Gravitation Vol. #1 (also w/box) (of 4) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, May 27, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, June 29, 2004
What They Say
Love - the one force that simply won't be denied!
All Shuichi ever dreamed about was following in the footsteps of his pop idol, Ryuichi Sakuma and the band Nittle Grasper. Together with his best friend Hiro, Shuichi's formed a band called Bad Luck and they've even managed to get signed to a major recording label! Unfortunately, the studio deadlines are looming and Shuichi still hasn't finished the lyrics for any of the songs.
What he needs is a little inspiration... but he's been running a little low in that department lately. While Hiro recommends finding a girlfriend, fate has other things in store for him...
Walking through the park late one night, Shuichi's latest lyrics flutter away and land at the feet of a stunning stranger that takes his breath away. Unfortunately, that mysterious stranger happens to be the famous novelist Eiri Yuki, who completely crushes the young singer by telling him he has "zero talent". Now, Shuichi's so annoyed that he's managed to finish his song just so he can find and confront Yuki once again. But, are his actions really motivated by anger, or has he actually fallen in love?
Rock 'n roll and young men in love. This is why I enjoy anime.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The series has a really good stereo mix that has some solid oomph to it when it comes to the music scenes and some of the action sequences where the sound effects make good use of the stereo channels. Dialogue is for the most part center channel driven but it's got a good range to it and comes across well. Combined with a solid music score, the audio for these two tracks comes off very good and free of problems during regular playback.
Originally airing back in the fall of 2000, Gravitation is presented here in its full frame aspect ratio. The transfer overall is rather good but there's a mixed bag effect going on. The show features a lot of really good vibrant colors throughout, particularly when it comes to the purples it seems, but also in many other areas. Combined with the good backgrounds and the overall feel, the colors look great, solid and generally free of problems. The first episode in particular looks very strong and is very pleasing on the eyes. From the second episode on, there's a fair bit of cross coloration that seeps into the character designs that starts to get distracting depending on how attuned you are to it. I found it to be pretty noticeable, those with me didn't notice it at all. Right Stuf also manages to score some good points here by having alternate angles for the opening and ending sequence based on language selection before starting the disc with the original Japanese credits as the default and the translated ones as the second angle. Overall, the show looks good but will vary by how your setup handles the cross coloration as well as your own eyes.
Going strongly for the pretty boys and music look, the front cover has a very detailed and gorgeous shot of Yuki and Shindo together, bare chests exposed, set against the backdrop of many young girl fans watching in a crowd. The back cover has a few shots from the show and uses some good images such as stage equipment as well as tickets to give it a very in-theme feel. The summary provides a good feel for what to expect and Right Stuf has adopted the technical grid along the bottom with all the basic information. There isn't an insert per se in this release but rather a small package with similar artwork to the cover of the two leads that inside has a VIP pass and chain you can put through it so you have your own Gravitation badge. It's very keen and I expect to see these at conventions. Even better, the cover artwork for the reverse side is very sweetly done; it's all black and looks like a plaque so underneath the disc side there isn't anything but the other panel has a Nittle Grasper CD cover and a "Platinum Record" piece underneath it, just like the kind you find in the offices of managers and producers. Very keenly done.
Using the character artwork from the packet of Yuki and Shindo, the menu sets the backdrop with screaming fans from the concert and motion lights coming from the spotlights all set to one of the songs from the show. It's very much in theme and it looks and works great. The layout is easy to navigate and the functionality is smooth and fast. Even our usual issues with the trailers section has been removed so that it's no longer a problem.
Done in-theme to the show, there are a couple of good extras included here. There's a decent art gallery showing off a number of sketches and designs. The liner notes section definitely helps to fill in some of the small gaps, sometimes just for the dub viewers, about a few of the cultural items in the show and there's a brief character gallery for the band members. And while I generally don't mention trailers as an extra, the one done for this (listed as US Debut Music Video) is actually rather good and does a good job of selling the show.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Gravitation was a series that I broke one of my rules with in that I started reading the manga series before the anime even though I knew the anime was coming out. Having heard that there are wild differences between the two, never mind that the anime series skips something like the first two or so graphic novels, meant that it'd be easy to keep the two separate. Having seen the first three episodes now, I'm definitely feeling safer in keeping the two separate as well as finding both of them highly enjoyable.
