and trying to exploit her. But if she’s not already sleeping with him, she’s truly clearly trying to.
CAITLIN: She wants to fuck him so bad.
MEGAN: Yes. And it’s really exploitative and weird. And I don’t know if the movie’s trying to capture this purposefully or not, but oh man.
CAITLIN: That’s the thing about the direction in this movie: you never are sure what it is trying to do, whether it’s intentional or not.
MEGAN: Right? Right?
CAITLIN: There’s no sense of purpose to anything in the movie. I honestly don’t know what it was trying to accomplish for like 90% of what was going on.
MEGAN: Like, vaguely try to adapt what manga was there. I should note that because of the editing, the pace is just breathless. We get to basically the midpoint of the manga, where Azusa tries to date-rape Hatsumi, and that’s like 45 minutes into a two-hour movie! And it’s just like, what is left? What is left for you to do?
CHIAKI: You know what? I just realized. Azusa just kind of disappears after that, huh.
MEGAN: Yes, he does!
CAITLIN: That’s how it is in the manga, too, as I remember.
MEGAN: And admittedly, Ryoki disappears during all those scenes with Azusa, where he’s trying to seduce her.
CHIAKI: Right. I noticed that, too. But I feel like there’s no closure. There is no closure with Azusa or Shinogu or anyone at the end there.
MEGAN: [crosstalk] Nope. Not a bit.
CAITLIN: Y’all. Y’all, my husband just came in, stuck his head in the workroom, and took out the baseball bat, and I’m worried.
MEGAN: Oh, I consulted with my own husband throughout all of this, like “Is this weird to you? Does this come off as flat to you?” He’s like, ”Yeah, TV dramas in Japan come off as way flatter than what you’re used to in anime.” And admittedly, that is true. But also I have to say that the lead actors are just kind of absolutely terrible.
CAITLIN: [whispering] Guys. Why did he take the baseball bat? Am I being robbed?
MEGAN: Admittedly, only two-thirds of that can be blamed on the fact that the lead actors are singers by occupation. But just oh my god.
CHIAKI: I like how Megan is just completely ignoring what you’re saying, Caitlin.
CAITLIN: [Through laughter] I’m being robbed, guys!
CHIAKI: It’s okay. It’s okay. What more can a burglar steal than the time that has been stolen from you for watching this movie?
MEGAN: I know, right? The second half of that movie was just a blur for me, other than the scene where Hatsumi and Akane bond with each other, again, through karaoke, because the movie finally remembers three-fourths of the way through, oh yeah, there was a subplot with Akane and an otaku who lives in her apartment building named Subaru, who end up in kind of a romance themselves. And the movie just mostly forgets this, except when it absolutely needs to.
CAITLIN: And that was almost a good scene.
MEGAN: And it’s a shame because in the manga their relationship is honestly kind of sweet. She’s a very popular girl and he is an otaku, so they’re kind of at opposite ends of the social spectrum, but they come together and it’s actually kind of sweet.
CAITLIN: During the karaoke scene, I almost felt their sisterly relationship. I could almost feel it.
CAITLIN: But it’s still like… There’s two very isolated scenes with Akane and Subaru. And it’s also weirdly slutshame-y because she’s like, “Oh, I learned all this stuff about sex so that I could be with you,” and he’s like, “I’m sorry. You’re too much of a ho for me,” basically.
MEGAN: Yeah, poor Akane. She’s not a bad character. Admittedly, she kind of kicks off the whole plot. But the manga does her dirty. The manga absolutely does her dirty.
CAITLIN: Everything does her dirty. I mean, listen, she is ho-ing around and making really bad choices. Listen, if you’re 15 and you’re fucking, honestly, in my 32-year-old opinion, you’re too young to be fucking, but you know… But you should still be [unintelligible] with it.
MEGAN: [crosstalk] But she learns to have a normal teenage relationship through [drawn out] Suh-burr-oh with his little otaku “I don’t know how relationships work.”
