The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Gravitation

Title: Gravitation
Genre: Drama/Romance/Comedy
Company: Studio Deen
Format: 13 episodes
Dates: 4 Oct 2000 – 10 Jan 2001
Synopsis: Shindou Shuichi and his best friend Hiro are working on a new song that will make their band, Bad Luck, a sensation. A chance meeting one night with the dark and mysterious Yuki Eiri leaves Shuichi stunned and completely in love. Shuichi’s emotional rollercoaster ride begins as Eiri alternately welcomes and spurns him. As the success of the band grows, Eiri becomes more distant. Shuichi decides he will do whatever it takes to get through to Eiri, even if it means jeopardizing his music career.

The Highlights
Pacing: Never a slow moment.
Shuichi: My nomination for most annoying anime character.
Music: Electronic pop, but surprisingly addictive.
Yaoi factor: Not the focus of the story.
Hiro: Best friend ever.
K: Scene stealer.


Gravitation is a bit of an anomaly to me. I first heard about the series at a convention several years ago, where hoards of screaming fan girls did their very best to make sure everyone knew about it. I had to admit I was curious. Why was this series getting so much attention? The short answer I was given: It’s yaoi. At that point I assumed it must be fan service garbage and dismissed it. When I finally did watch it, I was pleasantly surprised to discover more than I had guessed.

The focus of the series lies exactly where it should – on the characters. Each one has a clearly established personality and it is they who drive the plot of the show. The motivations of the characters are, for the most part, relatable and realistic. Shuichi, the pink haired protagonist, has fallen in love but lacks the confidence to follow through when his love sends him mixed signals. Yuki Eiri, his love, is afraid of entering a relationship and unable to open up to Shuichi. They are surrounded by a strong supporting cast. The band’s manager, K, really steals the show with some perfect comedy and originality, while Tohma adds gravity, presence and realism. That said, two of the main cast are extremely annoying and frustrating. One is Ryuichi, the singer of another band, who is Shuichi’s idol and role model but behaves like a toddler. If this was supposed to be funny, it wasn’t. Every scene with Ryuichi was painful and his immaturity took away from whatever sense of realism the story had established. He may have represented unconditional love, offering hugs and forgiveness to all, but he acted more like that kid who grabs onto your leg and won’t let go. If you want to see what Ryuichi should have been, go watch Momiji in Fruits Basket. The other mess is Shuichi himself, who flip-flops constantly from serious to ridiculous. One moment he is pouring his heart out, and the next he is wearing a banana suit. I simply couldn’t take his drama seriously because he didn’t take it seriously, and the excessive “kawaii” moments were too random and too often for even comedic effect. Perhaps some could find Shuichi endearing or even hilarious, but I was left only frustrated. The series does, however, earn a bonus point from me simply for the character of Hiro. He is one of the best friends I have ever seen in anime – loyal, supportive and understanding with a wicked sense of humour. He can also pull off a rocker mullet with style.

Shuichi and Eiri’s troubled relationship forms the core of the plot and, as often happens with romance stories, there is always something keeping the two leads apart. In this case, however, the reason is the two lovers themselves, rather than external pressures, creating a mostly internal central conflict. To externalize some of this for the audience, a “villain” was added in the form of a rival band who are out to ruin Bad Luck no matter the consequences. This side story is only a tool and feels clich├ęd and fake. The interactions between the characters and their discussions (especially between Eiri, his sister Mika and Tohma, as well as between Shuichi and Hiro) are much better at exposing the characters feelings. I was glad that the series explored Eiri’s personal baggage so that his actions could be better understood. Some of the moments felt overly dramatic, however, and the whole series suffers from Shuichi syndrome, bouncing from drama to comedy awkwardly. The two elements were not blended well and could have complimented each other much better. Despite this imbalance, the series kept the story moving, maintaining a good pace over its 13 episodes that held my interest.

Since most of the main characters are in bands, another major factor in the series is the music. The bands all play an electronic pop style of music. The songs themselves are not spectacular, but catchy enough that I found myself humming them the next day. There is a fair amount of repetition and even the background music in quieter scenes is often a slower version of one of the main songs. Along with the songs, the animation of the concerts gets recycled awkwardly. Even the opening and ending sequences are surprisingly boring and rather devoid of real animation. But then, the music itself is not what’s important. It doesn’t have the same significance as the music in BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad for example. In Gravitation, it’s what the characters feel about the music that matters.

Gravitation is driven by emotions and guided by its characters. The fact that the central relationship is between two men is addressed, but never the focus of the story. It’s a fairly standard romance with an excellent cast of characters (with a few exceptions) but suffers from excessive silliness. With a better balance of drama and comedy this could have been a much more successful series.

The Rating: 6
Above Average

Reviewed by: Kaikyaku

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