Love – the one force that simply won’t be denied.
Young singer Shuichi Shindou’s hopes and dreams//aspirations are constantly being raised higher – only to be cruelly dashed. Just as his group Bad Luck are releasing their first CD, his idol and inspiration Ryuichi Sakuma storms the music scene with the reformed Nittle Grasper, plunging Shuichi into a state of creative confusion. And his love life is in turmoil. Why does the man he loves, the enigmatic Eiri Yuki, suddenly announce to the media that yes, he and Shuichi are lovers and are living together? Does K, Shuichi’s maniacally macho and aggressive manager, have anything to do with it? Or is it a Machiavellian plan hatched by Touma Seguchi, the big boss of NG Productions, whose motives, especially when it comes to his old friend Yuki, seem particularly suspect? One million copies – the target sales figure for Bad Luck’s debut album – becomes Shuichi’s obsession.
As Shuichi’s efforts to please Yuki become increasingly desperate, Yuki becomes even more elusive and withdrawn. There’s obviously something not right with the novelist – and when he starts coughing up blood, he’s rushed into hospital. Shuichi hurries to his bedside – but just as he’s about to knock on the door, he hears voices inside. “The best cure is to avoid the source of any stress.” Yuki is discussing his relationship with Shuichi with Touma and his sister. “Maybe it’d be better if I got away from him for life.” Crushed, Shuichi retreats. There’s only so much rejection a guy can take and it’s impossible not to feel for Shuichi as his world falls apart.
There’s a promotional tour in the offing as well. But when Hiro (Bad Luck’s guitarist and Shuichi’s closest friend) realizes that K has been shamelessly capitalizing on Shuichi’s relationship with the novelist to keep the band in the media spotlight, he tells K that he’s quitting.
The shadows of a deeply traumatic incident in Eiri Yuki’s past have never been exorcised and now the novelist finds himself increasingly tormented by the fact that he still can’t remember what happened to him in New York. And its this darkness that permeates the manic cartoonish humour of these final episodes. We see Yuki revisiting the city where he spent his early teenage years, walking the back streets, alone and suicidal, on a snow-covered night. Here, the anime works so much better than the original manga in communicating the depths of despair and self-loathing that Yuki has been hiding from the world behind his cynical and uncaring mask.
As Shuichi’s world collapses about him, he returns to the park where he first met Yuki and completes – at last – the haunting song ‘Glaring Dream’ that has wreathed its way into our minds as it accompanies the ending credits of each episode. Is there any hope for him and his love for Yuki? Will Bad Luck fall apart and his dreams of a music career end in failure? Or are there limits even to his irrepressible optimism?
There are only thirteen episodes in ‘Gravitation’ (although the OVA Gravitation ‘Lyrics of Love’ follows on plot-wise, it was made before the series) but there’s never a dull moment as trouble piles upon trouble for Shuichi. We’ve seen him develop from an unknown singer with aspirations to a top-selling artist, capable of matching, maybe even outdoing his inspiration, Ryuichi Sakuma.
The zany hyperactivity of Maki Murakami’s manga has been affectionately retained by the writers but it’s never allowed to hijack the main storyline. Although Shuichi’s predilection for adopting bizarre disguises is, if anything, even more extreme; we see him as a battery, a banana, a suitcase, a hound dog with a flashing red nose… And the final episode boasts one of the most outrageously blatant plot patches I’ve come across in a long while. I just love the way the script merrily breezes over the impossibility of what has just happened! In fact, such is the vitality and energy of the whole show that it doesn’t really matter; it’s almost as if the script writer is saying, ‘We needed him to be there at that moment, so we got him there. Just don’t dig too deep as to how or why!’
The lead US dub actors Shuichi (Rich McNanna) and Yuki (Rome Elliott) continue to impress and bring in these final episodes (to my ears, anyway) more subtlety and feeling to their roles than the Japanese seiyuu.
Interesting to note that this third volume has a 12 certificate, whereas the whole series has a 13+ in the US ; this, I’m guessing, is because of the traumatic incident in Yuki’s past. However nothing is shown; everything is implied.
The fashions and the songs may make ‘Gravitation’ feel a little twentieth century, but as the story builds toward its music-fuelled climax, there’s no denying the compelling power of the story-telling. And how refreshing to find a series that delivers a well-paced story – and a satisfying conclusion – in thirteen episodes.