Gravitation is at its center a romance show. But it's a romance show that doesn't focus solely on that but brings in the comedy that ensues, the passion of youth and lots of music. We're introduced to the recently graduated Shuichi Shindo, the lead singer for the band Bad Luck. They've managed to land a deal of some sort with N-G, the company that's run by a former band member of the ultra popular Nittle Grasper. The president of the company, Seguchi, is working on his latest band named ASK. They're the cocky up and coming new boys on the district and are getting ready to really hit their stride. While they're getting most of the attention, Bad Luck is getting some work done with their manager, Sakano, a protégé of Seguchi's whose managing his first group. The other half of Bad Luck is Hiro, his long time friend who handles the guitar and essentially plays the straight and deadpan foil to Shuichi's over the top antics. He's the rock in the band to be sure.
One of Shuichi's other jobs is to write the groups lyrics. He's got about ten days before they make their own debut by opening for ASK in a one-song performance the Zepp Tokyo so Shuichi is under a lot of pressure to come up with a really great song that will match their energy. This of course drives his manager nuts since Shuichi is all over the map about everything. But the situation gets even worse after Shuichi proudly comes up with some material only to have it fall into the hands of some strange blonde guy he comes across in one of the cities parks in the evening. The rather serious stranger reads the lyrics and simply tells Shuichi that the material is awful and that he should give up writing altogether. He's brutally honest and says it with little care before walking on, leaving a completely devastated Shuichi.
This eventually forces Shuichi to confront things and to try and figure out where he's gone wrong and goes to find this stranger so that he can force him to come to the concert so that he can prove just how good he is. When he learns that the stranger is actually Erie Yuki, a rather famous romance novelist of the day, he's even more determined to show him his stuff. When he does this though, the situation goes completely out of control as the guy ends up using Shuichi to intimate to a woman that he's involved with him. And before he realizes it, Shuichi finds that he's got strong strange feelings for Yuki. Each time he confronts him, Yuki keeps shooting him down and pushing him away, something that's very strong with the type of voice the character has. Yuki's trying to figure out why Shuichi keeps coming to him and in a situation where nobody is sure what to do, he ends up kissing Shuichi.
Their strange and stormy romance really kicks off from this point as each of them affects the other, both in their relationships with others and in their work. Shuichi keeps going to visit Yuki and goes on about his day and the troubles he runs into, such as his manager being fired and made just a producer while they get a new band member to flesh out the group in an effort to fill in what's missing from it. Each of the times he goes to Yuki, Shuichi is almost childlike and childish about what's going on, but Yuki pays him little mind and ends up forcing him to grow up some and to realize what he needs to do to really make his ambitions come true. But these are also things that work towards Shuichi's learning more about Yuki and exploring his feelings for him.
Gravitation is a series that has a lot going on in it. While the romance is in the forefront, there are subplots going on that have Nittle Grasper's lead singer coming back to Japan after debuting in America and getting involved in things. There's the rivalry that crops up when ASK starts to feel like they're not getting the attention they deserve due to the way Shuichi's antics end up getting them more of the limelight than expected. And add in a varying number of relationships between families that get exposed as it progresses and it's a very amusing little mess ? in a good way. The music sequences are also something that's given some good space, letting the characters really get up there and sing (ignore all lip flaps!) and not just doing cutaways and instrumental pieces. This show has some of the feeling of the idol series we've seen before but it's got a much rougher and rawer edge in a lot of places.
Shuichi doesn't get rough or edgy though, but ends up being more round-faced than anything else, especially after Yuki keeps taking advantage of him. He's like a kid whose discovered all his Christmas presents and is just giddy thinking about them and it's written all over his face. The relationship between Yuki and Shuichi is done perfectly. There's the denials that Yuki keeps putting up but he's the one the makes the first moves more often than not. And much to my wife's happiness, there is a lot of bare-chested scenes throughout of the very pretty men. The romance between the two leads is quite a lot of fun and had us laughing out loud a lot during these three episodes.
Gravitation is more fun than I thought it would be. I didn't think it could capture some of the energy of the manga but it manages to do it and run in its own direction while still giving the appropriate nods to its source material. The characters look great, Yuki in particular is voiced perfectly and the romance is done in a raw and outgoing way that you traditionally do not see in a lot of regular boys or girls show. This is a genre I wish we'd see more of out there and hope that people don't flinch or cringe over this. Gravitation is a hell of a lot of fun and is one of those titles that continue to get me excited about watching anime. Very recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Gravitation Debut Trailer, Episode Liner Notes, Art Gallery, Bad Luck Profiles
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: A
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Nozomi Entertainment
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2