Gravitation: Volume 1: Fateful First Encounter
**post by nichan**
What to say about Gravitation? Well, for starters, if you haven’t heard of it, it’s a Japanese yaoi series by Maki Murakami that hit America in the mid-2000s, first in manga form, then anime. There’s an OVA, at least two novels, a web version, there were plans for three additional manga books (though, I don’t know if they all ever came out), swag, fansites (some utterly fantastic, most incredibly awful), the whole shot… Gravitation is an experience, and one you can easily dive into headfirst and not surface from for quite awhile.
But would you want to?
Oh, yes. You would. At least for awhile, anyway.
…Let’s just say my relationship with Gravitation is a complex one, hmm?
Anyway, though! Here we go! This is Volume 1: “Fateful First Encounter”!
Track 1: “Gravitation”
Welcome to Gravitation! The story of a pink haired boy name Shuichi who wants nothing more than to become the second biggest thing in Japanese pop music. …And why only the second? Well, because he idolizes Ryuichi Sakuma, the lead singer of a now-defunct band called Nittle Grasper… And he idolizes him to the point that he doesn’t want to overtake his hero in music history. But second place? Shuichi is so totally down with scoring second place.
So maybe right now you’re asking me, “Hey, you. Are you telling me this is a series about making it big in the music industry?” …Why yes! Yes it is! …But I wouldn’t suggest it for that. If you’re looking for that, go try Nana or something. No, no. You don’t come to Gravitation for the portion of the plot fueled by the music industry thing.
So now you’re probably asking me, “Hey, you, then what is this about?” …Well! Firstly, you should learn my name. It’s awfully impolite how you’re talking to me right now. But, secondly, it’s about this guy named Eiri Yuki. Shuichi might be the main character, and he might be all over the series, but it’s really, really about Eiri Yuki. And… Eiri’s not here yet, so I’m jumping the gun. Let’s get back to what’s actually happening on the disc, shall we?
This is Shuichi:
Shuichi is the lead singer of a two-man band called Bad Luck. Now, if you’re reading the manga, they’re in high school, and they haven’t been signed yet. But, since this is the anime, things are a little different: Shuichi and his best friend, Hiro, have already been scouted by NG, the recording label run by one of the former members of Nittle Grasper. Yessir! Shuichi’s managed to land himself on the label of the band that used to feature his music god. …Kid’s got some crazy luck.
…This kid, though, has no idea what sort of luck he’s about to have.
Anyhoo, Bad Luck only has a few days left before they’re going to perform their first concert for NG… In that they’re going to be the opening act for a band named ASK. Problem is, Shuichi’s been slacking on writing the songs. It seems he’s got a bit of writer’s block.
Hiro reads over what Shuichi’s written so far, and he suggests that maybe Shuichi find a distraction to get his mind off of the situation. They’ve only got so many days left before this song has to be performed, and maybe the charms of a woman will help get Shuichi’s creative juices flowing – or so goes his thinking, anyway.
Fate, however, has other things planned…
So there Shuichi is, standing in the dark, and he’s suddenly lost the sheet his lyrics are written on. (He’s an utter klutz, so it’s no surprise he’s accomplished this.) And not only does he lose them, he loses them to this blonde haired, brooding stranger who’s more than a little brutal with his blunt assessment of the song as it currently stands:
Shuichi’s not one to handle criticism very well… Particularly from total strangers who somehow make being mean seem wicked cool. He has a total mental meltdown over the whole thing, even though Hiro tells him to calm down. It was just some random dude in a park. Who cares, right? You’ll never see him again, Shuchan. Just let it go.
The next thing we see, Shuichi is at the blonde guy’s barely decorated apartment. There are two paintings on the wall, an L shaped couch, a table, and a TV. That’s it. It’s this huge place that’s totally devoid of any life. Or clutter. I guess it depends on how you look at it. The least he could do is get a rug or something. I mean… Look at all that space!
Anyway, the blonde haired guy chucks a towel right at Shuichi’s face and then claims to not recognize him.
Shuichi throws a fit, and the guy screws with him a bit more; but eventually it’s acknowledged that yes, yes they did meet before, and yes, yes he did totally shred Shuichi’s song lyrics.
Well, anyway, after this fantastic pep talk, Shuichi gets particularly fired up for the upcoming concert. He finishes the song as a silent challenge against this guy, only to have Hiro point out that that’s a bit peculiar as far as motivation goes. Why does this one random stranger have so much of Shuichi’s attention, hmm? …Hiro speculates that Shuichi’s got a bit of a thing for him, and then asks what the guy’s name is. …And Shuichi admits he has no clue. He kinda never asked. It didn’t seem like he’d get an answer, anyway.
In a fit of perfect timing, the blonde haired guy appears on TV just as they’re having this discussion, and low and behold, he turns out to be Eiri Yuki, famous (and fabulously wealthy) author. Now, in the manga, they kinda grind it in that he’s a romance novelist, and proceed to make a bunch of smart cracks about him probably being a pervert who sits around in his underwear all day. …In the anime, though, time is limited: He’s just an author who happens to write love stories, and he’s really prestigious and whatever. …Hiro points out that this is probably why he’d been so utterly convinced that Shuichi’s lyrics were crap: because he kinda knows a thing or two about writing.
