animefringe august 2003 / reviews

Gravitation Vol.1
Format: right-left manga
Production: TOKYOPOP / Maki Murakami
Comments: Music + shonen-ai = smash hit.
Animefringe Reviews:
Gravitation Vol.1

Lately, all of the manga buzz I've been hearing at the bookstore I work at hasn't been concerned with the domestic manga release of Rurouni Kenshin, or the Evangelion live-action movie. Instead, every other customer keeps asking me when Gravitation is coming out. In fact, when it finally did come out, we sold every copy I received within three days.

I guess it makes sense, considering most of my customers are young girls.

Still, it surprised me to see that there was such a large demand for a manga that I really wasn't very familiar with. I decided to take it upon myself to see what the hubbub was all about (and I apologize for buying a copy of the book before more devoted fans could get a copy) and so far, I think I understand.

Gravitation is a romance story, though more specifically, it's shonen-ai. That is, it's a love story between two boys. It's not raunchy, involving emotional aspects of love rather than physical ones - that's where the "ai" (which means "love") part of the genre indicates. The simple fact that it's a romance with a gay protagonist may bring down some harsh close-minded criticism upon the story, but ignoring the whining of that particular conservative faction, this is not fundamentally different from any other well-written romantic tale.

Shuichi Shindo is a talented techno musician who makes up half of a two-man group calling themselves Bad Luck. He's not known for his scholastic aptitude, nor would he win any attendance prizes for showing up at school, but he displays an intense passion for music. It is his music that brings him into contact with Eiri Yuki, a famous writer who picks up some of Shuichi's lyrics and summarily informs the guy that his writing is horrible and that he should probably give up penning lyrics.

After such a shocking statement, Shuichi cannot banish his thoughts of Eiri, and as one thing leads to another, he discovers that he has feelings for the writer. This is only the beginning, and things are certain to get more complex and more interesting as the story advances. Even thus far, Maki Murakami (the manga-ka of this particular work) has managed to throw in a good number of twists and turns, so I'm intrigued by what she'll do next.

Personally, I have trouble getting into a story featuring a gay romance. I have nothing against homosexuality, but I'm not gay, and thus it was hard for me to connect to characters experiencing emotions that I'll never have. However, this book is written with appreciable skill, and just because I can't empathize with the characters, it doesn't mean other readers won't. Whatever your feelings on same-sex romantic relationships, there is a good story here - it just won't appeal to everyone. That certainly doesn't stop the tons of fans from enjoying this series, of course.

The artwork is shojo-esque, with fine lines, realistic character designs, and a focus on detail more than action. The characters don't wear the same articles of clothing throughout the entire series, further enhancing the realistic nature of the visuals. It's certainly a well-illustrated manga series, which I'm sure accounts for some part of the book's popularity.

As usual for TOKYOPOP, the book is $9.99 and printed to read from right to left, and there are a couple pages of supplemental material (such as author's notes and a breakdown of Shuichi) that I enjoyed seeing. It's always nice to hear where the author is coming from, and production notes are one of the best ways to peer into a writer's mind.

Seeing as there really isn't too much shonen-ai out there right now, Gravitation is filling a gap that only Fake could come near to closing before. Hopefully, with the continued success of both series, we'll begin to see even greater diversity in our manga selections. If you're looking for an unpredictable romance with musical elements thrown in for good measure, then Gravitation should have no trouble keeping your interest.