Gravitation 11

November 8, 2015

Maki Murakami – Tokyopop – 2005 – 12 volumes

I need to finish this series up.  It’s still very charming, and has its funny moments, but I’m basically done with it.  The honeymoon is over.  It even tried to win me back this time by letting Yuki (!!!) get a little sappy, and the story went back to Shuichi writing lyrics, which is how the two of them met.

…Actually, that’s almost all I have to say about this volume.  Ryuichi and Shuichi have a clandestine restroom encounter that results in Shuichi writing lyrics for 10 singles in something like 5 weeks.  He is horribly depressed by this, because it’s how he met Yuki – Yuki trashed his lyrics and stole his confidence to the point that Shuichi became obsessed with him.

As it turns out, Shuichi’s confidence is still gone, so after some false starts, the other members of Bad Luck decide that the problem himself, award-winning writer Eiri Yuki, can write their lyrics for them.  There’s a huge positive response… until Shuichi decides that he’s the only person who’s not growing and changing, and that writing the lyrics will be a good first step for him.

Uncharacteristically, Yuki agrees to write the lyrics, and gets extremely upset when Shuichi decides to do it himself (his methods of revenge for this are pretty funny, I’m glad Gravitation can still make me laugh).  He’s not sure why this is… unless he actually does like Shuichi and wants to be involved.

I don’t know… none of it really grabbed me?  I liked everything that was going on, but not even the romance between Shuichi and Yuki felt right here.  Perhaps Yuki has been spoiled by many chapters worth of strange, cold feelings, or maybe this isn’t genuine, I don’t know.  Shuichi writing lyrics wasn’t as funny as it should have been.  The last song has yet to come out, so I’m waiting for the lyrics to that song to be the plot point for the last story arc.

That, or the weird harassment subplot at the end of the story.  For some reason, three people decide to carry out a plan to make it seem like Sakuma’s fans are sending death threats to Shuichi.  I’m not sure why, or where that’s going, either.  Maybe they are really upset that he writes bad lyrics.

Gravitation 10

October 19, 2015

Maki Murakami – Tokyopop – 2005 – 12 volumes

I’m dragging my feet with reading these last few volumes.  It didn’t help that the author notes on the first page said “Personally, I think this volume is the most uninteresting so far, but hopefully you readers were fooled into buying it. … I can’t even think of ideas to fill this dead space here anymore.”  Not exactly a vote of confidence.  I’ve also read 10 volumes of this series, and the humor is so bizarre that I can’t tell if she’s joking there or not.

I thought this volume was a little better than the past couple.  Shuichi is back in Japan, and Rage continues to insinuate herself into his life, even scoring a (self-proclaimed, later official) position as Bad Luck’s manager.  He still has ups and downs with Yuki, too.  At the beginning of the volume, he’s hot to get Yuki to say he loves him, but he’s basically useless at work after Yuki tells him that he can never love anyone but the dead Yuki Kitazawa.  So there’s a lot of back and forth about that, and a scheme to get Yuki to forget Kitazawa.

Musical competition starts up again towards the end of the volume, which comes after another character points out that the only gigs Bad Luck ever do are bad TV shows that aren’t music-themed.

I was happy to see a bit of Hiro again, but admittedly, the relationship between Yuki and Shuichi is still pretty messed up, and that’s never fun to slog through.  It was also hard to understand where all the characters are going (there’s a huge shuffle at N-G, and a lot of the side characters are elsewhere now).  But next volume might be better between Yuki and Shuichi, and we might also get to see more competition between Bad Luck and Nittle Grasper.  This series isn’t great at drama, because it’s heart is in slapstick.  So it’ll be nice if we see more of that next time.

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.