Friday, September 24, 2010

Gravitation (manga, vol. 1) by Maki Murakami

Synopsis:

High school senior Shuichi is the singer and lyricist for the band he's in with his best friend Hiro. One night, lyrics Shuichi has been trying hard to finish are blown away, only to be caught and read by a gorgeous and somewhat scary man who pronounces them garbage. Even though Shuichi doesn't know the guy, he can't stop thinking about him and wants to make him apologize. It turns out that the guy is famous novelist Eiri Yuki. Shuichi asks Yuki to come see his band perform (only to immediately retract his invitation after Yuki insults him some more).

Yuki does show up at Shuichi and Hiro's performance, however, prompting Yuki's sister and her husband, big-time producer Toma Seguchi, to think that they might be able to use Shuichi to make Yuki go see his sick father. They tell Shuichi that he's got a good chance at a record deal if he uses his influence on Yuki. What Toma and Mika (Yuki's sister) don't realize is that Shuichi and Yuki aren't even really a couple. Yuki lied about their relationship to get Mika off his back. Of course, that doesn't mean that they won't necessarily have a real relationship in the future (which we know they will) - shortly after Yuki blew his sister off, he and Shuichi shared a steamy kiss that shocked them both. Currently, Shuichi is willing to admit he has feelings for Yuki. Yuki, on the other hand, won't admit to anything.

Shuichi calls off his deal with Toma, not realizing that he somehow managed to convince Yuki to go see his father. During a talk with Yuki's managing editor, Shuichi learns some shocking news: Yuki has a fiancee!

Commentary:

I can't believe I haven't written a single post about any of the Gravitation manga or anime yet. For a while, I was obsessed with the anime (which is based off the manga). I watched the entire anime TV series several times before finally beginning to read the manga, although I didn't begin the manga with the first volume, but rather the 8th.  This does make a difference, by the way. If you take a look at this volume and compare it to one of the later volumes, the first thing you'll probably notice is how much Murakami's artwork has changed. I think it's after volume 3 that her artwork undergoes a drastic transformation into something more similar to the style you'll find in the anime (which, by the way, has really uneven artwork, even if I was incapable of noticing it during my initial obsession).

I'm not sure I would have been as obsessed with this series if my first exposure to it had been this first manga volume. The artwork is not in a style I enjoy. In fact, my initial reaction would probably be to say that it's a mess. Also, either it was very difficult to apply good-looking screentone to this artwork, or the screentone work wasn't much better. I do occasionally like the artwork, and I kind of think that Shuichi looks better in this volume than he sometimes does in the later volumes. However, being primarily an Eiri Yuki fan (goodness knows why - literary masochism?), I tend to prefer the later volumes - he looks so much better then.

Actually, if I were going to recommend this series to anybody, I would probably recommend the anime before the manga. The anime tightens the plot a lot and scales back on the craziness, resulting in a finished product that is probably more likely to appeal to a wider audience. Certain details are changed, as well. For instance, Shuichi is not a high school student in the anime. I know he's a senior in this first volume of the manga, but it still seems rather...wrong...for Yuki to be behaving the way he does with Shuichi. Plus, the kiss. Good God.

Some things aren't really all that much different in the anime versus the manga, though. For instance, Yuki and Shuichi's personalities. Shuichi is a spaz in both versions of the series, and it's easy to see why Yuki is so hard on him. I mean, would you want to spend a lot of time with someone like Shuichi? I could practically hear his annoying, whiny voice as I read this volume. Yuki, too, is pretty much the same in both versions. Initially, he doesn't appear to have any redeeming qualities, other than being sexy.  And by "initially" I mean "this entire first volume, plus probably a bit later."  In fact, if I remember correctly, even in the later volumes he alternates between being sweet and being a cold bastard. Of course, in the later volumes you understand his reasons for acting the way he does. The main difference between Yuki in the anime versus Yuki in the manga is that it doesn't take quite so long to find out Yuki's reasons for being a cold bastard in the anime. Shuichi and Hiro's relationship is also pretty much the same in the manga versus the anime, although I think the incredibly...close...nature of their relationship is more pronounced in the manga. If it weren't for Hiro ending up with a girlfriend he likes very much later on in the series, I would suspect that he, too, might one day end up with a boyfriend.

After rereading this, though, I'm surprised that the series even got off the ground. I couldn't really see why Shuichi thought he loved Yuki, and I couldn't see what Yuki saw in Shuichi - basically, at the point it's just lust on both their parts.

Well, that's pretty much it. I don't really like this first volume, but I do like Gravitation's overall story. One last thought: I had forgotten that Yuki is supposed to be a writer of love stories that end tragically, so, when I got to the part that mentions that, the first thing I thought was "Oh no, he's Nicholas Sparks!" I don't know if even he has Sparks' ego, though.

Extras:

Freetalk sections written by Maki Murakami, with some behind-the-scenes info about the series. Sort of.

Read-alikes and Watch-alikes:
  • Fake (manga) by Sanami Matoh; Fake (anime OVA) - I've only seen the anime. I'm betting the manga has a slightly less rushed plot. This, like Gravitation, is considered shounen ai, although I've heard that later volumes of the manga get very explicit. Those who'd like more humorous shounen ai might want to try this.
  • Sensual Phrase (manga) by Mayu Shinjo - Those who'd like another steamy romance involving the music business might want to try this. The series focuses on a male (famous, mysterious singer with a dark past) and female (naive new lyricist) couple, so it's not shounen ai, but it might appeal nonetheless.
  • Skip Beat! (manga) by Yoshiki Nakamura - Again, a romance with show business for a background. And, again, this isn't shounen ai. However, those who liked Shuichi and Yuki's personalities might like the main characters in this series. Kyoko is energetic and kick-butt, willing to do anything to get back a the guy who had been using her for years. Ren is a famous and intense actor who seems to hate Kyoko for some reason. I haven't read much of the manga yet, but I did see the anime on Crunchy Roll. I can't believe it hasn't been dubbed and released in the US yet.
  • Descendants of Darkness (manga) by Yoko Matsushita; Descendants of Darkness (anime TV series) - This one is not quite shounen ai, although there are hints of it in the series. The main characters, Kurosaki and Tsuzuki, do have a lot of chemistry. Although Tsuzuki is technically the older and more experienced shinigami (god of death) of the pair, in personality he's most like Shuichi - happy-go-lucky and a bit dorky. Kurosaki, on the other hand, is standoffish and cold, much like Yuki.The two of them must work together on various cases, making sure that the dead stay dead and don't interfere with the living. Later on in the series (particularly in the manga, which I don't think was ever completed), things get pretty dark.

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