Gravitation Collection, Volumes 1 & 2
written by Maki Murakami
Shuichi Shindou and Hiroshi Nakano are two high-school students dreaming of rock stardom. Unfortunately, their dreams, and their band Bad Luck, are going nowhere fast. Until Shuichi meets a mysterious—and verbally abusive—man late one night in the park who insults his lyrics and gives him a whole new reason to succeed. It turns out that this man is Yuki Eiri, the acclaimed romance novelist…and he and Shuichi find themselves undeniably attracted to each other. After Shuichi meets Yuki a second time, one thing leads to another, and next thing they know, same-sex love is in the air.
Meanwhile, Bad Luck is on the upswing. NG Corporation has scouted them! Fame and fortune in the style of their idols Nittle Grasper might actually be within reach. Who would have thought that Bad Luck might be on the fast track from bedroom jam sessions to the music industry boardroom? Hopefully, too, love will make them stronger, because, after all, romantic entanglements do as often as not spell celebrity downfall.…
The 12-volume manga series Gravitation, along with its still ongoing sequel, Gravitation EX, has achieved the status of cult classic, and with this rerelease two-in-one omnibus edition from Tokyopop, it has the potential to reach an entirely new generation of manga readers. The story emerges from manga artist Maki Murakami’s days in j-pop fandom, her first professional foray into original storytelling, and it shows. As a debut, the plot ranges a bit unevenly from poignancy to outright parody and back again, but the characters are appealing right from the start, and Tokyopop’s adaptation from Japanese into English is truly masterful—to the point where it arguably improves upon the original.
Those familiar with the animated adaptation of Gravitation should be aware that the manga, particularly in the early volumes, differs dramatically. It starts, as they say, at home, during Bad Luck’s last days at school. But even if the beginning is modest, it’s more than fair to say that it makes what comes subsequently all the more remarkable…and that sentence can, trust me, be taken in a number of different ways.
But of course, what for most readers is the most important stuff—namely, the ongoing romantic entanglement between Yuki and Shuichi—is left very much intact. Although Gravitation is not strictly a boy’s love manga, there are plenty of men loving men to be found in these pages. There is also nudity and homoerotic content, but at least in comparison to what other Japanese manga are readily available in English translation, it is reasonably tasteful.
Murakami’s artwork evolves dramatically as the series progresses. The volume reviewed, which contains the first two volumes of the original Gravitation manga, is representative of her early style, improvised and occasionally hesitant. Though by no stretch of the imagination beautiful, it serves the story’s purpose well, and despite the messiness, is easy to follow visually and provides a top-notch vehicle for Murakami’s offbeat sense of slapstick comedy.
At the end of the volume comes a rather unexpected surprise about Yuki and his other life back in Kyoto, but it is the lovable characters and the gales of laughter that this manga produces that will keep readers coming back for more. Highly recommended.-- Casey Brienza