Fired up by his discussion with Hiro, Shuichi takes off on a run across town to track Eiri Yuki down. He’s going to force the prickly bugger to come to his concert and hear the song. He’s going to prove he does know what he’s doing. He’s going to put the man in his place.
That… Doesn’t work out quite so well. There’s a girl at Eiri’s house, and Eiri latches on to Shuichi as a distraction:
Shuichi is all, “What the heck was that?!?”, but Eiri’s pretty nonchalant. He was just trying to get the girl to go away, and Shuichi had been the perfect prop that had shown up at the perfect time. Shuichi proceeds to be all, “Duh… What?!?” and kinda loses track of why he’d gone over there in the first place.
Eiri reminds him, though… by calling him out on his obvious man crush. And then he promptly stomps all over Shuichi’s not-entirely-conscious hopes by telling him to knock it off:
But now Shuichi’s all, “Grr!” and gets fired up again. He firstly tells Eiri that he’s going to the concert whether he likes it or not, then changes his mind and tells him not to come at all. …He’s kind of an emotional whirlwind.
Eiri, not for the last time (by a long shot), is all, “OMG. WHAT DO YOU WANT?!?” and gets really, super, totally annoyed with his pink haired visitor. He gets pretty tense and grumpy, and then says some rather cryptic stuff in his cranky voice. And… Get used to the cranky voice, because he’s cranky a lot.
Now, if you’ve already read the manga, or have already seen the anime (I suggest both, myself: The manga presents the story with way, way more depth, which the anime sorely fails at – but the anime nicely cuts out all of the horrible nonsense crap that makes the manga intolerable.), then you’re probably already getting emo here, knowing full well why Eiri’s being all… Eiri-like. Also, you’re possibly starting to feel bad for Shuichi, because this isn’t the last time he’s going to have to put up with Mister I’m-really-dark-and-mysterious-and-will-never-give-you-a-straight-answer-about-anything-so-good-luck-knowing-what-I’m-actually-thinking-about.
But if you haven’t already experienced Gravitation, well… Just so you know, what happens next is going to be a theme: Eiri tells Shuichi to go away and stop bugging him, tells him he has no interest in being involved with a man, and the proceeds to kiss him.
Yup. That’s Eiri Yuki in a nutshell.
Track 2: Live in Soul
So Hiro and Shuichi are now busy practicing for their first concert. Except… Maybe not so much: They’re doing Nittle Grasper impersonations and covers instead of singing their own song. You know the song: The one that Eiri Yuki had ripped to shreds.
Oh, and then the main band shows up. They’re called ASK, and their lead singer is a hint hostile towards Bad Luck. (The guy has a name, but I’ve never bothered to learn it. I just think of him as “Mr. Droopy Eyes”, which is what Shuichi calls him in the manga.) They’re about to really start spatting back and forth when this happens:
A woman gets out of the car, demands that Shuichi come with her, and then speeds off. (In the manga, she breaks into his classroom and drags him off in the middle of a test that he was failing anyway.)
So, this gal’s name is Mika, and come to find out, she’s Touma Seguchi’s wife. And who the heck is Touma Seguchi, you ask? Well, he’s Shuichi’s boss. Yup. He’s a former member of Nittle Grasper. …And why has Mika got any interest in Shuichi? Well, she was the girl that had been visiting Eiri. So… How’s she connected to Eiri? Well, she’s his older sister.
Yup. Shuichi’s luck is pretty crazy: His boss is one step removed from his idol, and his boss’ brother-in-law happens to be none other than this moody author he might have a thing for.
So Shuichi goes over to Eiri’s house and proceeds to ask him about his family. Eiri immediately picks up on what’s happening, and then gets in Shuichi’s face about it. There are so many words that come out of Eiri’s mouth in this scene that seem like he’s just being cranky, but which totally, utterly fall deep into Eiri Yuki land. Like, just pay attention to what he yammers on about here, ’cause it’ll make sense, later. (And no, I’m not summarizing because you should go watch this series yourself!)
Shuichi confesses that yes, yes Mika had offered him access to Touma, but no, no he didn’t accept. He insists he just wants to be a part of Eiri’s life in some form or fashion, and that it seems like maybe there’s something going on with his family that perhaps he could help out with.
Eiri calls him a liar and says that no one does things like that for free, then proceeds to storm out of his own apartment.
Anyway, fast forward to the night of the concert. Shuichi’s seemingly given up on Eiri and has snapped out of his trance. He’s got the song ready, and he’s totally geeked. And, quite unbeknownst to him, there are three important people in the audience, waiting to see what Bad Luck and ASK have to offer:
Problem is, when it’s time for Shuichi to sing, he kinda… doesn’t. He looks out into the distance and just stops. Hiro’s all, “What’s the deal, dude?” Their manager (known for his spastic overreactions to everything) loses his mind. The audience starts booing.
And what’s got Shuichi locked right up?
