Gravitation 9

October 4, 2015

Maki Murakami – Tokyopop – 2004 – 12 volumes

You know, this is a really silly series that I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that I liked.  But I read the first part of it twice, and liked it both times, so there’s something to be said about that.

But I stopped here.  I don’t know if it’s because it jumped the shark (blowing up New York is a little too silly, even for this series, and it also introduced a bunch of new characters), or I got bored of the humor, or both.  All the same, after reading this one, I still do like it, and I’ll finish it.  I wish it had wrapped up a little earlier, though.

This volume made me proud to be an American.  If you’re in the mood to read a manga that disregards any realism for its American setting, make it this one.

At one point, one of the new characters offers Shuichi “New York Juice.”  I wish I knew what that was.  I don’t know that I would drink it, though.

Also (especially nitpicky, since one of the characters did blow up Manhattan here), they fly Southwest to Tokyo, which I think is impossible.  But you can now fly Southwest to Akron, Ohio, which is nice.

At one point, a character wakes up Shuichi wearing a fake horse head.  That’s how you know the sense of humor is still good.

But seriously.  I got a little tired of Rage in this volume.  She just yells and blows stuff up constantly.  She fights with all the characters, and now she’s going to stick around.  I get that she had to stand out as a potential love interest for Shuichi, but I hope she gets toned down in future volumes.

Yuki and Shuichi have a fight in this volume, but… it didn’t seem quite right to me.  Their chemistry was off.  Shuichi was acting in character, but Yuki was acting strangely.  He re-connects with someone from his past, but his interaction with Shuichi still didn’t quite feel in-character.  And I am not looking forward to when the truth about the cue cards comes out.

But seriously.  After that, do they just go back to living together?  This is getting all kinds of weird.

But there’s only a few volumes left, so I guess it can derail as hard as it wants.  That would be in the spirit of the thing, anyway.

Gravitation 8

August 1, 2015

Maki Murakami – Tokyopop – 2004 – 12 volumes

Ugh.  I was right.  Eiri and Shuichi break up here, mostly because of Tohma.  For some reason, Eiri goes along with it (presumably to protect Tohma from pushing Shuichi in front of a car), but… you know, this is a romance manga, so of course he doesn’t mean it.  Anyway, this is a depressing volume because of it.

We meet several more Americans here, and even get to go to America.  Apparently, New York City has a lot more guns than we have in Chicago.  People just chase each other around shooting them!

Eh.  This wasn’t as funny as the other ones.  The humor wasn’t so much with Shuichi this volume, so it wasn’t as funny for me.  There’s no romance, no band… no Gravitation!  I’m hoping volume 9 will get back on firmer ground.

Gravitation 7

July 21, 2015

Maki Murakami – Tokyopop – 2004 – 12 volumes

I did read this one before, because I recall… rather vividly a page near the end where Eiri lets Shuichi come up with disguises for the pair of them.  Hiro and K react to them.  It’s almost wordless, and so ridiculous, and so sublimely beautiful.  I still laughed really hard at that.  It’s difficult to describe out of context, though.

Actually, Shuichi comes up with a choice disguise earlier in the volume, too.  There’s a reaction meter for Eiri that is not to be missed.

This volume chugs along with few surprises.  Hiro wants to quit Bad Luck, everyone tells Shuichi to get over it, but Shuichi never believes that Hiro would quit on him, and they have a big dramatic getting-back-together moment where Hiro catches Shuichi’s “gotta sell a million” fever.  They’re both getting dates, you see.

Meanwhile, Eiri is very ill.  So ill, in fact, he’s going to move and break up with Shuichi.  This is dropped towards the end of the volume, but I’m pretty sure if Eiri doesn’t do the break-up himself, creepy Tohma will force them apart.  And we’ve seen what he’s capable of.

I guess I know why I stopped here.  I don’t really want to see the two of them broken up.  So sad!  And this is too funny a series for that.  But I’m sure patience will be rewarded.

Gravitation 6

July 5, 2015

Maki Murakami – Tokyopop – 2004 – 12 volumes

It’s been years since I read this series.  I read volume 6, then waited so long to review it that I was going to have to re-read it, then I realized I’d have to re-read the first half of the series.  And this series is… dated, to put it mildly.  Very nineties.  Dated humor, dated art style, and… kind of annoying to read.  I could not convince myself to start over, but I’ve been re-reading a lot of my favorites lately, and I remembered really liking Gravitation.  On the other hand, I couldn’t get back into Fake (which is basically the same thing, except toned down 100x), so it took me a long time to pick this back up.

If you haven’t read manga from the nineties, I wouldn’t start here.  If you have, you know there’s nothing quite like it.  I’m generally annoyed by this kind of bombastic humor, but Gravitation passes good taste then keeps going.  It got a couple chuckles out of me, even after the re-read.

Anyway, I’ve talked about the other volumes.  Volume 6 (much like every other volume) offers us a huge turning point in the series.  The main conflict here is that the cooking show fiasco from last volume, despite not making it to the television air waves, was captured by a photographer in the audience.  So Eiri Yuki and Shuichi Shindo were caught kissing on camera, nevermind that it was actually Eiri’s brother.  Everyone wants to ride this for publicity, which really upsets Hiro, who doesn’t want to exploit his best friend’s feelings for some quick sales.

Hiro and Shuichi’s friendship really is the best.  Seriously.  Few series really capture best buddies like these two.

Meanwhile, the press is stationed outside Eiri’s house, with Shuichi inside.  Shuichi wants everything to go away.  Eiri arrives from out-of-country… and Shuichi does something stupid.  Then Eiri does something stupid.

Because this series is all about doing stupid things.

Even Maki Murakami seems slightly put off by how over-the-top this series is.  That’s how you know it’s good.  I’ve only been skimming her author’s notes, but they are solid gold.

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.


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