Gravitation: Lyrics of Love
For fans of shonen-ai, J-Pop, or both, Gravitation represents one of the holy grails of anime fandom. The manga, written by Maki Murakami, features the love story between young Shuichi Shindo and a famous romance novelist, the cold but handsome Eiri Yuki. If you're not up to speed on manga genre lingo, shonen-ai refers to tales that involve a relationship between two guys. Shonen-ai is the softer, gentler cousin of the far more hardcore yaoi subset of romances. For the most part, shonen-ai is all about the love - not the sex.
There is a great and convoluted story behind what is represented here in the OVA, and to be honest, I have to recommend that any readers who may be interested in Gravitation check out the TV series (from The Right Stuf) or the manga (from TOKYOPOP) before picking this title up. It does represent a good look at the characters, but it only offers a small taste of the overall Gravitation package. Devout followers of the franchise should check this out, but it might not have as much emotional impact if you're not too familiar with the tale.
Shuichi is the lead singer and lyricist for the hugely popular pop band, Bad Luck. The story opens with him experiencing a severe case of writer's block. As deadlines approach and the pressure increases, Shuichi has no idea what to write for the group's next album. When he turns to Yuki for support, however, he receives a rather brusque brush-off instead of the inspiration he so desperately needs.
Things take a turn for the worse as Yuki becomes more and more distant. He even goes so far as to begin working on a project with another band instead of helping Shuichi overcome his creativity crisis. For a sixty minute series, the conflict is introduced and dealt with efficiently enough that even Gravi newbies will be able to figure out what's going on. It's just that it's harder to care about the characters if viewers don't really know who's who to begin with.
Fans should also be happy to note that there is one near nude scene in the release. Just in case you ladies thought that guys were the only ones to receive fanservice in anime, there is some out there for you, as well - if you look hard enough.
The character designs are very pretty, and I can say that even though I'm a guy. Yes, I am comfortable with my masculinity. They're pretty in a slightly more-than-typical bishonen way. That is, they're not merely attractive; they're somewhat effeminate as well. Just check out the cover for proof of that.
While the character designs are very appealing, the animation itself is a little dated. It's solid for an older OVA, but newer series like Beck look much better. This OVA was produced before the TV series. Sadly, it shows.
I am no stranger to J-Pop, and I can admit that I also like the music in Gravitation. It's textbook 90's era J-Pop, which may be a good thing or a bad thing depending on a viewer's individual feelings towards synth-pop. Again, after watching Beck, it's hard to feel inspired to join a band by Gravitation, but this particular tale is less about the music and more about the love.
Yuki's Japanese voice actor (Kazuhiko Inoue) pulls off the sexy loner voice rather well. On the other hand, there's Tomokazu Seki's skilled portrayal of Shuichi. While he does a great job of bringing Shuichi to life exactly as I imagined he'd sound, I can't help but find Shuichi to be just a little too whiny. It's one thing to be the "girl" of a guy-guy relationship, and it's another to act like all of the worst stereotypes of the fairer sex all the time. However, for many fans, that's part of his charm, and it's certainly the source of a lot of the show's best humor.
Speaking of humor, Gravitation is actually a very funny show. Though many of the jokes are slapstick humor, they serve well to balance out the more dramatic, tear-filled scenes of the show. Gravitation is one of the most popular emotional rollercoasters in the anime realm, and it's easy to see why that's the case.
Bonus features include a dual sided cover, liner notes, an art gallery, a nifty anime vs. manga comparison, a textless version of the opening, the original sneak previews, a textless version of the alternate closing, trailers, and soundtrack-only audio with lyrics.
Thus, while this may be a great buy for fans of the series, newcomers to Gravitation might do better by starting off with the manga. The TV series also fleshes out the story far better than this two episode straight to video release can do given its restricted running time. That said, quite a bit of content is packed into the span of an hour, and the show's undeniable charm shines through despite the quickness of its passing. If shonen-ai is your thing and you haven't seen Gravitation yet, you're missing out on something wonderful - even if this isn't the finest way to be introduced to the series.