CAITLIN: [crosstalk; laughs] Sbarro!
MEGAN: And it comes off sweet when you’re reading it, but here, it just comes out of nowhere.
CAITLIN: A relationship with Sbarro. [Chuckles] She just loves pizza. By the way, guys, y’all, at one point, the subtitles called Hatsumi Hatsune.
MEGAN: [Laughs] That doesn’t surprise me.
CAITLIN: And I’m like, oh, no! [crosstalk] That’s a Vocaloid!
CHIAKI: [crosstalk] I did not even notice that. I did not notice it! [Groans] Thanks, Netflix. Netflix quality.
MEGAN: Yeah, this one was clearly like a B-quality sub job as far as quality goes.
CAITLIN: Nowhere near the worst I’ve seen on Netflix.
MEGAN: No, no, not even close. But they didn’t give the absolute attention to these subs.
CAITLIN: Nothing will ever beat Fate/Extra.
CHIAKI: Was anyone expecting to watch this movie? Did Netflix upload this expecting people to watch it?
CAITLIN: I mean, presumably.
MEGAN: [crosstalk] Kind of. I mean, there is an audience for live-action shoujo adaptations. There’s a small cottage industry built around adapting Boys Over Flowers to make it less reprehensible and make it palatable.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] So many different countries have adaptations of Boys Over Flowers.
MEGAN: Yep. And that manga’s terrible, so this absolutely fits in that sort of vein.
CAITLIN: Netflix does have a number of J-drama translations. There have been a few every month.
MEGAN: [crosstalk] And admittedly, this is my first experience outside of, like, the odd episode of Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, but oh man. Oh man, it really has not improved beyond those very tokusatsu origins.
CAITLIN: We watched J-dramas in Japanese class for language practice.
MEGAN: Yeah, I understand it’s supposed to be a lot flatter than what I’m used to anime, but oh man. Oh man.
CAITLIN: We watched Natsuko no Sake and Hitotsu Yane no Shita. But this was a lot crazier than either of those.
MEGAN: A lot crazier, and yet a lot tamer than the source material, which leaves it in this weird place. I don’t think I could recommend it entirely on a so-bad-it’s-good level. But I can’t say to recommend it as a good adaptation of a shoujo manga either. It’s just in this weird middle place.
CAITLIN: Yeah, it’s just bizarre. It’s just so strange.
All right, y’all, we’re coming up on the hour, which means I should probably start to sign us out. So, thank you for listening to Chatty AF and bearing with us during this whole thing.
MEGAN: Thank you for bearing with our drunken rambles.
CAITLIN: If you—
CHIAKI: This was an experience.
CAITLIN: [Chuckles] Shh!
CAITLIN: If you somehow enjoyed this episode and would like to read or listen to more, you can find this on animefeminist.com. You can also find our Twitter @AnimeFeminist. You can find us on Facebook at AnimeFem, on Tumblr at animefeminist.
And if you really, for some reason, enjoy this or just feel really bad for these poor drunkies here, you can support us on Patreon at Anime Feminist.
CHIAKI: We’re a lot better when we’re sober. We’re a lot better.
MEGAN: Yeah. This is absolutely true.
CAITLIN: I promise that the money you pay will not go to alcohol for the team. I actually cannot make this promise, but…
CHIAKI: Anything that’s coming to me: alcohol.
CAITLIN: No, that’s not true.
CHIAKI: You’re right. I don’t actually drink. I quit drinking. I drank just for this podcast.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Oh no, we knocked you off the wagon.
CAITLIN: But even a donation of $1 a month, those donations add up so fast and they are so important to the running of our website.
CAITLIN: And anything more than that is so appreciated. We love y’all, more than we love Hot Gimmick.
MEGAN: We love you all, so please, please don’t watch this movie unless, like us, you are very drunk.
CAITLIN: [Chuckles] And remember to stay hydrated.