Gravitation 5

March 13, 2012

Maki Murakami – Tokyopop – 2004 – 12 volumes

So, Bad Luck gets a new manager in this volume. Because this series is insane, he’s a really tall, hyperactive American man that always has a gun and uses it to force his will on people. He’s creepy. In one scene, he shows up randomly in Yuki’s house and wakes Shuichi up by shoving a gun in his face and making alarm clock noises.

Even creepier, we get to see one of the more depraved sides to Seguchi. He reveals he’s way more into Yuki than we first suspected. And while this series has all sorts of Looney Tunes-like cartoon violence, what Seguchi does here is no joke. And I’m sure this is only the beginning. I know he will somehow turn this on Shuichi someday.

Other things happen. Nittle Grasper gets back together. Shuichi out-cools Ryuichi during an impromptu performance, which makes Ryuichi get serious for a moment and causes a rift between Shuichi and his hero. It also takes away Bad Luck’s keyboard player, so we get a new character as a regular, too. There’s a pretty fantastic Nittle Grasper / Bad Luck concert at the end of the book. It’s fantastic for a couple reasons. Story-wise, it’s pretty great, but it also manages to be really cool while still coming after about 1,000 of Gravitation’s trademark bad jokes. And they’re so bad that they come back around and are funny again. The dated translation only makes things that much better. For instance, at one point Shuichi asks if he’s been Punk’d.

One of the things that does bother me about the translation is that it uses the word “mongoloid” a couple times. I was an adult before I’d heard more than one slur, so most of them confuse me, and there’s a mental disconnect between the words and their offensive intent. Hard to explain, but it comes down to the fact that most slurs don’t really register to me. “Mongoloid” is different. It’s intent is to imply that someone is mentally handicapped, but it does that via implying an entire race of people is such. This is so offensive it blows my mind. I was genuinely shocked the first time I ran across this, and understood its meaning immediately without having ever seen it before. This word is so special that I remember the only other two times I’ve read or heard it anywhere. Once was in A Confederacy of Dunces, and the other was in a Patricia Highsmith short story. And I’ve seen it twice in the 7 volumes of Gravitation I’ve read. That is more shocking to me than anything else in this series ever could be.

But enough of the serious talk! The romance continues as Yuki and Shuichi have their ups and downs in this volume, but for the most part they seem to continue to go well together, with each motivating the other in their own special and absurd ways. This was mostly a Bad Luck volume, but there was still plenty of Shuichi/Yuki to sustain me through the volume. More on that later, though.

On to the next volume! I’ve already admitted I’ve read up to volume 7, so I’m mostly playing review catch-up before I let myself read more volumes. Volume 7 leaves off in a strange place, and I’m eager to continue, but more on that later.

Gravitation 4

March 7, 2012

Maki Murakami – Tokyopop – 2004 – 12 volumes

I’m a little torn on this series. On one hand, I like it’s ridiculous over-the-top humor best. It should be terrible, but it tries so hard that I just can’t help but like it. There are very few series I forgive when the protagonist has a one-page freakout fit every five pages or so. But this one does it right.

On the other hand, it’s so full of drama. Usually I like dramas, but as I said, humor is Gravitation’s strong suit, so the drama feels a bit out of place. Especially when there’s more drama than even a normal drama-filled series. Seriously, there’s so much of it! In this volume alone, there’s a dramatic breakup, band rivalry drama, a possible breakup of the band, more creepy vibes from Tohma, a plot where Yuki makes his engagement formal, and a rape scene. The latter feels particularly out of place in Gravitation, and I can’t believe it was included as part of the plot. Even worse, it’s dropped and almost forgotten about after it happens.

The one strength Gravitation has over other drama-filled series, though, is the fact that it overcomes these plot points with humor. Yuki becomes a monk, Shuichi dresses in a schoolgirl uniform and screams about how he loves Yuki in the lobby of the N-G Building, Yuki dresses as an ugly bride and goes to Yuki’s father to break up his engagement… usually these things involve Shuichi doing something horrible, which is just fine by me. The series makes his crossdressing out to be way more hideous than it would be in other series, and I like that the other characters react so strongly to it. I also love the various character reactions to Shuichi’s other over-the-top episodes, how they either ignore him or mop up the blood afterwards, whatever. It’s great.

Other things hinted at in this volume: Yuki’s dark past, and terrible things that Tohma may or may not be able to pull off. Seriously. I’m just waiting for him to kill either Yuki or Shuichi with his bare hands. It’s coming.

Gravitation 3

February 29, 2012

Maki Murakami – Tokyopop – 2003 – 12 volumes

You win, Gravitation. The sense of humor really is the best thing about this series. It’s ridiculously dated, it’s really loud and obnoxious, and the jokes are not funny. By all rights, I should hate it. I hate series that are this over the top. But there’s, like, ten jokes per page. It keeps trying, and every time Shuichi turns around a freaks out, it gets a little funnier because it just happens so often, and the other characters simply take it in stride. Forays like the quiz show in this volume, meant to promote Shuichi and Hiro’s band, would be only mildly amusing in any other series. Here, it’s the absolute best fit. Shuichi and Hiro’s hyper personalities really do fit that of flamboyant celebrities, too, so it makes sense that they’re allowed to run as wild as they want.

And it’s romantic! The storyline with Yuki’s fiancee wraps up here, but it goes down much differently than usual. Yuki is as stoic and noncommittal to Shuichi as ever, but he gives back just enough to make Shuichi and the reader happy. Not that Shuichi cares. As Yuki has pointed out before, it doesn’t really matter to Shuichi whether or not Yuki loves him back, he simply continues to force his love on the man. In a prime example, Shuichi randomly shows up at Yuki’s house one morning with all his stuff and declares that he’s going to move in. Yuki protests strenuously, but then simply gives in to Shuichi’s high energy. Of course, Shuichi is melodramatic and over-the-top, as always, and it makes the scene even better than it needs to be.