With Eiri in the audience glaring him down, Shuichi can’t perform. But, lucky for Bad Luck’s debut, fate again intervenes: Ryuichi Sakuma is terribly intrigued, hops out of his seat, and goes up onstage. The audience flips out, Shuichi flips out, and the lead singer of ASK flips out.
Okay… I kinda jumped ahead a bit. The reason the guy from ASK is greatly discontent is that he’s just then become aware that Shuichi is a serious threat. You see, Ryuichi had gotten Shuichi to calm down and sing. And… Shuichi’s got a set of pipes. He’s the real deal, and the guy from ASK realizes that Bad Luck is more than just some lousy opening act – they’re real and honest competition. Droopy Eyes is more than a little motivated to be the biggest band in Japan, so… Watch out for this guy, because he’s got some killer ambition.
Touma, meanwhile, has noticed that his brother-in-law is present, and this intrigues him to no end. He tromps down to where Eiri is and lightly teases him for being there.
After the concert, Shuichi runs straight to Eiri’s apartment, and they have a bit of a discussion. Shuichi doesn’t understand why Eiri actually bothered to show up, and Eiri is just as flummoxed:
…And then they have sex. Yup.
Now, in the anime, it’s very vague and whitewashed… in that you don’t see it at all, except that their silhouettes make a beeline towards the floor in a way that defies physics. In the manga, however, it’s an event that’s worked up to. Even there, it’s a little sloppy, though. (But if you want the gory details, don’t worry: Maki Murakami’s got your back in the online stuff.)
As far as the anime goes, it’s one of a few things that could’ve been handled better. I think this series needs to be redone with a better budget and a better cast. The English voice acting is just atrocious – do not listen to it. The music was awesome when it came out, but now that I’ve heard it again, I think it, too, could’ve been better. And the animation! It’s somehow pure to the manga, yet terribly choppy and disappointing. Gravitation as an anime could be epic, if it was just given a little tender loving care. Somebody needs to get on this. I want this to happen. I want the anime to be everything the manga could’ve/should’ve been! Grr! (*smacks hand on table*)
Track 3: Stray Heart
The next morning, Shuichi’s in his happy place:
But his luck isn’t going to last forever. It seems that Touma’s spent his evening contemplating Bad Luck’s future. They kinda give it more attention in the manga, but Touma’s rather fascinated that Eiri had bothered to come to the concert, which means there must be something about Shuichi. Also, there’s that whole thing with Ryuichi feeling compelled to go sing with Shuichi on stage, right? Yeah… So Touma’s decided to give Bad Luck a little bit of attention.
And remember what I said earlier about Shuichi not taking criticism well? Yah… He gets wicked angry, winds up in a fist fight with Hiro, and storms off to Eiri’s house to rant and rave about how dumb Touma is, and how slimy Hiro had been for siding with him, and how there’s nothing wrong with Bad Luck, and how everybody is just being stupid.
Finally, Eiri hits his limit and tosses Shuichi out on his butt after putting him in his place.
Shuichi’s luck only gets worse after that. Touma’s made Shuichi’s manager into his producer, announced he’s hiring a different manager, and has hired a third member for Bad Luck: Fujisaki, a 16 year old boy. This really, really gets our pink haired hero riled up, because his precious band is being tweaked with beyond his control.
And not only that, Fujisaki proves to be a musical genius, and he takes the infamous song and turns it into something utterly epic. Everybody in NG winds up crammed into the studio to listen to the new version, Ryuichi included. And when Shuichi not only hears how much better his song now is, but then realizes how much his god is rocking out to it, he goes into utter shock:
Hiro watches this from the sidelines and realizes that the only thing that will make Shuichi feel better is Eiri Yuki. Being the friend he is, he goes over to Eiri’s house and demands he take good care of him. …In both the anime and the manga, this awkward “Don’t you f**k with my friend” thing isn’t given nearly enough time. It’s always there, and you’re aware that it’s happened, but it just… It just needs more attention! It’s glossed over too quickly! …So whoever listens to me about redoing this anime needs to listen to me about this, too: There needs to be more display of the tension between Hiro and Eiri over how Shuichi gets treated throughout this story! Grr! Get on that!
Meltdown halted, Eiri indulges Shuichi (in the manga, he comes right out and says that Shuichi can just come over if he so desires – in the anime, they just kinda just occasionally hang out with no explanation) by sitting down with him and watching a Ryuichi concert. Mesmerized, our pink haired hero proceeds to go on in a bit of a trance about how important the singer has been to him throughout his life.
And Eiri? What’s Eiri up to during all of this?
So! With Eiri’s utterly out-of-character pep talk that Shuichi needs to learn how to trust Touma’s judgement, and then getting a little nookie to seal the deal (Really, spell check? Nookie is a word you recognize?!?), Shuichi’s all, “OH YAH. LET’S DO THIS THING.”
…But Shuichi’s luck being what it is, there’s one last twist that needs to be revealed:
Fujisaki’s actually Touma’s cousin.
So… So there’s that.
And what happens next? Well! You’ll just have to wait for Volume 2: Stars on the Rise!