A very dangerous rivalry with Ask surfaces in this volume. Ask is the band that was scouted from the concert that Bad Luck played at back in volume one, and this volume reveals that Ask is composed of several of the worst jerks imaginable. Shuichi seems unperturbed by their suggestions that Bad Luck is nowhere near their level, but the lead singer of Ask takes it upon himself to dig for the truth about the relationship between Shuichi and Yuki.

Speaking of creeps… Tohma. The president of Shuichi’s record label. He seems to have all the answers to everything, and is best friends with Yuki and married to his sister. What’s more, he… strangely seems to be on the side of Yuki and Shuichi’s relationship. But there’s something inherently creepy about his smiling face. I can’t explain it. I suspect he will do something insane later on in the series.

In the grand tradition of sad series of romantic music-themed love stories like Sensual Phrase and Zetsuai, Gravitation is way funnier. And that’s why it’s awesome.

Gravitation 2

February 25, 2012

Maki Murakami – Tokyopop – 2003 – 12 volumes

Wow. So I wasn’t expecting the story to move this fast! I’m pretty sure Shuichi and Yuki are a couple by the end of the volume (though there’s nothing remotely romantic about them), Bad Luck might be having some good luck record contract-wise, and the series seems to have ditched the school already. That’s everything, isn’t it? Does it suddenly turn into a drama that lasts ten more volumes? I… think I’d be on board with that. This is kinda… over-the-top, humor-wise, and not that funny, but somehow, I am strangely endeared to it.

Lots of stuff happens in this volume, obviously. One of the biggest things, story-wise, is that Shuichi and Hiro nearly go their separate ways when Hiro’s family puts pressure on him to become a doctor and drop his dreams of a music career. Hiro’s older brother is an aspiring actor who hasn’t had a break, so it is particularly bad for their family that both sons pursue such unstable and unsure work. Shuichi doesn’t take this news quietly, and there’s lots of huge fights between the two of them. These two are so close, that already in volume two it’s rather painful and out-of-character to watch them fight. Murakami does a great job of making the two boys very close friends (without going there, which is unusual in a BL manga like this), so it is utterly tragic when they get into a fight this serious.

Romance! Yuki is not romantic at all. Neither is Shuichi. But Shuichi is completely smitten, and is obliviously forcing himself on Yuki. Yuki doesn’t seem to mind that much, but isn’t kind about it, either. That may just be the way he is, though. He does get sick of Shuichi’s rather half-hearted, dodgy affection, and comes down forcefully on him. And by forcefully, I mean they have sex. I wasn’t expecting that so early on, either. Then again, it was one of the worst sex scenes in any romance manga I’ve ever read, so it wasn’t that special. But that’s what makes Gravitation special.

I’ll be straight with you: I’m writing this right now so that I can read volume three. I like it that much. It’s worth tracking down!

Gravitation 1

February 22, 2012

Maki Murakami – Tokyopop – 2003 – 12 volumes

This is so 90s it almost hurts to look at. Not only with the style of story, which is an over-the-top romantic comedy similar to Fake, but the music references. People I haven’t thought of in about 15 years. Depeche Mode. Morrisey. Tokyopop has also punched up the dialogue with a lot of 90s slang, something I’m definitely not opposed to in a series like this. I think it only makes the cheese that much better.

So, Shuichi is in a techno band with his best friend, Hiro. Shuichi is the head of the band, and is an incredibly driven and talented individual, but is struggling with lyrics and composition. His ego takes a further dive when he meets a mysterious man in a park one night who completely trashes his love song lyrics. The man really gets under Shuichi’s skin, and Shuichi does whatever he can to prove the man wrong. The two keep meeting by coincidence, however, and Shuichi begins to realize that his irritation might be a sign of… other feelings.

But summarizing Gravitation in such a serious way does it such a disservice that it’s almost funny. Shuichi and Hiro are complete hams, and the two make a spectacle of themselves wherever they go. Shuichi is extremely outgoing, and doesn’t have a problem making a fool of himself to get his point across. When his band, Bad Luck, plays a show later in the volume, he winds up making a complete fool of himself in front of a music company executive. But it helps, because the executive remembers him later (which winds up setting off a whole other string of personal problems, but that’s beside the point). Shuichi is on the brink of failing out of school due to the fact he never shows up and can’t be bothered to do things like take tests, or even take his headphones off in class. Even Shuichi’s family has given up on him, though they all seem fond of his strong personality.

And because this is a semi-legendary BL series, there is, of course, Shuichi’s mystery man. Yuki is a jerk, through and through, and he’s also a popular romance novel writer, a detail I can’t resist. At the end of this volume, there’s only innuendo between the two, and Yuki seems to be rather nonchalant about the whole thing, but it’s clear where this is all going.

It’s interesting how the romance is dealt with. Shuichi is so outgoing, it’s his friends that finally convince him he might have feelings for Yuki. While it’s not that odd for Shuichi to go with the flow and run with it (it just seems like part of his personality), it was a little odd that everyone around him was suddenly okay with this. But whatever. Clearly it’s not really about that. It’s about rocking out and being in love.

I tend to dislike comedies like this, especially since the humor doesn’t age well. This one is particularly loud. But it is charming, and I find myself eager to read the second volume. I can see how this could be addictive after awhile.


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